Different Tile Materials

Hard-Glazed Ceramic Tiles

When we think of tiles most of us immediately think of square, glazed ceramic tiles. These hard-glazed and fired tiles are made for both floors and walls - but don't use wall tiles on floors as they won't take the weight of furniture and heavy traffic. Mostly they are indeed square, but they vary in dimensions according to their use and from manufacturer to manufacturer - so make sure you buy enough of the same type because you may find additional tiles from different sources are slightly larger or smaller. Rectangular and irregular-shaped ones are also available and the typical shapes include hexagons, octagons and diamonds, as well as 'interlocking' tiles with more elaborate shapes or curved edges.

You can create plain fields of tiles in a single colour, or be adventurous and create walls of patterns and colours.

Tile Glaze

Most ceramic tiles are coated in a thick layer of glaze that makes them hard-wearing, waterproof and easy to clean. Unglazed tiles have more subtle colours but they may need to be sealed in some way to prevent them absorbing grease and dirt, particularly if they are going to be used in the kitchen.

Mosaic Tiles

Mosaic tiles are small versions of standard ceramic tiles. Laying them one at a time would be too much like hard labour, and getting accurate spacing between them a nightmare, so manufacturers have thoughtfully joined lots of little squares of tiles into bigger squares by bonding them to a paper or mesh ground. You can pop out individual tiles and replace them with different-coloured ones to create a decorative effect. Because they are small and the backing is flexible, they are great for covering curved surfaces and it's a lot easier to fit them into fiddly or irregular areas. Square mosaic tiles are the most common, but you can also get hexagonal and even round ones. If you are planning on completely covering a bathroom - walls, floor, bath panels and shower trays, then compare prices and styles available from swimming pool suppliers.

Stone Tiles and Brick Tiles

Masonry facing tiles are often used to simulate stone or brick as a feature on chimneybreasts. These 'tiles' are actually made of reconstituted stone in imitation of the real thing and can look unconvincing if handled poorly. Brick tiles are more 'authentic' looking because the best ones are actually 'slips' - slivers of kiln-produced bricks - and they come in a whole range of traditional and modern brick colours and textures. Thick unglazed quarry tiles, available in brown, red, black or white, are suitable for flooring.

Mirrored Tiles and Metal Tiles

Mirror tiles can be attached to walls with self-adhesive pads in each corner. Often, mirror tiles are used as inserts in larger fields of ceramic tiles and are available in a range of finishes - silver, smoky grey and bronze are just a few of those available. Don't expect to get a perfect reflection unless your walls are absolutely flat.

Lightweight pressed metal tiles can be fixed in the same way as mirror tiles. These are available in aluminium, bronze or gold colours with satin or bright finishes. Because metal tiles are not grouted, they are not suitable for use in bathrooms or kitchens where food can get caught, or mould can grow in the crevices.

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