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In what order should we be selecting our cabinets, counter top, floor and backsplash for our kitchen?
Q: What is ceramic tile?
Ceramic tiles are made of minerals mined from the earth’s crust, natural minerals such as feldspar that are used to lower the firing temperature, and chemical additives required for the shaping process. Once the raw materials are processed, a number of steps take place to obtain the finished product. These steps include batching, mixing, and grinding, spray-drying, forming, drying, glazing and firing. Many of these steps are now accomplished using automated equipment.
In today’s market the majority of ceramic tile produced is used for walls. Ever since the existence of porcelain, there is hardly anymore demand for ceramic floor tiles.
Q: What is porcelain tile?
Porcelain tiles are made from special clays and are fired at very high temperatures. This process vitrifies the tile, making it very dense and strong. There are two main types of porcelain tile- glazed porcelain and through-bodied porcelain. These porcelain tiles have a much lower water absorption rate (less than 0.5 %) than ceramic tile making them frost resistant or frost proof.
Glazed porcelain is simply porcelain material with an applied glaze over the surface, much like a regular ceramic tile. It is fired in a kiln and the result is a very strong-bodied tile. Many tile manufacturers are switching their production of tile from ceramic to porcelain because it’s only a slightly higher cost to produce these superior grade tiles.
Through-bodied porcelain does not have a glaze. The clay is pressed and then fired. It may have texture and color applied to the surface before firing, but it is still the porcelain material from top to bottom. The result is a strong tile that can withstand extreme surface traffic which will give it a high rating on the PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) scale. There is no glaze that can wear off. If the tile chips, the same or similar color is underneath. Through-bodied porcelains are usually more expensive than glazed porcelains.
Most of the porcelains that are on the market are the glazed porcelains. The fact that the color seen on top does not go all they way through always brings a concern to the client. This should not be a concern especially in a residential application. What should be a concern is the rating of the surface and proper installation. Once installed properly the surface of the tile is what is exposed and to the traffic not what is underneath. With that said almost all of these glazed porcelains have very hard glazes that rate from a 4 to 5 on the PEI scale. That means you can use them in any residential or commercial applications.
Q: What is the PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) scale?
The Porcelain Enamel Institute rating scale is not a measurement of quality. It is a scale that clearly indicates the areas of use each tile has which is based on abrasion resistance tests. A number of sample tiles are subjected to rotation with water, abrasive grains, and steal bearings on their surface. The steel bearings are rotated on the surface of the tile with a machine and the tile is examined after pre-specified amounts of revolutions (150, 300, 450, 600, 750, 900, 1200, 1500, 2100, 12,000). The amount of revolutions it takes to show an apparent visual in glaze or color will determine the tiles PEI rating which will than determine the appropriate areas the tiles should be used in.
Here are the ratings:
- CLASS 0 (100 revolutions) Suitable for walls only.
- CLASS 1 (150 revolutions) Suitable for walls only.
- CLASS 2 (600 revolutions) Suitable for wall use and floor use in light traffic residential areas such as a bedroom or bathroom.
- CLASS 3 (750 – 1500 revolutions) Suitable for most residential areas with the exception of some entries or kitchens if extremely heavy or abrasive traffic is anticipated.
- CLASS 4 (2100 – 12,000 revolutions or greater) Suitable for all residential and medium trafficked commercial applications.
- CLASS 5 (12,000 revolutions and passes staining test) Suitable for heavy duty residential and commercial traffic. Preferred rating for outdoor applications.
Q: What is frost proof and frost resistant?
A frost proof tile has an absorption rate of .5% or less. It can be installed on the ground in the Northeast states and with stand the extreme ground changes which is 20 degrees or more in ground temperature with in a 12 hour period.
A frost resistant tile has an absorption rate of .5% > 3%. It can be installed on ground level in more stable environments with warmer climates. In the Northeast you can use frost resistant on an outside terrace as long as the terrace is above ground and has air circulating below it.
Q: What is stone?
Stone is a natural solid formation of one or many minerals. There are thousands of types of stone that have been quarried through the centuries. Quarries are located all around the world. A majority of natural stone comes from Italy, Spain, Turkey, United States, Mexico, China, Taiwan, India, Greece, Canada, France, and Brazil.
