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Tile Texture, Hardness, and Porosity

When it comes to tile, texture, hardness and porosity are just as important as the selection of color. There is so much variation, creativity and uniqueness in these elements of tile design that they’re guaranteed to add interest to the overall feel of the room.

Texture—How much variation there is in the surface of the tile

Tile texture has two extremes. On one end of the scale, you have slick, smooth and shiny tiles. Usually, these are marble-like, very hard and may have a coating of some sort. The opposite extreme are those tiles that are rough with noticeable variation in the surface. Texture can be small (like the surface of a brick), or broad (like a chiseled surface). To determine the best texture for your tile, consider carefully the level of traffic in the room, the room’s use, the room’s placement in the house and the overall feel you are trying to convey. Part of this consideration is the realization that varying texture comes with varying slip-resistance or friction when walked upon.

Hardness—How firm or flexible a tile feels

Although all tile is “hard” to some degree or another, each tile has its own level of hardness, usually given as a number. The hardness scale goes from 1 to 5. Tile flooring textureThe low end of the scale may be the hardness of bathroom tile, which is actually the soft end of the scale. Softer tile is used where comfort is desired. Alternately, the higher end of the scale is reserved for high-traffic areas where greater resistance and firmness may be required.

  1. light traffic where soft or stocking feet are common
  2. medium traffic areas, but not ideal for kitchens or entryways
  3. medium traffic for anywhere in the home
  4. heavy traffic for homes or light commercial areas
  5. heavy traffic for industrial or commercial settings

Porosity—How much liquid the tile absorbs

Some tile, especially untreated tile or natural materials, absorbs liquid. This is important to keep in mind as you think about where your tile will be used. For example, you do not want to use porous or semi-porous tile in your kitchen or bathroom. You want types of tiles that absorb no water, or impervious tiles. Other forms of tile which are more susceptible to water penetration are called non-vitreous tiles.

Photo Credit: Leafcutter Design



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