The Type of Tile You Choose Can Make or Break Your Remodeling Project
Know which type of tile works best for every project.
If you’ve never taken on a tiling project before, you might be surprised by the many different types of tiles available. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are the most popular, but there are also glass tiles, cement tiles, metal tiles, and stone tiles—to name just a few. To make it even more confusing, not every type of tile works for every job. And, of course, there's your budget to consider. It’s hard not to feel a little overwhelmed.
Whether you’re shopping for an immediate project or just planning for the future, we enlisted some experts to guide you through the 12 most common types of floor tiles and wall tiles. Find out which tiles are best for every type of home project to ensure you'll love your remodel for years to come.
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Ceramic tile is one of the most common types of tile found in the home because it’s suitable for many applications. “Increased durability makes ceramic tile perfect for any room in the house, such as kitchens, bathrooms, or even entryways,” says Tony Castellano, senior merchant for The Home Depot. “It’s easy to install, clean, and comes in hundreds of styles that can fit any design. For a bonus, if you’re looking to renovate on a budget, ceramic offers a great price point.”
When shopping, Castellano recommends checking the ceramic tile lot number to ensure you have a clean, uniform end result. “Additionally, make sure you understand the difference between glazed and unglazed. While unglazed gives an artistic, rustic finish, glazed ceramic tiles provide more protection for longer lasting floors.”
Try: Restore Bright White 3x6 in. Ceramic Bevel Wall Tile, $2.16/sq. ft.; homedepot.com.
The other most common type of tile is porcelain, which differs from ceramic tile. “The appeal of porcelain comes from its ability to emulate natural stone, brick, or wood—and without any of the maintenance,” Castellano says. “You get the same elegant finish without any of the upkeep or weathering. In addition, as it’s an all-purpose tile, it comes in a variety of designs, colors, and styles to allow for versatility when designing a space. Porcelain can even be used outdoors, as it will not freeze, fade, or crack.” Other applications for porcelain tile include bath or kitchen tile, high-traffic areas, and kitchen backsplashes.
The biggest drawback with porcelain tile is that installation can be tricky. While you can DIY an install, Castellano says many homeowners forget that you also need an adhesive when laying down this type of flooring.
Try: Wind River Grey 6x24 in. Porcelain Floor and Wall Tile, $1.49/sq. ft.; homedepot.com.
“The stain resistance of glass makes it a fantastic alternative to natural stone. Red wine and any acidic foods like lemon and vinegar are wiped up with ease without any permanent staining,” says Melissa Morgan, an interior designer and founder of M Interiors in San Antonio, Texas. This type of tile also offers a clean and minimalistic aesthetic.
“A potential drawback is that glass will, of course, chip quite easily along the edges,” Morgan says. For that reason, she recommends not using glass tile in high-traffic areas like kitchen and bathroom floors. Instead, she suggests using them in smaller applications with less traction, such as gently used table tops or desks, around the fireplace, or as a backsplash.
Try: Bestview Grey 9 x 12-in Glass Lantern Mosaic Wall Tile; $12.98; lowes.com.
Cement tiles have been around since the 19th century and they’re currently experiencing a bit of a boon in modern interior design, says Docia Boylen, franchise owner of Handyman Connection, a home remodeling and repair service based in Lakewood, Colorado.
“Cement tiles are extremely versatile and can provide you with amazing patterns and colors,” Boylen says. “Since the tiles are extremely porous, a patina can develop over time to enhance the pattern. They can also be sanded and resealed, like wood floors, if they get discolored over time.” The biggest drawback to cement tiles is that they’re a beast to lay. Additionally, cement tile must be resealed once a month to maintain its beauty. Cement is best used in low-traffic areas and in small quantities.
Try: MeaLu Victorian Encaustic 8x8 in. Cement Field Tile in Turquoise/Blue/White, $21.88/sq. ft.; wayfair.com.
Though costly, marble tile adds an instant touch of elegance and refinement to any room. “If you’re looking to add beauty to any kitchen or bath, laying down marble tiles immediately upgrades the space,” Castellano says. “It also delivers texture and depth, as it’s either patterned or veined. You’ll never have the same piece.”
In addition to being quite costly, marble requires a lot of upkeep to keep it looking pristine. And like any stone, marble tile is susceptible to scratches and stains in addition to being difficult to clean. “Due to marble’s predisposition to scratches, etching, and stains, it’s best used in low-traffic areas unless a sealant is applied,” Castellano says. “Many homeowners avoid using marble in countertops and instead add marble in decorative features, such as shower floors, columns, and backsplashes.” By using it in smaller applications, you’ll also give your budget a breather.
Try: Carrara White 3 x 6 in. Honed Marble Wall Tile, $6.98/sq. ft.; homedepot.com.
