Which tile to choose depends mostly upon where you plan to install it and, of course, whether or not is has the look you want for that specific application.For the former I will explain several things to take into consideration. The latter is entirely up to you (unless you’re the husband, in which case it’s up to your wife). So before you choose your tile you need to consider a couple of things.
Where are you installing the tile?
If it will be installed on a wall in a non-wet area, you do not need to worry about much except whether or not you like the way it looks. A non-wet area is defined as an area that is not regularly exposed to a significant amount of water. Wainscots, backsplashes, and fireplaces are examples on non-wet areas.
If it will be installed in a wet area, such as a shower, you need to take into consideration the absorption rate of the tile to an extent. Although it is not that dire to consider this, the lower the percentage of absorption, the better it will be for your application.
You can install travertine in a shower but porcelain will be easier to take care of. An application such as a steam shower or exterior patio would suggest a lower absorption rate. A good rule of thumb is the higher the chance of exposure to moisture and temperature, the lower the absorption rate you want.
If the tile will be installed on a floor you will also want to consider what is called the Static Coefficient of Friction. That’s just a big phrase to describe how slippery a tile is.
This number will (usually) be below one. Just consider this number to be between 1 and 10. For instance, consider a SCOF (Static Coefficient of Friction) or COF of 0.5 to be a 5. This is the number which most standards consider “slip resistant”.The higher the number, the less slippery it will be.
Tile will have two COF numbers – one for wet and one for dry. You may want to consider both numbers for an application such as a bathroom or shower floor or a patio. Consider a 1 (0.1) to be akin to ice and a 10 (1.0) to be sandpaper.
Other factors to take into consideration include the size of the tile as well as the size of the grout lines (to a smaller degree). If you have 2 inch by 2 inch tile with fairly large grout lines, such as a shower floor mosaic, it will have more friction than 18 X 18 inch tiles with 1/16 grout lines. The grout lines add friction because they are uneven and break up the flat, continuous surface of the tile.
What will be walking or rolling on top of the tile?
For floors that will have all nature of things walking and rolling on them you need to consider what those things will be. The thing you need to look at is what is called the “point load”. A Corvette tire actually has a smaller point load than a woman in high heels (but don’t tell her I said that).
Point load is basically the surface area of the object atop the tile divided by the weight on top of it. How much pressure is something going to put on the tile in any given area? The more dense the tile the better it will withstand a point load.
Notice high end hotels have a dense tile such as porcelain or granite in their lobbies? It’s because of the durability of those types of tile for that application. You won’t find limestone tile in a Hilton lobby and you won’t find travertine in a car showroom. Those tiles will simply not stand up to the abuse.
While this is less of a concern with residential applications, you may want to keep it in mind. If you’re installing an entryway in Siberia on which people will constantly be stomping snow off their boots, you don’t want to put in a fragile tile.
Is the application realistic?
Some tile has a soft surface area. Tiles such as travertine or slate are not suited to things like a countertop. They scratch easily. Common sense is the best measure of this. The simple way to figure it out is if your tile choice will not stand up to the rigors of the application, don’t put it there. Simple enough, yes? It still doesn’t stop people.
If you’re unsure, just ask someone. Walk up and say something like “hey, I’m gonna put glass tiles on my garage floor, what do you think about that?” If they look at you like you’ve grown a third eye, you may want to rethink that.
There is more that goes into picking your tile than most people think. While it is not absolutely critical that you follow these guidelines, at least let common sense dictate your choice rather than price. If installed properly tile will last for many, many years. Don’t regret your decision because Home Depot had a sale.
And do not install glass tiles on your garage floor.