Many of today’s ceramic tiles are designed to look and feel like natural stone, emulating their rugged surface and color variations. These tiles are intentionally designed to show variations in color and texture, just like the real thing. Since the composition of a tile’s glaze can vary, different tile styles will also exhibit different gloss levels. Solid color tiles create a consistent look, but shade variation is inherent in all fired ceramic products and certain tiles will show greater variation within their dye lots. Color consistency or shade variation is typically listed on the back label of each ceramic tile sample with a low, moderate, high or random rating. What’s the difference?
Low - Consistent shade and texture
Moderate - Average shade and texture variation
High - Extreme shade and texture variation
Random - Severe shade and texture variation
You’ll notice color variations between a manufacturers’ sample and the same color installed on countertops, wall tile or ceramic floors. The color of the clay available in a manufacturer’s geographic region determines the color of the body of a tile. Look at the tile to see if its color is red or white. The quality of a tile is more about the manufacturer than the color of the tile, itself.Density
In the same way that the composition of glaze can vary, different styles of tile exhibit different gloss levels and surface textures. For example, in areas that get wet, like a shower or bathroom floor, the tile should have low moisture absorption and good slip resistance. By moisture absorption, we mean that as the density of a tile increases, the amount of moisture it can absorb becomes less. Similarly, by tile density, we mean that as the weight or the density of the tile increases, it becomes stronger.
Here’s some terminology to help you decide:Non-Vitreous
Tiles absorb 7% or more moisture. They’re best suited for indoor use only.Semi-Vitreous
Tiles absorb from 3% to 7% moisture. They re best used indoors only.Vitreous Tiles
absorb less that 3% moisture. They are referred to as frost-resistant tiles but can’t be used in exterior areas where freeze-thaw conditions might cause tile cracking.Impervious Tiles
have less than .5% moisture absorption. These tiles are frostproof and can be used outside or on building facades. If you have serious winter weather, these are the tiles for you.Grout
Grout is usually mixed on site, but slight color variations can occur within different areas of the same installation. In fact, grout color can vary from the manufacturer’s sample you saw in the store. This is due to variations in temperature and humidity at the time of grouting. It’s also common to see grout variations when comparing the grout color in a tile floor with the same grout color on a tile countertop or wall. When choosing grout color, it’s a good idea to select a color that blends in with the overall color of the tile to minimize the appearance of the grout. Though if the tile is installed in a high traffic area, then it may be wise to select a darker grout to hide dirt.
Exact layouts, types of grout and grout joint widths are determined by a tile setter at the time of installation. These decisions are governed by the actual size and shape of the tile you chose and the exact dimensions of the area to be covered. Once your tile has been laid and grouted, it’s up to you to guard all caulked areas against water damage. Grout may darken over time in areas with heavy water use. Also, weather can cause surfaces adjoining the tile to expand and contract, causing the grout to crack and separate. Ain’t nothing you can do about it.
No subfloors are perfectly level. Nope — not even yours. As a result, you may hear hollow sounds where your subfloor’s surface dips and ridges. But fret not. This won’t affect the integrity or installation of your ceramic tile. Hollow sounds are normal and aren’t considered a product or installation defect.