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How to Choose Tiles

Whether it’s for a bathroom floor or a kitchen backsplash, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to choosing tiles. Not only is there the aesthetic component, but there’s also the practical side of things to think about. Here’s a brief primer to picking tiles.

Know the PEI rating

The PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) rating of a tile is based on how hard and durable it is and how much moisture it absorbs. The rating is important because it lets you know which areas in your home a tile is suitable for. Here’s what the numbers mean (each class is appropriate for the use mentioned in its description as well as use for any lower class):
Class 1: These are decorative tiles for indoor walls only and shouldn’t be used on floors.
Class 2: These are okay for light foot traffic areas like a home bathroom.
Class 3: These work in areas with light to moderate foot traffic, including residential floors and countertops.
Class 4: These are suitable for moderate to heavy foot traffic and are fine for residential floors.
Class 5: These are the strongest tiles, and are okay for any amount of foot traffic in your home as well as in commercial or institutional settings.

Consider size, shape, and style

Larger tiles mean less grout to clean, but in small areas they can create a somewhat fragmented look. In terms of shape, square or rectangular tiles are the easiest to fit together. Large, uniform tiles are the easiest to work with by far and should be considered if you plan to install them yourself. Ensure all the tiles you buy are the same size -- since the firing process can cause expansion and contraction of tiles, you can wind up with tiles that vary more than a quarter inch in size if you’re not careful. Don’t buy any tiles that vary more than 1/8 inch in size! It’s also very important to make sure all tiles you use comes from the same lot and shade number. Just as with size, the “same” tiles can vary greatly from lot to lot, and you will be able to tell the difference once it’s on your floor.

More How-to's here: How to Clean Your Bathroom.

-- Paula Kashtan

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