There are numerous flooring options including carpeting, hardwood, laminate and tile. Tile is a practical choice for its durability, ease of maintenance and variety of styles. There are different types of tile, each with its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. Tiles are made from a variety of materials as well, including clay, porcelain and stone.
Ceramic tile is made from a mixture of clay and other trace minerals. Forms are used to shape the clay and the tiles are fired in kilns. Ceramic tiles can be either glazed or unglazed. Glazed tiles have a slick, glassy surface that is bonded to the tile after firing, much like laminating a photo to a surface. Unglazed tiles have color pigment introduced into the clay before firing. They need sealant applied to avoid staining.
Porcelain tiles are fired at higher temperatures than ceramic tiles and are resistant to chipping. Porcelain is also a denser material, making it resistant to moisture. The advantage of porcelain is the color is consistent in the tile. Should it chip, you will not see a clay body as you do with ceramic tiles. The disadvantage of porcelain tile is its hardness. While this gives it durability, it feels hard underfoot and can be uncomfortable for those with back problems.
Saltillo tile, also known as Mexican tile, is air-dried rather than kiln dried. Forms are used to shape the tile, and the tiles are then laid out in the sun. The exposure to the elements results in rich earthy tones. Exposure to the local wildlife can also result in animal prints being embedded in the tiles. Tiles with animal prints are more costly. According to legend, such tiles in your floor will bring luck to your home. Saltillo is a porous tile and needs to be sealed annually to avoid staining and discoloration.
Natural stone tiles include travertine and marble. These two types of tiles are more expensive than ceramic, porcelain or saltillo. Travertine is a type of limestone that forms near hot springs. The heat and bubbling result in the pitted surface seen in travertine tiles. Travertine requires non-acidic cleaners and is susceptible to staining. Marble is harder than travertine and is a durable flooring option. It is, however, susceptible to staining and can sometimes have a chilling effect on interior design schemes.
Tile flooring is a good choice for outdoor rooms. Three good options for outdoor flooring are brick tiles, cement tiles and pavers. Brick provides a rustic charm, but colors are limited. Cement tiles, like ceramic tiles, are formed and fired. Their naturally grainy surface reduces slippage and staining, making them a good choice for poolside or outdoor kitchen flooring. Pavers are thinner than bricks, and like cement tiles, can provide protection against slippage. They do need sealing however. If it is not installed properly, it allows for weed and grass growth between tiles.