The idea of installing tiles has always been associated with quality and elegance where a sustainable lifespan becomes a pertinent emphasis amongst consumers. This leads the consumers to assess, identify and select tiles that may have attractive features in terms of appearance and also its durability.
It is worth emphasising that tiles today come in a plethora of materials, designs, uses, patterns, costs and qualities which in effect, these ever-expanding varieties, are blurring the lines that formerly distinguished wall and floor tiles clearly, leaving consumers in a state of confusion.
Whether you’re doing a full renovation or just a portion and choosing the ideal tiles is splitting your hairs, this article is intended to be your go-to guide to comprehend the differences, similarities and functions.
Tiles, what are they?
First of all, tiles are manufactured from a wide variety of materials including ceramic, stone, metal, glass, and a multitude of clay types which can impact their quality, strength, and functionalities. Raw materials used to manufacture tiles can essentially alter the characteristics and usage of the tiles.
A ceramic tile is created with two layers, namely glaze and bisque, which offer different purposes. Being the thickest layer, bisque appears as the tile’s body while glaze sits on the top of a tile where colours are applied.
In order to manufacture ceramic tiles, either red or white clay is burnt in a kiln. The finished tiles are then covered in a solid glaze to preserve the colour and pattern.
In terms of density, ceramic tiles are comparatively thinner than their counterpart, porcelain tiles, making them simpler to cut and more durable in places with light traffic or moderate traffic. In other words, where people rarely step foot.
Porcelain, on the other hand, actively prevents water absorption. Resistance to water makes it highly ideal in places with increased moisture present and higher contact with water, such as bathrooms and toilets.
Compared to ceramic tiles which are made from clays that are coarser, denser and porous, the clays used to create porcelain tiles are smoother, thicker and highly resilient. These qualities ensure the porcelain tiles are stronger, tougher and less susceptible to possible damage over time. Therefore, it could sustain heavy foot traffic when it comes to flooring options.
Natural Stone Tile
Besides ceramic and porcelain, types of tiles may vary too. For instance, the natural stone tile elevates the overall elegance or adds exclusivity to your house. Travertine, granite, limestone, and other natural stone tiles are among the most popular types of tiles used which are either installed in bathrooms or kitchens to create an opulent ambience.
Natural stones may be an option if you have a generous flow of income because the maintenance cost appears to be higher than for other types of tiles because regular sealing and resurfacing are required to preserve their beauty and lustre.
Other than that, consumers would encounter different types of tiles such as glazed wall tiles, glass tiles, mosaic tiles and quarry tiles amongst others. Each tile type may feature different applications and the installing places would slightly differ as well.
For instance, glass tiles are known to be solid and highly moisture resistant, quite common to be utilised in creating unified or harmonised shapes in places like kitchens or bathrooms. They are also an easy-cleaning material since the permeability is lesser compared to different types of tiles.
Meanwhile, Mosaic tiles are a great decorative addition that can function as a pattern or image creator which comes in different shapes and colours. Commonly used on walls or as backsplashes, they are hardly compatible with floor tiles. More so the difficulties in cleaning the grout lines.
What is a Wall Tile?
When it comes to a wall tile, one has to first understand that ‘load bearing’ isn’t an aspect to be expected out of a wall tile. Therefore, tiles for walls are carefully selected to be thinner and lighter, ensuring the walls are not burdened with incompatible weights.
To reduce unnecessary weightage, wall tiles minimise the usage of glazes since their primary attribute is to be placed where excessive footfalls can be naturally avoided or kept at a minimum level.
This makes wall tiles generally unsuitable for tile flooring because of their incompatibility and most likely a compromise to safety. But on the bright side, both porcelain and ceramic-made wall tiles are more likely cost-effective and gel well in kitchens and bathrooms.
They could also have a variety of colours, designs and minute textures to make the routines of your house look slicker.
What is a Floor Tile?
Contrary to wall tiles, floor tiles are supposed to bear a decent amount of foot traffic and weight, hence emphasising the quality of being a thicker, sturdier and relatively higher level of friction. Not much attention is given to detailed textures when it comes to floor tiles unlike its compatriot, wall tiles. Floor tiles can be installed in high-traffic areas depending mostly on the type of tile.
How to determine the strength and suitability of tiles?
In order to identify the strength of the tiles and whether they go well with the floor or wall, the professionals do suggest a double rating system since installing the tiles can be trickier and also unsafe if certain standards are not properly taken into consideration
Coefficient of Friction (COF) rating
A rating system called Coefficient of Friction (COF) was introduced and adhered to by assessing the frictional capacity of a tile. Or, how slippery they can be.
While this may sound unrelated to wall tiles, it is definitely a must-be-done method for floor tiles as a certain amount of friction is necessary to be placed on the floor as it consumes huge foot traffic where assurance of durability and quality is important. The higher the amount of COF, the safer the tiles to walk on.
Floor tiles are expected to have a 0.50 COF rating or higher for them to be installed in interior locations while exterior floors should not hit below 0.60.
Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating
Secondly, the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating is a system that could assess the hardness and durability of a tile by testing it in rotary abrasion resistance testing machine. Basically, it tells the consumers whether a tile could withstand abrasion.
To make things easier, this rating system has provided us with five classifications to determine the suitability of the tiles according to the foot traffic. Tiles with higher PEI ratings are considered apt in places with high-traffic areas and vice-versa. The table below illustrates the PEI rating:
The process of professional installation of either the floor or wall tiles is highly similar. Briefly, it begins with cement backer boards affixed against the flooring or ceiling joists. Unless you are replacing existing tiles, the floor or walls might be hacked first to remove the earlier ones.
