The vast array of ceramic tile designs, shapes, sizes, and colors gives you the optimum advantage when choosing ceramic tile. The best ceramic tile can really compliment the personal aesthetic you have planned for your home.
Where to Find the Right Ceramic Tile
You can purchase ceramic tile through many outlets, ranging from home improvement stores to showrooms to online retailers. In all cases, it is important to:
- Explore tiles appropriate for your project. For example, tiles with the appropriate slip-resistance for areas exposed to moisture.
- Acquire sample tiles in the color, shape, and size you are considering. This way you can review them onsite for your project. Also consider asking your installer to create a sample dry layout so that you can see the tile in a specific pattern before installation.
- Understand the quantity needed for the project and the availability during your project timeline.
- Consider grout color along with your tile options to coordinate the entire installation. Grout color options can emphasize or minimize a design or bring another detail to the design you may not have considered.
- Coordinate surfaces and elements, such as cabinetry, hardware, paint color, and lighting.
- Determine the cost, including installation factors. For example:
- Will a project cost more because you need additional to match a pattern in the design?
- Will a project cost less because the installation is simpler and will take less time to install?
- Review your choices with your tile contractor/installer.
Work with a Certified Ceramic Tile Specialist
A tile professional can help you narrow down which ceramic tile is best. Specifically, a Certified Ceramic Tile Specialist (CCTS) can help guide you toward the best tile decision to meet your expectations.
A CCTS can work with you (typically in a showroom setting) to discover the type of project you are working on, as well as your lifestyle needs. They can also assist with the design vision you have in mind, and the technical specifications your project will require. Your specialist is trained to guide you toward all the considerations that will make the decision process fun and satisfying. You can feel confident you are working with the materials most appropriate for your project.
Shopping for Shower Tile
When shopping for the best tile for a shower project, a CCTS will consider what needs are desired for the shower (such as accessibility) and type of shower you have or are building:
- Enclosed shower with a door
- Curbless shower
- Shower/tub combination
- Wet room
Properly installed and maintained ceramic tile is part of a waterproof installation system that has been trusted for centuries to protect your underlayment and construction from water damage.
A CCTS tile professional is trained in both the aesthetics and functionality of ceramic tile. They stay current on new manufacturing advancements and installation standards through required continuing education courses. Additionally, every three years they go through a renewal of certification.
Specifics for shower installations can impact your tile choice. For example, a curbless shower needs the space and tile size that will allow for an installation that slopes slightly toward a drain. Your specialist can suggest tile selections that will work best with a curbless shower the size of your space. Likewise, a wet room requires tiling the ceiling. Your specialist can steer you toward selections that will work for your shower floor, walls, and ceiling.
Additionally, CCTS professionals understand the maintenance of ceramic tile in different applications and can advise you on the simple cleaning of your shower tile.
Shopping for Bathroom Tile
In addition to shower tile considerations, bathroom flooring, countertops, wall tile, and backsplashes are all surfaces that benefit from the protective surface of ceramic tile in areas exposed to moisture. Coordinate your surfaces with the help of a CCTS to find an option that works with existing elements, as well as surfaces in other areas of your home.
Shopping for Flooring Tile
While you may be shopping for ceramic tile flooring in one room or for ceramic tile to use in an open floor plan, your flooring decision needs to coordinate with your whole-house aesthetic. The wide variety of looks available in ceramic tile include minimalist, biophilic, traditional, urban, farmhouse, and more.
Not sure of your style? Trust a tile professional to help you determine which style fits with your home, including options that work with an eclectic or transitional style.
Shopping for Kitchen Tile
Ceramic tile uses in a kitchen include the kitchen flooring, backsplash, countertop, and even cabinet cladding and kitchen islands. Ceramic tile “families” provide collections with variations to offer different sizes, shapes, and colors to coordinate a complete kitchen look.
Shopping for Outdoor Tile
Outdoor living areas allow us to bring the comfort of our homes outdoors. Ceramic tile offers options that help you carry the same tile look from indoors to outdoors for a consistent aesthetic that extends your living space.
Outdoor living areas can include fireplaces, outdoor kitchens, walkways, pools, patios, porches and facades. Also, ask your CCTS tile professional for ceramic tile appropriate for your area’s freeze-thaw conditions. Ceramic tile will not fade from the sun or pool chemicals and provides the same easy maintenance as your indoor tile. That means stain and scratch resistance and resistance to damage from falling limbs and heavy outdoor furniture. Ceramic tile won’t melt or give off toxic fumes when exposed to heat so you can use ceramic tile around your outdoor fireplace or firepit.