The minerals in stone came from the same liquid and gas minerals that formed the earth. The Earth developed as a massive body of gas and liquid minerals that slowly cooled and condensed to a solid core. Through pressure, the Earth’s crust began to form and heavy minerals were forced down to the core of the Earth where they were trapped. As the crust got thicker, it squeezed around the inner core which created intense pressure and heat from within the Earth. Crystals and other solid forms began to grow from the mineral vapors that were being released. As the Earth’s crust began to expand and erode, heat and pressure pushed the solid minerals up to the Earth’s surface which formed huge rock beds. It took up to one-hundred million years to form some of these beds. Many of the beds are now used as quarries where the stone is mined.
Most of these minerals can be identified by their color, hardness, and crystal formation. Crystals come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The wide arrays of these minerals are often difficult to identify. Many stones look very similar to each other; however, they are all very different. Stone is a natural product and may vary from slab to slab and tile to tile.
Q: What is marble?
Marble is a metamorphic rock. It was once limestone, but over time, the combination of the intense heat and pressure caused the limestone to re-crystallize. Foreign substances often entered the stone during this process, creating an infinite variety of colors, textures and veining. Marble is the most elegant and luxurious of stones. It is versatile enough for the use throughout the home, such as fireplace s, walls, floors, window sills and every surface in the bathroom, including vanities, tub decks, seats and corner shelves.
Q: What is granite?
Granite is an igneous rock, which means that at one time during its development, it was melted like volcanic lava. However, this melted (or molten) rock never reached the surface. It remained trapped inside the earth, where it slowly cooled and crystallized, resulting in a very uniform, speckled stone that ranges from blacks to whites and nearly every color in between. Granite is striking, functional and the most durable of the natural stones. These traits make it ideal for kitchen counter tops, accent islands, bar tops, everyday dining tables, and floors and many other uses.
Q: What is limestone?
Limestone is a common sedimentary rock composed primarily of the calcium carbonate mineral, calcite (CaCO3). Limestone constitutes approximately 10 percent of the sedimentary rocks exposed on the earth’s surface. Limestone is formed either by direct crystallization from water (usually seawater), or by the accumulation of sea animal shells and shell fragments. In the direct crystallization case calcium ions in the seawater combine with atmospheric or dissolved carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate, which being insoluble, precipitates out. Over time, layers of the calcium carbonate form, and with sufficient time and pressure from overlying materials, are transformed to solid rock.
Limestone is used on all types of floors, walls, counter tops and other uses.
Q: What is travertine?
Travertine is a natural stone material from the limestone family. It is made of calcium carbonate and is usually found in the form of deposits near warm or hot springs. Trapped organics later dissolved give the stone its characteristics pockets or holes. Travertine is available in different colors and finishes, from natural, neutral colors such as creamy white and beige to tan and reddish brown. The color depends quite a bit on the impurities and iron content of the stone. The different finishes include honed, polished, tumbled and brushed. Honed travertine is smooth, but unlike polished, it has a matte finish. Polished travertine is smooth, but buffed and polished until shiny. Tumbled travertine has a rougher, textured finish and often has rounded corners for an antique look. Brushed travertine is smooth, but has a satin matte finish to it that feels like silk.
Q: What is onyx?
Onyx is an exquisite and unique stone which is expensive. It is a calcium carbonate stone often found in limestone caves. Water dissolves the existing limestone and redeposit’s it. It is made of quartz crystals fused together into translucent layers of stone. Similar to limestone, onyx is a softer stone best placed where it won’t be used or abused on a daily basis. Great care is needed to maintain the natural beauty of this stone. Before committing to onyx think of your life style and circumstances. With that said onyx is used most often as a fireplace surround, sinks, bathrooms, and other light duty surfaces. When using onyx you want to take advantage of its translucent qualities by using under lighting or back lighting to draw attention. Onyx is mostly available in polished and honed finishes.
Q: How do you clean stone?
Stone should not be cleaned with the cleaning products you find at the super market. We carry special pH neutral cleaners that are made specifically to clean any stone surface.
Q: How do you clean porcelain and ceramic?
Even though tiles are not porous and are not as delicate as stone they still should not be cleaned with the everyday super market cleaning products. Those products have petroleum products in them and they leave a sheen on the just cleaned floor to make it appear shiny. They do not do a deep cleaning. They will remove the surface grime, and seal the dirt under the petro chemicals. We carry special pH neutral cleaners that are made specifically to clean any ceramic or porcelain surface.
Q: Should I seal the grout, and if yes how often?
