Tile: An Excellent Choice for Floors, Walls, and More

Durable and versatile, tile is an enormously popular choice in commercial and residential building and design — used to create stunning floors, walls, backsplashes, bathrooms, and fireplace surrounds.

Why Tile
If there’s one building material that checks all the boxes, it’s tile. Providing the perfect balance of style and durability, tile is a top choice for trade professionals and homeowners alike.

  Tile is Healthy. Toxin-free tile is made from natural ingredients and contributes to the clean air that’s so important in a living or working space. Tile is naturally resistant to dust, bacteria, mold, fungi, and other allergens. It emits zero VOCs (the harmful gases that contribute to headaches and irritation). Tile is solid and contains no formaldehyde or other harmful binders.
  Tile is Safe. In slippery spaces, such as bathrooms and laundry rooms, textured or slip-resistant tile is a safe flooring option. It’s non-flammable, making it a worry-free choice for kitchen floors, backsplashes, and fireplace surrounds.
  Tile is Earth-Friendly. Long-lasting, sustainable tile has a lower carbon footprint than any other flooring material. Efficient, zero-waste manufacturing is used to create a product that lasts for generations. Regional availability means that the air emissions associated with cross-country transport are reduced. Tile naturally contributes to energy savings, reducing heating and cooling irregularities so that HVAC systems can operate more efficiently.
  Tile is Easy to Maintain. Tile is low maintenance. It’s easily cleaned with water – no cleaners or chemicals are needed. It’s stain-resistant, water-resistant, fade-resistant, scratch-resistant, and fire-resistant. Years of traffic, spills, and messes are no match for this user-friendly material.
  Tile Adds Value. Tile is affordable. It adds value to a space, requires no costly maintenance, and lasts a lifetime.

Where To Use Tile
Tile is a popular choice for flooring, but it doesn’t stop there. With tile, installation options are endless.


Tile is the ideal material for the hub of the home. It can be used to create a gorgeous floor, a hearty countertop, or an eye-catching backsplash. The natural, easy-care material emits no toxic fumes to interfere with cooking and eating. Its hard surface is immune to unpleasant odors, allergens, and bacteria. And tile doesn’t burn, so there are no worries melting with a hot pan.

Resistant to mildew, fungi, and germs, tile is a no-nonsense option for the wet-prone surfaces of a bathroom. As flooring, it’s easy to clean. As a tub wall or shower surround, it’s a mold-free work of art. On the ceiling, it’s unfazed by steam and moisture. No single building material is more appropriate than tile for a residential or commercial bathroom.

Living Room
When it comes to design options, no flooring material comes close to tile. It can be made to look like any other material, while providing the low-maintenance durability that only tile can give. On a wall, tile can be utilized to create an incredible focal point. Fire-proof and heat-resistant, it’s the logical choice for a fireplace surround.

The endless benefits that make tile such an excellent indoor material are seamlessly carried outdoors as well. Tile is naturally strong in even the harshest climates. Its durability and slip resistance make tile a smart choice for patios, pool surrounds, and walkways.

Commercial Spaces
For businesses, tile just makes sense. Durable and long-lasting, it’s a practical yet stylish choice for floors, walkways, walls, countertops, and exteriors. The fact that it’s bursting with eco-friendly features is just a bonus!

Tile Materials
Each type of tile has its own characteristics that can be matched to the desired style, scale, and budget of a new or remodeled space.

Manufactured from a mixture of clays and fired at high temperatures, ceramic tiles come in an expansive array of colors, patterns, shapes, textures, and sizes. These scratch-resistant tiles provide long-lasting durability. The most popular and affordable of tiles, ceramic can be made to look like hardwood, brick, stone, metal, and even fabric.

