Buying Tile at a Big Box Store? Proceed With Caution

 

 

The type of tile you choose to install in your home can have a significant effect on the finished look, so it is important that you have the highest quality product for the task at hand. Shopping at a big box store for tile may seem like the best option, but in the long run, you may end up with uneven tiles or tiles that have significant color variations.

 

Color and Shading

 

There is nothing more frustrating than to be near the end of installing new tile in the kitchen or bathroom, only to find that you are a few tiles short. One of the biggest problems with buying from a big box store is color variations in the tile and tile offered from different manufacturer production runs or dye lots, which often have significant color differences.

 

Each production run of tiles will have a slightly different shading (and size differences too), so if you do not purchase enough of the same batch, there will be a noticeable difference in the shading after they are installed. At Tiles Unlimited, every tile collection with more than one batch number are kept and sold separately to insure color consistency for your installation.

 

 

Because the big box stores buy in such large quantities, they often mix up different batches when shipping to their individual stores. Although there may be a color on the front of the box, each box of tile has a shade or batch number on it. Even if the colors are the same, the batch numbers may be different, which means there will be variations in the shading.

 

Tile Thickness

 

Another common problem with tiles from a big box tile store is the variation in tile thickness, especially natural stone products. Finding out that there are several tiles that are significantly thicker in one box than in the other one is a common issue when you buy from big box stores and can wreak havoc on your installation. Variation in the height of adjoining tiles is called lippage.

 

 

First Quality Products

 

One of the reasons why a big box store can sell almost the same products cheaper than a local, independent tile store, is because of the quality. Tile from an independent tile store typically is going to be better quality.

 

Large chain stores tend to buy merchandise that was refused by specialty stores. When a specialty store refuses merchandise, the manufacturer has to get rid of the product, so they sell it to the larger chains at deeply discounted prices. Those stores, in turn, sell the merchandise to their customers at discounted prices. The main problem with this is that the product was initially refused because of the quality.

 

 

Choosing the color, type and size of the tiles you want to install can be overwhelming, so it’s important that you take your time and choose a product that you will enjoy for many years to come. Keep in mind that the flooring in your home is typically meant to last for a decade or more, so it is important that you get the highest quality product for your money.

Marble-Look Porcelain Tiles

 

 

 

 

 

We love the look of marble, don’t you? Marble is perhaps the most timeless and luxurious of products to use on floors and walls. However, unlike porcelain tile, it requires regular sealing, has a higher purchase price and often costs more to install.

Porcelain tiles that look like marble continue to gain in popularity, not only for its price, but also for its stunning looks. It doesn’t just simply look like marble, many of us can’t even tell the difference anymore. In addition, porcelain is much easier to maintain and care for than marble. Their classic marble look comes from the amazing inkjet technology that creates an authentic-looking, non-repeating marble-like pattern on a porcelain tile. Let’s take a look at 4 moderately priced, high-quality marble-look tile collections. Be sure to click the links to see more photos and further details on each collection.

 

 

Ambience

A stunning interpretation of marble in 5 colors and 3 large-format sizes, Ambience reinterprets timeless marble in this very diverse collection. The Italian porcelain marble-look tile is available with either a matte or shiny finish and starts at about $7.00 per square foot, depending on size. Several different trim pieces will finish off your installation including some beautiful mosaics.

 

 

Glacier


Glacier is a stunning Spanish porcelain collection designed to look like Carrera and Calacatta marble. Its polished surface screams elegance. Choose from 4 large-format sizes with rectified edges. We’re in love with the 30”x30” size and at about $7.00-$9.00 per square foot, this collection is a steal.

 

 

Manhattan Marble


Manhattan Marble combines the beauty of mined Carrara marble from Italy with American made, high-tech porcelain. Four colors and multiple sizes with exquisite mosaics and trims are offered. Mix and match sizes for the most realistic look. This collection, with a shiny finish, will cost from $10.00-12.00 per square foot. As porcelain tiles get bigger and bigger, this collection takes advantage of the newer technology by offering a stunning 24×48 sized tile.

