Ceramic Floor coverings what to consider before you buy

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Ceramic Floor & Wall Tiles - What to consider before you Buy.

When you are either choosing to renovate or you may be constructing a new home there are a couple of things you should consider before you buy those great shiny new tiles you see in the store front or selection centre.

Cost of Tile & Labour components:

Firstly, the most obvious thing, cost. Work out a budget you would like to spend on the product (tile) supply then allow for the labour component a well.
Generally speaking most tilers will lay main floor tiles for around $30 - $40 per m2 (in AU regions) however this will be dependent on the size and thickness of the tile you choose.
For tiling to be economical you need to ensure that you are not going to be paying a premium to lay it because of the size and thickness of the product you have chosen.
Add the supply and labour parts together and multiply by the square metreage (metreage = measured area multiplied by 10 % for wastage and cuts) this is your base budget figure.

Tile Size:

You need to consider the tile size itself. In the past 200mm x 200mm tiles were the normal in residential construction. Over the years this changed where as nowadays 300 x 300mm tiles are the minimum and in most cases 450mm x 450mm. These tiles look great but you need to remember where the tiles are going to be laid. Shower trays, for example can be difficult to get fall to the waste with the larger tiles if the size of the shower and the tile does not permit it to be set out efficiently. The larger the tile the harder it is to get fall to the waste. The other point with larger tiles in shower recesses is where are the grout lines going to be. Larger tiles will generally be more abstract to setout. Often a standard, uncut whole tile will be positioned over the waste then this tile cut into segments to provide fall to the waste itself. You need to consider the distance from the edge of this laid tile to the edge of your recess or room. Will another full tile fit to the edges or allow full tiles to be positioned after it (a good outcome) or will you have cut tiles (not so good) and where will they be seen ? Where is the last grout joint before the wall or edge going to finish ? Is the edge it is finishing to (the wall or object such as kitchen or vanity unit) square to my starting edge or will I see the thin tile cuts running out by this amount ? Good tilers when doing their set out will adjust the width of the grout joints as they lay the tiles to take up minor squareness issues so that it is not an issue once the laying has been completed.

Wall Preparation & Consideration:

Even before a single thicker tile is laid you need to ensure that the substrate (the wall frame and wall board) is sufficient to allow the tiles to be stuck to it at all. This means the studs, timber framing, must be at closer centres (distances) together than standard timber framing and the wall cladding material (villaboard or similar density wallboard material) has been glued & screwed off/home at closer centres as well. Failure to do this preparation work first can result in the wall tiles pealing the wall board & tile composite from the frame. You also need to consider and especially if you are considering full height tiling in your wet area, the timing of the plaster cornice installation. It is best practice to have the cornice installed after the wall tiling has been completed. This way if there are any variations in the concrete or timber floor levels (even 5mm is alot here) it should not be noticeable on the finished job. The tiler can set out your wall tiles to make sure that there are no horizontal grout lines close to the straight edge that is the cornice (once installed). The other two reasons for adopting this good practice is if you are using a thicker wall tile yet the cornice profile edge is thin if you tile after cornice has been installed you will end up with a lip at the top row of tiles between the tile and the cornice. This doesn't sound like much except you will have a shadow line at various times during the day as well as it being a place that airborne grit and dust will accumulate which may have health consequences for allergy sufferers. Secondly, any seasonal moisture variations causing movement in the ceiling line will not effect the finish of the cornice line as it will move independently from the tiled surface (in this instance the cornice is principally bonded to the ceiling edge then flexible sealant is applied to the junction between the vertical tile surface and the leading cornice edge).

Tile Thickness:

Thicker tiles, and by thicker I mean 10mm and larger are very difficult to lay on wall applications. These thicker tiles take more adhesive behind them to stick in position which in turn means greater drying times and laying times. This will effect you depending on if you are paying your tiler by the hour or as a set rate. You should make sure that before your tiler starts you lock in the price to have your work done. At the same time you should be providing your tiler with your chosen samples so he/she has all the information they need to give you an accurate quote. By doing this, along with getting a written quote or when the value of the work requires, a written contract you are protecting yourself from the scenario of variations to the quote or contract because the job was not abundantly clear to the contractor at the time of quotation.

