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Tile 101

Happy Canada Day!

Did you know there are three main types of tile used for flooring? Their different properties are important to know but thanks to countless innovations over the past few years it’s becoming harder to tell which is which.

Here’s a quick introduction to the three main types of tile and what you should know about each:


Remember the white, square kitchen tiles from the 80’s and 90’s? You’d drop something on them and the chip would reveal a white or more often red, terracotta colour underneath. These tiles were extremely affordable and therefore popular in builder grade homes everywhere.

Today it’s extremely rare to see these tiles used for floors. Ceramic tiles absorb more water and are therefore less durable than their counterparts even when glazed. When fired twice – a process called “bicottura” – they take on colour and finishes beautifully making them ideal for decorative walls and mosaics. The next time you’re in New York stop by one of Ann Sacks ( stunning showrooms to see mosaic tiles that will truly inspire. William Morris ( is a UK based provider that also specializes in stunning mosaic tiles, most of which are ceramic.

Some people still swear by terracotta tiles in the kitchen. True oldfashioned terracotta has been cured in the sun and is extremely popular in California and other dry climates where moisture absorption is less of a problem.


There are three main categories of stone: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. Granite is igneous - the deepest, oldest, most pressurized and durable option. Quartz is a man made version of igneous stone that replicates granite’s properties. Both are commonly used for commercial flooring due to their durability, initial cost and regular upkeep.

Sedimentary stone includes travertine and limestone while metamorphic is predominantly marble, slate or soapstone. Both sedimentary and metamorphic stone come in countless colours and styles including matte and polished. Both are much softer than granite and therefore easier to install, making them extremely versatile and popular for flooring.

Functionality is of upmost importance when it comes to stone tile. Be sure to choose something that isn’t too slippery for entranceways and bathrooms. Treating all kinds of stone regularly will ensure long-term durability and beauty. Some types can even be polished and refinished similar to hardwood.

Although stunning in tile and especially when book matched in slab form, marble is one of the most expensive options partly because we’ve been mining it for centuries and it’s becoming more scarce. If concerned about sustainability and the health of our planet slabs of marble may not be the best choice.

Slate is another popular stone for indoor and outdoor use. It is metamorphic and therefore quite soft. People who truly love slate appreciate its imperfections and how layers flake off over time. It is also cheaper than granite and marble although still quite heavy and therefore costly to install.


Most people don’t realize that porcelain is actually an extremely durable type of ceramic. Porcelain tiles are fire, moisture, abrasion, slip, stain, temperature, chemical and essentially everything resistant. Due to modern day technology and printing techniques they’re also becoming harder to distinguish from their more expensive natural stone counterparts.

Because of their durability most of the tiles we see today are porcelain. They’re also “through body” in terms of colour so if you chip one, which is extremely hard to do, the colour continues all the way through like stone.

One of the latest innovations in tile has been porcelain that looks and feels like wood. Wood plank tiles come in longer and wider lengths than most hardwood products. One of my suppliers recently ordered 10” width by 6’ length porcelain tiles that are both stunning and versatile in that they give the warmth of hardwood with the durability of porcelain.

Add in floor heating and you have the perfect product for basements but also main living areas including entranceways, great rooms and especially kitchens. Another trend is large 36” by 48” tiles to minimize grout lines. For a contemporary, seamless look there’s nothing better than using the same material throughout and porcelain tiles are allowing us to do this like never before.

Be sure you have an installer you trust when prepping and laying tiles no matter what material and size you choose. When installed correctly, tile flooring can last the test of time in terms of style and durability.

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