 

 

Marble Royale


Starting at under $5.00 per square foot, Marble Royale is a bargain. The collection is an elegant, durable and polished porcelain tile made to resemble marble, but without the maintenance or the price of marble. Its large-format sizes mean fewer grout joints and we’re partial to the 24×48 and 36×36 sizes.

“Irresistible Iridescence”

 

 

Introducing MAPEI Flexcolor 3D Grout

Stunning tile demands a stunning grout. Flexcolor 3D grout makes tiles “pop” with varying degrees of translucence and iridescence, creating a brilliant rainbow effect in various tints.

MAPEI, the worldwide leader in systems for flooring installations, recently introduced a revolutionary new grout, Flexcolor 3D. This brand-new grout collection will give homeowners, tile installers and designers the opportunity to add multi-faceted effects to their tile installations. Flexcolor 3D is a professional-grade, ready-to-use translucent grout with an “iridescent effect” finish. Its translucent characteristics not only reflect but also refract light. This allows the grout to transition in color to complement the tile color.

 

Click the picture to see a video of Flexcolor 3D in action

Formulated with the latest innovation in recycled glass bead aggregate, it ensures color consistency, ease of cleanup, improved workability and does not require sealing. The grout also has non-sag properties making it ideal for wall tiles and backsplashes.

Click here to download the MAPEI Technical Data Sheet. Click here to see the Flexcolor 3D color options.


Flexcolor 3D – A Work of Art

 

MAPEI Flexcolor 3D grout was selected (after comparing to other grouts) for use in the installation of stunning mosaics that were installed in the New York City Second Avenue subway line. Here are some photos of the results. Photos from the MTA Flickr.

 

 

Jean Shin Mural “Elevated” at the 63rd St Station

 

Photo: Rob Wilson

 

 

 

Photo: Rob Wilson

 

Best Kid-Friendly Tile Flooring Options

 

 

As a parent, you know how rough children can be on carpeting and hardwood floors. Between spills, accidents, and constant activity, kids can put any flooring surface to the test from the time they start crawling until their teenage years. Due to its stain resistance and durability, tile flooring is a great option when you have a full house.

Tile is naturally resistant to the potential damage children can cause, from sources including:

  • Food and drink spills
  • Dirt or mud tracked in from outdoors
  • Potty training accidents
  • Damage from toys

A few types of tile—ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone—are especially great options for parents looking to protect the floors in their home.

 

brick look porcelain tile
Click the picture to see more pictures from the collection

 

Ceramic and Porcelain

Ceramic tile flooring is a functional and lowest-cost option for homeowners. Easy to clean and exceptionally versatile, ceramic tile is perfect for kitchen and bathroom spaces, but can also be used elsewhere in the home.

Porcelain floor tile is engineered specifically for toughness, so it’s a great option for high-traffic areas or families with multiple children. Especially resistant to scratches and spills, porcelain tile’s hard surface will continue looking great year after year.

 

porcelain tile looks like fabric
Click the picture to see more pictures from the collection

 

In addition to their durability, porcelain and ceramic tiles are also very versatile. For a stylish look in any room, choose wood-look porcelain that’s virtually indistinguishable from hardwood flooring yet vastly more durable. Another popular option is tile that looks like fabric or carpet. Porcelain tile can also be made to look like natural stone if you prefer an organic aesthetic.

Natural Stone Tile

Natural stone tile floors are also naturally resistant to wear and spills—especially harder materials such as granite. Natural stone is a stylish choice for almost anywhere in the home, and many varieties will keep their finish despite plenty of activity. Some softer stones, such as travertine or slate, do require more maintenance to prevent wear and tear, so natural stone tile isn’t for everyone.

porcelain wood look tile
Click the picture to see more pictures from the collection

 

While carpet is a popular choice for homeowners, it attracts dirt and stains, and hardwood is easily scratched and damaged. Tile’s durability, stain resistance, and versatile design qualities make it an excellent choice for parents looking to increase the longevity of their floors.

