Fort Erie RONA icon-arrow-down
  • icon-wishlist
  • icon-cart

Ceramic, stone, glass or porcelain: everything you need to know about tiles

Tiles are available in a variety of different materials and a multitude of colours, patterns and textures, which can be combined in any number of ways. Here's a guide to help you choose the right tiles for your needs.

Materials

Tiles can be grouped into six categories:
Ceramic, Porcelain, Glass, Natural stones such as marble, granite and slate, Terracotta and Concrete.

Features of different types of tiles

Tiles – whether ceramic, porcelain, stone or glass – are composed of natural materials and are therefore nontoxic. This makes them an ideal option for those concerned about the quality of their environment. Here is a table that describes the characteristics of each.
Types
Composition
Advantages
Disadvantages
Finish
Application(s)
Ceramic tiles
Clay pressed and fired at high temperatures
Wide variety of colours and textures
Can be slippery, depending on finish
Matte or gloss, depending on glaze
Based on classes 1 to 5:
  1. Walls
  2. Walls and certain floors
  3. Walls and floors
  4. Interior floors
  5. Interior and exterior floors
Porcelain tiles
Clay fired at extremely high temperatures
  • Highly resistant to chips and scratches
  • Water repellent
  • Wide variety of colours
Can be slippery, depending on finish
Finish varies (matte to gloss)
  • Walls
  • Floors
Stone tiles
  • Slate
  • Granite
  • Sandstone
  • Marble
  • Travertine
  • Limestone
  • Durable
  • Natural beauty
  • Large format
  • Some types of stone are porous and require sealing
  • Higher maintenance than ceramic or porcelain
Matte or gloss, depending on type of stone and polishing
  • Floors
  • Interior and exterior walls
Glass tiles
Glass
  • Bright
  • Reflective
  • Colorful
  • Quite fragile
  • Difficult to cut
Finish varies (matte to gloss)
Walls
Terracotta tiles
  • Raw clay fired at low temperatures
  • Machine made or hand made
  • Natural colours, earthy hues
  • Perfect for informal or rustic decors
  • Inexpensive
  • Less durable and resistant than ceramic or porcelain
  • Very porous, requiring a sealer to prevent stains
  • Sizes and thicknesses vary
Matte to gloss, depending on the sealer used
Floors
Concrete tiles
  • Cement and fine aggregate
  • Machine made
  • Highly resistant and durable
  • Low environmental impact
  • Requires sealing to prevent stains and water penetration
  • Less widely available and less popular than other types of tiles
Depends on the sealer used
Floors
Types
Composition
Advantages
Disadvantages
Finish
Application(s)
Ceramic tiles
Clay pressed and fired at high temperatures
Wide variety of colours and textures
Can be slippery, depending on finish
Matte or gloss, depending on glaze
Based on classes 1 to 5:
  1. Walls
  2. Walls and certain floors
  3. Walls and floors
  4. Interior floors
  5. Interior and exterior floors
Porcelain tiles
Clay fired at extremely high temperatures
  • Highly resistant to chips and scratches
  • Water repellent
  • Wide variety of colours
Can be slippery, depending on finish
Finish varies (matte to gloss)
  • Walls
  • Floors
Stone tiles
  • Slate
  • Granite
  • Sandstone
  • Marble
  • Travertine
  • Limestone
  • Durable
  • Natural beauty
  • Large format
  • Some types of stone are porous and require sealing
  • Higher maintenance than ceramic or porcelain
Matte or gloss, depending on type of stone and polishing
  • Floors
  • Interior and exterior walls
Glass tiles
Glass
  • Bright
  • Reflective
  • Colorful
  • Quite fragile
  • Difficult to cut
Finish varies (matte to gloss)
Walls
Terracotta tiles
  • Raw clay fired at low temperatures
  • Machine made or hand made
  • Natural colours, earthy hues
  • Perfect for informal or rustic decors
  • Inexpensive
  • Less durable and resistant than ceramic or porcelain
  • Very porous, requiring a sealer to prevent stains
  • Sizes and thicknesses vary
Matte to gloss, depending on the sealer used
Floors
Concrete tiles
  • Cement and fine aggregate
  • Machine made
  • Highly resistant and durable
  • Low environmental impact
  • Requires sealing to prevent stains and water penetration
  • Less widely available and less popular than other types of tiles
Depends on the sealer used
Floors

Selecting size and quantity

Tiles used to be sold mainly in standard 12" x 12" for large rooms and 8" x 8" for bathrooms, but they are now offered in a much wider range of sizes, varying from 1" x 1" to 24" x 24".

Most tiles are square but they can also be rectangular, hexagonal and other shapes. Some even mimic small stones or pebbles, and these look fabulous as inserts or when used to create accents or special effects. Mosaic tiles, sold on ready-to-install sheets with mesh backing, are usually 1" x 1" or 2" x 2” with a square, or sometimes hexagonal shape.

