Ceramic Tile 101

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Ceramic tiles are a popular flooring and household interior material, but there’s more to know about these squares than you may think!

A Brief History of Ceramic Tiles

Ceramics have been around for centuries, dating back over 4,000 years. They are thought to have originated in ancient Egypt around 4,700 BCE. The word “ceramic” is derived from the Greek word for pottery, which is keramos. The word tile comes from tegula in Latin and tuile in French. The use of ceramic tiles began in the Middle East, gaining popularity in Europe around the time of the 11th century. Around this time, mosaic floors and panels made their first, splashy appearances.

ceramic tiles with elaborate, classical patterns

Ceramic Tile Creation

Ceramic tiles are composed of natural clay minerals. These minerals are mixed together, glazed on one side, and then fired under extreme heat in a kiln. The first process is firing, which makes the material hard and takes it to its biscuit (or bisque) phase. After this, tiles are glazed, then fired again a second time. Unglazed tile retains its natural color.

Ceramic tile is subjected to heat to create a strong and resilient material, which is part of the reason that these materials are so often used in homes. Ceramic tiles are most frequently found in the form of half to three-quarter inch thick four by four squares and are also available in larger square slabs. They are available in several finish options: polished, shiny, satin, matte, or natural.

earth toned ceramic tiles

The Pros of Ceramic Tiles

Durability

One of the reasons that this material is used so often in homes is because of its durability, which makes it a good flooring choice for high-traffic areas. It’s relatively difficult to dent, break, or scratch ceramic tiles.

Stain Resistant

Another pro of ceramic tiles is that they’re resistant to stains, making them an excellent choice for kitchens.

sand colored ceramic tile

Wide Selection

Ceramic tiles are available in so many sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns. They’re a versatile material that can suit almost any taste or home need.

Affordable

Ceramic tiles are an affordable home material. On average, these tiles cost between 50 cents to $35 per square foot. To figure out how much tile you would need, you first need to know the area of the space to be tiled. Order enough tile to fill the space, plus an extra five to seven percent to account for breaks and cutouts. If the space to be tiled, though, isn’t a straightforward shape like a square or rectangle, order an extra 15 percent as more diagonals and unique shapes will mean the need for more tiles.

gloved hands mounting glossy, naturally colored ceramic tiles

Easy to Clean

This type of tile can be cleaned by being swept clean a couple times a week to remove debris. In fact, the most important part of keeping ceramic tile clean is to keep the grout clean. Tiles can then be mopped clean with a gentle detergent and hot water.

Water Resistant

Ceramic tile is resistant to water. This is a pro, as it prevents moisture accumulation, which could lead to unwanted mold growth.

gray and white ceramic tiles

The Cons of Ceramic Tiles

Hard and Cold Feeling

One complaint about tile is that it can feel quite cold and hard on your feet when it’s used for flooring. This can also cause leg and back fatigue when standing on it for extended periods of time, for example when cooking a meal.

Slippery

Ceramic tile is more slippery than other flooring surfaces when it’s wet, which can be a safety hazard.

gloved hand cleaning tile grout

Grout Discoloration

While tile itself is simple to clean, as mentioned above, the grout between tiles is prone to staining and discoloration over time.

Professional Installation

While it is, in fact, possible to install ceramic tiles yourself, it’s a job more suited for a professional in many instances, especially if it’s a larger-scale job.

Overall, ceramic tiles are a versatile material that have a wide range of upsides, making them a material worth considering in your home.