Tile Countertops: Everything You Need to Know | Fireclay Tile
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Tile Countertops: Everything You Need to Know

Tile Countertops: Everything You Need to Know

Love the timeless look and endless design possibilities of tile? Let’s talk about applying those perks to your countertops. We know–tile countertops tend to be a, ahem, polarizing issue. But if you’re willing to put in a little extra effort, your countertops can be a beautiful extension of your interior design style.

Ceramic tile is a highly durable and affordable material and with the right types of tile, grout, and maintenance, will last decades. If you’re considering taking the plunge with a tile countertop, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Modern kitchen with grey and white checkerboard tile countertop and backsplash

Tile: 3x3 in Tusk and Dolomite // Design: Autumn Hachey, TWENTY-TWO TWELVE, Stay Here // Image: Michelle Johnson

Why Choose Ceramic Tile for Countertops?

There are many tile options suitable for countertops, including natural stone such as granite tile, porcelain tile, and ceramic tile–each kind features a tile surface that’s heat resistant (your hot pans can go directly on them!), and each has its own benefits but since ceramic is our expertise that’s what we’re focusing on today.

Along with being impervious to heat and water, Ceramic Tile offers incomparable beauty at a more budget-friendly price point than other counter options with virtually endless customization thanks to the variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns available.

Retro bathroom with sunny yellow tile countertop on a midcentury vanity

Tile: 4x4 in Daffodil // Design: Sam Ushiro // Image: Madeline Harper

From herringbone to mosaic to color block to classic, the sky’s the limit with your tile options for countertops. Extend your space’s monochromatic color scheme with a modern minimalist tile counter, or dream up a one-of-a-kind design with your own custom colorway.

Although ceramic is softer than natural stone our recycled clay body has an impressive breaking strength of 393 lbs per foot which makes it stronger than your average porcelain. And if a tile in your countertop breaks, it’s easy to install a replacement tile as opposed to replacing an entire slab or replacing a full counter.

Mediterranean style kitchen featuring soft pink tile counter, star and cross tile floor, and 8 small built-in arches in attached dining area

Tile: 3x3 in Dawn, Star & Cross in Adobe // Design + Image: Claire Thomas // Installer: Casa Cabin

Rectified tile, meaning tile that fits closer together, is a great choice because the tile creates a very small grout line, making maintenance a little easier. Although our Field Tile is not rectified, our artisanally Handpainted Tile is–and it’s a truly showstopping countertop choice.

Watch how our Handpainted Tile is made in our California Factory!

With a variety of colors to choose from, your space’s color story doesn’t have to stop at the countertop. But keep in mind that some of our glazes are acid sensitive, which means they aren’t suitable for countertops. If you choose an acid-sensitive glaze tiles may become discolored over time–see a detailed listing of glazes in our Tile Spec Sheet.

Eclectic kitchen with lime green cabinet doors, white walls, and colorful handpainted tile countertop

Tile: Pivot in custom colorway, 2x8 in Tumbleweed // Design + Image: Dani Nagel

Recommended Grout Size and Type

Grout is the main cause for concern with tile countertops since without proper care it can become a possible breeding ground for bacteria, which is not ideal in spaces like kitchens and bathrooms where cleanliness is key. To minimize this issue, you can choose a larger format tile so you’ll have fewer overall grout lines, and/or use a smaller grout joint.

Modern kitchen with large island featuring green hexagon tile counter

Tile: 6” Hexagon in Palm Tree, Brick in Olympic // Design: Silent J Design // Image: TC Peterson Photography // Installer: Damskov Construction

Epoxy grouts are the most durable of all grout choices because they are resistant to stains and water damage, and will hold up against harsh cleaners. Epoxy grout is a great choice where moisture and food will be present, making it ideal for tile kitchen countertops or kitchen islands. While this is the most expensive grout option, it doesn’t need a sealer which will save time and money in the long run.

Other options include non-sanded grout, which is a cement-based grout used for grout joins 1/8th of an inch or smaller, and sanded grout, another cement-based grout where sand is literally added to the mix. Sanded grout is suitable in installations with grout lines wider than 1/8th of an inch, but might require more maintenance than the other options.

Grout color also makes a difference. Darker colors show less dirt and debris while a light grout may highlight imperfections. Please note, we do not recommend using dark pigmented grout with white tile due to staining potential.

Modern rustic cabin kitchen featuring dark base cabinets topped with black tile countertop

Tile: 2x8 in Basalt // Design: Lawless Design // Image: Joyelle West, Lawless Design

Tile Countertop Maintenance

To get decades of use out of your beautiful tile countertop, make sure you keep up on regular maintenance–but before your tile installation begins, you’ll want to start with a solid foundation of tile backer board to prevent any moisture that might seep through grout joints from rotting the substructure.

Once you’ve got the right foundation, maintenance is fairly straightforward as tile countertops are quite easy to clean. A daily clean with warm water and mild soap will do the trick. Try to avoid cleaners with harsh ingredients, as they may damage your grout, and make sure to wipe up spills and food deposits on grout lines promptly.

Retro-style kitchen with soft pink cabinets, pink and green plaid tile backsplash, and green tile countertops

Tile: 3x3 in Kelp, Evening Glow, and Hunter Green // Design + Image: Claire Thomas

Over time your grout will most likely need to be resealed with grout sealer. Repeated sealing will help keep bacteria out and your countertops looking fresh, clean, and lovely for years to come.

Ready to design the tile countertop of your dreams? Fill out our simple Design Assistance Form to get free individualized support from one of our tile experts, including samples, renderings, cost estimates, and more.

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