Ceramic tiles are rated via the American Society for Testing and Materials for their abilities to withstand normal use circumstances. These factors determine the safety of the tile and its recommended usage. In addition to these tests, tiles also are graded for overall quality. When selecting ceramic tiles, it’s important to compare all ratings to get the best tile for your application.
Ceramic tiles are thin slabs manufactured through the process of heating and cooling clays, silica, fluxes, colouring with other mineral raw materials. It is generally used as coverings for floors, walls or facades.
Ceramic tiles come in a wide array of colours, sizes, shapes, textures, and finishes. They are square and rectangular, but they also appear in different shapes, like triangles, circles, rhombs and similar to achieve the desired look and feel. Besides size, shape, and design, ceramic tiles differ in technical characteristics based on their use (like wall lining, floor covering, indoor or outdoor), exposed to low temperature, chemical substances and wear and tear.
When you are building your house, you will need to choose the tiles by yourselves. While there are many suppliers in the market, each supplier has a different design, quality grade, size and quality. How to tell the quality of the tiles and how to choose the suitable design & size? Let’s show you something today.
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Tiles are graded using a numerical numbering system based on their thickness and quality. A rating of 1 is the highest quality and thickest tile available, 3/4-inch thick, and you can use them anywhere. Grade 2 reflects that some imperfections exist, but the tile still is usable on walls or floors. These tiles are approximately 1/2-inch thick. Grade 3 tiles are the thinnest, 1/4-inch thick, and are appropriate for use only on walls. Grades 1 through 3 sometimes is referred to as standard, secondary or cull grade, respectively.
Wear Rating and Scratch Resistance
The Porcelain Enamel Institute rates tiles on their ability to resist abrasions caused by everyday wear and tear. The higher the roman numeral beside “PEI” in the printed rating, the better the resistance. Tiles rated I or II are not suited for installation on a floor. Floor tiles must be rated at III or higher for residential use; the highest rating, IV, is recommended for high-traffic commercial floors. The PEI rating applies only to glazed tiles.
Glazed and unglazed tiles are rated for scratch resistance and hardness via the Mohs scratch test. The tiles are rated from a soft 1, or Talc, to 10, or Diamond, the hardest tile available. A random selection of tiles is scratched with special testing tools, each with a different mineral hardness until the surface shows the scratch mark made. A rating of 5 or higher is recommended for home flooring and seven or higher for commercial floors.
Water Absorption and Frost
A tile’s water absorption rating helps you determine if the tile is suitable for installation in your room. The rating is calculated based on how much water the tile absorbs in relation to its weight. For example, tiles rated as non-vitreous will not survive a high-moisture environment such as a shower because they absorb more than 7 per cent of their weight. For wet areas, including exterior patios, the tiles must be vitreous or impervious. This test is completed by exposing the tile to dyed, standing water for 16 hours and then checking for penetration.
In combination with the water absorption rating, tiles are rated for frost resistance. Vitreous and impervious tiles are frost resistant because they don’t absorb enough water to freeze and crack the tile. Unlike water absorption, frost resistance is not rated as a number. If the frost-resistant symbol is present, the tile is not subject to freeze/thaw damages. This icon is not applicable if you intend to use the tiles indoors.
Coefficient of Friction
The COF rating denotes the force required for an object to move across the surface of the tile divided by the tile’s weight. The primary concern for this rating is whether a person walking on the tile risks slipping due to lack of friction. The rating is preferred to be above .50 foot-pounds for home installations and must be above .60 for commercial buildings under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The values are indicated first in foot-pounds, followed by SI Units in parenthesis on the tile information sheet.
Tips To Choose The Best Tile Floors For Every Room
Consider Tile Hardness
When browsing different types of floor tiles, one of the most important features to pay attention to is hardness (the Mohs scale).
It measures the material’s ability to withstand wear/foot traffic, as well as scratches. The ratings are issued by the Porcelain Enamel Institute and are based on rigorous laboratory testing. You can use this scale to select a product that is most suitable for your room’s function.
- Class I: No foot traffic. Appropriate for wall-only applications.
- Class II: Light traffic or interior wall applications. Best in areas with soft-soled to normal foot traffic, with no scratching dirt. For example, bathrooms and bedrooms with no exterior access.
