Natural Stone and Porcelain - Tile and Stone by Villagio

Natural Stone and the Reemergence of Porcelain Tile

What are the differences between stone and tile, and which one should I choose? In my many years of working in the tile and stone industry, this is a question I have heard frequently. Most tile on the market today is glazed porcelain tile, which is a durable type of ceramic tile. Stone, on the other hand, is natural and is generally limestone, travertine, or marble. While both tile and stone have pros and cons, the answer truly lies in what you as a customer need for your home or business space.

Many people hear “porcelain tile” and immediately assume that it is fragile or delicate. In fact, porcelain tile is very different from a porcelain doll or vase. Porcelain tile is significantly more durable than other types of ceramic tile on the market. Glazed porcelain tile consists of a clay body with an overglaze. The clay body is a sturdy base for the tile, which is then covered by the overglaze. The overglaze is a glass-like coating that goes over the clay body and is fired at around 2000 degrees. Because the glass-like glaze is fired on, it does not have to be resealed and the glaze will stay for the life of the tile. The only maintenance needed is basic housekeeping—sweeping and mopping—to keep the tile clean.

Natural stone is just that—completely unaltered. Glazing is a man-made process, so a glazed stone would, by definition, no longer be natural stone. However, in order to preserve the stone, it must be protected by a sealer after installation. Each stone requires a specific sealer based on its density or texture. Limestone, travertine, and marble all consist of the same basic ingredient and therefore generally require the same sealer. Because sealer for natural stone is not fired on, it does not have the same lifetime durability as porcelain tile, so the stone must be resealed approximately every five years maintain its quality.

Glazed porcelain tile consists of two portions—the clay body and the overglaze—which means that the clay body is generally a different color than the overglaze. Though its durability means it is difficult to chip a glazed tile, a chip or crack would usually reveal a secondary color underneath. Because stone is natural, a chip or crack made in stone will show that the color goes all the way through—there is no other color or material underneath.

More and more today, tile is being made to look like natural stone, to the point where a single tile placed next to a piece of travertine could look almost identical. However, the tile is still manmade, meaning eventually the pattern will repeat. An inexpensive stone-look tile could repeat the pattern every tile. Meanwhile, a more expensive tile could have such a wide degree of variation that you may never see the pattern repeat. However, at some point with every manmade tile the pattern will repeat. With natural stone, a repeat pattern is not possible because it is completely one-of-a-kind.

The technology of creating manmade tile has advanced greatly in the last few years. Porcelain tile, which was usually only used in less expensive homes, is now being used in high-end homes. Homeowners no longer feel like they are compromising the overall look and quality when choosing porcelain tile over natural stone. Today we actually sell more porcelain tile than natural stone, whereas a few years ago we sold far more natural stone than tile.

As price goes, both tile and stone have a wide range depending on quality. Floor tile starts out much less expensive than stone, and stone will go much higher in price than tile. There is a wide middle ground where the cost of tile and stone overlap. However, stone costs far more to install. It requires a more difficult installation and must then be sealed. This means that even if you buy stone at the same price as tile, it will end up costing more.

If you want something completely natural in your home, then you will never be happy with porcelain tile. Stone is truly natural; all we have done is cut it into conveniently sized squares for installation in your home. However, if you aren’t concerned with having a completely natural stone, porcelain tile has greater durability, easier maintenance, and can be far more practical. With all of the benefits of both tile and stone, it truly comes down to a decision on your part based on your budget and the needs of your home or business space.

Types of Tile - Tile and Stone by Villagio

Types of Tile

Glaze is “liquid glass” that has been sprayed or poured onto the surface of the tile. Extreme heat causes the tile to be fused together and harden. Glazed tile must meet the same criteria as unglazed tiles, with two additional tests: thermal shock and crazing.

Common sizes
1″x 1″, 12″x 12″ and larger.

First quality tiles are manufactured with up to 5% visible facial defects. However, the installer is allowed 0% defects. It’s important for the installer to discard the defective product or use the tile for cuts.

