Installation Principles

This system consists of four integral components. The failure of any component means the failure of the entire installation.

1. Substrate

What is the condition of the substrate that you’re going to set the tile on? Is it clean and ready for tile? Is it properly cured? How will cracks be prepared? Is it level? Are there any humps, bumps or dips? How will you address expansion joints? The number one job complaint received by the Tile Council of America (TCA) revolves around inadequate preparation of the substrate and no expansion joints. Use the TCA Handbook for information regarding placement of movement joint’s.

2. Tile, trim and installation materials

Tile. “It’s all good”. Overall, tile is much better than it was 20 years ago. There are a few sub-standard products, but by and large tile is a bargain over the life of the product when compared to other flooring surfaces.

Trim. Make sure that the trim shapes perform the intended function and that they coordinate in color, shade, thickness and overall dimensions with the tile.

Installation Materials. If you skimp somewhere, don’t skimp here. As a matter of fact, many thin-set manufacturers offer lifetime warrantees on their premium polymer or latex modified setting systems (thin-set and grout). Pennies a foot for a lifetime warrantee? Sounds like a bargain insurance plan to me!

3. Installation, caulking and clean up Installation.

Sure tile is a great DIY product, however, you cannot beat the finished look of an installation when completed by a true professional. A professional tile setter will make sure that the substrate is ready to accept the tile, select the proper installation materials, layout the installation in a manner that will enhance the overall appearance and give you an installation that will last at least 40 years.

Caulking and clean up. The difference between a good installation and a poor installation is in the details. The caulk joints, the grout clean up and the overall condition of the installation is critical to produce a beautiful job.

4. Cleaning and sealing

Most slip-fall accidents don’t come from the wrong product being installed, but from inadequately maintained surfaces. As a rule, tile should be cleaned with a neutral cleaner. Vinegar, the cleaner we all used to recommend, won’t harm most tiles, but can destroy the grout – don’t use it. Change your mop water often. Hint: throw a quarter in the bottom of your mop bucket. When you can’t see it-change the water.

Sealing. Glazed ceramic tile is never to be sealed. All stones must be sealed. Many unglazed porcelain tiles must be sealed. Sealing the grout can bring the absorption of a latex modified grout down to less than 1% absorption. Sealing makes it easier for you to clean your grout, but your grout still requires cleaning (where’s that self-cleaning grout?). My personal recommendation: pick out a dirty colored grout and you’ll always be happy.

Performance-Ratings - Tile and Stone by Villagio

Performance Ratings

PEI ratings PEI rates abrasive resistance of the tile’s glaze on a scale of 0-5. This test is only for glazed tiles and does not apply to unglazed porcelain tile or other unglazed types of tile. Deep abrasion test for through body porcelain tile.

PEI ratings of glazed tile

Class 0. Suitable for walls only

Class 1. Recommended for wall use 
But may be used both on interior walls or bath floors without direct access to outdoor elements.

Class 2. Suitable for most residential floors 
May be used where abrasive foot traffic is minimal – such as bathrooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, living rooms, and sunrooms.

Class 3. Ideal for all residential floors
For floors subject to normal foot traffic and usage (including kitchens, outdoor entryways and hallways).

Class 4. Great for all residential and light-medium commercial 
Suitable for light to medium commercial applications. Will withstand moderate foot traffic in many commercial areas (commercial kitchens, hotel rooms, exhibition halls, etc).

Class 5. Great for all residential and most commercial 
Ideally suited for all residential and most commercial applications under normal foot traffic conditions (shopping centers, hotel foyers, walkways, and industrial applications). For very high traffic areas, consider and unglazed through-body color porcelain, which does not carry a PEI rating.

Mohs scale 
Frederick Mohs invented this geological scale of minerals to rate scratch resistance from 1-10. Think of Mohs as Method Of Hardness Scale. This test is not an industry standard but it’s a great comparison to show the difference in scratch resistance between tile and other hard flooring materials.

Coefficient of friction (COF) 
The coefficient of friction rates the slip resistance of a tile. ADA recommends a test rating of .6 (wet or dry) on floors and .8 for ramps. However, common sense must prevail. If you are told that a shiny surface tile has a .6 rating, stop and think if that tile really will be slip resistant.

Breaking strength 
The breaking strength test is a good indicator of the chip resistance of a tile because it tests the strength and density of the bisque. Using applicable ASTM test, ceramic floor tile typically has a breaking strength of 250 lbs. This can be less for poor quality tiles, higher with porcelain tiles (up to 400lbs).

What do you want your tile to do? 
Facial surface. A slip resistant surface may be more difficult to keep clean. A glossy surface may show dust and be slick. 
Body strength. Chip resistance, frost resistance, breaking strength, and water resistance. Make sure that the tile face and the tile body meets both performance and visual expectations.


Travertine is divided into four visual classifications. As with other natural stone products such as diamonds and precious stones, the value of travertine is based on the visual appeal, availability and rare qualities of the stone. As these are visual based categories, the durability or suitableness for a specific purpose are not part of this classification.

Commercial Quality 
Tiles with a commercial rating are divided into two distinct categories.

Class “A” is for appearance. The distinctive variation that occurs in an “A”. quality commercial stone may include a broad color range, a unique color range, usual mineral deposits or a moderate amount and size of fill. Class “A” commercial tiles will be of uniform thickness, squareness and size, but may have some variation in finish and fill color.

Class “B” is for dimension. Travertine tiles in this category may have variations in size or thickness, a considerable amount of fill or very large fill. These tiles are usually set with a 3/16” or larger grout joint.

Classic Quality A classic quality tile will be of a consistent size as to allow a grout joint of 1/8” or less. Classic tiles will have a moderate amount and size of fill. Classic tiles are sorted within a defined color range with minimal mineral deposits.

First Quality

First quality travertine tiles are sorted to have minimal fill and color variations within a defined range. First quality tiles have virtually no unusual mineral deposits and they are precision sized for minimal grout joints and ease of installation.

Premium Quality 
Premium quality travertine is so designated because of the unusually high density of the stone. This means that there are very few and very small holes. The face of a premium quality stone will be of discernible higher visual quality when placed next to other qualities of travertine