The beauty of tile, ceramic or stone, adds timeless elegance to any kitchen or bath with flexible design options…
Tiling your countertops is one of the most intriguing and practical choices due to its endless design options, durability and easy maintenance. Tiles for countertops are usually Ceramic or Natural Stone.
Natural stone tiles are created from giant pieces of stone that are removed from quarries all over the world. These pieces are then cut into slabs and eventually become the tiles that will make up your countertop or surrounds. Each stone has its own characteristics. Irregular markings, shading, veining and crystallization are considered normal and part of the beauty of the stone. The veining in your stone tiles will differ in direction from piece to piece.
There are five types of stone you can choose from: marble, granite, limestone, travertine and slate. Each type varies in hardness and porosity. Your design consultant will be able to advise you on which stone types are better suited for each area you are considering depending on your needs and lifestyle.
Ceramic tile is man-made and is available in a wide selection of sizes, colors, patterns and finishes. Finishes range from matte to high gloss with some finishes being more suitable for specific areas in the home.
Let your Design Consultant with Floor to Ceiling answer any questions you have on choosing the type tile that’s right for your project.
All About Tile
Glazed Ceramic Tile: These tiles are coated with glass-forming minerals and ceramic stains. Typically they have a matte, semi-gloss or high gloss finish. They offer better stain and moisture resistance than unglazed tile.
High gloss finishes can be more slippery and scratches can become more visible
Matte or textured finishes help with traction and scratches and dirt are less visible
Unglazed Ceramic Tile: These tiles are very hard and dense. They come in various surface treatments and textures. Typically these are installed outside as they do not offer much protection against stains compared to Glazed Ceramic Tile. Unglazed tiles do have good slip resistance, however they do require sealing to prevent staining.
Porcelain Tile: Porcelain is the hardest and densest tile you can buy. They can withstand temperature extremes. The color in a porcelain tile goes all the way through. These tiles are non-porous and resist scratching.
Granite: One of the hardest and densest of all natural stone. Next to the diamond, it is the hardest of the natural stones.
Granite is know to resist staining and scratching better than any other natural stone, and is mainly made up of quartz, feldspar and mica, and produced in a variety of rich colors each with their own distinctive characteristics.
Beautiful in foyers, bathrooms, libraries or kitchens or as an accent with other natural stones.
Marble: Marble is crystallized limestone that comes in many different color variations and usually displays a veining pattern that adds to its uniqueness. These veins are typically different in color from the overall color of the stone.
Marble is more porous and softer than granite, making it even more susceptible to staining and scratching. Therefore, marble is more suitable for bathroom countertops/walls, shower stalls, tub surrounds or fireplace surrounds. Marble is not recommended for use in kitchens as it is sensitive to acidic chemicals such as citric acids from lemons or limes.
Limestone: This stone has a more subtle look and is often offered in a “honed” or matte finish. This stone will require preventative maintenance over time, as it is a softer stone and very porous. Created by the accumulation of organic materials such as shells and coral, the colors tend to be softer and more neutral ranging from cream, beige, brown, pale rust and soft blue. May not be suitable for all areas in the home because it will stain easily.
Travertine: Unique looking due to the “fill process”. In its original form, Travertine has thousands of holes running through it. These holes are filled and then the stone is polished. The stone polishes to a high sheen and the fill areas remain dull creating a beautiful floor. Like Limestone, this stone will require preventative maintenance over time, due to its porosity.
Slate: The beautiful color variations of slate turn any countertop or surround into a work of art. Slate can be used for interiors as well as exteriors making it the perfect product to bring the outdoors in!
All slate has a natural clefting along the surface which gives this stone its unique textural look of layers. It is extremely durable and stain resistant, making it beautiful kitchen countertops, bathroom countertops, backsplash and wall surrounds and fireplaces.
Tumbled Stone: This stone type is marble, travertine and limestone that are tumbled and distressed to evoke a timeworn look of stone from centuries past. It is suitable for both the casual and formal environment, and makes the perfect accent to polished granite, marble or limestone.
Stunning on countertops, surrounds or as backsplash treatments, tumbled stone is available in many sizes and are often used in borders or decorative strips.
There are a vast amount of tile sizes ranging from 1”x1” to 18”x18”. With such variety, the design opportunities are endless.
