Ceramic and Porcelain Tile FAQs

What are the differences between porcelain tile and ceramic tile?

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The primary ingredient in the composition of true porcelain tile is finely-ground sand. Unlike ceramic, processing of the porcelain composition involves pressure and extremely high temperature. The end product is a very dense, glass-like material. Because of its density and composition of natural ingredients, porcelain tile has all the same excellent qualities of glazed ceramic.

There are both glazed and unglazed porcelain tile and it is important to know the difference, as the glazed variety is easier to clean. Typically, glazed porcelain tiles have filled in microscopic holes that could be present in the unglazed tile. On the other hand, unglazed porcelains may have better slip resistance.

What is the difference between wall and floor tiles?

Wall tiles are not intended to be load bearing and are typically thinner, lighter and softer than floor tiles. Wall tile glazes are also not designed to handle the abrasive forces from foot traffic. Lately, floor tiles have been applied to walls as well which is not a problem so long as the walls are strong enough to support their weight and proper ceramic tile installation methods are used. However, it is not usually recommended using wall tiles in floor applications.

What is the difference between interior & exterior tiles?

Tile is not limited to just being used indoors. It is an ideal patio covering and can be used for decorative front porch stoops. You can permanently adhere tile to pre-cast concrete walking pads to create beautiful garden stepping stones. But if you decide to use ceramic tile outdoors, be sure these tiles meet slip-resistance minimum requirements. Exterior tiles have a surface texture that helps make them slip resistant. Top-quality tile manufacturers make special outdoor tile that has a slightly gritty surface, even though the tile is glazed. The invisible grit provides traction when tiles become wet. To be used outdoors, the tile must be frost proof and unglazed for floor use. We recommend that slip-resistant tiles be used outside in areas exposed to weather and rain or around swimming pools. Exterior tiles are usually graded to indicate their particular slip-resistance. Note that there is always a trade-off between slip resistance and maintenance and cleaning. Slip-resistant tiles will accumulate more dirt and will naturally require more maintenance.

What is the best way to clean grout and tile?

The best way to clean grout is with an alkaline cleaner, found in brands like Spic and Span and Mr. Clean or in specialty cleaners available at most tile retailers that are designed for tile and grout. You can also use the same cleaner on tile or you can simply use water as tile is usually easy to clean.
Do not clean grout with oil or wax based cleaners like Murphy’s Oil soap or Pine Sol as the grout can absorb the soap as well as a stain. These products will leave a waxy or oily film in the grout. And, even good alkaline cleaners if not completely rinsed, will leave a sticky soap film.
The best way to clean grout is to apply the cleaner and then vacuum up the dirty water. This will lift the dirt off. Then apply rinse water and vacuum that water up. This lifts off any remaining soap film.

Why is Grout Sealer recommended?

Grout sealer adds heavy duty protection against most stains. It protects grout and makes cleaning easier, while providing a Natural look.
Groout sealer binds the grout together and helps protect it from the inevitable wear and tear of everyday floor traffic. Loose, unprotected grout has a tendency to slowly chip away over time, and the sealant can help significantly slow this process.

When unsealed grout comes in contact with any kind of staining material, these stains will work into the porous grout and are nearly impossible to scrub away. Grout sealer protects grout against stains, prevents mold and mildew and makes daily cleaning a lot easier.

How can I prevent my grout from staining?

You should seal the grout to prevent any staining. There are two types of sealers, there are penetrating sealers that chemically bonds with the grout and repels water and there are also topical sealers that coat the surface of the grout and repel almost everything, but can be worn off by foot traffic.

What size should the grout joint be?

Natural stone is cut with exact precision that the typical rule for natural stone is to set the tiles with a 1/16″ grout line. When each tile is uniform, you can use a smaller grout line. Larger grout lines are needed for tiles with less perfect edges. Typical sizes for grout line are:

Natural stone – 1/16″ or 1/8″
Tile with a rectified edge – 1/16″ or 1/8″
Regular tile – 3/16″, 1/4″ (safest bet) up to 3/8″ or 1/2″
Saltillo or Mexican tile – 3/4″, 1″, 1  1/4″

Also, it is important to know that there are two different types of grout: sanded and unsanded. Sanded grout is used in joints that are 1/8? or larger and unsanded grout, used with natural stone and glass mosaics, is placed in joints that are 1/8″ or larger.

My tile is bonded to a concrete slab, why do I have cracks?

It is hard to determine the exact cause of a crack without an inspection but cracks in tile can be caused by several reasons. Any movement in the concrete will cause cracks in the tile layer if the tile is bonded to the concrete. If cracks occur in the concrete, they will reflect through the tile, this is called reflective cracking. This type of cracking can be easily avoided by installing the tile on a mortar bed set or by installing the tile over a crack isolation membrane using a thin set method.

What are the advantages of thin-set installation?

Thin set applications are less expensive and typically faster to install than mortar bed applications. However, as the tile is bonded directly to the substrate, any movement in the substrate can affect the tile. There are many types of polymer-modified thin sets available allowing the opportunity to match the thin set properties with the project requirements. In many mortar bed installations, the mortar bed will be allowed to cure and then polymer-modified thin set will be used to bond the tile.

Can I tile over existing ceramic tile?

If the existing ceramic is on a cement slab or on backer board, it is best to chisel up the existing tile and re-tile over the slab, especially if any of the tiles are loose or badly cracked.

Tiling over the old ceramic is possible but will add height to the floor which will make it harder for opening and closing doors and flooring transitions.
Tiling over old tiles is not a professional installation and we do NOT recommend it.

Can I tile over vinyl?

We will install tile over vinyl only if cement boards will be installed on top of the vinyl.