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Good, Better, Best: Tile Options for Your Home

The quality and design aesthetic of tile can add a touch of custom luxury to any home. Whether it be in your bathroom shower, your kitchen backsplash, or the floors throughout your home, tile offers a variety of different shapes, sizes, and materials. Finding the right one can be daunting if you don’t know how to sort through the options. Let’s explore the different tile selections by breaking them down into good, better, and best categories.

At Lamont Bros. Design & Construction, we guide Portland homeowners through the process of designing their living spaces. Part of this process often involves helping our clients find the perfect tile for their shower, backsplash, or floor. With an in-depth knowledge of the many different tile options on the market today, our team understands how searching for the right tile selections can often feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

In this article, we’re going to help you take the guesswork out of choosing tile for your home. We’ll break down the different tile options into good, better, and best categories, describing each one and discussing its strengths and weaknesses. After reading, you’ll understand the different tile selections available to you and be able to choose the best one for your needs. The specific products we’ll discuss include:

Good: Ceramic Tile

For homeowners seeking options in the “good” category, finding a low-cost product that still delivers on aesthetics and functionality is important.

Ceramic tiles stand out as an excellent starting point for homeowners looking to update their spaces without breaking the bank. These tiles, made from clay that is fired in a kiln, offer a versatile solution to tile needs. Their accessibility and ease of use make them particularly appealing to DIY enthusiasts and those working within a tight budget.

Ceramic tile is a great option for wall application.

Advantages of Ceramic Tiles:

Ease of Installation: Ceramic tiles are known for their ease of handling, cutting, and installation, making them a favorite among DIYers. Their straightforward installation process means that homeowners can personally undertake small to medium-sized tiling projects, such as backsplashes or bathroom walls, without the need for specialized tools or professional help.

Variety of Styles: One of the most appealing aspects of ceramic tiles is the vast array of colors, patterns, and finishes available. Whether you’re looking for a simple, elegant design or something more vibrant and patterned, ceramic tiles can accommodate a wide range of tastes and design preferences. This variety allows homeowners to use the tiles as accent pieces, adding a splash of color to any room.

Affordability: When it comes to cost-effectiveness, ceramic tiles are hard to beat. They offer homeowners the opportunity to refresh their spaces at an entry-level product cost. This affordability does not mean compromising on quality, as modern ceramic tiles can last for decades if properly cared for.

Challenges of Ceramic Tiles:

Durability Concerns: Ceramic tiles, while versatile and aesthetically pleasing, have their limitations when it comes to durability. Ideal for wall applications such as kitchen backsplashes and bathroom walls, they fall short in high-traffic areas. The inherent composition of ceramic tiles renders them more prone to cracking and chipping than their porcelain counterparts. This vulnerability underscores the need for careful consideration of their placement in the home to ensure longevity.

Maintenance and Care: Despite ceramic tiles being easier to cut and install, they demand a bit more in terms of maintenance. This is especially true when used in moisture-prone areas like bathrooms. Ceramic’s slightly more porous nature compared to porcelain means it can absorb water and stains more readily if not properly sealed. Water absorption can lead to potential mildew and mold growth in grout lines or on the tile itself. To avoid this, ceramic requires regular cleaning and occasionally, more intensive maintenance.

Better: Porcelain Tiles

As we move from the good category into better tile options, porcelain tiles emerge as an excellent option for those seeking a blend of durability, aesthetic versatility, and broader application potential. These tiles are made from more refined clay and fired at higher temperatures than ceramic. As a result, porcelain tiles boast an impressive set of characteristics that cater to more demanding home renovation projects.

Bathroom with porcelain tile shower and floor
Both the floor and shower walls in this bathroom are made of porcelain tile.

Advantages of Porcelain Tiles:

Enhanced Durability: Porcelain’s dense composition gives it a level of durability that is perfectly suited for high-traffic areas. This resilience against wear and tear means porcelain floors can retain their appearance and integrity for years, making them a wise investment for any homeowner.

Moisture Resistance: With a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%, porcelain tiles are almost completely impervious to moisture. This quality makes them ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, and even outdoor spaces. Porcelain’s inherent moisture resistance also contributes to mold and mildew resistance, ensuring a healthier living environment for you and your family.

Design Flexibility: Modern manufacturing techniques allow porcelain tiles to mimic a wide array of natural materials such as hardwood, stone, and even fabric textures, providing homeowners with nearly limitless design possibilities. Its versatility enables the creation of cohesive looks throughout the home without compromising on performance.

