Thursday, 13 October 2011


The answer to this question really depends on where the tile will be used.  Currently, over 80% of tiles used for flooring are porcelain tiles, while the majority of tiles used for walls, backsplashes and counter tops are ceramic tiles.  Exterior surfaces, like patios, are usually pavers, or porcelain tiles.

The reasons have to do with durability in the case of porcelain floor tiles.  While price, color, and design choices have a lot to do with the ceramic tiles selected for walls, backsplashes and counter tops. 

Ceramic tiles have been around for thousands of years.  This is a testimonial to their durability and versatility.  The body of the tile (called the bisque) is made up of clay and other minerals.  When combined, these raw materials give the bisque its strength and stability.

The quality of the tile has to do with the quality of the manufacturer, density of the clay, and breaking strength of the tile.  Porcelain is simply a finer grade of clay and makes a harder tile body.

Porcelain tiles have a lower water absorption rate than ceramic tiles because porcelain tiles are very dense.  When baked at 1800 degrees, a surface color is created on the porcelain tiles.  But when baked at 2200 degrees, the color goes through the entire body of the tile. 

Therefore, if these get a chipped, it will not show as much as on a tile with only a surface coloring.  Porcelain tiles can be used outside, even in areas where the temperature gets below freezing.  They are considered “frost resistant” (not freeze proof).  This makes porcelain suitable for patios since the elements will not damage it.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are wear rated by the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI).  This system of rating tiles is approved by the American Society of testing and Materials (ATSM).  The ratings are as follows:

PEI 1 = Not hard enough to walk on.  Use on walls only.

PEI 2 = Use on wall and bathroom floors only.  But only use smaller tiles on the floors.  Larger tiles (6 x 6 or 8 x 8) may crack with prolonged foot traffic.

PEI 3 = Use on kitchen and bathroom counter tops, walls and floors where foot traffic is not heavy (okay for residential).

PEI 4 = Can be used in residential, commercial and light institutions.

PEI 5 = Use in all residential and/or commercial applications (malls, airports, etc.)  This rating means the tiles are very resistant to chipping or cracking.

Many tiles have a glaze applied to the surface.  Unglazed tiles have greater slip resistance than glazed tiles and are therefore recommended for areas subjected to water.  The advantages of glazed tiles are that you get an unlimited color range, and greater stain resistance.  Unglazed tiles will give you better wear, and added slip resistance.

It is possible to find tiles that feature abrasive grit on their surface, which substantially reduces the possibility of slipping.  These tiles are well-suited for public areas and the outdoors.  There is another testing process just for the glaze.  This is called the Mohs test, and it determines the hardness (scratch resistance) of the glaze.

As you can see, there are many levels of quality, which determine the various levels of pricing.  Generally speaking, you get what you pay for.   However, there’s always the possibility that you are misinformed about the tile you are buying.

It’s important to deal with suppliers who will give you the straight story and have your best interest in mind when suggesting tiles for your home.

Here’s a tip regarding installation.  Make sure the sub-floor is dry, stable and sturdy before applying floor tiles.  If the sub-floor is “spongy” (in the case of plywood) or damp (in the case of basement concrete slabs) your tiles will eventually crack.

Installing ceramic or porcelain tile in your home adds value, and enhances the quality of your lifestyle.  One of the best benefits for a homeowner is the low cost of maintaining tile floors and walls.  Relax and enjoy.

Charles Gueli invites you to ask questions about porcelain tile, and take advantage of the resources on , where guidance, information and support are always available for homeowners with remodeling projects.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Bathroom or boudoir? Today’s bathroom is all about indulgence

As our lives become more stressful, we inevitably seek out space to relax, to indulge, to just be still and contemplate. Our bathrooms can be that space. The creation of a warm, relaxing retreat within the home is a dream cherished by many. Today’s trends for smoothing hard edges, introducing soft furnishings to the bathroom, and adding texture and warmth all point towards a bathroom that is for pampering rather than mere practicality.

