Ceramic tile could be the only form of flooring material that can be used in any room of your house. It’s often used in bathrooms and kitchens, as well as mudrooms, foyers, and other highly-trafficked areas.
However, for many homes, especially those in warm climates, ceramic tiles are used in bedrooms and living areas too. This means you can’t really go wrong with ceramic tile.
Ceramic tiles are known for their durability, low maintenance requirements, and moisture resistance. They have a hard, solid surface that doesn’t hold onto or attract dust, dirt, or pollen.
When these do land on a tile, they easily stand out and are easy to wipe away with a sponge or a mop. However, this hard surface of ceramic tiles means they just don’t work in certain situations.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about ceramic tiles and the pros and cons of this flooring material.
How Ceramic Tile is Made
In the ancient world, ceramics were made from clay in simple processes. A good example is earthenware pottery, which was made by baking or “firing” clay in a kiln at lower temperatures (about 1,400 Fahrenheit) compared to the more than 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit used for making tiles today.
Modern ceramic manufacturing techniques allow the producers to make materials that can be embossed or printed in a myriad of ways.
Solid tiles can be mixed, matched, or accented in patterns or custom motifs and designs. They can also be printed in a way that reproduces the look of many natural stones and hardwoods. Plus, the tiles themselves can be shaped or cut into planks, rectangles, and other shapes.
While ceramic tiles differ in terms of materials used, finishes, and applications, they do share a general manufacturing process. Here’s an outline of the ceramic tile manufacturing process.
This is where the raw materials are mined. The raw materials are typically a mixture of mostly minerals and clay.
2. Blending and Mixing
The mineral and clay mixture is blended and mixed to form a semi-fine powder. Water is then added to create a wet slurry with a mud-like consistency.
The slurry is then pumped into a large dryer. The result is a fine clay powder with the texture of warm, fine sand.
This is the stage where the tile forms shape. The producer presses the clay to form the desired tile shape. There’s also another method here called extrusion that can replace the pressing step.
It involves forcing the clay material through a mold of the desired shape instead of pressing the tile. The pressed or extruded tiles are then dried to remove some of the moisture.
This is a step for tiles that need to have a glaze, meaning that those that don’t will skip this process and go directly to the kiln. Glazing involves applying glaze, a liquid prepared from a frit (a glass derivative) and colored dyes, by either pouring it directly onto the tile, or using a high pressure spray.
The prepped ceramic tiles are then fired in a kiln at temperatures of about 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ceramic Tiles PEI Ratings
It’s important to point out that most ceramic tile manufacturers have a rating system for their tiles to grade the overall durability and abrasion resistance of the tile.
The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) provides the following ratings:
- Class 0: Suitable for walls, and shouldn’t be installed on floors
- Class 1: Suitable for areas with light traffic, such as guest bathrooms
- Class 2: Suitable for medium traffic areas where little abrasion occurs
- Class 3: Suitable for medium to heavy traffic areas, such as kitchens and baths
- Class 4: Since they are very hard, they are ideal for home floors or even in light to medium traffic commercial areas
- Class 5: Suitable for almost any areas, but are often found in stores and commercial spaces with high foot traffic
Due to its versatility, the ceramic tile has remained to be one of the most popular flooring options on the market.
But before you set out to buy ceramic tiles, it’s important to understand both the advantages and disadvantages to help you decide if it’s the option you’re really looking for.
Pros of Ceramic Tile Flooring
There are a number of advantages of choosing ceramic tiles for your home, as outline below:
Easy to maintain
One of the key characteristics of ceramic is that it’s extremely hard, which makes it easy to keep clean and maintain.
When any dirt, stains, or liquids get on it, they just rest on the surface without being absorbed. As such, it’s easy to wipe them away or mop them up. For this reason, many people prefer using ceramic tiles in their kitchens and bathrooms.
Another major characteristic of ceramic is that it’s water resistant. There’s usually a protective layer on top of the material, making it water and stain resistant.
This is again very important in kitchens and bathrooms, since the ceramic tile will last much longer compared to other forms of material. Ceramic is also resistant to high humidity and high temperatures, such that you won’t have to worry about it getting ruined in the hot muggy summer months.
As already mentioned, ceramic is hard and tough to crack. If you do get a quality installation, the tiles could last upwards of 20 years or more, especially if you do a great job maintaining them.
And when one tile ends up breaking, perhaps due to severe impact, it’s typically easy to replace the tile. As such, you will be able to keep your overall costs down because you don’t need to replace your tiles on a regular basis.
Speaking of costs, tiles are generally affordable for most people. In most cases, ceramic tiles will cost about $3 to $10 per square foot.
This is significantly cheaper compared to alternatives like hardwood flooring. Plus, if you use high quality ceramic tiles for your home’s flooring and have them installed properly, they will add lifelong value to your property.