- Class III: Light to moderate traffic, as well as countertops and walls. Appropriate for spaces with normal foot traffic and small amounts of scratching dirt. All rooms of the home, except for kitchens, entryways, and other areas with high foot traffic.
- Class IV: Moderate to heavy traffic. It can be installed in all areas of the home, including kitchens, halls, entryways. These are the best floor tiles to use, as they perfectly combine beauty and function.
- Class V: Heavy to extra heavy traffic, as well as exposure to scratching dirt. Works well in any room of the house, as well as commercial spaces.
Pay Attention To Tile Porosity
Another critical feature not to be missed is porosity. It is determined by the ratio of air holes to solids in a tile, which impacts the amount of water it absorbs. If you are installing tile in a moisture-prone area, such as a bathroom, kitchen, mudroom, laundry room, pay close attention to this rating.
Here are Porosity Classifications:
- Impervious: water absorption of 0.5 per cent or less. Recommended for use in the kitchen and especially the bathroom.
- Vitreous: water absorption of 0.5 per cent to 3 per cent.
- Semi Vitreous: water absorption of 3 – 7 per cent.
- Non-Vitreous: water absorption of more than 7 per cent. This category is not recommended for floor use.
Go For Porcelain Tiles – An All-Around Win
If you are looking for a material that has strength, moisture resistance and versatile design, porcelain is the best choice. It is more durable than ceramic and comes in a greater variety of styles, colours and textures. Not all porcelain products are made equal, and you need to check the specs of each one.
Today, thanks to highly advanced technologies, countless porcelain tile options have a higher than average hardness and moisture resistance (these cost more).
Kitchen floor tile ideas
Porcelain tile is a great flooring option for a modern kitchen. Its budget-friendly offers a wide range of versatile looks and is very easy to clean.
If your kitchen calls for an upscale looking floor without breaking the bank, there are marble or wood porcelain tile products. These designer tiles are manufactured using innovative digital ink-jet printers that create an almost identical copy of the texture and colour of natural materials.
Another unique way to tile your kitchen floor is to use oversized checker tiles. Black and white colour tile look very impressive in a modern white kitchen.
If you are looking to dress things up with a graphic floor, consider terrazzo tiles. Colourful encaustic tiles will also do the trick, making a boring kitchen floor the focal design point of the space.
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Living room floor tile options
While most people don’t think of living room floors for tile installation, porcelain tile can bring a chic flair to the main room of your home. Because now it’s possible to buy tile that replicates the warm look of natural hardwood or real stone, you can have the benefits of tile together with the look of other flooring materials.
Especially if you live a hot and humid climate, having tile flooring in the living room will go a long way to making the space feel cool. Porcelain tile will be pleasant to the touch, but will not retain heat as wood floors do.
Other benefits of tile for the living room floor include longevity, pet-friendliness, ease of cleaning up stains (unlike carpet), and virtually zero maintenance, unlike other materials, such as natural wood or stone. Porcelain tile is also eco-friendly; its non-allergenic and VOC free material.
If you have an open floor plan and your living room comes together with the dining room and kitchen, you can create a beautiful tile floor design that flows seamlessly throughout the space. Alternatively, you can use a bright colour or mosaic tile to create visual breaks in the space and add interest.
Ensure Slip Resistance
Most tile materials tend to be slippery, and all the more so if the water is introduced into the equation. If you have children and elderly people in the house, it is very important to install the slip-resistant tile. A bathroom is a prime place where fall accidents may happen, particularly the shower area, so good slip resistance is highly recommended.
When shopping around for a shower tile floor, look for products with a high COF (coefficient of friction).
It is best to install tile sizes that are 4×4 or smaller. Avoid using ones that are bigger than 6×6.
How to Determine the Quality of Ceramic Floor Tiles
Check the grade of the tile. Sold as a standard grade, a ceramic tile passes a visual inspection for colour consistency and warping at a distance of three feet. Inspection of second-grade tile is done at a distance of ten feet. Irregular glaze, inconsistent thickness, or defective colour match within the batch, will be sold as salvage.
Examine the tile label and the manufacturers’ technical information about the tile for the durability classification. Classifications are 0-Not flooring; I-Light traffic floors; II-Medium residential traffic floors; III-All residential floors; IV-Commercial floors; IV-Extra Heavy traffic. Purchase tile using this classification system to ensure that the selection is appropriate for your needs.
