When choosing a tile for the kitchen floor, one of the most important things to consider is its slipperiness. Kitchen floors are sure to get wet with spills from time to time, so tiles should have a textured or non-slip surface to prevent falls. If your floor has wide grout lines, choose a darker grout color to hide the effects of those inevitable spills, or seal the grout regularly to keep it looking clean.
Ceramic and Porcelain
Ceramic tiles are made of clay and hold up well in high-traffic areas like kitchens. The surface of ceramic tiles can be either glossy or matte, and they come in a nearly infinite variety of colors and styles. Ceramic is durable because it is very hard, but that also has drawbacks. Ceramic tile is prone to chip or crack on impact. If you drop a dish or glass on the floor, it is likely to break. Toddlers may get more than the average share of bumps and bruises from falls on a ceramic floor, and it can be hard to stand on for long periods.
Porcelain tiles are even harder than ceramic and have many of the same qualities. But these tiles have color throughout, not just on the surface, so scratches, chips and cracks aren't as noticeable. They are more expensive.
Slate is a durable natural stone that can stand up to the busyness of the kitchen. It resists stains and has a naturally non-slip surface. Slate is available in varying textures, but your color choice will be more limited than with ceramic tiles. Slate floors often have a mix of colors, including charcoal, gray, rust and green. You can choose tiles with more uniform look or tiles that have more variation.
Granite tile is durable and, unlike marble, it is not vulnerable to etching from acidic spills like coffee or soda. It does have an Achilles heel, however: Tiny bits of quartz, brought in on the soles of shoes, can scratch and dull the surface of granite tiles. The longer the particles stay on the floor, the more they will be shuffled around and do damage. This requires homeowners to sweep and/or mop daily, which may be more maintenance than many are willing to do.
Travertine is a trendy choice for kitchens and bathrooms. A type of limestone, travertine is available in colors ranging from creamy ivory to gold to brown. Some manufacturers advise not using large tiles in high-traffic areas like kitchens to avoid cracking. Travertine used in a kitchen must be sealed, because the porous stone will absorb spills. Polished travertine can be slippery when wet.
Saltillo tiles are handmade clay tiles from Mexico. They are a good choice aesthetically, particularly for Mediterranean-style kitchens, but they may not be the most practical alternative. These tiles are fragile and can chip or break rather easily. They must be sealed regularly, and standing spills can damage them. Take care when cleaning Saltillo tiles, use only a damp mop and no harsh cleansers.
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