By Carolyn Bahm

By Carolyn Bahm

Daily Journal

Ceramic is going the extra mile for customer convenience today. Versatile ceramic tiles are making a cool appearance in rooms throughout the house.

Two new fans are Barbara and Kevin Pannell, who recently had ceramic tile installed in their new Lee County home. The tiles went in their kitchen, carport entry, foyer, the master bathroom and around the patio door in the den area. They picked tile for their home’s heavy-traffic areas because of its durability and ease of cleaning.

They saw ceramic tile floors as an investment, according to Barbara Pannell.

The couple chose 13- by 13-inch antique stone ceramic tiles for the foyer, and the kitchen floor treatment used octagon- and diamond-shaped fawn tiles. Aztec-print floor tiles in the 12- by 12-inch size melded with the look of stained pine walls in the den. Natural-toned tiles with green and rust highlights perfectly matched the master bath’s wallpaper and bone-colored fixtures.

“I love it,” Pannell said.

Her only advice for others is to hire someone to seal the tile’s grouting: A sealer protects against staining, but applying it can be a tedious, time-consuming chore for the new homeowner.

Easy cleaning and no waxing are the reasons the James Bell family of Aberdeen chose ceramic tile flooring for their lakeside cabin. They already had tile in their trucking firm’s office, and they knew exactly what they wanted.

About two months ago, they had 12- by 12-inch beige floor tiles installed in the one-room cabin. The easy-care surface is just right for their weekend fishing retreat, she said. “We’re really pleased with it.”

As described by these customers and in the booklet, “The Lifestyle is Tile,” ceramic tile is a decorating option that is becoming more even varied, useful and affordable.

Following the tile trends

Three area tile stores all said the distressed-finish ceramic tiles and the “stone look” are the trend to watch in Northeast Mississippi. Ceramic tiles now can simulate worn and age-pitted stones, as well as marble, Mexican tiles and other surfaces, often with more durability and less expense than the originals have.

Deep green is a fresh color for tile flooring, according to Mary Mask, a spokesman for Tub Magic in Shannon, and Donald Harris, store manager for Color Tile in Tupelo. However, Mask said homeowners may want to choose a more neutral tile color becauses tastes differ, and they might want to resell their home later.

Larger tiles, such as the 16- by 16-inch squares, are well-liked locally and are spreading into different areas of the home, Mask said. For areas traditionally popular for tiling, the standard high-gloss tiles are still in vogue for bathroom walls, paired with matte tiles on the floor.

“They’re using ceramic tile really everywhere,” she said. “… We’ve had people ask about running tile up the wall, and there’s no reason you can’t. You can use it anywhere you want to.”

Ceramic tiles also are appearing in entryways and even in some living rooms. John MIckalowski, owner of Discount Flooring in Saltillo, said one customer laid tile in his entire house except for the bedrooms. (Mickalowski’s business will be renamed American Flooring the end of this month when it moves into a new 5,000-square-foot space on U.S. 45. The new location will be about 7 minutes’ travel time north of the Mall at Barnes Crossing.)

Beguiling with tile

Spokesmen listed some of ceramic tile’s best-selling aspects:

– Hypoallergenic. Because the tiles can be easily cleaned and do not hold dust and other allergens as carpet does, ceramic tile is a good flooring choice for people with allergies, Mickalowski said.

– Staining potential. Using the right tile helps in stain prevention, Mickalowski said. He explained two basic tile types: “Glazed” tile has a finish that will repel stains, although a cheaper variety, called “haze” tile, does not. The lesser-quality haze tile is unglazed and has sprayed-on color, and it also scratches more easily. Tile boxes are clearly labeled as either glazed or haze, he said.

Also be sure to seal the grout, especially in kitchens, bathrooms and showers, Mickalowski said. Protecting the porous grout can cut down on mildew and stains.