Purchase the only tile that has been rated as slip resistance as determined by a laboratory test. Slip resistance is defined as the amount of resistance tile offers a sole shoe material to the flooring material wet or dry. Install only high rated slip-resistant flooring in kitchens, baths and entryways. Avoid installation of a high gloss glaze tile on heavily used floors. The high shine glazes scratch easily and are very slippery when wet.
Test the hardness of the tile yourself by using the Moh Hardness test to determine what material scratches another material. Use the Moh Hardness scale to rate materials on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the hardest. The scale is 1-Talc; 2-Gypsum (or a fingernail); 3-Calcite (or a copper penny); 4-Fluorite; 5-Apatite (or window glass); 6-Feldspar (or a steel file); 7-Quartz; 8-Topaz; 9-Corundum; and 10-Diamond. If the hardness is over six, it is perfect for a durable floor. Durable ceramic tile flooring must have a hardness of 6 or better.
Buy solid body tile, which has the same colour throughout, for heavy traffic areas. Avoid using a red or brown body tile with a light colour glaze on floors because a scratch or chip will show the red or brown body colour under the glaze. Use tile with a body-colour similar to the top colour to avoid problems with small chips or scratches.
Look for warping by examining a few tiles in each box. Mix multiple boxes during installation to obscure any variation in the thicknesses of the tile or corner curl that may be present. Compensate for slight warping during installation by increasing the mortar bed underneath the tile.
Seal grout lines on all glazed tiles floors but not the tiles themselves. Seal both tiles and the grout lines on floors with unglazed tile with sealers recommended by the tile manufacturer. Sealing the tiles and grout will make cleaning and maintenance of the ceramic tile floors easier. Sealing tiles will also help protect the glaze from scratch damage.
How to tell the quality of the tiles?
There are used to be two quality grades. One is AAA grade, and one is B grade. The difference between these two grades is as below.
B grade used to have some broken selvedge or the flatness is not 100% perfect, or there is some distortion on the shape. While AAA grade, everything is perfect, without any flaw. So you can ask the seller or check if there is any mark on the tiles.
The most common sales tiles are AAA grade. B grade is normally discount tiles. So AAA grade is suggested for your own house.
Flatness is an important factor in the quality of the tiles. If you are in a tiles shop, since there is no professional test machine, so you can check the flatness by an easy test as below.
First, to check by eye, you can stack two tiles face to face together, then check if there is any gap between the two tiles. The smallest of the gap then the better. Then you take an A4 paper and see if it can be put into the gap. If not, then the flatness is good enough.
Check the flatness of the tiles.
Water absorption is also an important factor but easy to check by yourself. First, to put two tiles together, the backside is up. Then drop some water on the tiles. If the tile spread quickly, then it means the water adsorption rate is high. Then it’s not very good tiles for a sitting room or bedroom. The tiles with high water absorption rate can be used for toilet, bathroom etc.
There is one more easy way to test the quality. Knock the tiles and listen to the sound. If you knock the tiles and it sounds clear and loud then its good quality. Suppose the tiles sound muffled then it’s not very good quality. The tiles with clear sound then it means the porcelain rate is very high and its good quality.
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How to choose the sizes
If you have a big house and if your sitting room is bigger than 40SQM, then you can choose size 80x80cm or even bigger. The as big size will have the high-end feeling. For the bedroom, it’s suggested to choose sizes for 60x60cm, or 15x60cm, 15x80cm wood finish tiles. For kitchen & toilet, it’s suggested to choose sizes 30x60cm for wall tiles and 30x30cm for floor tiles.
Above are some simple ways to test the quality of the tiles. It might help you have a better idea of how to tell the quality of the tiles. You need to get the excellent & right tiles for your own house.
Ceramic tile floor tiles are an eco-smart, durable, easily maintained and beautiful flooring solution. Installed properly, quality ceramic tile will last a lifetime. Ceramic tile has been the flooring of choice in high traffic areas from ancient Rome to the most modern contemporary building designs. Selecting high-quality floor tiles means doing a little homework before you purchase. Find a tile you love. Get the technical information you need. Make smart decisions.