The Tile Guide

Tile is one of the hottest flooring products on the market today. Just in the last 20 years, there’s been a huge explosion of different materials, colors, designs and sizes that make tile more suitable for every room of your home than ever before. Most people have a pretty good idea of what they want in a tile floor—natural stone for beauty and variation, or porcelain tile for durability and a contemporary look—but what stumps nearly everyone is what size of tile to put down. Follow this tile guide to make sure you select the right tile for your home.

Small Room? Go Big!

Once upon a time there were very few choices when it came to tile size. You had mosaics, 8-inch squares, 13-inch squares and…that was pretty much it. Times have changed, however, and tiles now come in every size from 3/8-inches all the way up to 36-inch squares.

Traditional wisdom says that in a small space you should use a small tile. This isn’t true! Small tiles (4-inches to 10-inches) actually make small rooms look smaller. Why? Because the smaller the tile, the more grout joints you need. And all those grout joints will make your floor into a grid, emphasizing its size. Larger tiles, however, have fewer grout lines, which translates into wider looking spaces. So, now the general rule is to go as large as you can comfortably fit a tile into the room without making tiny cuts on the sides.

The one exception to this rule in the tile guide is that if your floor isn’t level, or can’t be leveled not to proceed in this fashion. If you do, a large tile may crack, so you’re better off with something smaller.

The Mosaic Rule

Larger tiles tend to have a very specific look. If you’re using porcelain or polished stone, they can look very contemporary. On the other hand, using a tumbled stone gives a very Old World effect. But what if neither of those options are right for your home? In these cases, for tiling a small room like a bathroom, for example, your best bet is to use a mosaic.

Mosaic tiles measure 2-inches or smaller in size. Now you may think, “That’s a lot of grout!” But, unlike slightly larger tiles, the grout in mosaics makes up part of the design. The end result with a mosaic is an overall pattern on the floor, rather than a grid.

Mosaics were often used in Victorian and other older-style homes because the floors weren’t always level back then. Mosaics can bend to the floor, unlike a larger tile, which will crack. That’s why you so often see old patterns like penny tiles and basketweaves in homes dating back to these eras.

Consider a Pattern

If you fall in love with a tile that doesn’t come in a larger size, or if a larger size really won’t work in your home and you don’t want to use a mosaic, you still have options. Using a pattern instead of simply laying the tiles in straight lines can help give the room the larger look you’re after without adding an additional, clashing style.

For example, laying your tile on the diagonal will draw the eye out to the corners of the room, widening it. Using a multi-piece pattern confuses the eye and prevents the grid effect from taking over. Even just applying an offset or brick pattern with square tiles can give you enough interest to keep the floor from looking too small.

The best tile guide tip of all is to choose the tile you truly love. You can’t go wrong if you go with what appeals to you!