Grout is porous and definitely needs to be sealed. Every sealer wears differently. Some sealers are only good for one year and some up to even 20 years. The way you know if something is sealed is by pouring a little bit of water on the surface of the grout. If the water beads up than that means the stone is sealed. If the water puddles and starts absorbing than the grout is not sealed. Taking notice of this will tell you whether or not it’s to re-seal the grout. The better sealers dry quickly, wear longer, repel as soon as applied and are more expensive.
Q: Do I need to seal ceramic or porcelain tile?
Unless required by the manufacture you do not need to seal ceramic or porcelain tile. There are some tiles and some applications where the tiles need to be sealed, for example: tiles with a crackled glazing need to be sealed.
Q: Do we need to purchase base tile (battiscopa) for our tiled floors?
Batticsopa which is Italian for tile bases are used for sanitary and appearance purposes. You always want to put a tile base on the walls when you install tile on the floor. It just looks much better and complete with it than without it. Don’t put a wood base with a tile floor, even though that is what you may be used to doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go. Wood stays with wood and tile stays with tile. That’s the way it should be. The standard height of a tile base is 3 to 4 inches. Not all tiles have bases made for them that match. In those cases we can pick a base from another line that will go with the floor tile or we can make the bases for you provided they are porcelain.
Q: Do I need to seal stone, and if yes how often?
All stones are porous therefore they have to be sealed. Every sealer wears differently. Some sealers are only good for one year and some up to even 20 years. The way you know if something is sealed is by pouring a little bit of water on the surface of the stone. If the water beads up than that means the stone is sealed. If the water puddles and starts absorbing than the stone is not sealed. Taking notice of this will tell you whether or not it’s to re-seal the stone. The better sealers dry quickly, wear longer, repel as soon as applied and are more expensive. So if you are purchasing stone make the investment in a good sealer, you will be saving a lot of headaches and money in the future.
Q: In what order should we be selecting our cabinets, counter top, floor and backsplash for our kitchen?
The order of selection should start with your cabinets. The cabinet color is going to control what the colors of counter top and floor you should be choosing.
The second selection should be the counter top. Most likely you will be going with granite. The granite allows you to introduce many different colors in the kitchen due its natural characteristics of the stone. Granite has many colors running through it naturally. When selecting the counter top you should choose a counter top that will blend or contrast with the cabinets. Look for certain colors in the stone that pick up the cabinet color. By picking your counter top you now have given yourself more color options to select for your floor. With that said you’re now ready to select your tiles.
When shopping for tiles for your kitchen make sure you always bring a sample of the cabinet and counter top you are considering. With those two components not only can we better guide you to selecting the right floor tile and backsplash tile but also it will be much easier for you to make the right choice. So the third selection is the floor tile. The color of the floor tile will be determined by many things such as the cabinet color, counter top, size of kitchen, paint color on the wall, personal taste and how much sunlight enters the kitchen. These are all important factors that we need to know so that we can narrow down your selection before you get overwhelmed from our overall selection. Depending on your taste we will show you rustic or modern tiles. We will pick out tiles that either contrast or match with cabinet. We will also look to see if we can pick up any of the colors running through the granite as well.
The fourth and final selection is the backsplash tile. You come to the right place for this. We are backsplash specialists that specialize in creative designs for your backsplash. So leave the designing up to us! This can be the hardest part of the kitchen process. The backsplash will make or break a kitchen. The kitchen is the most commonly used room in the house. We are constantly in it and we even entertain our guests there. Since the backsplash is at eye level it is always being looked at, so make sure we are looking at something that wows our eyes. Not only is it important to choose the right colors but also the right design. You can choose the right colors but it will look blah if the design is not designed properly. When considering the colors to use in your backsplash you want to first work off mainly the colors that are in your counter top and than also the cabinet and floor colors. You must bring a sample of the counter top in order to consider even looking at possibilities for your backsplash. We will not be able to give you our professional opinions without that sample. If your cabinets and floor are dark tones consider a complimentary light tone tile for the field. Incorporate dark tone accents to pick up the dark tones in the cabinet and counter top. If your cabinets and floor are done in lighter tones consider a contrasting deep, bright, or blend colors. These tones will create a focal point within the lighter based colors. Always look to include accent pieces such as decos, borders and murals in your backsplash. Behind the stove there is always a larger space than the rest of the backsplash. You have to fill that space with either a mural or some kind of geometric design to create the focal point in the backsplash. Detail in the design will help make the backsplash a focal point of the whole kitchen. That detail will also cost you more money but remember this is a wall that you will be looking at until you are no longer living in that house. So make sure that you are satisfied with the design and knowledgeable to the fact that the backsplash will most likely cost you more than your floor.
