What Makes a Good-Looking, Quality Tile?
The appearance of tile is important, and the graphics are what make it truly beautiful. A nice, quality tile will be digitally printed (just like using your digital printer at home). Digital printing of tile is a relatively new method of achieving a very realistic-looking tile. Before digital printing, tile makers used to stack colored screens on the tiles. Multi-screened tiles are pixilated, so you will see small dots grouped together. And, the lower quality tiles appear more pixilated than the better quality ones. But, there is absolutely no contest that digitally printing tile is the best way to achieve realistic looking tiles.
When using the digital technology, the tile designers scan real wood to get the wood grain. Or, they can scan real marble to get the veining perfect, and then design the color tones to get a perfect tile design. Read on to learn more about what makes a good-looking, quality tile.
Tile Sizing and Warping
Tile is cooked in a kiln and the tile expands in size as it cooks (like bread baking). It is important that all of the tile running through the kiln is fired (cooked) at the same rate. If the manufacturer is in a hurry or has poor quality control, the tiles will be fired unevenly and vary in size.
Another issue is that tiles can become warped or bowed if they are fired unevenly. This means that the tiles are not flat. The warped tiles are more common in the longer rectangle shapes, like wooden planks and 12 x 24-inch tiles and larger. If tiles are badly warped, it is impossible to get a proper tile installation. There are many great tile manufacturers, and you can avoid these issues by using higher quality tiles. I recommend staying away from bargain tiles and factory seconds, especially with the larger format tiles and wood-look planks.
A good quality lot of tile will have tiles that are the same size or extremely close to the same size. It is preferred to have small grout lines. If the tiles vary in size, then it is necessary to have larger grout joints to compensate for the different size tiles. Obviously, if your tiles vary 1/8” in size, it will be impossible to use a 1/8” grout joint.
A quality ceramic tile is made of porcelain rather than a red body ceramic. The porcelain tile is more durable than red body tile. It is easy to spot a red body tile. The back of the tile looks red, like a flower pot. The back of a porcelain tile has a grey/brown color to it.
There are also through-body porcelain tiles that do not have a top glaze. And, instead, they use the same color all the way through the tile. So, if the top of the tile is blue, the back will be blue as well. If you look at an old tile installation from the 1980s, you can often see surface chips, as well as the red colored body of the tile under the glaze. The red body tile is softer and they can chip and crack much easier than a porcelain tile.
If you desire a nice quality finished product in tile, you should use a digitally printed porcelain tile that is of good quality. Please keep in mind that it’s cheaper to make junky, low quality tile that is screened and quickly run through a kiln with very little to no quality control. So, as with most things, you get what you pay for. Come visit us at Atlas Marble & Tile, and we will do our absolute best to educate you and help you find a nice tile to fit your space and budget.