Choosing Ceramic Tiles for Tiling Projects in Kitchens and Bathrooms - Which Tiles Do I Need?

Summary: Tiling is one of the most popular DIY projects but before you begin your tiling job you need to choose the right tiles. We are often asked 'What Tiles Do I Need' whether you are tiling a wall or picking floor tiles. In this DIY Project you will find information about the various different ceramic tiles for kitchen, bathrooms and other areas in the home. We provide information on standard tile size and shapes. Which colours and patterns to pick and what textures and finishes are available. We give advice to make sure when you're choosing tiles for kitchens and bathrooms, they will suit the room or area that you are tiling. We also give you some ideas and different ways you can lay tiles to create different patterns and effects.

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Whether you are planning on tiling a wall or floor, a kitchen or a bathroom, you will need to choose from a plethora of styles, sizes and colours of tile. Our guide will help you to choose the type that is right for you.

What to Think About When Choosing Wall Tiles

Tile Sizes

When considering tile size you should take the size of the room into consideration. A small shower room will look odd if you choose to use very large tiles in it, and a huge kitchen won’t look right tiled with small mosaic tiles. Pick the size of tile that will complement your room space

Kitchens are traditionally tiled with standard 100mm square tiles, but rectangular tiles to resemble brickwork are becoming popular now, as are larger tiles.

Standard white tile

Standard white wall tile in a shower cubicle

Brick effect tiles

Brick effect tiles

It depends in part in how much of the kitchen you are going to tile – you might want just a few rows of tiles above the worktop, or you might be planning to tile the whole wall, in which case a larger tile is more appropriate.

When tiling a bathroom, the space in between the toilet, sink and bath or shower needs to be considered. If these items are close together, a smaller tile will look better, allowing the lines to flow better and reducing the need to cut tiles into awkward shapes.

If you have a large room, larger tiles mean less grout showing and a sleeker feel to the space.

One very important thing to think about and in many ways will dictate the size of tile you can use, is how flat your walls are. We say this because if your walls are particularly wavey and uneven then using large tiles is not the way to go due to the fact that any peaks or raised areas in the wall will be accentuate and tile will not line up.

In this situation you have a few choices, the first being stripping the whole wall back, leveling it off and then replastering to give a flat surface or you can use smaller tiles that will be a little forgiving over the raised areas.

Uneven tiles on wall

Uneven tiles on wall accentuating an uneven wall - Image courtesy of the tilingforum.co.uk

What to take away:

  • Take the size of the room to be tiled into consideration
  • Take the type of room into consideration
  • How much space is there?
  • How flat are the walls?

Shapes and Layouts for Your Tiles

A plain square layout can be broken up with a border of feature tiles – thin rectangular or small mosaic tiles of a contrasting colour.

Bathrooms often use large rectangular tiles – most often in a portrait position, so that the rows are higher than the width of a column.

Smaller rectangular tiles (even down to mosaic size) can be used in a brickwork pattern to great effect.

White tiled wall with border

White tiled wall broken up with border - Image courtesy of the gbtilesbathrooms.co.uk

In the image below you can see that with a little hard work, well, quite a lot of hard work, you can create some great effects using different coloured tiles. A good point to note if you are thinking of going down this route is make sure that you plan your design first and also mark it out so that you know exactly where the different coloured tiles and more importantly the different sized tiles will go.

As with most things, preparation is the key!

Creative mosaic tiled shower cubicle

Shower cubicle creatively tiled using mosaic tiles - Image courtesy of the bailey-company.com

  • Plain layouts can be broken up with a border
  • Less can indeed be more!
  • Be creative

Colours and Patterns

Colours are always driven by fashions, but if you look around pretty much any colour is available somewhere. When it comes to choosing wall tile colour, there are a number of things to consider. Are you completely redecorating, with new paint or wallpaper, flooring and accessories? In that case you might choose a tile you like and design the rest of the room to fit in with it.

Or do you need to choose a colour that fits in with the rest of the room? When it comes to kitchens, you will need to pick a colour that goes well with the units and worktops.

Darker colours will of course shrink a room and make it seem darker and smaller, but a highly reflective surface will help to combat this.

Bathroom decoration doesn’t necessarily follow the same rules as other rooms – it is acceptable for a bathroom to use dark colours as it is generally accepted that the room is small.

You don’t spend a lot of time there doing different activities, so natural light is not as important as it is in other rooms.

An effective way to combine colours is to choose a plain base colour for the majority of the tiling, but offset it with a decorative or contrasting border (as can be seen in the images above shapes and layout of your tiles).

Alternatively, you could select two, three or four colours that go well together, and lay them in a pattern. Mosaic tiles are often sold in sheets that are pre-patterned with a selection of varying tones or shades.

Another option is to have plain tiles intercepted by feature tile inserts or panels – panels made up of a number of tiles which fit together to make up a picture can look particularly effective if you have a large wall to fill.

The below image, obviously not to everyone's tastes, is a great example of how simply, base colours can be used to great effect if planned well.

