Atlanta Tile Experts Chime In on Tips, Trends and Types of Tile

Bathroom with wood look porcelain tile

Known as much for its strength as its aesthetic, tile is the material of choice for most kitchen and bathroom floors. But it can do so much more! Thanks to updated manufacturing technologies and expanding trends, there are now more ways than ever to incorporate tile into your home.

Here’s a guide to tile types and trends, plus some tips on installation and maintenance.  

Bathroom with wood look porcelain tile
Exotica Walnut Wood Porcelain Tile

Porcelain planks
Need a floor that can withstand your family’s wear, tear and spills? Then consider porcelain, which is available in many different finish options. “Glazed porcelain tiles are much harder and more wear- and damage-resistant than non-porcelain ceramic tiles, making them suitable for any application, from light traffic to the heaviest residential and light commercial traffic,” say Elisabeth Stubbs and Mallory Bernard of Enhance Floors and More.

“Full-body porcelain tiles carry the color and pattern through the entire thickness of the tile, making them virtually impervious to wear and suitable for any application, from residential to the highest-traffic commercial or industrial applications,” Stubbs says.

The front entryway is also a popular location for porcelain tile installations, although, according to Seble Mengistu of Pineapple House Design, you need to consider the adjoining rooms. “In Georgia’s high-end homes, the material used in the entry generally continues to the other main-floor areas.” So if you prefer wood flooring in your living room, Mengistu recommends installing a tile and wood mix in the entryway.

 

Flooring: Saint Barth Barbanera Wood plank Porcelain Tile
Saint Barth Barbanera Wood Plank

Speaking of mixing wood and tiles, you can now have the best of both worlds with tiles that have been made to look like wood planks. This material has been gaining popularity and improved offerings over the last couple of years, and now it’s the hottest trend in tile. “Wood-look tiles are getting more and more popular and they’re starting to look a lot more like wood—I love this look!” says designer Erica Nicole Illions with Snappy Kitchens. “Wood floors are a great look, but a lot of people worry about having to refinish them and potential water damage issues. Wood-look tiles are an awesome alternative—they don’t have to be refinished, and water won’t hurt them.”

Illions isn’t the only one singing the praises of this tile. Stubbs and Bernard call wood-look tiles a “hot design trend on the rise,” and note that the tiles come in a variety of plank lengths, mimic many different species of wood and even offer a handscraped aesthetic. The tiles are made of porcelain, which is one of, if not the most durable tile material available, and today’s inkjet technology means that, “until you touch them, these planks are pretty much indistinguishable from hardwood,” says Lisa Laube of Floor & Decor. “Not only are they low maintenance, but these wood-look tiles can go where it’s impractical for hardwood: think basements, bathrooms, utility rooms and more.”

Wall and border on flooring: Cecilia glass blend Tile by BisazzaeFlooring: Copper Slate by American Olean
Copper Slate by American Olean

Go big or go home
“Bigger is better when it comes to today’s tile trends,” Laube says. “We have 24-inch tiles and bigger flying off the shelves. A 32-inch tile can seem overwhelming, but in reality, a large tile is actually less distracting than smaller, traditional tiles because there are fewer grout lines. Plus, less grout lines also means less maintenance.”

Local experts all note that this “the bigger, the better” trend is here to stay, and that the previously standard 12-by-12-inch square tiles are now outdated. However, the installation process for these larger tiles can be tricky.

“If you’re installing a 12-by-24-inch tile, make sure you have a tile layer who is proficient at installing this tile,” says Ann Wisniewski of AJW Designs Inc. “Ceramic in that shape bows slightly during firing, and when you lay it, you have to alternate the seams, otherwise they will not lay evenly.”

Theresa Minkoff with Moda Floors and Interiors also advises laying large-format rectangular porcelain tile in one-third stagger brick joints instead of half-stagger brick joints to avoid “lippage” that results from bowed tiles.

Flooring: Crema Marfil Classic Premium Marble Tile
Marble: Crema Marfil Classic Premium

Patterns and textures
Textured or molded tiles are also becoming very popular in the design world. Minkoff notes that these tiles can have fabric, wood and leather textures, as well as molded waves, offering a unique look (and feel!) to your home’s walls.