 

You Have Questions…We Have Answers

 

 

 

The real joy in a new tile installation is standing back and admiring the results. However, the job doesn’t finish there. You’ll want to keep your tiles looking great, so we’ve collected some of the most common tile maintenance questions asked by our clients.

 

Q: How can I best look after my tiled floor?

A: First, we recommend sealing the grout on all tiled surfaces after installation. General tile care depends on the type of tile. Ceramic and porcelain floor tiles don’t need a great deal of aftercare cleaning or maintenance. Regular cleaning is easy using a neutral cleaning based liquid with warm water and mop. Beware of harsh chemical detergents that may damage the tile’s finish. We recommend using a cleaner meant for tile such as Fila’s Neutral Cleaner.

Natural stone needs more care and we highly recommend that the stone (and not just the grout) be sealed and then regularly maintained. When properly sealed, water will bead off the surface. When the water starts to puddle, it’s time to seal the material again. Stone floors should be vacuumed or dust mopped to remove abrasive agents such as sand or pebbles. Never use acidic products on your stone floors – clean them with a pH neutral cleaner (Fila Neutral Cleaner).

 

Q: How can I minimize wear and tear on my floors?

  • Bleach, harsh chemicals, steel wool or wire brushes are not recommended. Any harsh cleaning agent may harm your tiles.
  • Use only recommended cleaning products and sealants, and make sure they are specific to the tile purchased. The products sold by Tiles Unlimited cover every type of tile.
  • Spill alert! To avoid grout stains, get on floor spills straight away.
  • Consider using floor protectors on the legs of furniture items to prevent tile damage.

 

 

Q: Am I able to replace damaged tiles?

A: With some patience and simple instructions, a DIY tiler can remove and replace cracked tiles. To prevent it happening again make sure you understand the cause of the damage before undertaking the work.

 

Q: When I place an order, should I buy extra tiles?

A: Yes. We suggest you order an extra 10-15% more than the total area you’re tiling. You need to allow for waste, such as having to cut or re-cut some tiles, and you may also need backups so you can easily match any damaged tiles that may need replacing in the future.

 

 

Q: Can damaged tiles be repaired rather than replacing the whole tile?

A: Yes, you may be able to repair chipped or cracked tiles. If the damage is extensive, however, re-tiling may be necessary. To repair cracks or chips, you can use a specific branded filler product as-is, or mix your filler with a custom paint color in order to match the color of your tiles.

 

Q: Will using a penetrating sealer make my natural stone floor slippery?

A: No. A sealer is designed to penetrate below the surface of the stone and it won’t change the color or finish. Applying a sealer will also filter out the worst of any stains and make it easier to clean your stone, though we recommend cleaning any spills as soon as possible.

 

(The information is provided as a guide only. If you need further advice, you should seek out professional help based on your own circumstances. Photos are of our Ambience tile collection)

All Tile Is Not Created Equally

 

Q: Why is there such a wide range in tile prices?

A: For most of us, shopping for new ceramic or porcelain tile is a once in a decade experience, so even for the savviest of shoppers, the wide range can be confusing. The short answer is, there are marked differences between branded and generic tiles. Continue reading to find out what these differences are.

 

porcelain tile

 

The truth is that many factors affect the price of tile products, including where you buy it. If you’re wondering why tiles can range in cost from $1 to $100 per square foot, there are four main variables that affect the price: material costs, production processes, brands and customer service.

 

Material Costs

While all ceramic tiles are essentially made of the same ingredients, the quality and color of those ingredients can make a dramatic difference in the price. For example, to make a tile with a pure white body requires white clay, which is much harder to find than the red or beige clays found in most tiles. To achieve bright blue and red glazes requires minerals that are much more expensive than cream, brown or even green colors.

Modern digital printing techniques allow for tile that looks like other materials such as wood or natural stone. Higher quality tile will use as many as 36 different patterns to replicate the look of wood or natural stone so that you will not get a repeating pattern that ruins the realism of the tile. Lesser quality tiles will use far fewer patterns and will not come close to the realism that more patterns provide.

 

Production Process

The simplest form of ceramic tile consists of one body color and no glaze, and requires a single firing. But there is a wide variety of production options, so prices for ceramic tiles can vary greatly.

