It’s a wonderful world of tiles out there. It can also be overwhelming, spoilt for choice and downright confusing too. So let’s wade through the information and break down the key things you might want to know to help you make a decision. Did you notice how I said “right tile for you” not “what’s on trend”…. mm hmm I’m just gonna leave that there.
I just got back from a tile sourcing trip. I do this frequently and often. I enjoy them, I know the sales consultants, they are friendly and helpful. I still experience overwhelm. There is literally so much to consider when choosing tiles so let me break it down for you.
In this instance, let “materiality” refer to the other materials near your tiles. If you’re choosing for a renovation or new build you’re likely selecting all the adjoining materials at the same time. If so, you might like my post on Pre-Start here.
If you’re just looking at tiles, you need to make sure what you select works with what you have.
- Check your floor plan – where does the floor tile end and new/different flooring begin. Pay particular attention to areas where two different flooring types meet. It’s a good idea for these to work in harmony with each other.
- What other materials does your tile touch or sit adjacent to? – this might be cabinetry, bench tops or other tiles. You need to consider the full picture. Do you want to create a sense of contrast in your materials palette or do you want them to blend? (Spoiler: There is no right or wrong answer here just things to consider)
- Texture – for the moment I’m referring to the other materials you’re working with – do you have gloss, satin or matt finishes? Are the surfaces smooth or rough? It’s ok to play around with textures in design. It’s also ok not to. Whatever floats your boat.
- Check the lighting – Ask for a sample and take it home (or on site) to see it in place, with light etc as tiles can look very different in the showroom under their lighting to the way they do at home. If the store wont’t provide a sample, ask if you can take it outside into the natural light.
Floor tiles are generally chosen for their non-slip properties and ensure safety around wet areas. You can also put floor tiles on walls. Wall tiles can have a matt finish or a gloss finish.
Matt surfaces can typically be more porous and therefore show marks and water stains easier than gloss surfaces. They are also beautifully earthy and have a rawness about them that reflects our natural environment. They absorb light too so if you’re working in a smaller space with limited natural light you may want to consider adding some gloss finishes.
Gloss finishes are easier to keep clean and show less marks. They can create a feeling of ‘high-end’ or luxury and reflect light so the light hits the shiny surface of the tile and bounces around the space making it feel bigger and brighter.
Rectified & Non-Rectified
Rectified edge – refers to an extremely precise cut. The tile is cut accurately and straight; generally allowing the tiler to tile with a minimal grout line. This can help to create a more seamless finish and the reduced grout can be easier to keep clean too.
Non-rectified or pressed edge – means the tile edge has a slight curve down and will result in a thicker grout line. Generally speaking a rectified edge will cost more to lay due to the increased accuracy. If you do decided on a rectified tile, you need to make sure all other tiles are rectified too. For example, don’t choose a rectified wall tile and non-rectified floor til even if they are both around the same size. The precision cut on the rectified tile will mean your non-rectified tile is about 2mm (give or take) different and whilst it might not seem like a lot this is going to throw out your laying pattern completely over the spance of the room. In this case, near enough is definitely not good enough.
Hand cut – This is a beauty and a skill. Hand cut tiles are literally that – cut by hand. Generally using techniques passed down through generations, these take time to manufacture and you can expect to pay a premium for them and rightly so. They will have a rough, uneven edge where they have been carved with hand tools and create a beautiful texture finish when tiled. They 100% have my heart (and my wallet).
A tumbled edge – The tile has literally been placed into a tumbler and thrown around to give it a worn finish. The beauty in this finish needs to be highlighted. Ask your tiler to lay your tiles with a slightly larger gap to show off those edges. A contrasting grout here will showcase the edge even further but I’m getting ahead of myself.
This is tricky to cover because there is literally so much to consider but I’ll try and give you the Cliff Notes version. Generally speaking, if you want a seamless look, opt for a large format tile to minimise grout lines. If you want to make feature of the tile, opt for a smaller size. Most tiny mosaic tiles are tiled in sheets. With wet areas, consideration needs to be made with regard to adequate drainage. Large format tiles can result in complications in obtaining a floor fall to a single waste outlet. Water can pool without adequate drainage and this is a safety hazard. I generally try and stick to a 300x300mm or 300 x 600mm tile in a wet area. You can go smaller too for e.g.: tiled planks or mosaic. Another reason to stick to smaller format tiles in wet areas is due to the limited space. They’re not the biggest areas in the home and large format tiles can make spaces appear smaller.
There are so many different ways to lay tiles. Particularly when working with smaller format tiles, you can have fun and express your personality simply through the way you choose to lay your tiles.
Blend – Choose a grout as close as possible to the colour tones in the tile. This helps to minimise the look of the grout lines and results in a more seamless finish. This is fantastic for large spaces and large format tiles and you can replicate the look of stone slabs.
Contrast – Make a feature of the tile and pick a contrasting colour. For example dark tile with white grout or light tile with dark grout. This makes the tile the showcase and shows it off in all its glory. Be mindful: this will also highlight all the imperfections in their glory too so do your research and opt for an experienced tiler to help you out.
Colour – Be bold! Choose a plain coloured tile and throw some brightly coloured grout next to it. You’d be surprised how effective this is in injecting some fun and personality into your space. This is extremely affordable to as if you do get bored later down the track, it’s cheaper to re-grout than to re-tile. You can also try this with contrasting colour for example a blue tile with orange grout for an even bolder design.