Challenges of Porcelain Tiles:

Higher Cost: The high-performance characteristics of porcelain tiles also come with a higher price tag. This cost reflects not only the material’s quality but also the more complex manufacturing and installation processes. Homeowners considering porcelain tiles will need to balance their budget with their desire for a durable and versatile flooring solution.

Installation Considerations: Due to their density and hardness, porcelain tiles require specific tools for cutting and drilling, which can complicate the installation process. While this might not deter professional installers, it could pose a challenge for DIY enthusiasts without the necessary equipment or experience.

Best: Premium Tile Options for Luxurious Finishes

In the “best” category, you’ll find a handful of top-quality tile options with more opportunities for customization. Here, natural stone tiles and handmade ceramic tiles are celebrated for their exceptional quality and unique aesthetics.

Natural Stone Tiles

Natural stone tiles add a level of high-end luxury and uniqueness to home renovation. Each piece of natural stone, such as marble, granite, slate, or travertine, is harvested from the ground. Each one features an unparalleled level of beauty and distinction.

shower with natural stone walls
Natural stone shower walls.

Advantages of Natural Stone Tiles:

Unique Aesthetics: The natural patterns, colors, and textures of stone tiles are incomparable. Each tile is unique, ensuring no two areas will ever look the same. Incorporating natural stone into your home adds a timeless elegance and character that is impossible to replicate with man-made materials.

Durability and Longevity: When properly sealed and maintained, natural stone tiles can withstand decades of use, aging gracefully and gaining character over time. Their durability makes them suitable for high-traffic floor areas, provided they are chosen and installed correctly.

Adds Value to Your Home: The luxurious appeal and durability of natural stone tiles can significantly increase the market value of your property. They are considered a premium building material that appeals to prospective buyers looking for quality and elegance.

Challenges of Natural Stone Tiles:

Higher Cost and Maintenance: The initial investment in natural stone tiles is higher than that of ceramic or porcelain tiles, reflecting their premium status. Additionally, natural stone requires regular sealing to protect against stains and damage. Installing stone in your home is a commitment to maintenance that some homeowners may find daunting.

Variation and Installation Complexity: The beauty of natural stone comes with inherent variation in color and pattern, which can complicate installation and require a skilled installer to achieve a cohesive look. The weight of natural stone tiles also requires a sturdy substrate, especially for wall application. This often adds another layer of complexity and cost to the installation process.

Handmade Ceramic Tiles

handmade tile in a Portland bathroom remodel
Handmade tile (center band) used as an accent in this Portland bathroom.

For those seeking something truly unique, handmade ceramic tiles offer a level of craftsmanship and artistry that sets them apart. Each tile is crafted with care, making it a perfect choice for distinctive, personalized spaces.

Advantages of Handmade Ceramic Tiles:

Artistic and Unique: The slight variations in color, size, and texture imbue handmade ceramic tiles with a warmth and character unmatched by mass-produced options. They are ideal for creating focal points or adding a personal touch to your home.

Supports Artisans and Small Businesses: Choosing handmade tiles often means supporting artisans and small businesses that put a premium on quality and sustainability. This choice not only enhances your home but also contributes to the vitality of the craft and local economies.

Environmental Considerations: Many handmade tiles are made with environmentally friendly practices and materials, appealing to homeowners who prioritize sustainability alongside aesthetics.

Challenges of Handmade Ceramic Tiles:

Premium Pricing: The time, effort, and skill required to produce handmade ceramic tiles are reflected in their cost. While they offer unmatched beauty and uniqueness, they come at a premium, making them a consideration for those willing to invest in their home’s aesthetic appeal.

Lead Times and Availability: As handmade tiles may be made to order or produced in small batches, there can be significant lead times and limited availability. Planning and patience are essential when incorporating these special pieces into your renovation project.

Want to Gather More Inspiration For Your Remodel?

Now that you understand the different tile options in good, better, and best categories, continue your research. Check out our Work Portfolio, where you can view several of our past projects and see how other Portland homeowners have incorporated tile into their home improvements.

Ready to remodel, but not yet in contact with a contractor? If you’re ready to start exploring your options with the help of a professional designer, click the button below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our team. We’ll help you navigate the process of home renovation so you can turn your current home into your dream home.