What do I put on my floor?
The cost of building a home depends on the choices made for the elements of the building. For example, gold doorknobs are more expensive than brass doorknobs, which cost more than chrome doorknobs. This kind of relative costing applies to just about every element of the building.
Of all the elements in the building, one of the most important choices is the finish on the floor. Not only is it the most noticed element by visitors, but it gets the most wear and requires the most routine maintenance. Yet most owners make their choice by either popularity or cost. The two most popular choices are tile and wood flooring. And even between these two giants, there are a lot of factors to consider and questions to ask, such as ‘Are tiles better than wood?’, ‘What kind of tiles should I use?’ and ‘Which costs more long-term?’
This article addresses the factors for the selection of tiles, while we will address wood flooring later.
Ceramic tiles are made of clay, with a glazed top surface. The glazed surface allows for a wide variety of patterns and unique designs. They are also most often small, and therefore easier to install. Ceramic tiles are the most popular choice because of their low prices. There are, however, two disadvantages to this choice. The first is that ceramic tiles absorb water, and are therefore not a good choice outdoors or in wet locations. The second is that they do not hold heat well, and are therefore cold underfoot when the temperature is low.
Another clay-based tile is the porcelain tile, which has been declared the best kind of floor tile. First, while made from the same material as ceramic tiles, porcelain tiles are much denser and harder, because they have been fired at extremely high temperatures. They are, therefore, much more resistant to damage than ceramic tiles. They also hold heat better, and are less uncomfortable during cold weather.
Quarry tiles are not mined from quarries. They are, in fact, manufactured, using a combination of such bases as ground clay, shale and feldspar. They are harder than other types of tiles and absorb very little water. There are, however, limited design options, making them most popular in exterior or back-of-house locations.
Mosaic tiles are sheets of smaller tiles made from the other types of tiles. While the performance of the surfaces is determined by the base tile, the performance of the assembly is affected by the high proportion of joints. The adhesive and grout choices are therefore as important as the tile itself.
Stone tiles are the most durable long-term, partly because they are basically slabs of natural stone. On the other hand, that means there are fewer options for unique designs, except for creating tiling patterns. Because they are mined rather than manufactured, they tend to be more expensive. They are, however, more susceptible to stains and require more maintenance.
As with most natural stones, marble tiles require special attention before installation. Marble is very porous and must be sealed before installation.
Granite is more resistant to acid damage, but still stains easily, and is also porous, so granite tiles must be sealed pre-installation. Granite is also tougher than other stones in use.
Limestone tiles (e.g. Travertine)
Unlike other natural stones, the grain is distinct enough to affect the patterns in the flooring. On the other hand, limestone tiles (which come in many types) are extremely durable, as proven by the great pyramids, which are built of limestone.
In choosing floor tiles, there is also the choice of appropriate finish. They are available in polished or matte, with a variety of joint types, and they come in a wide variety of sizes. Selection of tiles should therefore be made with the assistance of design or sales professionals who understand the intended conditions of use and the requirements for maintenance.
- Patrick Rahming & Associates is a full service design firm providing architectural, planning and design services throughout The Bahamas and the northern Caribbean. Visit its website at www.pradesigns.com and like its Facebook page. The firm’s mission is to help its clients turn their design problems into completed projects through a process of guided decision-making, responsible environmental advice and expert project administration.