Applying glaze or an additional surface color to the body, cutting down the original pressed size into modular sizes, polishing the surface or straightening the edges to accommodate tighter grout joints are all additional processes that add value to the finished product, but also increase the price. There are a host of tile attributes that affect its price and are very important to know before installing your tile. These important attributes are things like durability, texture and color.

 

wood look porcelain tile

 

Branded vs. Generic Tile

Tile has both branded (often referred to as first quality) and generic versions. Branded-tile manufacturers create beautiful brochures and catalogs that show room scenes and full installations in a variety of formats. This may not seem important but it’s really the only effective way to visualize how tile may look in your room.

More importantly, they also test the materials for qualities such as slip resistance, breaking strength, suitability for exterior or submerged environments, and stain resistance. Generic tiles do not go through that kind of testing and are not suitable for many types of installations such as wet areas, outdoors or high traffic areas such as your kitchen or entryway. The real problem with generic tile is you won’t often find these things out until after it’s installed.

 

porcelain wood look tile

 

Customer Service

 Another cost determinant is the customer service you receive both before and after your purchase. You may find a very good deal on tile at a big box store, for example, but there will likely be no design support, limited or no technical knowledge or installation recommendations.

More importantly, should anything go wrong with the project for any reason, you may not receive the necessary support to back up your claim.

At full-service showrooms like Tiles Unlimited, the tile may carry a higher price tag, but the price will include a showroom designer to help you make your selections, and a knowledgeable staff who can handle a claim if there are concerns with tile quality and/or installation.

Furthermore, a tile installation is more than just the tile you select. Selecting the appropriate thin-set and grout is as important as the tile, as there is a big difference between different thin-sets and grouts and the types of tiles they are meant to be used on. See an earlier story on how grout affects your tile installation by clicking here.

 

Four Ways Subway Tile Can Transform Your Space

 

subway tile

 

The possibilities for installing subway tile are virtually endless because of the diverse selection of products and the new design trends that are emerging every day. Subway tiles are no longer just the classic 3×6 white tiles you grew up with.  Today, you can get subway tile in virtually any color imaginable as well as dozens of different sizes and textures (three dimensional, crackle finish). Here are four ways to use subway tile to accentuate your home. (Click each picture below to see more photos from the collection.)

 

Classic Wall Treatments

The most popular way to use subway tile is for a traditional wall treatment. For an authentic New York look, stick with white, standard sized tiles and slim grout lines or go upscale with a natural stone look like the Marble Expressions collection. This simple design is timeless and creates a uniform finish that requires little maintenance.

 

marble expressions subway tile

 

Attractive Accents

Whether you are remodeling your bathroom or your kitchen, bright accent tiles draw attention to your existing decor and can provide a great pop. For a more cohesive design, choose an accent color that complements the lighting, furniture, or finishes in the room. One of our favorite collections is The Hamptons that features a larger format (2.5”x10”) and nine cool, clean colors.

 

the hamptons subway tile

 

Modern Designs

Another emerging trend is using unique or larger sized subway tiles. This modern concept provides additional visual interest and can increase the artistic flair to the room. Our Serenity collection meets both those criteria featuring a large-format 4×12 subway tile and the beauty of natural stone (3 colors) in a contemporary style. The collection also features matching large-format (12×24, 16×32) floor tiles.

 

serenity subway tiles

 

Mesmerizing Patterns and Colors

With the variety of subway tiles, it is possible to mix and match different colors, finishes, and textures. This is easiest to do this within the same collection but also possible with different tiles, as long as you pay close attention to the thickness of each tile. Meet Oriental Ceramics, a new wall tile collection rich in colors, format and its metallic-like sheen. The collection also features absolutely stunning mixed-colored mosaics.

 

oriental ceramics subway tile

 

In the end, Tiles Unlimited has everything you need to keep up with recent trends such as wood-look tile, tile that looks like bricks or water jet mosaics . If more traditional designs are your thing, we have those too. Our team of tile consultants can provide detailed information to help you choose a product that is perfect for your project.

