Tile Flooring

November 19, 2005
tile flooring
Tile flooring is available in a wide range of materials, including cork, granite, laminatae, linoleum, marble, pargquet, sandstone, slate and vinyl. Your tile flooring design concept affects your selection, of course, so examining your options is important. Will your design require removing tile flooring first, or can you work over what you have? Installing tile flooring can be tricky so adding a professional installer to your plans is another important consideration. Tile flooring is a wonderful direction to take for functional and attractive flooring.

What is your concept of tile flooring? Ceramic flooring? Vinyl tile? Maybe parquet tiles? Those ideas and more fit into the category of tile floors and tile flooring design.


To tile, or not to tile, that is the question. If you need an affordable, durable, and attractive flooring option for your home, the answer may be “yes”. If you want great flooring options, tiles offer various benefits, including:

  • durability
  • easy installation
  • broad selection of types, designs, and styles
  • easy cleaning
  • design variety options
  • resistant to scratches, fading, fire, and stains
  • can have no off gassing, depending on the composition

Tiles also offer disadvantages, including:

  • fragile
  • difficulty in removing
  • hard
  • noise reflective
  • slippery when wet

Tile flooring consists of small pieces of material, or tiles, which are applied to floors with adhesives. There are a number of tile options available. You can select vinyl, cork, laminate, glass, slate, stone (flagstone and sandstone being examples), granite, wood, marble, or ceramic tiles. This range of options allows you to select floors that could look great in every room of your house. Tiles created for flooring can be mixtures of materials (such as clay, scraps, strips or plastic) that are pressed into flat identical shapes, or they are natural materials cut into shape. We will be discussing most clay tiles here, however, since clay tile flooring is by far the most popular option today.
Clays are mined and shipped to manufacturers, who then press the material into thin strips. Most manufacturers fire tiles at high temperatures and then coat cooled tiles with special sealants or glazes in order to increase hardness and ensure long-lasting flooring. In Bicottura (Italian for double fired) tiles, the clay of the tiles is heated twice during manufacturing. The clay is first pressed and then fired once in a kiln. The clay is then glazed and fired again, creating a tile that is used only for decorative, interior wall tiles. Monocottura (Italian for single fired) tiles produce more durable tiles because they have a denser body. In this process, clay is fired in a kiln 2200 degrees Fahrenheit (1204 degrees Celsius) only once. Manufacturers then cut the tile materials into small individual tiles. In most cases, tiles are cut into small squares, although rectangles and other shapes of tiles are also available. Some tiles are also left unpainted and unglazed, to allow buyers to add their own finishes.
Tile is a processed product which is shipped ready to install. The flooring simply needs to be attached to the floor. Some manufacturers actually place adhesive on the back of each tile; to install, simply remove the backing and press the tile firmly on a clean, dry surface. Other tiles need to be attached with adhesive substances which are applied before they are attached to the floor. Once the adhesive has been given time to dry, the tiles will be firmly in place. Some tiles don’t need any more work to be ready for use, while others require grout being applied between the tiles, and many need to be sealed before they are ready for use.
Tile floors, since they are made from different materials, have different hardness ratings. Materials, glaze, and even the tile manufacturer can mean different hardness for similar products. The hardness of most tiles, however, is judged by glaze. Surface hardness of tiles is measured by the MOH scale (measure of hardness). Tiles are given ratings from 0-5. Zero designates tiles that are decorative only and should not be used as flooring. Tiles with a ranking of five designate surfaces that are very hard and can stand up to very heavy foot traffic.
Tile floors have been prized for their beauty and durability throughout history. First used in the fourth millennium B.C., tiles were used by the Romans to create beautiful tile mosaic floors and art. In the 12th century, Europeans rediscovered the beauty of tiles when monks created intricate tiles to decorate places of worship. Tiles fell out fashion again until the 1800s, when new machines and factories were able to mass produce porcelain and ceramic tile flooring quite cheaply. New technologies such as “dust-pressing” allowed tiles to be made more quickly and in a greater variety of patterns and colors.
Many people are afraid of tile flooring because they worry that tiles chip or peel. While older tiles may have this disadvantage, today’s tiles create very durable flooring. Although homeowners also worry about installing and removing tile flooring, modern technology has also reduced these previous flooring disadvantages. Removing tile flooring can quickly be done by heating the tile adhesive with a heat gun or stripper. Much of today’s tile flooring is so thin that it can be applied over old floors, eliminating the need to remove unwanted tiles.
Tile floor coverings have many benefits, as well. If you are worried about the environment, for example, tiles of recycled materials are available. Glass tiles are literally made of recycled bottles and auto glass. Many tile floors are odorless, a great feature for chemically sensitive people. Unlike carpet flooring and porous flooring such as wood, tiles that are installed with low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) or zero-VOC thinset, can actually contribute to high indoor air quality. Residents can quit worrying about allergies when they have hard surface flooring, like tiles, because dust, mites and molds are minimized.
Tiles that have either been made with a hard glaze or have been sealed after installation, many won’t absorb liquids. Spills can be quickly cleaned up with a cloth, leaving no stains or odor. If you have concerns about slipping when the floor is wet don’t worry, many tiles today can be glazed with a special no-slip surface that is appropriate for ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliance.
And if you have a non-level floor, a floorw with intentional tilt (like in a shower, garden room or commercial kitchen where you want to flow toward a draian), using small tiles in covering the floor will give you a level surface and accommodate the tilt. It’s the perfect blend of style and function!
If you want an environmentally friendly, durable, affordable, elegant, and healthy covering for your floors, tile flooring may be ideal for you. By selecting quality tiles, you will be making a choice that will add years of beauty to your floors.

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