What Are the Different Types of Tile Flooring?

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You have many choices when it comes to tile flooring, and it's important to choose the right type of tile since you'll be living with your choice for many years. Ceramic, vinyl, natural stone and cork are the most popular interior flooring tile options, and all come with both benefits and drawbacks. Of course, price varies by material as well, so you'll want to look at your flooring budget as well as each tile type's pros and cons.

Ceramic Adds Character

Ceramic tiles are made of clay materials and then hardened in a kiln. Some are made with just clay, and are categorized as nonporcelain tiles. Others are categorized as porcelain tiles. These, too, are made with clay, but other minerals, most importantly a crystal called feldspar, are added to the mixture to create a more glassy texture. Porcelain tiles are slightly more durable and less porous than nonporcelain ceramic tiles, but both hold up well. Ceramic tiles can be mass produced or made by hand. Tiles made by hand, such as Mexican Saltillo tile, may contain small imperfections and may not be absolutely square. Some feel this adds character, while others feel it makes the tile look sloppy. As of 2013, the World Floor Covering Association reports the price of ceramic tiles to be $4 to $12 per square foot, installed.

Pros

  • Available in a wide variety of colors
  • Durable
  • Water and stain resistant

Cons

  • Grout between tiles can be difficult to keep clean
  • Tiles can chip or crack, especially if poorly made
  • Fragile items dropped on ceramic tile will break
  • Slippery when wet
  • Cold

Vinyl for Easy Installation

Vinyl tile is a man-made product that consists of four layers. The bottom layer is rigid to make the tile strong and sturdy. The next layer is where the color or design is located. On top of that is a protective film to prevent tears or gouges, and the final layer is urethane to resist scuffs and scratches. Vinyl tiles are available with a self-stick adhesive backing that is excellent for do-it-yourself projects, or they can be installed using a spray-on adhesive. Vinyl is also inexpensive, coming in at $1 to $7 per square foot when installed as of 2013.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Easy to clean
  • Very affordable
  • Comfortable and warm to stand on

Cons

  • May discolor over time (especially low-quality vinyl)
  • Water can get between and under tiles
  • Not as durable as harder tiles

Stone's Variable Textures

Natural stone is a broad category and includes granite, marble, slate, and travertine. Stone is made by Mother Nature and is mined from quarries. Each piece of stone is unique, and the appearance varies depending upon where the stone comes from. Stone is available in both polished and honed finishes; honed is a better choice for floors, since polished stone is slippery when wet. The price of stone tile varied significantly in 2013 based on the type of stone, but installed stone floors cost between $8 and $50 per square foot.

Pros

  • Attractive natural look
  • Unique patterns
  • Very durable

Cons

  • More expensive that other materials
  • Porous; must be sealed regularly to prevent staining
  • Fragile items dropped on stone will break

Cork for Green Floors

Cork is a flooring choice with many benefits. It is made from cork trees, which are a renewable resource, making this type of flooring more environmentally friendly than other choices. Like stone, the patterns in cork are unique. In 2013, cork was a reasonably priced option at $4 to $9 per square foot, installed.

Pros

  • Contemporary look and feel
  • Renewable resource
  • Stain and water resistant
  • Soft and warm
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Wide variety of colors

Cons

  • Wax finish needs to be reapplied every 6 to 12 months
  • Polyurethane finish needs to be reapplied every 7 years
  • Professional installation recommended
  • May become compressed under heavy furniture
  • Likely to fade in direct sunlight

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