Tile Basics

Learn More About Tile

Tile has much to offer - beauty, durability, variety, always in fashion – and it stands alone regarding creative design possibilities. Consider tile if your ideal flooring (or wall or countertop) project has a custom design component.

You'll want to understand these tile categories: glazed, unglazed, and porcelain.

  • Glazed – All tiles are made from a mix of clay, minerals and water, mixed into a dough, shaped, dried, and baked. Glazed tiles have a topcoat of color applied and baked onto the tile. A great majority of the tile you encounter is glazed.
  • Unglazed – Same ingredients as glazed tile, but for the colored topcoat. These tiles have a porous matte finish that must be treated for moisture and stain resistance. Unglazed tiles are selected for decorative purposes and convey a rustic look.
  • Porcelain – Follow the same recipe, except make sure that 50% of the mix is the mineral feldspar, and fire it at a higher temperature, and you'll get porcelain. It will be extremely hard and dense, more durable and moisture resistant, and suitable for the heaviest traffic (think train station), indoors or outdoors.

Tile Appearance and Design

Tile can make a bold contribution to your décor, whether you are creating a rustic look or a sleek, modern-styled space. Beyond the rainbow of colors, you'll find a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures. These open a world of possibilities of patterns, mosaic effects, and more. Some tiles are created to mimic natural stone and include variations in the surface texture. Tile is rated according to several variables, including ability to withstand traffic, moisture absorption, and slipperiness, called Coefficient of Friction (or COF).

The following information will help you sort that out:

Traffic Rating Use

  • Class 1: Not for Flooring; Walls and Countertops only
  • Class 2: Walls and residential bathroom floors only
  • Class 3: Light to moderate foot traffic. Good all-around residential flooring
  • Class 4: Moderate to heavy foot traffic. Any indoor residential, light commercial applications (malls, offices, restaurant dining areas)
  • Class 5: Heavy foot traffic – mass transit stations, grocery stores, etc.

Moisture Rating

  • Non-vitreous: Absorbs 7% or more moisture
  • Semi-vitreous: Absorbs 3% - 7% moisture
  • Vitreous: Absorbs .5% to 3% moisture
  • Impervious: Absorbs less than .5% moisture. This rating means that a tile can be used for outdoor installations without risk of cracking due to water-to-ice expansion in freezing temperatures.

And finally, that Coefficient of Friction we mentioned…the testing is performed according to strict standard protocols, so the ratings are comparable across tile types and brands. Higher numbers indicate better slip resistance.

Tile Sizes

Tile sizes are considered "nominal"…or approximate. Tile shrinks approximately 10% when it is fired in the kiln. So a 12" x 12" tile, nominally, is going to measure about 11 7/8" along each side. Other tile sizes include 6" x 6", 13" x 13" (most common flooring tile size), 16" x 16" and 18" x 18".

Choose a tile size that creates the look you want based on the size of your room. For a given room, smaller tiles mean you'll have more tiles, which means more grout lines. 2" x 2" (and smaller) tiles are called mosaics. In floor or wall designs that use multiple tile sizes, the predominant tile is called the field tile.

Tile Color

Color variation, from tile to tile within a style, is graded: low, moderate, high, and random. You may have seen some tiles in which the body (beneath the glaze) is white and some with a reddish-brown color. This has nothing to do with quality. It is a function of the clay available in the region where the tile was produced.

Tile Installation Factors

Often, tile installations require specialty trim pieces. Sub-floor preparation for tile installation is important. A water-resistant backer board is frequently affixed to the subfloor, providing a secure, stable surface for tile installation.

Tile Installation

Tips Installing tile is a job for professionals or the very advanced DIYers. It requires special tools, advanced skills and expertise. We recommend that you have Halverson Flooring installers do this work for you.

Some of our brands we love

At Halverson Flooring, we want to ensure that you're getting the highest quality flooring! See our Featured Brands and Manufacturers below!

Mohawk | Halverson Flooring
Daltile | Halverson Flooring