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Written by George Samford
Tile bathrooms provide the most attractive, durable and cleanable surfaces available. They stand up to repeated soaking, easily wipe clean, and always stay fresh looking. While they take a bit of work to replace, tile surfaces are a great bet if you're planning to remodel.
Not every tile is appropriate for your home, however. Bathroom tile comes in a range of sizes, shapes and materials that all provide different benefits and downsides. Depending on the look you prefer and how you use your bathroom, you may want traditional glazed ceramic, stone tile or even terracotta. Here's what you should know.
Glazed Ceramic
Glazed ceramic tile is what most people think of when someone mentions tiling a bathroom. This tile is simple, attractive and cost effective. It survives impact relatively well and has a glossy surface that makes it easy to clean, though grout lines may pick up some dirt. Glazed ceramic tile can be slippery when wet, however, and tends to make a bathroom look very conventional. This type of tile offers the largest variety of colors and finishes.
Unglazed Ceramic
Unglazed ceramic tiles, including traditional red terracotta, provide an alternative to standard glazed tiles. This material has a rougher surface and more natural look than glazed materials. It is extremely durable and works very well in bathrooms with a rustic look. This material can absorb water readily, however, so it may be a good idea to glaze it for use in the bathroom. Like glazed tile, unglazed ceramic is relatively inexpensive.
Extruded Quarry Tile
The term "quarry tile" can be misleading. This material resembles the stone tile once mined in quarries, but is now produced using an extrusion technique and is made primarily of clay. Extruded quarry tile still looks a lot like stone, however, with a rough surface that makes it comfortable and practical for flooring. This material tends to be very porous, much like unglazed ceramic, and should be sealed before use in the shower or other very wet areas.
Stone
Real stone tile gives your home an elegant look and feel that ceramics can't provide. This material offers a luxurious natural look and comes in a wide variety of colors and types. Granite and travertine are two of the most popular options. These tiles are relatively porous and may require sealant. Some stone tiles are also easy to scratch. This luxurious choice comes with an appropriately luxurious price tag, so be sure to budget carefully before you commit to using it.
Glass
Often used in mid-20th century bathrooms, glass is making a comeback for vintage looks. It offers many of the same advantages as glazed ceramic, with a transparency that can be appealing in walls or showers. Glass tile is more costly than its ceramic cousins, however. This material often comes in pre-designed sheets with patterns or color gradations built in. It works well on its own or in combination with ceramic and stone tiles as an accent.
Engineered Stone
This relative newcomer looks much like stone but isn't as natural. Engineered stone tile is made up of tiny bits of stone in an epoxy-based matrix. This material is more predictable and water-resistant than natural stone, with a surface that's harder to damage. It doesn't look as natural, however. Some homeowners take advantage of this material's man-made look, choosing "stone" tiles in bright, glittery colors. Engineered stone is relatively costly, but lower in price than natural stone.
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