 

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Calculating How Much Tile to Buy

We receive many questions each week from homeowners looking for advice on purchasing and installing tile. This week, we’re going to tackle the most frequent question we receive, how much tile do I need to buy?

You’ve put in all kinds of time designing your new tile floor or wall, now it’s time to get serious and talk numbers. How much tile do you need exactly? And how is that affected by the size, shape, and type of tile you choose? All those aspects, and more, influence how much tile you’ll need to purchase. Whether you are ready to buy or you are planning the budget, use these four steps to determine how much tile you’ll need.

Keep in mind that once you calculate the necessary square footage, it is recommended that you purchase 10-15% more tile. This is due to breakage, accidents when cutting tile and to make sure you have tile in case a repair is needed down the road.

 

 

Think About the Room Shape

The general layout of the room is a good place to begin when calculating how much tile you need for your floor.  Most rooms are not perfectly square or rectangle. “L” shapes or “T” shapes are common, but even these are rarely that straightforward. There is always some corner that’s nipped off or a wall that isn’t completely straight. All these elements make an accurate measurement difficult. But if you start with the general shape of the room, you can easily add or deduct for the unique elements of your space. Take the measurements of every angle of your room. Measure everything twice to ensure accuracy.

 

 

Measuring the Room

The next step is to calculate the square footage of your room. Once again, the little quirks can complicate this, but for now just get the basics. For square rooms, measure the length and width of the room then multiply them together. For “L” or “T” shaped rooms, split them into rectangles that can easily be calculated then add them together.

You haven’t accounted for the quirks of the room, but keep in mind that overage is not a bad thing when installing tile. In fact, we recommend that you get 10–15% more tile than you need to cover for cuts and mistakes.  Keep a box or two of leftover tiles around just in case it goes out of stock or is discontinued–you never know when you’ll need to make a repair. Don’t forget to measure any closets or pantries that you want to include in your calculations.

 

Calculate for Angled Walls and Non-Tiles Areas

Like we said before, no room is exactly square. If you have angled walls or specific areas that will not be tiled, you don’t want to calculate for those spots. The easiest way to account for this is to deduct them from your earlier, general measurements. The easiest way to do this is to draw your room on some graph paper. Let each square represent 12 inches or one foot. With careful measurements, draw in where the angled walls are. You’ll be able to see how much to deduct from the area you calculated earlier.

 

Selecting Your Tile

Now it’s time to determine how much tile you need to cover your room. Several things are important to consider at this phase:

  • Pattern or layout of tile
  • Size of tile
  • Border or accent tile

The pattern and size of the tile are the key influencers in determining how much tile you need. In general, a diamond pattern will require more tile than a grid. See below for some common tile patterns. A word of caution, not all tiles can be installed in various patterns. Before you decide on your installation, check out what the manufacturer recommends.

 

 

If you plan to include a border or accent tiles, you’ll need to calculate separately for each type of tile you are using, especially if you are using different sizes or patterns as an accent.

If you are having difficulty figuring out how much tile flooring you need or you want to double-check your calculations, run them through a tile calculator or collaborate with one of our expert Tile Consultants or your contractor.

Why We Trust MAPEI Tile Installation Products

 

 

Laying tile is an art form. Doing it right takes practice and skill, but most importantly, it takes the right tools to get the job done. Here at Tiles Unlimited, getting the job done right is our top priority so we are very particular about the installation products we recommend. We are committed to providing you with a tile feature in your home that you can enjoy and admire for years to come. For this and several other reasons we are confident in the products available through MAPEI. For years, we’ve seen the successful results of using their products and we now trust that there will always be a positive outcome. More tile manufacturers recommend MAPEI installation products than any other vendor’s products.

 

Because Beauty Begins With What’s Underneath

 Aesthetics aren’t the only reason it’s important to rely on the best available installation products. Certainly, it’s paramount to use the best if the goal is an impressive tile feature in your home. But even the most beautiful tile job loses value if it doesn’t stand the test of time. MAPEI products help achieve longevity by mitigating the typical issues that can arise with poorly installed tile. From their Aquadefense waterproofing products to thin-sets and grouts, these products ensure that finished work doesn’t have leaks, cracks, or other problems. The result is workmanship of the highest quality and our clients are always impressed with the way the finished bathrooms, kitchens, and patios look in their homes.