Bedroom and bathroom space is beginning to merge: both are private spaces where you can be alone and relax away from the busy hum of everyday life. We have seen luxury items such as deep, freestanding baths creep into the bedroom; now, as well as spacious, light shower enclosures, big, deep baths and plenty of space to move around, today’s bathroom has more integrated storage than ever before to reduce the appearance of unwanted clutter, and we’re seeing the arrival of soft furnishings in a previously hard space.

Rugs, pictures, decorative items, a cosy armchair or pretty chaise longue – none of these items now seem out of place in a bathroom; rather they inspire us to want similar indulgence in our own homes. Soft edges and warm shades make us feel snug and cosseted;

the ongoing importance of all matters environmental has led many of us to demand eco-friendly materials, and an environmental or natural motif in interior design can be aspirational. Appliances which are ingenious in their use of water, appearing to deliver a luxurious gush while in fact conserving this precious resource, are more in demand than ever. And water itself can be manipulated to delight us: waterfall taps, wider than a typical tap and cut back at the top to expose the beauty of the moving water, are a simple addition that can bring a touch of the spa to your bathroom.

Heat, too, is important in developing that sense of bringing a spa into your own home. Heated towels in which to wrap yourself after a relaxing bath or shower are a simple luxury, and thermostat controlled underfloor heating allows you to control your immediate environment to your own total satisfaction.

Freestanding fittings – a bath in the centre of the room, a walk in shower with a single panel, a washstand with countertop basin – all lend the bathroom an air of flexibility, of decadence, that is hard to beat. Hardworking storage helps to maintain this feeling of space: well placed cupboards, drawers, and shelves allow you to display some items while tucking others out of view – and a capacious washstand, corner tallboy and well placed towel rack would be complemented by a set of wicker or water hyacinth baskets, placed seemingly at random about the room.

Friday, 7 October 2011

What’s your ideal bathroom style?

We all have unique personal tastes. Although people like me spend a lot of our time talking about design trends, I really believe that no one should decorate or renovate their home based purely on a current trend or trends – it’s asking for trouble. Trends are popular for a reason, but they’re fast paced and your home isn’t going to be redecorated several times a year. So don’t slavishly follow an anonymous designer’s ideas – tweak the look or mix a couple of trends to create a look you love.

Your perfect bathroom depends on a range of factors, not least sourcing that ideal bathroom furniture. Whether you choose to go for fitted or freestanding, period or contemporary, you’ll need to do some research to find out what’s available at the right price for you. You’ll also need either a vivid imagination or a competent 3D bathroom designer to help you visualise the end result.

One way to be sure that your new bathroom scheme will be fully coordinated is to pick out bathroom furniture from one single range, and choose accessories which are marketed by the supplier as complementary. But this is rather a clinical way to approach home design: if you choose items because you really love them, chances are you’ll love the way they look together too – and you’ll avoid ending up with an identikit bathroom. Bathroom furniture is an excellent choice, as it will give you a lot of storage space – perfect for hiding away your clutter to ensure a minimalist finish in your bathing space. Choose a theme and try to carry it to its logical conclusion: if you love curves, then opt for bow-fronted units and curved taps; a quadrant shower and roll top bath – similarly shaped fittings will complement each other.

Wall hung bathroom furniture will work well in a small bathroom, adding a sense of space and ensuring there’s no visible clutter to distract you from the clean lines and spa-like ambience of your lovely new room. Add mirrored cabinets or reflective tile to enhance the feeling of light and space in a small bathroom.

Freestanding bathroom furniture, such as a washstand with a vessel basin and a large freestanding bath, can be paired with fitted items that invoke a sensation of space, such as a walk in shower, to great effect. Stacking baskets for storage, rugs for a touch of luxury, a capacious laundry basket in one corner and an easy chair in the other, will complete an opulent look in a larger bathroom.