Shopping for Mosaic Tile
Mosaic tile is technically defined as having a facial area of less than 9 in². The smaller size allows for creative combinations of colors and patterns to create custom installations and even decorative murals. Choose a full range of colors within a shape or either a range of shapes within a color family so that you can create a mosaic to match your imagination.
Shopping for XXL Tile
While mosaic tiles represent the smallest tiles you’ll find, gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs are XXL tiles that can measure up to 15 feet! These grand tiles create beautiful wallpapered looks, natural looks of stone or giant gemstones, and are a popular choice for creating a minimalist look because of the reduced number of grout lines.
Despite such a big size, XXL panels/slabs are quite versatile in application and work well for flooring, countertops, custom furniture, wall tile, and backsplashes. The use of XXL tile requires specialized tools and installation standards. A CCTS can advise you on questions to ask your installer to understand if they are qualified to install XXL tile.
Shopping for Wood-Look Tile
Love the look of wood but are shopping for something more durable? Wood-look ceramic tile’s hard-baked surface is resistant to scratches, staining, denting, and fading. Additionally, ceramic tile remains looking great year after year without the refinishing that can be necessary with wood. These low-maintenance advantages, combined with ceramic tile’s water and heat-resistance mean your wood-look ceramic tile has both the aesthetic and the durability features you need.
Shopping for Colorful Tile
Ceramic tile is known for a wide variety of color options from the brightest whites to the richest blacks, from earth tones to jewel tones—your favorite hues in bold solids, patterns, pastels, and variegated colors.
A CCTS, who keeps current on new offerings, understands trends and manufacturer product lines to help steer you toward the best kinds of tile for your project in your preferred palette.
Shopping for Patterned Tile
Patterns can be contained within each tile piece or each tile piece can connect to create a larger pattern. (Keep in mind that tile shapes and colors can be installed to create a pattern, as well.) When shopping for a patterned tile, a tile professional can help you understand the critical considerations of the different looks you can create with a specific tile, how grout colors might affect your pattern, and how to calculate purchase amounts for matching the pattern in your installation.
Shopping for Subway Tile
We have the New York subway system to thank for subway tile! In case you were wondering about the name origin, subway tile grew in popularity after the New York subways chose white rectangular ceramic tile as a durable and easy to maintain and clean surface material. White was selected to help subway users feel the underground areas were clean and bright.
Many manufacturers have a subway tile line of products and the options can be overwhelming without a guide to help you navigate the options. Rely on a CCTS to recommend more than just a specific subway tile but also tiles with appropriate characteristics for your project and your aesthetic.
Shopping for Slip-Resistant Tile
One of the most important advantages of working with a CCTS is they study the latest manufacturer and industry developments. As an example of this crucial knowledge, the American National Standard Test Method for Measuring Dynamic Coefficient of Friction of Hard Surface Flooring Materials (ANSI A326.3) was revised in 2022 to include a five-category product use classification system so that manufacturers of hard flooring materials can communicate possible areas of use for flooring based on the slip resistance characteristics of their products.
Discuss the intended use for your space with your CCTS so that you can review a product’s category classification. Manufacturers can specify one or more of these categories for a given product. A CCTS can help you use the classification system to find the best tile options for you project:
- Interior, Dry (ID): Such as home interiors without water sources
- Interior, Wet (IW): Such as entry foyers, and home interiors exposed to moisture including bathrooms and kitchens
- Interior, Wet Plus (IW+): Such as steam rooms
- Exterior, Wet (EW): Such as level outdoor living spaces including pool decks, walkways, patios, and sidewalks
- Oils/Greases (O/G): Such as level areas regularly exposed to automotive fluids, food preparation areas with grills and any area where oil, grease, and/or fats may be present
The availability of this product use information in the marketplace will lead to better specifications of tile for projects and correspondingly a reduction in slip events, which is significant for consumer safety.
Shopping for Economical Tile
Ceramic tile has been the preferred choice around the world for centuries for its timeless beauty and durability. It offers lower maintenance and a quality lifespan that measures the life of a building. Ceramic tile’s durability provides a life-cycle value that outperforms other floor finishes in cost per square foot over time.