•  Glazed. Most ceramic tiles are manufactured with glaze, which creates a seal over the clay. The glaze adds waterproofing and stain resistance and eliminates the need for other sealers or protective finishes.
•  Unglazed. Unglazed ceramic tiles deliver a natural, rustic aesthetic. Without this glaze, however, the tiles remain very porous. As such, there is no protection against moisture absorption or staining. It’s a good option for liquid-free spaces in which an earthy appearance is desired.
•  Terra Cotta. Terra cotta tiles are created from red clay. To preserve the natural beauty and warm colors, these tiles are used in their unglazed state. As such, they should – at a minimum – be sealed to prevent liquid absorption and staining.

Porcelain tiles (ceramic fired at high temperatures) are dense and hard, making them ideal for indoor and outdoor areas that are prone to traffic and moisture. Porcelain tiles can be found in an enormous variety of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes.

•  Matte (Unglazed). These “raw” porcelain tiles are baked, fired, and left otherwise untreated.
•  Glazed. Adding a glaze finish to matte porcelain makes it stronger and more impervious to moisture.
•  Polished. Tiles can be polished instead of glazed for a unique look.
•  Full Body. Full body porcelain is that which has color and texture throughout the tile. Because the color goes all the way through the body, scratches to the surface are less visible.

Elegant glass tile is extraordinarily versatile. Available in countless colors and sizes, it’s an excellent choice for kitchen and bathroom backsplashes. The reflective nature of glass effortlessly brightens the dim space between cupboard and countertop. And it’s one of the easiest tiles to clean.

Stone tiles are equally at home in rustic and contemporary settings. Not inherently waterproof, this tile requires a treatment in order to be used in moisture-prone spaces.

•  Natural Stone. The texture and imperfections of natural stone make this a popular choice for focal walls and fireplace surrounds.
•  Travertine. This limestone tile is naturally porous and boasts varying colors. It’s a byproduct of hot springs and caves and can be traced back to Ancient Roman buildings.
•  Marble. Marble is limestone that has been crushed and heated by the earth for eons. These highly durable tiles are finished (polished, honed, brushed, or tumbled) and cut to a wide range of sizes. Patterns and veins make each piece unique.
•  Granite. One of the hardest natural stones, granite is available in a surprising number of speckled colors and textures. Once polished, it resists scratching exceptionally well.
•  Slate. Heat and pressure transform shale and clay into this fine-grain stone. The resulting textured surface lends an excellent slip-resistant quality to the slate, making it ideal for use on floors.

Unglazed terracotta (“baked earth) is a low-density tile that is best-suited to dry areas. Saltillo tile lends a similar appearance, but it is dried and not fired. 

This semi-vitreous or vitreous tile is unglazed. Traditionally sold as reddish squares, it’s now available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Unlike its terra cotta cousin, quarry tiles are not porous and will resist moisture.

Metal tiles can be created from meal or from resin with a metal coating. Popular finishes include bronze, copper, nickel, and stainless steel. Metal tiles are most often used as accents within other tile displays.

Mosaic tiles are most often small, square tiles that are laid together for a grand visual effect. They can be made of glass, ceramic, stone, or other materials.

This “category” is comprised of tiles that are decorated or embossed with images or patterns. They’re ideal for murals, mosaics, and borders.

This composite material blends chips from a variety of the above materials – marble, granite, glass, etc. The composite is cured, ground, and polished. When refinished regularly, it enjoys a long lifespan. Terrazzo tiles are typically found in commercial rather than residential spaces.

Faux Wood
These tiles look like wood, but they’re made of ceramic. As such, they offer benefits that real wood does not: durability, water resistance, and no termites.

Tile Sizes
Finding the perfect tile involves more than the material selected. Each type of tile comes in a variety of sizes, providing options from tiny glass mosaics to enormous slabs of porcelain.

Complementary Sizes
Mixing various tile sizes is great way to create visual interest. Within a room, wall tile and floor tile should complement rather than compete with each other. From a design standpoint, that means keeping wall tiles smaller than those on the floor for more pleasing proportions.

Large Tile Trend
While 4-inch and 6-inch tiles were once all the rage, current trends reveal a stronger demand for big tiles on floors and walls. Large format tiles – those exceeding 12 inches and reaching sizes of 6 feet or more – make a space appear larger. There are fewer grout lines to interrupt the flow of the tile, and the grout lines that are used can be thinner than those associated with traditional tile sizes.

