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Best Types of Tile

On this page:
  • Most popular types of tile
  • Costs per square foot
  • Best tile choices for different rooms

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Bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, living rooms and even swimming pools—what they all have in common is they most likely all have pieces of tile. Tile is a versatile material that can be used for flooring, countertops and backsplashes. It comes in a variety of types, colors and textures, making it the perfect choice for creating just about any aesthetic you desire in your home. There are notable differences among types of tiles; depending on your lifestyle and style preferences, these differences can determine which will be a better for for your home than others.

On this page we will go over the different types of tile, their costs, durability, designs and longevity. These features can help you decide which type of tile is best for your next home improvement, whether you are tackling a flooring, backsplash, or countertop project.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tiles are found everywhere in the home, thanks to their durability and wide variety of colors and shapes available.

Ceramic Tile

Popular for flooring and backsplashes due to its low maintenance, affordability, and design versatility

  • Very durable

  • Endless color and design options

  • Great for flooring, backsplashes, walls, & countertops

  • Lasts 75 to 100 years

This type of tile is made by quarrying the materials and forming it into a mold, then putting a glaze on top to make it scratch and stain resistant. This also helps keep water out, which is why it is a very popular choice for bathrooms, kitchen and laundry rooms. In fact, ceramic tile can be used in about any room of the home.

Ceramic tile costs just $2 to $5 per square foot to install on average, making one of the most affordable types of tile. It is just slightly less waterproof and durable than porcelain tile, but is more cost-friendly. It is not advisable to use ceramic tile in outdoor spaces.

Porcelain Tile

A type of ceramic tile, porcelain tile tends to run a bit more expensive than non-porcelain.

Porcelain Tile

Harder and denser version of ceramic tile that is less susceptible to water damage

  • Very water resistant

  • Endless color and design options

  • Great for indoor or outdoor use

  • Lasts 75 to 100 years

Porcelain is made the same way as ceramic, by being molded and then glazed over with a material that makes it scratch and stain resistant. However, porcelain tile is fired at a higher temperature, making it harder and less porous and more waterproof (with a 0.5% moisture absorption rate). This is why porcelain tile is a very popular choice for rooms that have a lot of water, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.

Porcelain tends to be slightly more durable and resistant to cracking than ceramic tiles, but costs slightly more at $3 to $10 per square foot on average. It can be used in outdoor settings if needed.

Concrete Tile

While solid concrete floors are available to homeowners, concrete tile flooring is also an option.

Concrete Tile

Popular for flooring because it is stronger and longer lasting than hardwood

  • Various colors and textures

  • Less water-resistant than porcelain and ceramic

  • Best for bathrooms and kitchens

  • Lasts 100+ years

Cement-based concrete tiles are becoming increasingly popular for flooring because they are easy to install, extremely durable, eco-friendly, and can be refinished easily. Not to mention, they come in a wide variety of textures, patterns, and colors, and are very affordable at just $3 to $6 per square foot.

Concrete tiles are going to be more porous compared to ceramic and porcelain tiles, meaning they are more likely to absorb water. For this reason, they may not be the best choice for your bathroom, and will likely need to be resealed every three years. When concrete tile has been well cared for it, can last more than a lifetime. In fact, concrete tiles are more durable than most types of hardwood floors.

Natural Stone Tile

This type of tile is a popular choice for people who want to hone in on the authentic beauty of natural stone. Types of natural stone tiles include marble, granite, limestone, travertine and slate.

Natural Stone Tile

High-end, unique choice for flooring and backsplashes that lets you show off its natural beauty

  • Very durable

  • Natural colors, textures and grains

  • Best for flooring and backsplashes

  • Lasts 100+ years

Natural stone tiles also provide details such as veining, making each piece unique from one to the next. The care for each stone is going to vary, as well as its ability to hold up against stains. Some natural stones require a sealant, which preserves it for longer but can make it slippery in high-traffic areas.

While these tiles are still quarried, they are not molded. They are simply cut to size to maintain the beauty of the natural material. Natural stone tile surfaces are completed with a natural, honed or polished finish.

While natural stone is eco-friendly and offers a one of a kind look, it is one of the more costly types of tile for flooring. The cost per square foot of natural stone tile varies depending on the specific type of stone.

  • Travertine tiles: $2.30 to $9.25 per square foot
  • Limestone tiles: $1.85 to $11.30 per square foot
  • Slate tiles: $6.35 to $12.50 per square foot
  • Marble tiles: $3.50 to $15.25 per square foot
  • Granite tiles: $3.85 to $20 per square foot

Keep in mind that natural stone is porous and more susceptible to moisture and water than ceramic and porcelain tiles. Sandstone is among the most absorbent type of natural stone tile, while some types of granite tiles are almost waterproof. All in all, natural stone tiles are often better suited to backsplashes and even kitchen countertops, where they are less likely to be damaged by foot traffic and water.

Glass Tile

Since glass is water resistant and easy to clean, it is a top choice for beautiful bathroom or kitchen backsplashes.