 

 

MAPEI’s product lines are highly diversified. This allows us to use their products throughout the entire installation. Not only does this help ensure uniformity during construction, but it also allows us to use products that are optimized to work together.

 

High Performance Grout = Outstanding Results

Many homeowners are not very concerned with what thin-set or grout is used for their project. We can’t stress how important these items are in achieving the best installation possible. You may find tile installation products less expensive than MAPEI’s but they won’t give you the same results.

Take MAPEI Flexcolor CQ Grout (available in 40 colors) as an example. More expensive than ordinary sanded or unsanded grouts, it has properties that will save your installer time and money, which should translate into a more affordable installation for you. Flexcolor CQ Grout comes pre-mixed so there are no worries with using thin-set that are too thick or too watery. Flexcolor CQ Grout will not crack, requires no sealing, is stain resistant and offers incredible color consistency not found in ordinary grouts. Once dry, Flexcolor CQ Grout is water resistant as well as mold resistant. These properties will lead to the most professional installations and pretty much eliminate the need to call back your installer to fix thin-set and/or grout issues. Comparison testing of MAPEI Flexcolor CQ versus traditional cement grout has verified that MAPEI Flexcolor CQ is 30% more cost-efficient (based on typical rates of installers) and requires 65% less time to install.

 

Click picture to see video of CQ Grout in action

 

For more information about Tiles Unlimited and the way we use MAPEI tile installation products, we invite you to visit our showroom and speak to our tile experts. In particular, we’d be happy to show your real samples because the natural variation in the shades of their products might appear different according to your computer monitor’s screen colors. We strongly recommend that you make your decision from actual products in stock, rather than pictures from the website.

Create a Stunning Feature Wall

One of our favorite design elements is the “feature wall” and it is becoming one of the hottest trends of 2017. If you’re looking to make a design statement in your home, consider creating a feature wall with tile. No matter which room contains a feature wall, it adds a great deal of depth to the rooms while creating an interesting focal point.

If you are asking what is a feature wall, let us explain. A feature wall is generally one wall or a section of a wall in a room that is different from the other walls, whether the difference be color, texture, size or all of the above.

 

Click the picture to see more photos from this collection.

 

How to Create a Feature Wall

What we love about the feature wall is that it gives you the opportunity to be totally creative and design “outside the box”. If you aren’t into bold designs, you can always choose to be more conservative and just select a paint color a couple of tones darker than your other walls.

 

Click the picture to see more photos from this collection.

 

However, since our true passion is tile and stone, we get much more excited about seeing and creating a feature wall with tile and stone. Depending on the tile you choose, you can create a subtle feature wall that is more about texture and a suggestion of pattern, or is bolder if your tile pattern exhibits a lot of shade variation. The wood-look porcelain plank tile look continues to be stronger than ever as a floor tile and as an exciting wall tile for feature walls.

 

Click the picture to see more photos from this collection.

 

Brick-look tile is also a very popular choice for a feature wall, offering an industrial look with outstanding color variations and texture. As with many of the wood-look tile collections, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between real brick and porcelain brick-look tile.

Ready to Create Your Own Feature Wall?

We hope we have inspired you. A feature wall is an easy and effective way to add visual interest to almost any room in your home. With so many product options, creating a feature wall with tile can be great fun. We hope you’ll consider including one. One last tip, any tile can be used on walls even though not all tiles can be used on floors. This means, when creating your special feature wall your options are virtually limitless.

Click the picture to see more photos from this collection.

The design experts at Tiles Unlimited, dual winner in the 2017 Best of the Boro Competition (Best Tile Store & Best Kitchen & Bath Store) stand ready to help you design the feature wall, or any space, of your dreams. Now is the perfect time to visit us as our Semi-Annual Tile Clearance Sale is now in progress. With savings up to 80% off, you won’t find a better time to shop for tile.