– Standards: Glazed tiles have ANSI standards for determining facial defects, sizing, warping, wedging, etc.
– Function: The following factors may affect the hardness, strength and wear resistance of glazed ceramic tile:
– Temperature: Higher kiln (oven) temperatures typically produce a harder glaze.
– Color: Dark colors (such as blacks or blues) are typically more prone to scratch than lighter colors.
– Gloss levels: Shiny glazes are not usually as abrasive resistant as matte finish glazes.

When specifying or installing glazed floor tile, consider these characteristics
– Slip resistance
– Wear resistance
– Maintenance requirements
– Chemical and stain resistance

Be sure to determine the function, limitations, and suitability of the product. Do not make your selection based solely on color, style or appearance.

Natural Stone - Tile and Stone by Villagio

Going All Natural: Pro’s and Con’s of Natural Stone

Natural stone tiles are distinct and unique. 
You should always view several pieces of the tile that is to be installed before the installation begins. Since it has been created by nature, not only are no two pieces exactly alike, those two pieces may not even be very similar.

The most common natural stone tiles include:
Slate, flagstone (sandstone), marble, granite, travertine and limestone. Each stone has unique characteristics and maintenance requirements.

Generally, you should seal natural stone tile before grouting,
unless you are planning on using the grout color in the stone as a design element.

Most natural stones are not resistant against common household acids (like lemon juice) or oil stains.
Therefore, you should use a penetrating sealer for all natural stones after installation. Follow manufacturers instructions on frequency of re-application.

The advantages of natural stone

– Timeless, unique appearance
– Design capabilities of through-body color material
– Perceived value
– Durable countertops and floors (granite)
– May be re-polished if scratched

The disadvantages of natural stone

– Ongoing re-sealing program is required
– Limited chemical and stain resistance
– Higher installation costs than ceramic tile
– Product received seldom looks like the sample

Selecting Tile - Tile and Stone by Villagio

Tips on Selecting Tile

Consider the interior environment that you will create

  • Color will make the room look larger or smaller.
  • Size will determine the number of grout joints. Large-unit tiles work equally well in large or small rooms. Smaller tiles are usually intended for smaller rooms or to create a pattern.
  • Direction will create either a visual flow or a distinctive area

To make a room appear – Use

Larger – Light-medium colors or large format tiles

– Medium-dark colors or small format tiles

Lighter – Light-medium colors

Darker – Medium-dark colors (dark colors work best in rooms with plenty of natural light)

Warmer – “Warm” colors
Cooler – “Cool” colors

Neutral color – Larger tiles with coordinating grout joints or stone tile with thin coordinating grout joints

Color accents
– Inset color using field tile or decos

Larger with a visual flow – Using the same tile from room to room

Distinctive rooms and areas
– Change the size, the direction or use decos

All About Grout

All About Grout

What is grout?

Most grouts are cement-based fillers used to fill the joints between tiles. Typical width is 3/16″ – 1/4″ on floor tiles, and/or more on rustic tiles and clay pavers. Grout joints under 1/8″ require a non-sanded grout; larger joints require a sanded grout. Adding latex or polymers to a cementitious grout will increase its strength. Other types of grout include epoxy, furan and “Teflon” grout.

Grout characteristics

Grout is subject to shade variation and should not be expected to be uniform in color. Causes of shading include; the amount of water used in mixing & clean up, environmental effects such as sun, shade and humidity, and mortar depth.

Grout is durable. Most grouts are cement-based products; they are very hard & dense. Grout will withstand use (and yes, some abuse) for the life of your tile installation.

Grout is porous. The grout on your floor will not continue to look as bright and colorful as it will initially. Over time, the dirt that gets onto your floor will tone down the color of your grout.

Grout cures in 28 days. If you’re mop daily with clean water (NO CLEANER) the first week it will strengthen the grout.

Properly installed grout will provide years of worry-free use.

Grout as a design element

Choose your grout color carefully. The grout color will affect the overall appearance.

Choose a coordinating or slightly contrasting grout. A coordination grout color will create a more uniform look, while a sharp-contrasting grout will draw attention to the joint itself. Avoid very dark grouts with light tiles.

Neutrals and gray tones still look good over time. “Natural tones” are, well, closer to “natural dirt”, and they just look better as nature takes its course.

Grout “colorants” or “stains” are practical solutions to make grout more uniform in appearance.

Call a professional finisher for best results