Another new material trend is patterned concrete tiles, also known as encaustic tiles. “Encaustic tiles offer beautiful, unique designs and patterns,” says Berk Ozbarlas, of Arketype. “In the manufacturing process, the paint actually goes through the tile, so even if you sand the surface and reseal it in the future, you will never lose your design. This is a great option for floors that receive a lot of wear and tear.”

 

Bathroom with Argento Brushed Stick Travertine Tile
Travertine: Argento Brushed Stick

Some homeowners are using several different natural stones in a tile pattern or doing a mixed-media application by adding metallic and mirror accents alongside the stone tiles for a unique design. But even those who want to stick with one tile material are no longer constrained to a typical grid pattern. Designers are now creating one-third brick-joint patterns, along with herringbone, offset, Versailles, hopscotch and chevron motifs.

Feras Irikat of Lunada Bay Tile adds, “It’s moving tile from a simple, practical surface into a realm of art.”

Hue cues
“Try color!” Irikat exclaims. “In the past, people relied on earth tones to decorate their spaces, and now people are getting bolder with their color choices. You’re seeing vibrant hues, soft pastels, metallic finishes and everything in between.” Ozbarlas agrees, and advises homeowners not to be afraid of expanding their horizons past white or beige tile options. “There are so many great color options out there in ceramic, porcelain and glass. Even pairing white tile with a colorful feature, such as a glass mosaic backsplash, can provide new life to your home.” 

Glass in Shower and on walls: Crossville?s Sideview Glass Mosaic Tile Collection in SilverTile around shower: Crossville?s Shades Porcelain Tile Collection in Cool Grays mosaics Flooring: Crossville?s Reclamation Porcelain Tile Collection in Cotton Exchange and Cotton Etching
Glass Mosaic: Crossville’s Sideview Tile

About the grout
When shopping for tile, you can easily become captivated by the tile designs and materials and overlook the grout, deciding on this seemingly insignificant part of the project at the last minute. But it’s not insignificant! Just the color of grout can alter the look of the whole installation! “Always upgrade the color of the grout!” Minkoff says. “There are so many great new grouts on the market, touting stain resistance and color consistency.” Wisniewski agrees, adding that she highly recommends grout with pre-mixed sealer added. “There is a urethane grout that is wonderful,” she notes.

Want to avoid the grout as much as possible? Shop for tiles with rectified edges, Illions says. “Rectified edges allow  tiles to lay very close to each other so grout lines are much smaller, but this also increases the complexity of the installation and is often more costly.”
“Grout joints that are less than one-eighth inch or thinner are more manageable and less noticeable,” notes Audrica Banks with Capital Floors. “There’s less worry for staining, regrouting or deep cleaning.

Installation advice
Finally, when you’re ready to install the tiles you’ve chosen, extra care should be taken. “Never underestimate the installation process for tile,” Stubbs says. “Tile is the most permanent type of flooring—the only way to fix it is with a sledgehammer.”

To begin, first check that your subfloor is ready for tile. If it’s not completely level, the tile installation will fail, resulting in cracked flooring.

Then, if you’re installing natural-stone tile (where no two pieces are exactly alike), blend pieces from multiple boxes to avoid having areas that are noticeably different than each other.

After the tile is installed, make sure you educate yourself on its proper maintenance, and keep up with regular cleaning and sealing. Finally, Ozbarlas says, “Don’t cut costs when it comes to selecting tile. High-end material will likely last longer and provide a more timeless look that can be enjoyed for years.” 

These tile trends may be on their way out:
• Linoleum
• Floor tiles that are 12 by 12 inches or smaller
• Small glass mosaic tiles (1 by 1 inch)
• Small-format (4 by 4 inch) tiles on bathroom floors and walls
• Images of fruits and vegetables on kitchen tiles
• Over-the-top mixtures that blend several different kinds of tiles (such as a large field tile with a small border and trim piece)
• Black-and-white checkered-tile patterns



What’s Your Type?
Use this as a “rule of thumb” guide to choosing the right tile for your home. As always, we recommend you consult an expert before making any final buying decisions!​

Tile: Vinyl
Best Uses: Kitchen flooring
Average Cost (materials only): Sheet vinyl: $2 per sq. ft., Luxury vinyl tile: $3 per sq. ft.
Pros: Comfortable to stand on; quick installation; bendable material works well for floors that may experience movement or cracks
Cons: Not known for beauty or durability; should not be installed in areas where constant moisture is expected, such as a shower or tub surround or exterior applications