Mosaic tiles give you a chance to flex your creative interior design muscles since it comes in so many different shapes, sizes, colors, styles, and even materials. “Mosaic tiles work best on wall applications when an accent is needed. I recommend using them sparingly,” Morgan says. She also notes that, depending on the type of tile you choose, mosaic can look dated quickly. Keep that in mind as you select not just the tile, but the space where it will be installed.
Try: Viviano Marmo Gray and White Flower Marble Mosaic, $14.99/piece; flooranddecor.com.
Granite is a natural stone that has a similar look and feel to marble because of its natural flecks, though there are some notable differences. “Granite has been overused and tends to look like a cheaper alternative,” Morgan says. That’s partly because it actually often is the cheaper alternative, which is nothing to balk at if you’re on a budget. Morgan recommends using granite tiles in a laundry room or other secondary space where performance and lower cost are your top priority.
Try: MSI Giallo 18" x 31" Granite Field Tile, $11.22/sq.ft.; wayfair.com.
Limestone is another type of natural stone tile. “To achieve a truly rustic style filled with natural tones, shades, and variation, lay down limestone tile,” Castellano says. “It delivers a natural appearance that’s almost reminiscent of ancient architecture and design. Durable but soft, limestone is also easy to shape and cut for specific patterns and placements.”
One thing to keep in mind about limestone tile is that it’s a porous rock. In order to ensure it lasts for a long time, it must be sealed properly, otherwise it will crack and etch easily. Also, cleaning limestone can be a pain. “To avoid ruining the stone, homeowners need to use neutral pH cleaning agents and avoid citrus and vinegar-based products,” says Castellano. “That said, the rich appearance and variety of colors or size make it a great option for really any space, especially outdoors. I recommend using limestone outdoors in a patio space to give the perfect final look.”
Try: Salvador Vanilla Ledger Panel 6 x 24 in. Natural Limestone Wall Tile, $3.39/sq. ft.; homedepot.com.
Like limestone, travertine tile offers a natural, one-of-a-kind aesthetic. “Its soft, subdued palette provides beautiful neutral tones,” Castellano says. “From gray to tan and beige, its swirling surface produces an elegant and unique statement.”
Just like other natural stone tile types, it’s easily impacted by water, stains, and traction. For that reason, travertine tile requires extra maintenance and a once-a-decade resealing. “It’s best to use travertine tiles in low-traffic areas of the home. Also, to avoid scratches, etching, or stains, many designers and DIYers will apply these tiles to walls instead of floors,” he says. “If you are applying it to floors, make sure you know what type of sealant to use and what cleaning products to use.”
Try: Daltile Travertine Peruvian Cream Paredon Pattern Natural Stone Floor and Wall Tile Kit, $10.30/sq. ft.; homedepot.com.
Quarry tile is made with ground materials in a process that’s very similar to brick (though technically stronger). This tile type’s name implies that it comes from a quarry, but that’s not actually the case. Quarry tile is made from ground minerals, like feldspar, clay, and shale, that are ground together then baked at over 2000 degrees.
“They get their name from where the ground minerals come from: a quarry,” Boylen says. “Since these tiles are fired at extremely high temperatures, they are naturally dense, nonporous, and water-resistant with an extremely low water absorption rate. They can be glazed or left in the natural finish. Another benefit is that they do not have to be sealed.”
Though durable, quarry tiles are susceptible to staining, so they shouldn’t be used in the kitchen. Boylen recommends them for high-traffic areas since they offer a sense of purposeful design and are naturally slip-resistant.
Try: VersaTILE 6 x 6 Quarry Floor and Wall Tile, $.53 cents/each; menards.com.
“Metal countertops offer superior durability and a chic and modern kitchen aesthetic,” Morgan says. “Although the cost for this type of tile is usually similar in pricing to natural stone, it will certainly withstand the test of time in both look and in function.”
A primary consideration with metal tile is that it tends to scratch almost as soon as it’s installed. Some people prefer this naturally occurring patina, which can soften the overall effect. If that’s not your preferred finish, then metal probably isn’t an ideal tile type for you. “Metal works great on any work surface, such as a kitchen, bar, or utility room,” Morgan says. “I would not recommend it for baths or, depending on the climate, outdoor use.”
Try: Luxsurface Penny 1" x 1" Metal Mosaic Tile, $22/sq. ft.; wayfair.com.
“Resin tiles are a great solution to combine styles you want,” Boylen says. “These tiles look great and are water-resistant. Plus, they are perfect for the DIYer since you can make you own tile patterns. The 3D patterns are also popular with resin and it can imitate the look of water and stones.”
Resin drawbacks include a propensity to chip, and this type of tile can also yellow over time, especially when exposed to the sun. “I recommend resin flooring for water areas, like the bathroom and mudrooms. These also make great backsplashes and accent pieces,” Boylen says.
Try: Bedrosians Ambiance Insert Rising Star 2" x 2" Resin Tile in Pewter, $6.40; wayfair.com.