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How To Choose the Right Tile

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Function

There's staggering variety of ceramic tile available. How do you decide what's right for you? Here are some guidelines to follow.

Be sure that the tile you're looking at is suitable for your application. Some rugged tiles can be installed outdoors in almost any climate, while some can stand up to wear and tear on indoor floors only, and still others are strong enough only for walls and countertops. Ask at the store if in doubt.

Bear in mind that tiles are rated for slip-resistance, and generally the heavily glazed, high-sheen tiles won't work in wet areas such as bathrooms, entryways and kitchens. If slip-resistance is important in your application, ask for this information at the store.

Note that larger tiles usually will install more quickly. Mosaic-tile sheets glued to a backing will also install relatively quickly.

Ask whether trim pieces such as bull-nose tiles (tiles with one or two rounded edges rather than four 90-degree corners) and cove (curved) tiles are available in a tile you're considering. For installing tile on steps and in bathrooms and kitchens, these pieces can be critical to the aesthetic.

Aesthetics

Choose a pattern with care; tiles will last many years - possibly a lifetime - and trendy patterns quickly look dated. Solid or lightly patterned tiles in neutral colors, as well as stone-look tiles, are classics that are easy to decorate around.

Remember that solids, especially very light (almond and white) and very dark tiles (navy, black, and chocolate brown), will show more soil. Also, high-sheen tiles will quickly show dull footprints from people and pets.

Choose a large, light-colored tile if you want a room to seem larger. Choose smaller, darker tiles to make a space seem smaller and more intimate.

Take sample tiles home (most dealers will give you a few tiles or lend you a box) and try them out. Dry-lay (set on the surface without grout) several tiles to see whether the color and design work under the room's lighting; test potential floor and countertop tiles for heel and pot marks. If the tiles mark, are they easy to clean?

Tips:

White and light-colored grouts, especially on floors and counter tops, can be difficult to maintain. Save yourself some aggravation by choosing a darker grout - perhaps slate gray or walnut brown.

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