How do you judge tile quality?

kudzu9December 11, 2013

I recently went looking at Home Depot and Lowe's for tile for a small bath room (about 5'X6') and saw a wide range of tile prices. I was mainly shopping for a simple look, and price wasn't a concern given how small the space is. I've located the colors and sizes I wanted. The shower floor would be 2"X2" porcelain tiles (at $8/sqft) and the shower walls and the floor outside the shower would be 12"X12" porcelain tiles (at $1/sqft). The 2"X2" tiles are Italian, and the large tiles are Chinese. I love the look of both tiles, but I was surprised at the low price of the Chinese tiles. Is there any reason to be concerned about quality with an inexpensive porcelain tile, especially for a light-duty guest bath?

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Some tiles are not rated for the floor, because of the resistance to abrasion, slippy-ness factor, and maybe other reasons like strength of clay body and thickness. Also some floors are not stiff enough for tile. There is an equation for that.

Here is a page from The Tile Counsel of North America:

there may be some articles to help. Other wise a link below to Houzz has some helpful information on tiles.

I know this doesn't directly answer your question, but I think these sites are helpful in general.

Here is a link that might be useful: Houzz article on tile characteristics

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 7:27AM
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"I was surprised at the low price of the Chinese tiles."

Don't be surprised. You get what you pay for. Steer clear of Chinese.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 8:03AM
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You could also buy a couple and put them through the motions.

The thing about porcelain tile is that it is pretty easy to find high quality colorbody (same all the way through), porcelain tiles made in America, Mexico, or Italy at very reasonable prices. I would really try to find something made where you know the quality will be more predictable.

Price doesn't necessarily indicate quality level though. I looked at two white tiles, same company, both made in America, and one tile was about $2 sq foot, the other was $17-18, and the local rep really had no idea why this would be so, other than, perhaps, volume.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 11:33AM
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Some of the Chinese tile is crap....some of it is pretty decent. Lay two tiles face-to-face and see if they "rotate." In other words, you're looking at "cupping." If they're flat and decent, by all means go for it.

Another test is to "rack" up about ten of them on an edge and look for variations in sizing. Any variations require that you multiply the variations by three for a decent grout spacing.

If the "variation" is 1/8" you'll need about 3/8" as a grout line....

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 2:53PM
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Thanks for those thoughts. The ones I am interested in are dead flat (no cupping) 12X12's, and they seem to be identical in size. I've since found out that the water absorption rating for the tile is "impervious" and the PEI wear rating is III, suitable for residential. So I think I'm feeling comfortable with these for a low use, guest bathroom.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 6:24PM
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