Ceramic tiles come in a wide-range of colors, shapes, and styles — and also find a wide range of price points.
Shopping for Sustainable Tile Products
Ceramic tile is a smart choice for reducing negative environmental impacts, resource use, and demolition waste. This is especially evident when you compare it to flooring products that require frequent replacement. A CCTS can review these sustainable benefits with you:
- North American manufacturing and raw materials allow tile manufacturers in many regions to produce products made with local raw materials. This greatly reduces the energy consumption and emissions of long-distance shipping. In many cases, companies mine the raw materials within 500 miles of both the manufacturing facility and the job site. Plus, the clays and other materials used to make tile are plentiful.
- Tile can reduce the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling because of its exceptional thermal mass. Additionally, a ventilated tile façade can reduce a building’s energy consumption by 20% to 30%. This is due to the natural chimney effect it creates between the structure and the cladding. Tile evacuates hot air in summer, and its insulation is more effective in winter.
- Using light-colored tiles instead of traditional paving materials can lower an area’s heat absorption, or heat island effect. Urban areas may require green buildings to reduce potential heat island effect.
- Many factories are effectively closed-loop facilities with zero waste, high levels of recycling, and efficient resource management.
- Renovators can oftentimes salvage ceramic tile finishes during major renovations, and they typically qualify for clean fill use.
- North American-made ceramic tile has the lowest overall environmental impact compared to other types of flooring when comparing publicly available Environmental Product Declarations. This includes the lowest cradle-to-grave global warming potential (a key metric for determining embodied carbon) and the lowest fossil fuel resource depletion. This is significantly lower than flooring composed of plastic based materials, such as luxury vinyl tiles and planks.
- Ceramic tile’s industry-wide material ingredient guide illustrates the industry’s commitment to consistency, thoroughness, and transparency in its product reporting, and comes on the back of many similar initiatives, such as environmental product declarations (EPDs) and Green Squared® product certifications. Using ceramic tile can help builders obtain green building optimization credits and comply with green building certification programs such as LEED, WELL, and the Living Building Challenge.
Shopping for Unique Tile
Ceramic tile offers many ways to have a one-of-a-kind look. Truth be told, qualified tile installers turn every installation of ceramic tile into a work of art with their talent. To achieve a unique design consider exploring these options with your CCTS and installer:
- Use different tile shapes together
- Incorporate different colors of the same tile shape
- Transition one tile into another tile or another material
- Choose a grout color that brings in another feature to the tile design
- Work with a manufacturer for a custom color or design
- Select an unusual layout pattern
- Shop for handmade tile, where each individual tile is unique
Shopping with a Professional
Shopping for new ceramic tile is a fun experience. There are many style considerations and installation factors to consider while you are making your choice. Trust a Certified Ceramic Tile Specialist to help guide you with every step.
Use these valuable resources to also assist you:
- Search for blog topics about your specific project.
- Use the Design Gallery filters to see project examples of some of your favorite tile styles.
- Reference the online Tile Buying Guide.
- Factor your tile purchase with the tile calculator.
- Download the Tile Buying Guide.
- Explore the Ceramic Tile Layout Pattern Guide.
- Keep 13 Questions to Ask to Find the Right Tile Installer handy.
- Let our Sustainability Guide and Hygiene Guides advise you. Research choices that are healthy for you and healthy for the planet.
- Remember these easy cleaning tips for after your ceramic tile purchase.
- Learn more about the requirements of the Certified Ceramic Tile Specialist program.
Where to Buy Tile
Your next steps are simple:
- Use the search tool at the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) to find a ceramic tile showroom in your area for a more individual, one-on-one shopping, design and education experience, or visit a home improvement or flooring retailer.
- FIND A CERAMIC TILE SHOWROOM NEAR YOU
- For specific products and installation-related materials, you can consult the product locator of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).
- Download our Tile Buying Guide below to share with your contractor or designer or bring with you to the showroom. Having these tips handy will make it that much easier to shop for your tile.
Your Tile Buying Guide…and get started now!
Author: Cynthia Faber Smith
Cynthia Faber Smith serves as chief editor and art director for WhyTile.com. Prior to joining TCNA in 2018, Cindy served as senior editorial staff for Highlights for Children, Science Magazine, and The White House Executive Office.