Black and white themed bathroom

A modern black and white themed bathroom - Image courtesy of the blenture.com

  • Colours come and go with fashion
  • Are you designing the room around the tiles or do they need to fit in with an existing design?
  • With kitchens, pick colours that compliment worktops and cupboards
  • Dark colours make a room look smaller
  • Bathrooms do not necessarily follow the same rules
  • Choose a plain base colour
  • Choose colours that go well together
  • Feature tiles can work well

Textures and Finishes

Modern or rustic, high gloss or matte? There are a number of different finishes to choose from. Ceramic tiles can be made to look like stone, and a nice country style kitchen will look very good with uneven, rustic tiles to match.

Bathrooms are more likely to suit a high gloss finish, as it will reflect light to enlarge the room. If you have a large room though and want a warmer feel, choose a matte finish.

Keep in mind who is going to be doing the tiling – if you are planning to do it yourself, then some tiles are much easier to cut and grout than others.

Vitrified porcelain tiles are very effective and can look just like stone, but they are impossible to cut without a good wet tile cutter. Rough and rustic tiles look good, but they are much harder to grout (and clean!) than a nice, smooth finish.

Rustic and natural tiled bathroom

Smaller bathroom tiled with natural, rustic looking tiles - Image courtesy of the housetohome.co.uk

  • High gloss finishes generally suit bathrooms
  • Some tiles can be difficult to cut and grout
  • Rustic texture tiles can suit a country style kitchen very well!

What to Think About When Choosing Floor Tiles

Floor Tiles and Sizes

It is generally held that smaller floor tiles will make a room look bigger but if you lay small format tiles on a very large floor, you can find that the lines make your eyes go funny!

Larger tiles are generally used in kitchens and conservatories, but bear in mind, as with wall tiles mentioned above, larger tiles require a flat floor otherwise you will have very unsightly joints.

You might think that the floor should be flat anyway, but you’d be surprised at how many floors are uneven, particularly in older buildings.

When it comes to budget, you will probably find that the cheaper tiles are a standard 30cm square. Mosaic tiles can work out very expensive, and unless you are tiling a wet room, would not normally be considered for floors.

  • Smaller floor tiles will make a room look bigger but may not work in large rooms
  • Make sure that the floor is flat!
  • Generally, the cheapest floor tiles tend to be 30cm square
  • Mosaic floor tiles are more suited to bathrooms

Shapes and Layouts

Not so long ago, all floor tiles were square, but there are now a couple of other options. Many ceramic floor tiles have a rectangular option, and certain ranges are available with a selection of sizes and shapes. A combination of square and rectangular tiles can be used together to a very good effect, making the floor look like old-fashioned paving. This is known as the Versailles pattern.

Versailles Floor Tile Pattern

Versailles Floor Tile Pattern

Square tiles don’t have to be laid out in a boring straight pattern – you can turn them around for a diagonal pattern, turning the squares into diamonds, or you can combine two different sizes of tile. This is known as a Pinwheel pattern, and it helps to break up the straight lines of the tiles.

Pinwheel Floor Tile Pattern

Pinwheel Floor Tile Pattern

Rectangular tiles can be laid either in a herringbone or brick pattern.

Brick Floor Tile Pattern

Brick Floor Tile Pattern

  • Ceramic floor tiles can be both square and rectangle
  • They can be used together to great effect
  • Square tiles can be layed diagonally in a diamond pattern
  • Different sized tiles can be used together

Colours and Patterns

Floor tile colours and patterns are more restricted than wall tiles – generally because too much colour on a floor can be overwhelming. Also, the current fashion is for natural or stone-effect floor tiles, so popular colours tend to be a range of creams, browns and greys.

A classic black and white chequerboard pattern can look very effective on a floor, either straight or turned at a 45° angle. Terracotta tiles, glazed or not, look great in conservatories and kitchens.

As with wall tiles, feature panels can be used on floors. You may need to find a specialist supplier to obtain patterned floor tiles, but if you are renovating an old house, an old-fashioned patterned tiled floor can look really good.

  • Too much colour on a floor can be too much!
  • Chequerboard patterns work very well
  • Terracotta tiles are very well suited to conservatories and kitchens
  • Feature panels can also work very well on floors

Floor Tile Textures

Texture is very important when it comes to floor tiles. You can’t possibly lay high-gloss tiles on a floor as they would be dangerously slippery.

Make sure you buy tiles that are designed to be laid on a floor rather than a wall – they will be thicker and stronger, and will have at least some degree of texture to avoid slipping.

If you are tiling a wet room or bathroom floor, you’ll want to make sure you buy some sort of non-slip tile. Either a textured glaze or dimpled tile surface will help to improve grip. Small mosaic tiles can be suitable too, as the edges of the tiles and the grout joints offer a good level of texture to add grip.

Porcelain tiles are much tougher than other ceramics, and more suited to areas of high foot traffic. They can also be used outside.

  • High gloss tiles should not be layed on a floor as they would be very dangerous
  • Purchase tiles for floors that are designed to be played on floors, they are thicker and stronger than wall tiles
  • Floor tiles should have some form of texture to avoid slipping
  • Porcelain tiles are much tougher and hardwearing than ceramic tiles

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