Tile FAQ

What is the difference between a Ceramic Tile and a Porcelain Tile?

  • Ceramic is a generic term which applies to tiles that are made from a red or white clay base and a glaze which is kiln fired. Not all ceramic tiles are equal in quality, performance or artistic design. Water absorption can be up to 10% in ceramic tiles, which limits their ability for application as they cannot be immersed in water or subject to freezing conditions/frosts. Ceramics also tend to have a lower strength than porcelain tiles.
  • A porcelain tile is defined by its lower water absorption, typically 0.5%. The clay is a better quality, usually white and the tile is fired at a higher temperature (generally 1,200 degrees Celsius). As red clay becomes scarcer, more porcelain tiles are produced. The Tile Clearance Centre has a full range of both Ceramic and Porcelain tiles.

How can I tell if a tile is Ceramic or Porcelain?

If the tile is red under the surface, it's probably ceramic. If it's white underneath, it may be either porcelain or ceramic. There is an easy test to indicate whether the tile is porcelain or ceramic - put a small amount of water on the back of the tile, if it is absorbed quickly then it's probably ceramic but if the water stays in a puddle on the surface, it will be porcelain. Remember an absorbent tile should only be used for interior flooring and walls and not in an immersion, permanently wet or frost prone situation.

What are the benefits of using tiles?

  • Tiles are excellent for design impact. They are a blend of technology and art, the artistic values of carefully chosen tiles can complement any design or become a statement in themselves. The symmetry of properly set out tiles can be a pleasing design element and can add interest to any surface.
  • Tiles are also useful for energy efficient housing. Houses with concrete floors benefit hugely from a tile floor over other floor coverings. The concrete slab becomes a thermal buffer, capturing and releasing heat energy (depending on the inside temperature) and thereby maintaining an even temperature. Covering a concrete slab with carpet or wood veneer insulates the slab and thus reduces this thermal buffering effect.
  • Tiles make for easy maintenance. Glazed tiles are impervious to dirt, grease and household chemicals. They are easy to clean by vacuuming, mopping, sweeping or wiping. Tiles have excellent durability with properly installed quality tiles easily outlasting the building they are housed in.

What factors make for a quality tile?

  • Consistency of tile size - if the tiles vary more than a millimetre or two, are out of square or not true (i.e. they will not sit flat on a flat surface) they will be more difficult to install correctly and will look like poor quality tiles
  • Detail in the glaze - the complexity and creativity of the design and how authentic it looks (if it is trying to replicate stone or marble for instance)
  • Degree of variation - many tiles are designed to replicate natural stone, marble etc. In nature, you will see infinite variation and this is part of its charm. If a tile is replicating natural stone and is laid as a repetition, it will look artificial. In other words, a good quality tile will have a degree of variation in the pattern
  • Type of tile - in general, porcelain can be considered to be a better quality tile due to their low water absorption and higher toughness

What about tiles being slippery?

They can be if you choose the wrong finish for the situation. As you would expect, highly polished and shiny surfaces will be slippery when wet and should never be used in an area exposed to weather or around a swimming pool. An increased level of grip can easily be achieved by choosing low slip or grip tiles.

What can I do if I have slippery tiles installed?

Ensure that they are being cleaned with correct tile cleaners (see our section on tile care) as cleaning will make a big difference. Siliconised floor polish will make an otherwise safe floor very slippery, dry or wet. In some circumstances, the tile can be treated to reduce the slip - talk to us for advice.
Are tiles cold?

It depends on what's underneath them. An uninsulated wooden floor in an unheated area will be cold in winter. A concrete/tile overlay floor in a heated house will be reasonably comfortable underfoot due to the thermal mass of the concrete remaining at a relatively stable warm temperature. Underfloor heating is a popular way of warming a tile floor and the surrounding area as it is both energy efficient and very effective. We can advise you on underfloor heating options.

Can I use a wall tile on a floor?

No, never. The glaze will probably be too soft and the tile will be more likely to crack, chip and scuff.

Can I use a floor tile on a wall?

Yes, but it will probably be overrated for the task. The wall lining must be sufficiently rated for the weight of the tile which can easily be 20kg per square meter.

What is required for tile maintenance?

Showers require regular cleaning however abrasive cleaners should not be used or required. If soap scum is allowed to build up, the grout will stain and silicone beading may cause unsightly mould to grow internally. Should this happen, the bead will need to be replaced. Click here to see our section on tile maintenance.

Can I install tiles myself?

A simple job like setting tiles behind a basin, yes however a bathroom with a fall, waterproof membrane is not recommended. Check out our DIY tiling guide here to get an idea of what’s involved.

What surfaces can tiles be laid on?

Concrete, existing tiles, steel, butynol/Butylclad/EPM, Plywood particle board, brick. In fact just about any rigid surface with less than a 1:360 deflection can have tiles laid on it. Some of the above examples are extreme and we do not recommend them however we have adhesives for most applications available in store.

Why are there are so many adhesives, primers and grouts and will they all work together?

Don't mix systems. Different manufactures use various technologies and they don't always work together. With tile adhesives, grouts and the various system components, you generally get what you pay for, with the most critical parts of any system being the water proofing system and the adhesive. We strongly recommend ASA adhesive products, all which come with a 10 year guarantee.

How do I find a good tiler?

Be careful, tiling is an unregulated trade meaning that anyone can print a business card and call themselves a tiler. If waterproofing is involved then you will want to know that the system being used is proven, the applicator completing the job is trained and that the work will comply with local council requirements. Ask us for a recommended tiler in your area. And as with any tradesperson, ask them some questions and request references to validate their skills.

How do I calculate tile quantities?

It depends on how the tiles are to be set out. Large tiles in a small area will lead to more waste than small tiles in a large area. A rough rule of thumb is to add 10-15% to the calculated area. Allow for a few spares on top of this figure to account for breakages and surface defects being an inherent risk with the product. Your tiler should be the one to specify the quantities required as they have control over the waste and the set out used on the job. Have a look at some set out options for some ideas prior to making a purchase.

How do Tilers charge?

Tilers generally charge out their work by the square metre.

Why do some tiles that look similar cost so much more than other similar tiles?

Generally you get what you pay for. If you value durability or have a demanding application, high-quality porcelain will perform better and often cost more. If you value leading edge technology and the latest fashion, you will want to look at top end Italian porcelains which tend to be on the more expensive end of the scale, as compared to similar looking products coming from other international locations.