Tile flooring is enormously popular. It’s not a new fad by any stretch of the imagination, as floor tile can be found in countless older homes, no matter if they are mansions or modest small homes inhabited by everyday people. Floor tiles are sought after because of their beauty, durability, easy maintenance, waterproof characteristics and value. Keep in mind that tile floors are basically artificial rock. No wonder they’re so durable.
You may not have ever given a thought that the ceramic-tile floor in your home is artificial stone or rock. It is. Tile is made by taking pliable clay with varying amounts of silica in it, forming it into uniform shapes, coating it with a quartz-like glaze and then firing it in a hot kiln. Depending upon the temperature of the kiln and the length of time the tile stays in this hot environment, the chemistry and crystal structure of the clay changes. This change takes a soft, flexible clay and transforms it into a hard substance. The same thing is done to create brick. Some tile and brick are so hard, they can last outdoors for thousands of years with little or no wear, even in freezing environments.
Ceramic tile flooring is not immune to damage. If you drop heavy things on it, the tiles can chip or crack. That happened on my own kitchen tile floor in many areas. Soon after we moved into the first home I built for my family, we were hosting a party for the family. My sister-in-law was using a heavy metal spoon at the oven and dropped it. The spoon created a large chip in the white tile. The inside of the tile was a deep red, so the chip was very unsightly. I was able to repair it by filling the chipped area with epoxy to the exact height of the tile. I then painted the epoxy with a matching paint and coated the paint with four coats of clear water-based urethane. Only someone looking closely could see the defect.
Smaller chips happened at the dishwasher. Everyone who loaded dishes and silverware into the machine dropped something from time to time. These smaller chips were easier to repair, but they were a nuisance. Decorative throw rugs should have been used to cover the ceramic floor tiles at these high-risk locations.
Bathroom floor tile is undoubtedly the most common tile you’ll see in a home aside from tile on the walls around tubs and showers. When you grout around the individual tiles, you end up with a substantially waterproof floor. This is especially true if the tile is set in a traditional cement mud base, or to a slightly lesser extent set on cement board.
Dripping wet bodies leaving a shower or tub, or aggressive water sports in bathrooms can cause water to get on floors. Without the waterproof tile and water-resistant grout, the water would quickly cause rot to the wood under the tile. Houses constructed on concrete slabs don’t have this worry.
Porcelain tile flooring has really seen a large growth spurt since the year 2000. Because of its high silica content and the high temperature at which it’s fired, it’s extremely durable. Look closely at a porcelain floor tile that been cut or shattered and you’ll see that the color inside the tile is frequently the same as the top of the tile. Some porcelain tile has a design topcoat that’s a little different than the core, but for the most part the inside color of the tile is the same as the top surface you see. This is a distinct advantage if you feel your tile floor may be susceptible to chipping.
Installing floor tile is a craft. If you think you’ll master floor tile installation during your first weekend project, you need to put your crack pipe away. It takes hundreds of hours of experience to begin to get a feel for many of the different skills you need to ensure success with each job. Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that ceramic tile flooring has very little strength when subjected to tension.
Tension is a force that tries to stretch or bend things. Install floor tile over a subfloor that flexes or has dips in it and you’ll create tension when you step on the tile. The tile will try to bend or flex under your load due to the hollow area under the tile. If enough weight is loaded onto the tile, it will crack.