Glass Tile

Very easy to clean, reflect natural light, and are a great fit for kitchen or bathroom backsplashes

  • Very durable

  • Water resistant and low maintenance

  • Translucent colors

  • Best for backsplashes and bathroom accents

  • Lasts 100+ years

While ceramic tiles have a very low water absorption rate, usually 0.5% to 3%, glass tile absorbs 0% water. Glass tiles are also translucent in color, which allows them to reflect light beautifully and give rooms an airy feel. Due to its higher cost, glass tile is best for small areas in the bathroom and kitchen, such as backsplashes and accent walls.

Glass tile is constructed differently than ceramic tile. It is made up of thin slabs of glass and glazed over. However, just like your mirrors, it can be easy to leave marks and fingerprints on your glass tiles, and scratching is a possibility. Be sure to maintain and clean it properly on a regular basis.

Mosaic Tile

While mosaic tiles are most often used as shower or backsplash tiles, they can also be used as a unique type of flooring.

Mosaic Tile

High quality, unique flooring option that comes in a variety of colors and patterns

  • High quality

  • Unique and colorful

  • Durable

  • Great for accent areas

Mosaic is durable, eco-friendly, easy to maintain, and resistant to most chemicals. Like concrete, mosaic also comes in a wide variety of colors, textures and patterns. This can truly give your home a sense of creativity and flair. Using colorful mosaic tiles in smaller rooms can help to brighten up the space and even make it appear larger.

Mosaic tiles are on the costlier end of the pricing spectrum. They can cost as much as $16 to $30 per square foot installed. For this reason, it is best to reserve mosaic tiles for flooring in smaller rooms or accent areas that you truly want to show off as unique. You can also use a small amount of mosaic as a shower or kitchen backsplash to keep costs lower.

Because mosaic tiles tend to be small, they are somewhat more fragile compared to other types of tile. You may not want to install mosaic tile flooring in rooms with heavy foot traffic. They can also become slippery when wet, so make sure to apply a non-slip sealer if you use them for flooring.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most important qualities to consider when choosing a type of tile for flooring?

The most important qualities to consider when choosing tile is water absorption, or how waterproof a type of tile is, slip resistance, hardness, and of course appearance. Especially if you are installing tile flooring in the bathroom, you will want to find tile that will not hold water and mold over time, and you will want to prevent slips and falls with anti-slip flooring. The best type of tile for bathroom floors tends to be porcelain tile because of its waterproof nature. If you are installing tile in other rooms of the home that are less prone to moisture, you can choose more porous tile options, like natural stone or ceramic tile.

Are all types of tile waterproof?

Whether or not a type of tile is considered “waterproof” depends on its moisture absorption rate. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has a rating system for moisture absorption of different types of tiles. The most “waterproof” types of tile are porcelain (0.5% moisture absorption rate) and glass (0% moisture absorption rate). Tiles with moisture absorption rates of 3% to 7% can be prone to mold, mildew, and cracks and breaks over time. Waterproof tiles are most useful in rooms of the home that use water daily, such as the bathroom, laundry room and kitchen.

Which rooms of the home are not good for tile?

Generally speaking, tile can be used in any room of the home. Depending on the area of the home, different types of tile may be a better choice than others. For instance, rooms that have heavy foot traffic may not be the best choice for more fragile tiles like mosaics, glass, and some “softer” types of natural stone. However, these more delicate tiles can be used for backsplashes or accent areas. We recommend checking the PEI ratings of porcelain and ceramic tiles before buying to make sure the tile can withstand the level of foot traffic per each room of your home.

Which types of tile require sealing?

Sealing tile floors can strengthen tile and grout and make them less susceptible to water absorption, wear and tear, and erosion over time. But not all types of tile will require sealing after installation. All natural stone tiles will require sealing to protect them over time, while sealing is optional for glazed porcelain and ceramic tiles. Be sure to talk to your flooring contractor about whether or not your tile of choice needs to be sealed, as well as the best way to maintain and clean the tiles regularly.

What is the cheapest type of tile?

While costs per square foot can vary by the brand, generally the cheapest type of tile by square foot is ceramic tile. Ceramic tile costs $2 to $5 on average to install, and can be used in just about every room of the home. Be sure to request quotes from local contractors for accuracy and to take local labor and installation rates into account as well.

What is the best type of tile for a kitchen backsplash?

The most popular type of tile for a kitchen backsplash is ceramic tile, since it is extremely versatile and affordable. Ceramic tile comes in a wide variety of colors, designs, and textures and is moisture-resistant. It is also very affordable at just $2 to $5 per square foot on average. Other popular choices for kitchen backsplashes include mosaic, natural stone, and glass tiles.

What is the best type of tile for a shower?

Ceramic and porcelain tiles tend to be the best options for showers, since they are the most waterproof tile options and are the least likely to cause water damage or wear and tear over time. Glazed porcelain tiles is the most efficient shower tile option because it is virtually waterproof, extremely stain-resistant, and easy to clean. Porcelain tiles come in a wide variety of colors and designs – you do not have to stick with a classic white porcelain tile!

Which type of tile is easiest to clean?

While each type of tile has different maintenance needs, polished or glazed tiles tend to be the easiest to clean on a regular basis. For the bathroom, consider a glazed porcelain tile for the easiest daily cleaning routine. Ceramic and glass tiles are also very easy to clean. For tile flooring, most types of tile can be cleaned by sweeping or dust mopping, followed by vacuuming and mopping using a mild cleaning solution.