Tile: Laminate
Best Uses: Flooring for laundry rooms and mudrooms
Average Cost (materials only): $2.50 per sq. ft.
Pros: Inexpensive; low-maintenance; easy to install
Cons: Less water resistant than other tile options

Tile: Ceramic
Best Uses: Floors, interior feature walls, backsplashes, decorative accents, shower surround
Average Cost (materials only): $3 per sq. foot
Pros: Common, affordable material; easy to cut for DIYer
Cons: Hard, cold surface when compared to vinyl and laminate options; unlike natural stone where edges can be left raw, ceramic-tile edges require finished bullnose pieces

Tile: Porcelain
Best Uses: Floors, interior feature walls, backsplashes, decorative accents, shower surround
Average Cost (materials only): $6 per sq. ft.
Pros: Water absorption is less than 0.5%, making this tile nonporous and ideal for wet conditions; offered in wood-look designs; fire resistant; can be used over radiant heat; some manufacturers, such as Crossville, incorporate recycled material into their porcelain tiles
Cons: Dense and brittle when cutting (not for an average DIYer)

Tile: Slate
Best Uses: Floors, walls, backsplashes, design accents, interior and exterior applications
Average Cost (materials only): $5 per sq. ft.
Pros: Timeless aesthetic; water resistant; textured (not slippery); durable; easy to clean and maintain; dark color of slate tiles camouflages dirt and pet hair; antibacterial; can be used over radiant heat
Cons: High maintenance (can stain, requires special cleaners, requires annual sealing)

Tile: Travertine
Best Uses: Floors, walls, backsplashes, design accents, interior and exterior applications
Average Cost (materials only): $6 per sq. ft.
Pros: Classic, versatile and multipurpose stone with texture and neutral tones; a lightweight alternative to marble; stands the test of time (it was used to build Rome’s Coliseum!)
Cons: Polished tiles are too slippery for flooring (use porous, honed or tumbled travertine instead); can be damaged by acidic liquids—clean up spills and pet accidents quickly to avoid issues

Tile: Glass
Best Uses: Feature walls, backsplashes, decorative accents, shower and tub surrounds
Average Cost (materials only): $10 per sq. ft.
Pros: Reflects light, making small spaces look larger; mildew resistant; stain resistant; offered in recycled materials for the eco-conscious homeowner;
Cons: Exspensive; requires installation by a skilled contractor; not many floor-rated options available

Tile: Concrete
Best Uses: Floors (bathroom, kitchen, mudroom, laundry room)
Average Cost (materials only): $10 per sq. ft.
Pros: Durable; pattern is built through entire tile so it can be sanded and resealed as needed
Cons: Thick material—area may need to be adjusted to accommodate

Tile: Carrara marble
Best Uses: Bathroom counters, floors and shower surrounds
Average Cost (materials only): $20 per sq. ft.
Pros: Similar in appearance to Calacatta, only with softer veining; easier to find than Calacatta
Cons: Though not as costly as Calacatta, it is still more expensive than many other types of tile, and requires regular maintenance

Tile: Calacatta marble
Best Uses: Bathroom counters, floors and shower surrounds
Average Cost (materials only): $30 per sq. ft.
Pros: Makes a strong impression with its crisp white color and strong gray, golden or pink veins; offers a simple and classic look
Cons: Expensive; requires regular maintenance

RESOURCES
Enhance Floors and More | EnhanceFloors.com
AJW Designs Inc | AjwDesignsinc.com 
Arketype | Arketype.us
Capital Floors | CapitalFloors.net
Crossville Tile & Stone | CrossvilleTileAndStone.com
Floor & Decor | FloorandDecor.com
Johnny Rhino Residential Remodelers | www.JohnnyRhino.com
Levantina | Levantina.com
Lunada Bay Tile | LunadaBaytile.com
Moda Floors and Interiors | ModaFloorsAndInteriors.com
Pineapple House Interior Design | PineappleHouse.com
Snappy Kitchens | SnappyKitchens.com
Traditions in Tile and Stone | TraditionsInTile.com
The Tile Shop | TileShop.com

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