Tile edges can be either square, slightly bevelled or rounded (finishing tiles). Tiles with bevelled edges require a grout joint while those with perfectly square edges can be laid with a very small joint or none at all.

Pro tip

When calculating tile quantity, plan for an extra 5% to cover loss due to breakages or errors. Keep a few tiles to replace any that crack or are damaged over time. Keeping a few samples will also come in handy if you are shopping for matching accessories or paint colours later.

Note that manufacturers quote dimensions according to the tiles already installed, which include approximately 1/8" of grouting.

To work out the number of tiles needed, calculate the surface area to be tiled and preferably make a layout plan.

  • Measure the tiling area – wall or floor – and copy the measurements to scale on graph paper (1 square = 1 sq. ft.). Include all important elements such as windows, doors, closets, shower, bathtub, sink, mirrors, cabinets and so on.
  • Consider the various layout possibilities, taking into account the size of the tiles and any other decorative features to be included on the wall or floor. The purpose of planning your layout is to achieve a symmetrical and harmonious overall look.
  • Measure in several places to make sure the walls are parallel.
  • Add 5% for a square (straight) layout and 10% for a diagonal layout.

Ceramic tile calculator

Installation: how it's done

Laying ceramic, stone, glass or porcelain tiles requires patience and attention to detail. Large format tiles are more difficult to lay than small ones. It is also easier to work in a regularly shaped room with no obstacles than in a room such as a bathroom where you need to cut tiles to fit around plumbing fixtures.

In all cases, it is crucial to properly prepare the surface to be tiled (the substrate), which must be strong, sturdy and perfectly smooth. If not, the tiles may move and crack.

Tiling a wall

  • Before laying tiles in a high-moisture area such as bathroom, washroom or laundry room, make sure that the walls are covered with suitable moisture-resistant gypsum board and that the surface is smooth and even.
  • If you are tiling over a painted surface, lightly sand the area first.

Tiling a floor

  • Tiles can be laid over a concrete subfloor or on top of a sturdy plywood base screwed firmly to the underlying floor joists.
  • It is perfectly possible to install in-floor heating under stone or ceramic tile.

Pro tip

When installing tiles, it is important to follow the recommended drying times for all the products used. Tile adhesive (mortar) needs to set for at least 24 hours. Grout joints must be left to dry for 24 hours before being sealed. Finally, you should wait at least 10 days before caulking expansion joints.

Tools you will need

The following specialized tools will help ensure the success of your tiling project:
  • Manual tile cutter
    Similar to a glass-cutting tool, a tile cutter sometimes has a clamp to hold the tile in place. By pressing down on the lever, the cutter cuts the tile along a perfectly straight, scored line.
  • Electrical wet saw
    Powerful tool necessary for cutting heavier tiles. It is fitted with a pump that wets the tile when cutting to cool the blade and prevent the tile from chipping.
  • Notched trowel
    The notched trowel is used to apply the mortar and comb ridges in it to help the tiles bond.
  • Grout float
    The grout float is used to apply the grout.
  • Adhesive or cement glue
    Made from a mixture of cement and water, the adhesive holds the tiles in place when it is dry. It must be spread over the surface to be tiled.
  • Grout
    You can choose grout in the same colour as the tile, or in a contrasting colour, depending on the effect you want to achieve. Grout textures vary too:
    • Unsanded grout, the most common type of grout is made from a mixture of cement and additives and is used for joints of 1/8" or less. It should be used for gloss finish wall tiles as those can easily be scratched.
    • Sanded grout is regular cement grout to which sand has been added; the size of the joint determines the sand/cement ratio required. Ideal for joints wider than 1/8", it gives a natural, rustic look.
    • Epoxy grout is made from epoxy resin and a setting agent. It is highly resistant to stains and well suited to surfaces that may get hot. It is perfect in the entrance, the kitchen and the bathroom since it is waterproof and very resistant.
Would you like to have the installation done by professionals? If so, contact us.

A few more tips

Here's a few more tips that could be useful:
  • Consider the size of the room when choosing tile patterns and colours. Pale colours will make a small room look bigger, while dark colours will create a cozier, intimate atmosphere.
  • Tiles of up to 8" x 8" are best suited to small spaces, while large areas of floor look best with 12" x 12" or 14" x 14" tiles.
  • For flooring, use tiles with greater wear resistance. Make sure they are rated for use on floors.
  • For bathroom or kitchen walls and backsplashes, non-porous, chip-resistant tiles are recommended. Gloss or medium-gloss finishes are ideal.
  • Work surfaces such as countertops and islands can be covered with ceramic, stone, glass or porcelain tiles. This option allows you to personalize a room while providing a durable and maintenance-free finish.
  • Glossy surfaces reflect the light and are easy to clean. However, these finishes are slippery when wet. Matte and textured tiles reduce the risk of slips and falls, but they are more porous and tend to absorb dirt more easily, which makes them more difficult to clean.

Suggested products

See all tiles