• Simon Vickers

How to choose your perfect tile

Why is it so difficult to choose the right tile? It should be only a question of which pattern goes best with the furniture, or what colour can make the room look bigger than it is. Instead, you will most likely be confronted with a list of questions that can leave you a bit confused.

What’s a PEI rating? What’s a R rating? What’s the difference between a porcelain and ceramic tile? How often does the tile pattern repeat? The list could go on forever.

Most customers worry primarily about the appearance of the tile, which is understandable considering tiles will be one of the dominating factors of any room. But the primary technical factors to consider when choosing the tile are durability and slip resistance.

For durability, look at the PEI rating for ceramic and porcelain tiles. PEI 1 tiles are the most fragile while a PEI 5 rating is the most resistant. If you’re looking for a wall tile, it’s okay to choose one with a lower rating, since it doesn’t need to withstand a lot of weight. However, when it comes to ceramic floor tiles look for a high PEI rating.

For slip resistance, look at the R rating. The higher the R rating the more slip resistance. As a rule, matte tiles used internally will have a slip resistance rating of between R9 and R10 and matte tiles used externally will have a slip resistance rating of between R11-R12.

With regards to which tile material is the most suitable to use within a specific area, the recommended options are as follows…

- Kitchen/downstairs floor areas: Porcelain

- Kitchen splashbacks/wall areas: Glass or Ceramic

- Bathroom floor and walls: Porcelain or Ceramic

(NB. Natural Stone is also an option BUT it is vital to know the geological composition of the tile to assess its suitability and durability. For example, limestone comes in a variety of forms, colours and densities but some limestone tiles are very porous/brittle and will be unsuitable for use within floor areas that see a lot of traffic)

Most tile ranges are available in a wide variety of sizes and finishes, so it shouldn’t be an issue to find something that will fit your project. The main thing to bear in mind when picking a tile size is the room proportions. Large floor tiles can make the room appear larger since there are less visible grout lines to break the pattern. Small tiles, on the other hand, create a busy look, so they work best in rooms with minimalistic decorations.

One of the great things about tiles is that they come in a variety of styles and colours, and variations of the same shade. So, here are a few basic colour rules to keep in mind:

- Vibrant, playful colours will make a room seem happy and warm

- Neutral colours are the easiest to integrate into any decor

- Dark colours can add depth, but may make the room look smaller than it is

- Light hues make spaces look bigger, and can brighten a room with little natural light

The type of tile you choose shouldn’t clash with the decor of the room. However, some options have an easier time fitting into most ambiances:

- Wood-like tiles are extremely durable, and can give any room a natural look

- Marble tiles are timelessly, beautiful and can add some exquisiteness

- Natural stone tiles, or porcelain tiles that recreate the look of stone can have a rougher look, but can work in any setting

When in doubt, choose a neutral colour, with minimal texture.

When looking at the installation, tile grout comes in a variety of colours and you can choose one that fits the design of your project.

A grout colour close to that of the colour of the tile will make the grout line almost imperceptible, so the tile installation looks seamless. While a contrasting colour can make individual tiles stand out.

However, please remember over time high traffic will discolour light coloured grout to a darker shade (i.e. where dirt is built up depicting the areas where people walk most of the time) so choosing the right grout colour is an important consideration.

The maintenance process should also go into your tile decision.

Ceramic and porcelain are easy to clean (these tiles are non-porous), but natural stone usually has to be sealed, and is one of the hardest materials to clean because they hold more pores that can collect dirt and grime.

Furthermore, cleaning natural stone with a harsh substance (e.g. bleach) could adversely affect the properties of the sealant protecting the tiles and therefore stains are more likely to occur that can be difficult to remove.

Finally, when creating an ‘infinity’ effect where the same range/style of floor tile is used seamlessly both internally and externally (i.e. where the internal tile has a 9-10 R rating and the external tile has a 11-12 R rating) it is highly recommended to use the same size of tile both internally and externally. A difference in the size of tiles will most certainly not give the best/optimum ‘infinity’ look.


Choosing tile solely based on appearance can have some unfortunate consequences in the long run. You need to approach this decision logically and factor in the “where” and “what for” of tile installation before you start looking at what tile material to use, colour schemes and textures. As such, it is highly recommended you work with a supplier who has a good level of technical knowledge and many years’ experience in providing tile design solutions.

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