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Everything You Need to Know About Tile Flooring

By Ted Ryan

Everything You Need to Know About Tile Flooring

So you’ve spent hours swooning over all the creative tile floors in our Gallery, from utilitarian subway tile to intricate mosaic tiles. Maybe you’ve ordered samples, painstakingly deciding between shades and finishes. You’ve dreamed of the day you smash the Place Order button and start ripping up the eyesore that is your current flooring when you realize...You don’t know a thing about tile flooring.

Well, you’ve got questions and we’ve got answers! It’s time to stop dreaming and get down to the brass tacks of your tile project.

What Kind of Tile Flooring Does Fireclay Carry?

Fireclay floor options include Ceramic, Handpainted, Brick, Glass, and Mosaic Tile. We carry gloss and matte finishes and both are appropriate for floors, but if you have any concern about slipping, matte finishes are the way to go. You can also opt for a gloss glaze in a smaller size (think smaller than your foot).

Learn How to Choose Your Floor Tile

Tile Shown: Fallow // Design + Image: Reserve Home

Darling Magazine Kasbah Kitchen Floor

Tile Shown: Kasbah Trellis in a custom colorway // Design + Image: Darling Magazine

Where Can Tile Flooring Be Installed?

Because of how durable tile is, tile flooring is suitable to install just about anywhere you can imagine, indoors and out. You can most commonly find tile on bathroom or kitchen floors where water, debris, and heavy traffic are unsuitable for other flooring options.

Tile Shown: 8x8 Steel Floor with Elk Brick // Design: Taylor and Taylor // Image: Tiffany G Studio

But tile is a great choice for bedrooms, hallways, laundry rooms, dining areas, patios, pool decks, and more. Hot and humid climates and regions with termites can find even more reason to use tile throughout a home.

Tile Shown: 3x9 in Skyscraper // Design + Image: The Fresh Exchange

Some tile floors are matched with wall tile and feature tile trim where the floor and wall meet.

Tile Shown: 2x8 in Calcite and Flagstone // Design + Image: Jen Pinkston

How is Tile Flooring Installed?

Installing tile floors can be a difficult process for first-time DIY’ers. This is just a quick rundown of how Tile flooring is installed and we recommend working with a contractor until you’re confident in your abilities.

  • First, the subfloor must be smooth, level, free of obstructing fixtures and baseboards, and not move or flex walked across.
  • A tile membrane that will sit between the subfloor and the tile is measured, cut, and adhered to the subfloor using a thin-set mortar.
  • The center of the room is located and marked. The installer will use this mark as a starting point and work their way out using associated reference lines.
  • Tiles are laid out on the floor with spacers so the installer can verify the design, fit, and any places where the tile will need to be cut before any mortar is mixed. This is called dry fitting.
  • Mortar is mixed and combed out over the tile membrane in the immediate space the installer is working.
  • The first tile is pressed into the center point followed by the next tile laid along the reference line and so forth adding mortar and placing tiles as the installer goes.
  • The tile is checked for adhesion and levelness as the installer works and the tiles' surfaces are wiped clean of any errant mortar with a damp sponge.
  • Tile is cut to fit edges and fixtures.
  • When the last tile is placed, the mortar is left to set for 24 hours.
  • Grout is applied using a rubber float and cleaned as the installer works before being left to set for 72 hours
  • Sealant is applied to expansion gaps and fixtures and baseboards are reinstalled
  • Voila!

Tile Shown: 3x9 in Daisy and Sea Glass // Design: Claire Thomas // Image: Stephanie Todaro Photography

What’s the Average Lifetime of Tile Flooring?

With proper installation and care, a tile floor can last essentially forever. On average though, depending on wear and tear, you can expect to get about 100 years of life from a tile floor.

Tile Shown: 2x8 in Evening Glow with Hexite in Antique // Design: Broad Oaks Construction // Image: Open Home Photography

How do You Choose the Right Grout?

There are two classifications for grout, sanded and unsanded. Sanded grout contains sand and is used for wider gaps where the thinner unsanded grout is great for tight corners. There’s unmixed and premixed and a number of brands to choose from, but most homeowners are interested in what color to choose.

This creative decision comes down to contrast. To create a consistent low-contrast look, choose a shade of grout that closely matches the color of your tile. To accentuate unique patterns of tile or create a grid-like look, use a grout that is several shades lighter or darker than your tile.

Tile Shown: Handpainted Summit in Neutral Motif // Image + Design: Jess Ann Kirby

We recommend non-sanded grout for our Glass Tiles and sanded grout for our Ceramic and Brick Tiles.

Brick Shown: Thin Brick in Wind River // Design: Annabode + Co // Image: Brandon Lopez

How Soon can Traffic Walk on Tile floors?

Mortar takes 24 hours to set and grout takes another 72 hours after that so it’s recommended to wait four days from the time the last tile was laid before walking on your tile floor.

Tile Shown: 6x6 in Calcite with 4" Hexagons in Carbon // Design: The Brownstone Boys // Image: The Brownstone Boys + Bridget Badore

How do you Clean Tile Floors?

Cleaning your tile depends on the material your tile is made from.

Ceramic tile and porcelain tile are the easiest to clean and a simple sweep and mop with your favorite mopping solution will do the trick. Natural stone tile includes marble tile, slate tile, and travertine tile. These require a gentler, natural solution as chemicals can discolor the natural surfaces. Cork wood-look tiles should be cleaned with a mild detergent, or white vinegar, and rinsed.

To keep grout looking like new, make a paste of water and baking soda and scrub the grout down with a firm brush.

Tile Shown: 6x12 in Gypsum // Design: Anne Sage + Studio McGee // Image: Monica Wang Photography

Can Tile Floors be Waxed or Refinished?

Yes, and yes, but one is a lot easier than the other.

Waxing your tile floors protects your tile, makes it easier to clean, and gives it a beautiful like-new luster. After removing any existing wax residue and cleaning your tile, apply floor wax with a mop and repeat every six months.

Tile Shown: Big Horn Brick with 2x6 in Driftwood // Design: High Street Homes // Images: Jen Morley Burner

Refinishing is a more complex process that requires specialized equipment, primers, bonding agents, topcoats, and clear finishes, but since refinishing doesn't involve ripping up old tiles and replacing them with new ones, refinishing your tile flooring can be easier on your wallet and the environment. In some cases, it is best to demolish distressed or damaged tile and start new using sustainable handmade tile.

Ready to make your tile dreams a reality? Slide over to our shop to get started!

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