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Kitchen & bath ceramic floor tile properties, choices, recommendations: this article discusses ceramic floor tile choices & properties, and ceramic tile installation details for kitchens and bathrooms.
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This article series discusses current best design practices for kitchens and bathrooms, including layout, clearances, work space, and accessible kitchen and bathroom layout, clearances, turning space, grab bars, controls, etc. We include advice on choosing and installing kitchen countertops, cabinets, and kitchen or bathroom flooring, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures and fixture controls such as faucets. A list of kitchen and bath product manufactures and sources is included.
This article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Also see flooring basics at
As detailed in Chapter 6 of Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction: A quality ceramic tile job starts with proper framing to support the tile and the selection of tile materials that are right for the application and compatible with each other.
The substructure must be stiff enough to support the tile without excess movement or deflection, and the tile, backerboard, adhesive, grout, and any waterproofing membrane must be compatible with one another.
If all these products are installed following the manufacturer’s instructions as well as the specifications of the Tile Council of America (TCA), the result should be an attractive and durable job.
Finally, it is critical that the installer leave the required expansion joints at the room perimeter, tub lips, and other places the tile is restrained—the source of many tile callbacks.
A wide array of tiles are readily available. In addition to aesthetic concerns, tiles vary in strength, water absorption, scratch resistance, ease of cleaning, and slip resistance.
In general, look for harder tiles for floor and counter applications, and tiles low in water absorption for wet applications. Beyond looking at the specifications, it is a good idea to test a sample of tile for scratch resistance, scuffing, and ease of cleaning, using real pots and pans, shoes, and household cleansers.
The body of a ceramic tile, also called the bisque, is made by heating a mixture of clay and other additives in a kiln. In general, the longer the clay is fired and the higher the temperature, the denser and stronger the tile will be and the more impervious to water absorption.
Nonporous tiles that absorb little water will perform better in wet applications than porous tiles. The tile bisques manufactured according to ANSI standards are rated from nonvitreous to impervious (see Table 6-4).
[Click any image or table to see an enlarged version with additional detail, commentary & source citation.]
With the exception of quarry tile, terra-cotta, and some porcelains and mosaics, most tiles come glazed. The glaze consists of a mix of silica and pigments that is fused to the surface of the tile at high temperatures, creating a glasslike coating.
Glazes provide decorative color and protect the surface of porous tiles from absorbing water and stains. How well a glaze resists abrasion and shows scratches depends on several factors:
Unglazed tiles show the natural color of the clay, although some unglazed mosaics have pigment added to the clay.
Unglazed tiles may need to be sealed to prevent staining during grouting or in use on floors, counters, and other applications prone to staining. Sealing is generally done before grouting. If used on a counter, make sure the sealer is suitable for use around food.
Many manufacturers now rate the abrasion resistance of their tile using the guidelines of the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI). The PEI system rates tiles from 1 to 5 as shown in Table 6-5.
Select Grade 3 or higher where scratching of the tile surface is a concern.
Many glazed floor tiles become dangerously slippery when wet. This is a concern wherever floors are subject to wetting, but particularly on shower floors and bathroom floors near tubs and showers.
In general, unglazed tiles or textured patterns will be less slippery. Some tile has a special nonskid surface made by adding an abrasive grit to the tile face or glaze. The downside is that nonglossy surfaces are somewhat harder to keep clean.
Many tile manufacturers use a coefficient of friction (COF) to rate the traction a tile provides.
While there are no national standards that specify a required COF, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommends a minimum COF of .60 on accessible walking routes.
also recommend a minimum COF of .60 for shower stalls,
wet bathroom floors, and other wet areas.
Bonsal American www.bonsal.com Setting compounds, grouts, preformed shower pans, curbs, and niches. Also, distributor of backerboards, isolation membranes, and other tile-setting products
Color Caulk, div. of Roanoke Companies Group www.colorcaulk.com Color-matched caulking
Custom Building Products www.custombuildingproducts.com Elastomeric and liquid-applied membranes, self-leveling underlayments, setting compounds, and grouts
Laticrete International www.laticrete.com Trowel-on membranes, self-leveling underlayments, setting compounds, grouts, and sealants
Noble Company www.noblecompany.com CPE sheet membranes, trowel-on membranes, clamping ring drains, and preformed slopes, niches, and curbs
Mapei www.mapei.com Trowel-on and sheet membranes, self-leveling underlayments, setting compounds, grouts, and color-matched sanded caulks
Custom Building Products www.custombuildingproducts.com Wonderboard cement backerboard, Easyboard cement and polystyrene lightweight backerboard, and Rhinoboard fiber-cement backerboard
Georgia-Pacific Gypsum www.gp.com/build Denshield gypboard backer with glass-matt facing
James Hardie Building Products www.jameshardie.com Fiber-cement backerboard
National Gypsum www.nationalgypsum.com Permabase lightweight cement and polystyrene backerboard
Schluter Systems www.schluter.com Kerdi tile membrane goes directly over drywall or other substrates
T. Clear Corp./Fin Pan Inc. www.finpan.com Util-A-Crete lightweight concrete backerboard
U.S. Gypsum www.usg.com Durock cement backerboard
W. R. Bonsal www.bonsal.com Extruded polystyrene backerboard with fiberglassreinforced cement facing
Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers(AHAM) www.aham.org
National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) www.nkba.org
Ceramic Tile Institute of America www.ctioa.org
Home Ventilation Institute (HVI) www.hvi.org
Marble Institute of America www.marble-institute.com Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) www.porcelainenamel.com
Tile Council of America (TCA) www.tileusa.com
-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.
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