There are so many different materials, patterns, and styles for tiles that your decorating options are essentially limitless. You can also bring tiles into pretty much any room in your house—from your stove’s backsplash to your bathroom’s walls—or use them to add character to an outdoor space like a patio.
But with all the options out there, how do you know what tiles to use for your design project? Check out this overview of some of the most popular materials for tile in order to get a better sense of what will work best in your home.
Best for: Walls, backsplashes, trims
Pros: Glass tiles are relatively low maintenance and can be colored any shade that you want, so it’s easy to match or complement existing color schemes. You don’t need to worry about the color fading in direct sunlight or the tiles being damaged by water, since they are moisture-proof.
Cons: Glass tiles are not a good choice for flooring because they are not durable enough to stand up to foot traffic. If they are used for flooring and break, the sharp shards can be dangerous.
Best for: Walls, showers, backsplashes, countertops, ceilings, and flooring
Pros: Porcelain requires less maintenance than wood and stone floors, and it is also highly durable and reasonably priced. You don’t necessarily have to go with classic unglazed white porcelain, either—you can choose to screen print your porcelain tiles so they resemble stone, fabric, or another material.
Cons: Porcelain is highly durable thanks to its low moisture levels, but this also means it is difficult to cut custom shapes or rounded edges. Screen-printed porcelain will also show the original color if chipped or cracked, so you may want to opt for through-body porcelain (which has color throughout the tile) for heavy-wear areas like the patio.
Best for: Walls, ceilings, backsplashes, countertops, showers, and flooring
Pros: Many people enjoy the texture and overall aesthetic of these tiles, which are made from clay and often have a natural red terra-cotta or a glazed finish. They’re easy to install and can also be cut into custom shapes.
Cons: Due to their high moisture content, ceramic tiles are somewhat delicate and may fluctuate and become warped in areas with extreme temperature changes. For this reason, it is best to avoid installing them outdoors.
Best for: Walls, ceilings, backsplashes, flooring, showers, baseboards, tub decks, and outdoor settings
Pros: All-natural stone is popular for its authentic look and versatility. It can be used just about anywhere in your home, and can be even used for the facing of grills and other outdoor appliances. It is fairly durable and will hold up best if sealed.
Cons: Stone requires more maintenance than the tile options discussed above. It needs to be regularly cleaned with soap and water or another non-acidic cleaner, and if you want to prevent the color from fading, you’ll need to use an enhanced seal. Stone is also one of the more expensive tile options.
Other Tile Options
If you’re looking for something truly unique, you can try a non-traditional tile made from materials like sea shells, mirrored glass, or even animal hide. The price and maintenance will obviously vary significantly depending on what type of tile you choose, so be sure to talk to an experienced home designer before making your decision.
Want to know more about any of the materials discussed here? Check out this infographic from the interior design team at Drury Design to learn more about the manufacturing, pricing, maintenance, and installation of each tile type.