Thursday, March 10, 2011
What’s the Score When Choosing a Tile Floor?
Anyone who has purchased a home, whether old or new, has been faced with the challenge of selecting the appropriate flooring. I can admit I know it well, for two reasons. The first is through trial and error; we built our own home and I designed it from the ground up, which meant dealing with a myriad of flooring experts. The second reason would be that for 5 years I was employed by our family owned and operated business of none other than…flooring. What kind? We were direct importers of ceramic and porcelain tile, marble, granite, soapstone and limestone, to name just a few. I bounced between the two store fronts and the importing company-all in central New Jersey, daily. This was my first summer job out of high school.
The old “flooring” design principles would say, “Where there’s water, there’s tile!” (That includes stone). Tile and stone are used primarily in kitchens and bathrooms, first because they are durable and resistant to staining and two because they are non-porous surfaces, which mean no scrubbing! That’s right NO SCRUBBING! It’s all surface dirt. In other words, it’s low maintenance. All tiles require an occasional sweeping or vacuuming and spraying with a surface cleaner such as Windex. Soap is a big no-no! Because tile is not porous, soap will only leave a film or residue on the tile which creates build up over time, just as you would find in ones shower.
Once upon a time tile was considered cold, depending on where you lived of course. Think of where most tiles originated, such as the main ports in which we directly imported from in Italy, Mexico, Spain, Portugal and Brazil; all warm climates. Tile is used primarily in warmer climates because of its ability to maintain a cool temperature, therefore keeping the house cooler. Today, tile is used all over the world. With innovative techniques, such as radiant heat (which is installed prior to and below the surface of the tile), tiles can now keep your tootsies warm. For those who can’t comprehend the expense of radiant heat, I suggest a throw rug at every entrance and one in front of the sink and refrigerator, where most pivoting is done. Why is a rug necessary if the floor is so durable? The answer is the mere fact that tile is durable but not indestructible. What would happen if you dropped a dish near the sink and you didn’t have a rug to catch its fall and it hits your white tile? The dish is almost guaranteed to break and tile can be chipped with a hard enough blow. Not only that but unless you have chosen porcelain, where the color remains consistent all the way through the tile, you will really see a noticeable difference. Ceramic tile is clay, therefore the majority of the tile is clay colored beneath a glazed top coating of color. SO, if the tile is chipped, you now have a white tiled floor with a clay colored gouge in it!
Last but not least, don’t forget the grout. Grout is the cement filler that is placed between the tiles. A tile rule of thumb is, “the larger the tile, the greater the illusion of space.” Why? Because there are fewer grout lines. When the tile is small, the grout lines become very busy. Next, grout is the only substance on the floor that is porous. If you spill wine or something on it, it will leave a stain. Speaking of stains, never buy into the idea of using vinegar on your tile surfaces. Vinegar contains acid and not only will it eventually wear away the surface of the tile but it will corrode the grout! Eventually you will find that the grout is crumbling or flaking away.
As I mentioned, I designed our home from scratch. I insisted the kitchen would be unique and undeniably reflective of my vivacious personality (it was primarily my domain, since I was the one cleaning it!) I was so sick of looking at tile and desperately needed a fresh alternative that had my own signature or spin on it. Considering my style as a “progressive visionary,” against my mother’s wishes and the “rules of tile,” I had a hardwood floor installed. I had it completely stripped and hand stenciled to mimic, none other than tile. I saved the tile & marble for the second floor restrooms, using mosaics in two out of three.
What can I say, “I have NO regrets and love the design choices I made.” As for the kitchen, I’m the only one I know in the Lehigh Valley will a floor like it!
Our Kitchen with a pink and brown hand painted harlequin floor
Posted by Jamie Gottschall