Tips for tiling
Several area experts listed their advice on using ceramic tile.
– Baseboard magic: For best looks in new homes, don’t install baseboards until after the floor tile is laid, said John Mickalowski, owner of a Saltillo company, Discount Flooring (soon to be renamed American Flooring and relocated in a new building off U.S. 45).
– The right backing: Don’t use fiberboard behind tile in the kitchen or other spill-prone areas, he said. Any moisture will make the board get mushy. Fiberboard should be used only in relatively dry areas such as sunrooms or dining rooms.
– The easy way: Plan ahead and buy the right tiles. For example, if you are placing a decorative “diamond” at the juncture of four tiles, buy the large tiles with one corner already clipped and the edge correctly beveled, Mickalowski said. That avoids the step of tediously cutting corners off the larger tiles to make room for insertion of the smaller diamond-shaped tile. (The larger tile is also available with two or four corners clipped off for other decorative designs.)
– Get a good start: Measure the room and lay tile correctly, starting at the room’s center. To avoid a skimpy and amateurish look, don’t end up with less than half a tile in or out of a doorway, Mickalowski said.
– The kindest cut: Cut tile correctly. Tile looks better when a section is removed (using a special wet saw) to go around an obstacle, such as a door frame. Beginners often will cut a tile into several sections to piece around the obstacle, and this looks unprofessional, Mickalowski said.
– Right person for the job: Leave the installation of large tiles to the pros. If the floor is not perfectly level, a large tile will have to be “floated” to lie correctly. “Once you get one over 16 inches, you almost have to be a professional to lay that size tile,” Mickalowski said.
– Mind the marring: Protect counter tiles from aluminum pans; this kind of cookware can leave a pencil-like mark that must be scrubbed off, he said.
– Escaping the scraping: Avoid high-gloss tiles for use on kitchen counters, said Mary Mask, a spokesman for Tub Magic in Shannon. This type of tile finish is more easily scratched by pots and pans.
– Lasting shades: Darker-colored glazed tiles are sometimes softer and may not wear as well as the lighter and more muted glazed colors, according to the booklet, “The Lifestyle is Tile.” A design scheme that calls for intense tile colors may choose to use the darker colors on the walls instead of floors. (Check with manufacturers for their recommendations for use, and review test results if necessary.)
– Watch your step: Choose slip-resistant tile for use around a swimming pool, Mask said. Also, don’t put high-gloss tiles on floors, especially in showers: A matte finish or crystal glaze will be far less slippery.
– Bear the wear: Pick tile that is appropriately rated for your use, Mask said. For example, a “light residential use” tile would not work in a high-traffic home area or in a commercial application.
– Hiding the dirt: Gray or a darker grout may work better on tile floors to avoid showing footprints and other dirt as easily as lighter grouts would.
– Glue guru: Use the right glue for tiles laid outdoors. Mickalowski suggested a thin-set multipurpose mastic.
– Picking the proportions: Reserve the larger tiles for big rooms. Big rooms look “busy” with the 8- by 8-inch tiles, although these and the smaller 6- by 6-inch tiles are fine for bathroom use, Mickalowski said.
– Fancy touches: Trim pieces can complete the decor, Mickalowski said. Narrow rectangular sections with raised designs (such as rope, candy twist or the simple pencil trim) can create a decorative chair rail or other look in a room.
Decorative inserts tiles with special designs also can be placed periodically among plain, coordinating wall tiles, Mickalowski said.
– Tiles for the world: If you’re environmentally conscious, tiles are available using recycled materials. Mask said her store carries a line of Tierra Classic, a high-performance ceramic tile that is made in the U.S. from recycled glass. The price is 8 by 8 inches at $8 per square foot, or 12 by 12 inches at $10 per square foot.