Your Guide to Buying Tile Flooring

flooring tiles

Whether you’re building a new home or doing renovations, your flooring choices will make a very big difference in the outcome of your design.  There are, of course, many options out there, but if you’re looking for something durable, beautiful and long-lasting, you can’t go wrong with tile. 

When choosing tiles, there are a number of considerations; not every tile is created equal, so it’s important to know what to look for.  Did you know that tiles have ratings for several different categories?  These categories include the tile’s water absorption, friction coefficient, a grade, PEI rating, frost safety and tone.   These ratings can be found on the box, and it’s a good idea to go shopping armed with the knowledge to make an informed choice.

Tile Grade

A tile’s grade can fall anywhere between number 1 to number 3, with 1 being a top quality tile that will demand top prices.  Grade 2 is also a great choice for flooring; but it’s less expensive than a tile with a grade of 1.  If you see a box with a grade 3, this is a tile that’s best used for walls (backsplashes and such) and will not stand up to regular floor traffic.  Although a grade 1 or 2 tile can certainly be used on your walls, a grade 3 tile should never be installed as flooring.

PEI rating

PEI stands for the Porcelain and Enamel Institute’s wear rating.  You’ll only find this type of rating on a glazed tile, as this rating concerns itself with the glazed tile’s resistance to scuffs and marks.  If the box of tile you’re looking at doesn’t show a PEI rating, it’s because the tile is   unglazed.

Just as tile grades show different numbers for the different uses for tile, so too does the PEI rating.  If your tile is rated a number 3, it’s a good tile for normal wear and tear around your home.  Number 4 is even more durable, while a number 5 generally means the tile is more appropriate for commercial use.  A number 1 or 2 indicate a tile that’s good for use on walls, but shouldn’t be used on floors.

Tile slip resistance

Also known as a tile’s COF (coefficient of friction is a fancy way of saying slip resistance), this rating lets you know how slippery your floor will be.  A low COF means a more slippery floor, while a higher number means that the floor will allow for more traction.  This is an important consideration especially when it comes to small or elderly family members.

Water absorption rate

There are 4 different categories in the water absorption rate; the nonvitreous tile (not for use in bathrooms or other high moisture areas of the home, semivitreous (like nonvitreous, this tile isn’t good for high moisture areas), vitreous (can be used outdoors or in high moisture locations), and impervious (great for use in very high moisture areas).

Tile frost rating

If you’re using the tiles for inside your home, this rating won’t apply anyway, as your tile isn’t exposed to freeze and thaw cycles.

Tone rating

Toned tile will come into play when a tile is made to look like natural stone; there is a specific controlled variation from tile to tile.