– Easy to clean. Ceramic tile doesn’t show dirt as easily as vinyl does, and the tile can be more easily spot-cleaned than vinyl flooring can, Mickalowski said.

In most cases, a damp mop is all that’s required, Mask said.

– Economical repairs. Replace just a damaged tile instead of the entire floor.

“If you throw a cast-iron skillet at your husband and you miss him but hit the floor, you can pop out that one broken tile and replace it,” Mickalowski said.

– Durable. Ceramic tile will usually outlast the homeowner, while vinyl flooring may begin to look worn with a few years.

“Vinyl everybody complains about it. It wears out in three or four years. Ceramic tile won’t,” Mickalowski said.

Harris agreed, saying some tile has a 15-year warranty.

– Water resistant. Properly installed tile won’t suffer the same damage vinyl does if the refrigerator’s ice maker or the dishwasher leak, Mickalowski said. Excess water that seeps under the vinyl is likely to mildew, while ceramic tile with sealed grout can just be mopped dry.

– Colorfast. Colors are permanent on ceramic tile, unlike carpet, Harris said. Sunshine won’t fade tile as it does carpet and some other surfaces. For unglazed tiles, color is fired into the clay; for glazed tile, color is fired onto the glazed surface.

– Valuable. Appraisers tend to give extra for a home that has ceramic tile, so the durable flooring adds value to the home, Mickalowski said.

– Decorative. Contrasting tiles can be used to “frame” a mirror, window or other architectural feature on tiled walls, cabinets or countertops, Mask said.

– Unlimited selection. Mark Tutor, sales manager for Color Tile in Tupelo, said tiles vary in shape, size, color, texture and designs, and they can be combined in nearly infinite patterns.

Customers’ questions about tile

Customers commonly have worries and myths about ceramic tile. Area experts addressed some of these concerns:

– Stains. If grout is not sealed and tile is not cleaned properly, a ceramic tile and grout surface can get nasty, Mickalowski said. (Even with grout sealer, stains should be wiped up as quickly as possible.) However, properly chosen tile with sealed grout is extremely stain-resistant.

– Breaks. Any tile can be broken, Tutor said. “But most of the time … whatever you drop on the floor, it breaks.”

The good news is that tile is particularly durable when it’s installed correctly. When accidents happen, it’s also simple to do spot repairs and replace a single broken tile. He suggested keeping a few leftover tiles after installation just to prevent tile-matching problems if replacements are ever needed.

– Location. Tile can be placed even over an existing wood floor, Mickalowski said. A Hardy Back or Wonder Board (two brands of concrete board) must be placed down first. Tile even can be placed atop vinyl flooring.

– Too permanent. Tile is intended for long-term use, but it can be placed for ease of removal if the homeowner’s tastes change, Mickalowski said. For example, tile is much easier to remove if it is initially laid on a felt paper backing.

– Cost. Because tile is so durable, it’s actually a better value than vinyl flooring, Mickalowski said. “I know after you buy three vinyl floors, you’ve paid for a ceramic tile floor.”

Do-it-yourselfers also can save tremendously, Mickalowski said. “People can lay it for themselves and do it for about the same price for middle-of-the-road vinyl.”

His store rents all the equipment needed, from cutting boards to jam saws. He said most people can lay floor tile, although special applications such as showers are best left to professionals.

Installation alone (tiles not included) costs from $2.50 to $4 per square foot, depending on the size of tile and the location within the home, Mickalowski said.

Mask said tiles cost from $1.40 per square foot and up, although a common price range is about $2.50 to $3.50 per square foot.

– Outdoor use. Outdoor tiling choices include unglazed pavers, glazed slip-resistant tiles and traditional quarry tiles. Exterior tiles also may need to be frost resistant.

– Cold to the feet. Mickalowski grinned and said tile isn’t any colder than vinyl. “They can buy area rugs if they don’t want cool tiles on the floor. Or we can install them a floating hardwood floor with a pad underneath, and their feet will stay warm.”

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