Tiles 2”x2” and smaller are usually referred to as mosaics and are often used with different colors to create a pattern or decorative inset.
Some of these smaller tiles also come different shapes, such as hexagon, for more design options.
Pattern borders in different size tiles or different colors can create beautiful looks. When creating a pattern with different tile, the more prominent tile that is throughout the largest areas is called the “field tile.”
Natural Stone grout lines are typically done with unsanded grout and are usually much thinner than ceramic tile installations.
Design Options-grout can match, contrast or coordinate with your stone tile. Remember, grout will outline each tile creating a visual picture frame. If you want to highlight the beauty of your stone and make the grout less noticeable, select a grout that is close in color to the stone. A contrasting grout color, either darker or lighter, will enhance the appearance of the grout lines creating a checkerboard effect.
Grout darkens as it ages, so sealing is recommended. Remember that grout colors can change slightly from the sample in the design center to the grout installed in your home based on the temperature and humidity when the tile is installed.
It is highly recommended that you seal your tile after it is installed to provide additional stain resistance and to protect the original beauty. There are different types of sealers depending on the type of tile, so make sure to ask your design consultant what you will need. Scratches, stains, etching and dulling of the surface are all permanent damage and can forever alter the appearance of your tile countertop.
Considerations when choosing Stone Tiles
Choosing a countertop for your project, is really about knowing the right combination of characteristics, aesthetics, performance and budget to best meet the needs of your lifestyle. Take a look at some considerations before choosing Natural Stone tile as your next countertop.
The tiles that make up your countertop or surrounds will not look exactly like the tile you saw in the design center. Additionally, if you select a combination of natural stone products, such as a stone tile backsplash or floor and the same color and type of stone slab countertop, they will not match.
Natural stone tiles are polished or honed at the manufacturer’s before installation to provide a smooth finish. Once installed there may be faint “cloudy spots” visible when viewing your countertop or wall tile from different angles and in certain lighting conditions due to swirl marks from the polishing process.
No natural stone tile will have a perfectly smooth surface. Even after the tiles are polished there may be small chips or pits that may be apparent in different lighting. Fissures, often times mistaken for cracks, are not. These markings are normal and add to the beauty of the stone.
Being a natural product, natural stone tiles will vary more in thickness, squareness and length compared to man-made ceramic tile. As a result, once your natural stone tile is installed it will not be a completely smooth surface from tile to tile.
Caring for your Tile Countertops
Maintaining ceramic tile is minimal if done on a regular basis.
For daily cleaning, sponge down your ceramic tile countertop or wall tile with the manufacturer’s recommended tile and grout cleaners or with a non-abrasive household cleaner. Be sure to clean spills as quickly as possible so that the grout or tile does not become stained.
For heavier cleaning, there are cleaning products, sold in your local grocery store, that can be used to remove soap scum, hard water deposits, and mildew stains. You’ll want to consult the cleaner’s manufacturer instructions to make sure the product is compatible with your type of tile. After cleaning, rinse well and wipe dry for more shine. Textured tiles may require mild scrubbing with a soft brush or electric polisher/scrubber.
To avoid scratching the surface of the tile, never use abrasive cleaners or steel wool. Do not use bleach or ammonia, on a regular basis; these products can discolor your grout.
Keep in mind that ceramic tile is very durable, but not indestructible. Do not use a ceramic countertop to sit or stand on, or as a cutting board. Ceramic tile or grout can crack or chip under extreme force.
There are several different types of natural stone and each has its own level of porosity. The more porous the stone, the more easily it can stain. Therefore, the more protection you will want to help guard your investment. Depending on your lifestyle, you may want to consider sealing your stone on a regular basis. Sealing will help slow down the staining process. Manufacturers recommend sealing once every one to three years depending on the amount of usage the stone area receives. Your Design Consultant can offer you recommendations about sealing.
To clean natural stone countertops, you can us a neutral pH detergent or pure soap, such as Liquid Ivory, for spills or periodic cleaning. Make sure to rinse thoroughly and buff dry with a clean soft cloth. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks.
Do not use products that contain vinegar, abrasives or any ammonia-based cleaners, such as Windex. These products will dull the luster of your stone. Additionally, do not use retail grout cleaners or bathroom cleaners on your stone.