Dense, Durable, Digital
The largest tiles are typically made of dense porcelain, which provides a durability that works well on a large surface area. Digital printing technology can transform the porcelain to look like natural stone, concrete, hardwood, metal, or linen.

Installing and Maintaining
When laid properly using the appropriate adhesive on a well-prepped surface, quality tile of any size should easily handle normal wear and tear. However, maintenance is a factor to keep in mind for the size decision: the smaller the tiles, the more grout is required. That’s more grout to clean, maintain, and possibly replace over time.

Tile Shapes
Tiles can be cut to just about any shape imaginable. And how the tiles are laid further establishes the resulting shape and aesthetic of a space. Various shapes can be mixed to create patterns such as herringbone, chevron, parquet, and more. Contrasting shapes can establish borders or be used as focal points.

With four equal sides, square tiles are easy to measure and install. Mosaics are typically 1-inch or 2-inch squares. Decorative and accent tiles are most commonly found in 4-inch or 6-inch squares. The most popular large format squares are 12-inch, 18-inch, and 24-inch.

The most recognizable rectangles are 3-inch x 6-inch subway tiles. Field tiles, large format rectangles of 12-inch x 24-inch, are currently in demand – particularly in porcelain or marble.

With six equal sides, hexagonal tiles are most frequently found in smaller sizes on mesh backing for quick and easy installation.

Penny Round
Popular for throwback bathroom floors, mesh-backed penny round tiles are just as charming when used for a kitchen backsplash or fireplace surround.

Basket Weave
These Victorian-inspired tiles are available in an array of materials for use in projects ranging from low-budget to very high-end.

Ogee (Specialty) Shapes
Non-traditional tile shapes produce delightfully unexpected results. Specialty shapes include diamonds, pickets, triangles, fish scales, and arabesques, among others.

The Cost of Tile
The goal of any design is to create a space that is visually pleasing and affordable. Fortunately, beautiful, versatile tile is a long-term, cost-effective investment. Many factors impact the overall price.

Type of Tile Selected
Determining whether the tile will be stone, glass, ceramic, or some other material is the first determinant of price. Each type of tile can range from affordable to expensive.

Tile Features and Performance
The price of tile is dependent on more than its material.

•  Composition. Modifications and additions to clay or other tile bases may increase the price. Full body porcelain tiles, for example, are pricier than tiles that contain color only on the surface or within their finish. Additives to decrease a tile’s brittleness can also drive up the price
•  Durability. The more abrasions a tile (or a tile’s glaze) can withstand before it’s worn off, the better its durability rating and the higher its price. Thickness is another important factor: thicker tiles cost more because they’re stronger and less likely than their thinner counterparts to crack.
•  Porosity. How a tile is fired impacts its density and porosity. Tiles fired in very high temperatures are denser and less porous and therefore stronger and more resistant to moisture. The lower the porosity, the higher the price.
•  Appearance. The measure of a tile’s quality is enormously dependent on its appearance.  Most tiles are graded – the lower the grade, the better the product. A grade one tile, for example, is uniform in comparison to a grade three or four tile, which contains flaws or variations of color/pattern.

Where The Tile Is Purchased
Tile can be purchased from manufacturing sites across the globe, from big box stores, and online. Wholesale suppliers like ProSource offer thousands of options, along with the opportunity to see them first-hand at local showrooms. And wholesalers typically have lower prices than retailers do, even on the same brands and styles.

With so many options, choosing the right tile can be daunting. ProSource is up to the task. We feature only those trusted brands we’ve researched ourselves. We provide options for every budget: economical, mid-range, and premium. Our online tools assist with setting a budget, and our design pros expertly wade through the countless options with you.

Whether you’re a trade professional or a homeowner, we’re ready to help you find the perfect tile for your next project. Contact a ProSource team member today.

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