The flooring is plastered with a waterproof coating and allowed to dry. Wet or outside facilities, such as the bathroom, swimming pool, garden, or balcony, require waterproofing. A layer of cement is then added to level the floor before the tiles are glued to the backer board using thin-set sealant and let dry until mortar-based grout could be applied between the gaps. Upon drying, they are sealed.
Wall tiles are easy to cut and install because of their smaller weight and thinner nature. Floor tiles may also be mounted on vertical surfaces like walls. However, only utilise floor tiles that are rated for that purpose.
Installation cost is an accumulation of different factors which includes the number of tiles, size of the installation area, type of tiles, location and labour.
However, you may calculate the estimated cost using the following formula. Assuming you intend to install new tiles in your bathroom. Length and width must be multiplied, followed by dividing the total by the area of the tiles.
Let’s say that your bathroom requires 15 pieces of ceramic tiles (200mm X 500mm) for your floor. The normal price range for ceramic or porcelain tiles is between RM1.80 and RM3.50 per tile while installation cost is in-between RM11.20 and RM14.80 psf. The labour cost is also affected by the location where it can differ from RM4.80 to RM50 psf.
On an additional note, the price of the tiles normally increases as the size increases.
Key Differences between Wall & Floor Tiles
While there may be numerous aspects that could possibly differentiate the wall and floor tiles, we are going to highlight essential differences between the two. This shall encompass look, resistance level, longevity and maintenance, cost, and lifespan.
It is recommended to install small-sized (in comparison to floor tiles) tiles on the wall to introduce a stylistic and pleasant ambience due to their prominence.
More or less, the size of these tiles is largely determined by the space your tiles would be installed in.
Large-sized tiles can be a good option for the floor and they are quite a common preference too amongst consumers.
Though exquisite patterns or textures are not emphasised on floor tiles, they can still be an attractive feature if they are aptly installed. Sometimes, 1-inch mosaics could be an option for bathroom floors but not necessarily in other places.
Resistance to different temperatures
There is almost any variation in the water resistance of floor tiles and wall tiles.
In terms of water resistance, it can be safely said that both ceramic and porcelain floor and wall tiles are quite highly water resistant. The water absorption rate is typically low.
However, you may want to be extra careful around heaty places such as your kitchen or choice for kitchen countertops where the tiles are exposed to extreme heat. Because wall tiles are produced to be thinner, they may be less heat-resistant to heat from hot pans and pots.
For heat-exposed areas such as countertop, applications may be better suited with floor tiles as they are comparatively thicker and more durable.
Longevity and Maintenance
Most of the time, you just need water and soap to maintain the cleanliness of the tiles. It doesn’t matter whether they are floor or wall tiles. The challenging part is however dealing with the building-up of grout over time which may lead to replacement once in a few years’ time if cracks or discolouration starts emerging.
The inability to withstand excessive weight or heavy foot traffic makes wall tiles unsuitable for floors as they are prone to cracks or damage much faster and easier since they are thinner.
Due to their characteristics and compositions, wall tiles do have a longer quality lifespan on the walls.
Highly preferred choice for floors and also applicable to walls (if necessary safety precautions are applied during the installation) as they are thicker and quality-wise stronger than a wall tile.
It is widely believed that properly installed and maintained tiles can remain intact for three-quarters of a century. It is more likely that you will change them because of trends than because of damage.
Because of its manufacturing specifics, floor tiles are supposed to outweigh the lifespan of wall tiles. With due care, both floor and wall tiles can have a longer lifespan.
How To Clean Tiles?
Ceramic Tiles and Porcelain Tiles
Any unclean ceramic floor tiles or wall tiles and porcelain wall tiles or floor tiles may be rapidly restored to new condition by simply wiping them down with your preferred household tile cleaner. The presence of mildew or mould could be eliminated with tile cleaners.
Natural Stone Tile
If they are real stones, marble or limestone with permeable surfaces that may leave stains on the tiles, you may need to resort to caustic cleaners such as vinegar or bleach although you are already aware of several stone cleaners in the market.
In case you are persistent to try out a DIY tiles cleaner, make sure they are tested on non-visible surfaces to avoid obvious damages in a worse come worst situation. You don’t want to spoil a perfect tile.
Apart from difficult stains, accumulation of grout over time is perhaps the problem that gives people the most headaches. To maintain a nice appearance on your tiles, it is suggested that you seal the porous spaces at least once a year.
Keep in mind that highly permeable surfaces are prone to stains and moisture absorption, which unintentionally draws in mould and mildew. To remove minor build-ups, use a solution of soapy water and elbow grease. After that, scrape them off with a gentle brush that won’t damage your tiles. You do not want any unnecessary scratches to appear on them.
You may have to put in some extra effort if they are stubborn grouts. Items like hydrogen peroxide and baking soda could be helpful. Nevertheless, there are endless options of cleaning supplies that are sold in supermarkets that ought to be more than useful and affordable option.
In a nutshell, there are a few key things you should know before installing either wall or floor tiles. It is crucial to understand the approximate size and layout of the areas where these tiles supposedly go as this will help with your budget. Types of flooring, flooring materials, water absorption rate, and types of floor tiles or wall tiles are among the factors that determine the decision of choosing the appropriate tiles.
We hope this article can assist you in distinguishing between wall tiles and floor tiles, thereby aiding you in selecting the one that would suit your needs the best. Happy tiling!