Q: Should the kitchen backsplash tile match the kitchen floor tile?
Not necessarily. Depending on all the other components in the kitchen like the counter top and cabinets it may not work well to have an exact match on the backsplash and floor. The backsplash will make or break a kitchen. The kitchen is the most commonly used room in the house. We are constantly in it and we even entertain our guests there. Since the backsplash is at eye level it is always being looked at, so make sure we are looking at something that wows our eyes. Not only is it important to choose the right colors but also the right design. You can choose the right colors but it will look blah if the design is not designed properly. When considering the colors to use in your backsplash you want to first work off mainly the colors that are in your counter top and than also the cabinet and floor colors. You must bring a sample of the counter top in order to consider even looking at possibilities for your backsplash. We will not be able to give you our professional opinions without that sample. If your cabinets and floor are dark tones consider a complimentary light tone tile for the field. Incorporate dark tone accents to pick up the dark tones in the cabinet and counter top. If your cabinets and floor are done in lighter tones consider a contrasting deep, bright, or blend colors. These tones will create a focal point within the lighter based colors. Always look to include accent pieces such as decos, borders and murals in your backsplash. Behind the stove there is always a larger space than the rest of the backsplash. You have to fill that space with either a mural or some kind of geometric design to create the focal point in the backsplash. Detail in the design will help make the backsplash a focal point of the whole kitchen. That detail will also cost you money but remember this is a wall that you will be looking at until you are no longer living in that house. So make sure that you are the backsplash will most likely cost you more than your floor.
Q: Is it better to use a larger tile or smaller tile on the floor?
In today’s market our tiles are becoming larger and larger for both walls and floors. A 16”x16” tile is considered small. The size to have right now is 24”x24”. Depending on the size of the room and the lay out of your furniture or fixtures will help determine if you should go with a larger tile or smaller tile. A larger tile set on a diagonal will make a smaller room appear larger. A smaller tile will make a larger room seem very busy. If you have an average size bathroom (5’x7’) a 16”x16” tile should be the largest you should go with on the floor. If you have a kitchen that is 150 Square feet or less the largest tile you should go with is a 16”x16”. Make sure you always consider using a larger tile though especially in a kitchen. There will be less grout therefore it will be easier to clean.
Q: What is a bull nose?
A bull nose is a trim tile with a convex radius one or two on edges. This tile is used for finishing an exposed unfinished edge of a field tile. It’s used mostly on corners or to cap off a field that goes go way up the wall. The color is the same as the field.
Q: What is a listello?
A listello is a decorative border that is used around a room to accent the field tiles. Every bathroom should have at least one or two rows of listellos wrapping around the room. One row should be about half way up between the floor and ceiling and the second row should be about a tile below the ceiling. These borders will enhance the look of the whole bathroom.
Q: What is a chair rail?
A chair rail is a molding used as a border or as a finishing piece. It can be used in place of bull nose to give the room a more elegant look.
Q: What is a cove base?
A cove base is a trim tile with a concave radius on the bottom and either a square or bull nosed edge on the top. It is installed on the very first row from the floor. It is used in commercial applications for sanitary purposes. It is available in 6”x6”, 4”x4”, or 4 ¼”x6”.
Q: What is a quarter round?
A quarter round is a convex molding used on corners where two square edges meet. It is usually ¾” or 1”x6”. It gives the corners a nice clean rounded look.
Q: What is thin set?
Thin set is the mortar or cement used to install tiles onto a floor. Some applications require thin set to be used on walls. There are many types of thin sets available for all the different types of applications. All thin sets are made in powder form and than have to be mixed with water until it is the right consistency
Grout is the cement that goes into the joints of the tile. It is available in many colors, which vary in price. The basic colors being cheaper and than increasing in price, as the colors get brighter and bolder. It is available with sand and unsanded (no sand).
Q: What is the difference between wall grout and floor grout?
Floor grout has sand in it, which is used for joint sizes 1/8” and up on the wall or floor. The more rustic the tile the wider the joint should be, therefore use floor grout. Do not use sanded grout with a polished tile because it will scratch it.
Wall grout has no sand in it, which is used for joint sizes 1/8” and less on the wall or floor. The more modern the tiles the smaller the joint should be therefore use wall grout. Do not use wall grout in a wide joint because it has no sand in it. Since there is no sand it is not as strong as floor grout.