ceramic tile floors

 

Ceramic Tile Flooring

ceramic tile floorsCeramic tile floors have become much more popular with consumers today, and this is in large part due to the vast improvements that have been made not only in their design and color, but also the strength at which they are being manufactured. The industry has evolved tremendously from the days of the nubby soft pink bisque and primitive glazing techniques similar to the 8 by 8 Pergamina (ancient by today's standards).

Tile made of Porcelain in sizes 16 by 16 and larger exceed the wear ratings of the previous softer bisque and glazed choices of yesterday by leaps and bounds. For instance, it wasn't unusual for products made 20 years ago to begin showing signs of wear in high traffic areas in 3 or 4 years after installation. The glazed surface would actually wear down enough to become dull and unsightly. Chipping was also a problem whenever something was dropped on it.

 
Ceramic tile floors today though, are much different and the number of various styles and colors to choose from today just boggles the mind. Smaller sizes, once popular in main areas of the home, have now been replaced by much larger sizes. The effect that larger sizes have visually is absolutely amazing.

A room 12 by 12 in size will actually appear larger to the eye because of being less busy, more open and spacious when using lets say a piece 16 by 16 than it would if you had used a 12 by 12 square. The number of grout lines is drastically reduced as the size of the piece increases, creating this allusion. The basic rule of thumb is this... The larger the square - the fewer the grout lines, the fewer the grout lines - the less busy, the less busy - the more open and spacious, the more open and spacious - the larger a room looks.

Ceramic Tile Wear Ratings

Ceramic tile today is rated by the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) for wearability. This is a number rating scale that goes from a PEI classification of 0 (not good) to 5 (very good). What do these numbers mean? They basically indicate the areas of use recommended by the manufacturer. For instance, one rated PEI 2 should only be considered for an area where very low traffic and soiling is expected. In this classification will be the high gloss selections with vibrant colors which are aesthetically pleasing, but not long wearing.

On the other hand, a PEI 5 indicates something designed for heavy commercial wear and traffic. Most good quality Porcelain will have a wear rating of 5, meaning it is the strongest you can buy. It must be mentioned though, that the rating system is only for determining wear expectations, not the actual quality of the product. The factors determining quality are calibration (are all pieces the same size), squareness of edges (is there any warpage), and consistency of surface texture (are there imperfections such as small visible cracks in the glaze).

Ceramic Tile Quality

Quality then, is just as important a consideration as the wear rating is, for a number of reasons. First, when the installer considers the lay-out of a particular job, his first priority should be setting the individual pieces as close as what is reasonable. Grout joints are required in all floor applications, with anything 1/4 inch or smaller acceptable. At no time should squares be butted together, for when the floor settles (and they all do) shearing (coming up off the floor) and buckling will occur.

At any rate, let's say each of the pieces are consistent in size with one another. This is a good thing, for because they are calibrated well, the installer can set a close joint (lets say 3/16 of an inch or even a little closer) and all of the grout lines will be uniform. It's not unusual though for a poor quality line to have squares within the same shipment and dye lot vary as much as an 1/8 of an inch from one another. Calibration is terrible (some would say unacceptable) and the end result will be larger and considerably more inconsistent size grout lines.

Consistently square edges will translate into consistently square grout lines. Warped edges, such as those found in a poorer quality selections, will mean grout lines that get wider and narrower along each individual piece, as well as lippage in the floor. Lippage is when you run your hand over the floor and discover height differences from one piece to the other.

Installers have to be much more selective in deciding which pieces to install and which to set aside when dealing with poorer quality choices. This slows down the job considerably, ultimately costing the installer not only time but money. Installers are not magicians, and cannot make that which is crooked and warped, straight. They can only deal with the variables that are present and make the best of it.

The lesson here is clear. For your ultimate happiness and satisfaction, choose something with a reputation for excellent quality and consistency. In the end, everyone benefits. You will be pleased with a product that is sure to give you years of satisfaction and looks absolutely beautiful on your floor, and your installer will be pleased with being able to pull all of the various elements together and successfully create that showroom look for you.

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