Due to their hard, solid surface, ceramic tiles don’t attract allergens, including pollen, dust, dirt, and mold. And when these are present on the tiles, they are easy to spot and clean.
This is great news for households with family members who suffer from allergies or asthma. Ceramic tiles are a great option for people looking to keep the environment of their house free of harmful allergens or irritating particles floating in the air.
Diverse Types and Colors
As mentioned earlier, the manufacturing process of tiles allows for creating diverse shapes, colors, styles etc, so you should be confident that you’ll find the best option for your own style.
Cons of Ceramic Tile
While there are so many reasons to go for ceramic tiling, there are some drawbacks you should have in mind:
By design, the hard, solid surface of ceramic tiles will not hold onto heat very well. This means that they can easily get super cold during winter.
When you install them around your home, like your bedroom, your feet will get a “shock” every time you step on the surface first thing in the morning.
This is an important factor to consider, especially if you intend to place the tiles in a public place where people have to stand on for long hours.
The silver lining is that during the hot summer months, it will feel great to step on the cold floor. Plus, you can easily cover the floor with area rugs in spots where people stand more often.
Still on the hard surface, while ceramic tiles can be easy to clean, it doesn’t make them ideal for places that get wet a lot.
Ceramic is quite slippery, and if you’re installing them in highly trafficked areas, you want to prevent accidents when you can.
As such, you should avoid installing them in spots where liquid or water is spilled often on the floor, as it could lead to injuries. For instance, you should avoid using them in public bathrooms.
Difficulty Maintaining Grout Lines
While most ceramic floor tiles come glazed as standard, there are unglazed ceramic tiles available on the market, such as the traditional Saltillo tile.
In case you buy unglazed tiles, you will need to have them sealed to protect the surface from any liquids it could encounter.
The grout lines between the tiles could particularly be prone to moisture, so ensure they are sealed properly.
Otherwise, you risk having water get deep down into the tiles, which not only weakens the installation, but also allows mold to grow. This might lead to bigger problems down the road to address the problem.
Now that you know about the pros and cons of ceramic tiles, let’s look at how much it typically costs to buy and install ceramic tile flooring.
Cost of Ceramic Tile Flooring
Despite the growing popularity of other types of flooring, ceramic tiles have remained to be a popular option on the market today.
Many homeowners like the glossy feel and look they create wherever they are used. However, before you go out to buy, be sure to check out our cost guide below.
Average costs of ceramic tile flooring materials:
· The minimum average cost is about $2-3 per sq. foot section
· The maximum average cost is around $7-10 per sq. foot section
As you plan for the installation, you should account for some additional costs to the cost of the tile themselves.
For instance, if it’s not a DIY project, labor will most likely be the largest expense beyond the materials cost.
Typically, a 500 sq. foot project will cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than $5,000 depending on the project.
You should also consider having about $500 to $600 for specialty tools and supplies needed to complete the project.
Maintenance and Repair Tips for Ceramic Tile Floors
The good thing about ceramic tiling is that it’s relatively easy to take care of. The tiles’ imperviousness to water and most stains is the reason why they are often preferred for wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. Dust, liquids, and stains rest on the surface, making it easy to clean them away.
Routine maintenance for ceramic tiles entails a little more than vacuuming or sweeping with a soft brush attachment to keep the surface free of dirt or loose debris.
In case staining occur, you can use any form of heavy-duty cleaning solutions to clean them without the risk of damaging your tiles.
For the unglazed ceramic tiles, you need to always keep the grout clean. A dirty grout will often lead to dingy-looking, unsightly floors.
Grout is also porous and will easily absorb grease, dirt, and other materials. You can spray the grout with commercially prepared grout cleaner, or use a gentle bleach solution.
If there are deep stains, let the cleaner sit in for about 10 minutes and then use a small brush or toothbrush to scrub the grout.
Knowing how to clean and maintain your ceramic floor tiles properly will have them looking new and lovely for years.
Porcelain Tiles Vs Ceramic Tiles
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are often difficult to tell apart, since they are made from very similar materials and processes.
However, there are some differences between the two. Generally speaking, porcelain tiles are structurally harder than ceramic, and they offer greater flexibility in their design.
While both types are made from clay and natural minerals fired in a kiln, the clay used to make porcelain tiles tends to be purer and more refined.
Both ceramic and porcelain tiles can be used on walls, countertops, ceilings, backsplashes, and showers, however, ceramic is mostly designed for indoor use, while porcelain can be used both indoors and outdoors.
This is because ceramic has more moisture content, making it susceptible for thawing and freezing related cracks. The low moisture content in porcelain makes it less likely to crack.
In terms of cost, porcelain is considerably more expensive than ceramic. It’s also harder and denser than ceramic, which could be a problem when it comes to installation.
Porcelain is much harder to cut, especially when intricate shapes are required. As such, ceramic is a better choice for DIY installers as it will require fewer specialized tools. Ceramic is also ideal for oddly shaped areas that need many special cuts.
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