Grout Joints:

You should also consider the size of the grout joint you want on your tiled surface. This is often dependent on the tile size and type you choose. With rectified or square edge tiles you can have smaller joints (3mm to 4mm) whereas the rounded edge tiles you would generally have a larger joint sizes (5mm or so). How is the grout joint width and its colour going to effect the overall look of your project ? If the grout colour is too much of a contrast to the body tile colour it will end up as a feature in itself. The smaller the grout joint the better the substrate (surface underneath) needs to be. Consider concrete floors. On a 2mm tile grout joint you will need to ensure you have no reason for the tiled edges not to meet flush. To do this you must have the surface prepared (floor leveler), or specify in your contract, the tolerance (or the tiles you intend on using) so the builder or contractor may incorporate this into the design and specifications. Floor leveling is part in parcel with using rectified edge tiles and small grout joint widths.

Grout Application:

When considering grout type and colour you must make sure you choose a wall grout for the walls and a floor grout for the floors. Yep, sounds weird but not all grouts are made the same. Floor grouts are a lot stronger (physical composition) and can put up with the abuse much more than their smoother consistency (weaker physically) wall grout relations. Make sure that your grout has a mold inhibitor in it. This will reduce the instance of mold upon regular use and save you cleaning time in the long run. If you must have a wall grout on the floor know that this will effect the drying time of the floors as the tilers will have to wait longer for the grout and grout residue to go off (because of the different composition between floor and wall grouts) before they can clean/sponge off the tiles. Please remember light coloured grouts on floors will take much more time for you to clean even if you do go the extra mile and seal the tiled surface area with a proprietary sealer. The dirt will still sit in the hollow of the grout joint on top of the sealant and your mop will not be able to get it out.

Type of Tile:

Shiny ones are nice but not always the most practical. Consider the finish of the tile. The shinier it is the harder it is to keep clean. Polished Porcelain (and the like) tiles will show the foot/hand prints when you walk or tough them. This means you will be forever mopping or wiping down your tiles if this is an issue for you. If you are on a budget don't even look at glass tiles. Firstly, most tilers don't have the tools to cut glass tiles around tap bodies, power points, shower roses and any other protrusions. Glass tiles in this instance would need to be sent to a glazier for cutting which is another cost in itself. Secondly, water marks. Unless you seal all the glass surfaces with a sealer before you use or wet the area you will end up with unsightly water marks. Matt finished tiles work a treat if you want something that will do the job and are easy maintenance.

Frieze & Decor Tiles:

Glass decors and decor/frieze tiles in general look good depending on the application. The main thing to consider here is the thickness of your frieze/decor in relation to the main wall/floor body tile. Too thin and you end up with a smudgy grout, dust strapping, shadow mess. Thicker friezes to body tiles, not such a big deal. It is better to be proud than shy in this instance. Again, if you are looking at glass frieze/decor consider if they have to be cut or where they will be finished against. Stay away from using glass tiles in areas requiring cuts to be made (unless you have budgeted for it).

Tile Trims:

Regarding tile trims keep in mind the application area of the trim. Specifically, edges where a right angle are formed (or the trim is mitred) will, when metal trims are used, create an extremely sharp point that will easily puncture or tear skin. It is possible to file them to a smooth corner however when you do this you will see, in the case of a metal silver coloured tile trim, a gold undercoating (usually brass). This may then be eye catching (in a why is that so way) when standing back and admiring the finished job. You can always file the corner, then touch up this area with a similar coloured metal touch up paint. When selecting the tile trim make sure you take a sample tile to guage the trim thickness against it. There are many different trim sizes to suit all the different tile thicknesses available.

To Seal or not to Seal:

Certain tile types, namely porcelain tiles (if not rectified), natural stone products, marble, granite, limestone, travertine and the like must be sealed. Coke (the drink), beetroot or other dark  liquids will penetrate the surface of these products if not sealed (and regularly maintained) causing a discolouration you will notice. Be mindful of this in your tile selection. Natural stone products should always be sealed by a professional and you should get a quote to do this before you purchase the tile from the shop. The quotation for sealing would then be added to your tile labour rate amount.

Above are some of the considerations to make before buying tiles and laying then in your new renovation or new home construction.

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