Q&A / 

Tile Pattern and Design Ideas

DEAR TIM: I'm installing ceramic tile at my house and want to spice it up. Anyone can install the same pieces of tile that are the same color. I was thinking of creating designs and patterns in my floor with different colored tile. Is this a bad idea? What are the pros and cons of doing this? How would you approach this job if you were doing it? Do you have any grouting tips once I get to that point? Lisa A., Danbury, CT

DEAR LISA: I think what you're about to do is a great idea. I've seen plenty of plain tile floors in my lifetime. But flooring that's multi-colored and contains interesting design elements is always an eye catcher.

The pros of doing this is that it will make you happy and you'll get great satisfaction from doing the work. The cons are that highly specialized flooring or designs that are attractive to you may be a turn off for others. If you go to sell your house, the floor may discourage buyers.

This is a fairly complex pattern created from pieces of different colored granite. It could have been done with tile. Photo Credit: Tim Carter

My advice would be to keep in mind the overall look of what you're thinking about and how it will work with your furniture, walls and other decorative items. Also think about how the floor will look after you put furniture back on it. You may work really hard on aspects of the floor that will be covered with large pieces of furniture.

The first thing to do is to plan out what you want to do on paper. If you can draw what you have in your head to scale and then see how it will work overall with your furnishings, do so. Use colored pencils or markers if need be to try to recreate on paper what the floor may end up looking like.

If you like what you have done on paper, then purchase a few sample pieces of the flooring to see how the colors work together. You'll discover you have all sorts of options with respect to ceramic tile, granite flooring and even marble. The biggest challenge, when working with these materials, is ensuring that the top surface of all the materials is in the same plane once the floor is finished.

If you have any doubt as to the final look of your floor, you might want to dry lay the pieces of flooring in place and stand back to see what it looks like. If the design you want involves cutting flooring pieces, this may not be possible.

If you don't like the look, you may be able to return the flooring for a full credit. Be sure the material is returnable if you have the slightest doubt about what it will look like once in place.

You can achieve amazing results by just creating simple borders around rooms with different colored flooring. Some tile and granite come in different sizes so you can create bands of color or interest by simply changing the size of the flooring in different rows.

Medallions or other large patterns are fantastic in the center of rooms where you may have a table with a glass top. The floor will show through the table.

When it's time to grout, realize that water is both your friend and foe. You need plenty of clean water to get the grout from the surface of the tile flooring. But if you put too much water on the fresh grout, you can weaken it. It will crumble and turn to powder in a short time.

The key when grouting is to make sure the grout is not too wet. You should only grout about 15 square feet of surface at a time unless you know what you're doing. If the relative humidity is low, the grout will dry quickly. You need to realize that dried grout haze on the tile or granite can be a nightmare.

You can watch a video that shows how to grout ceramic tile at www.AsktheBuilder.com. Simply type "tile grout video" into the search engine.

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One Response to Tile Pattern and Design Ideas

  1. Tim, I think all of the tips you gave are excellent! I wish we had found your website earlier. We are in the process of re flooring the whole house and yive a lot of great tips! We have already picked out a pattern for our tile. I searched many references before finally picking our design. And from what you suggested in this thread, it seems that we are spot on!! :) Is there any way I can upload a picture of our design and photos of our project, for suggestions to other viewers, and to get your input?? Thanks for the great tips!!

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