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Natural Stone & Porcelain Tile Help & Advice

Are All Your Tiles Suitable For Walls And Floors?

Generally, all natural stone tile available from Stonestore are suitable for walls and floors, and can be used in any room throughout your home, whether they are honed, polished or tumbled. It's the same for our porcelain tiles, which come in polished, matt or textured finishes.

Ultimately the decision is yours, in conjunction with your tiler/ builder who should take into consideration any issues specific to your particular installation project. At Stonestore we have a team of specialists who discuss tile selection with customers. tilers, designers, and architects on a daily basis. Although we learn something new every day, it’s likely we’ve come across your particular installation situation and are well qualified to offer advice on tile selection and application of the tiles.

Call Us Before Selecting Your Tiles

Imagine if you went into any of the chain stores such as B&Q or Wickes and bought some cheap ceramic tiles for your kitchen floor. Nobody at the checkout is going to ask you what they are for, and offer advice upon their suitability for their intended use. The fact is they probably won't be suitable, as ceramics are generally only used as wall tiles. There are three key considerations when selecting tiles:

  • Natural stone tiles - Softness vs Hardness:

With respect to natural stone, it is possible to install and use natural stone tiles in all areas throughout your house. However, some are softer than others and in general aren’t recommended for use in certain areas, as they won't wear well underfoot. A typical example of this is our Mediterranean white limestone tiles. We’ve known people use this throughout entire houses on floors, stairs and bathroom walls. We sold 400sqm of polished Mediterranean white limestone tiles to a gentleman in Portugal and he installed it throughout the entire house. We had steps, windowsills and all sorts of bespoke items made for him.

At StoneSuperStore we offer recommendations on suitability – we told him that we didn’t recommend it for large-scale use like this as it is rather soft, will wear quite quickly and “traffic routes” (areas where people have walked over continuously bordered by areas where nobody has walked) will become apparent. Also the polished finish would not stay shiny for long as soft limestone doesn’t take to polishing as well as harder limestone. We did what we could to advise on its intended use, and ultimately it was up to our customer to make the final decision if he wanted to use a soft white limestone tile throughout the entire floor area of his house and we sold him the tiles on the basis of our recommendations.

We’ve since sent one of our recommended floor restorers over to Portugal to re-finish the surface and polish it up like new. This is of course one of the benefits of stone over manmade tiles as you can always hire somebody to make it look like new every so often; you can’t polish out a scratch from a porcelain or ceramic tile. This comes under the “maintenance” that all natural stone requires over a period of time. Depending upon your choice and intended usage, the maintenance of your stone tiles will either be high or low - it's up to you how much maintenance you want to invest in. Some stones are practically maintenance free, while others aren’t - especially if they are used in areas we wouldn’t ordinarily recommend them to be used in.

The moral of the story? As mentioned earlier, you can use whatever tiles you want wherever you want, as long as you are happy with our guidance and recommendations on the intended use and are prepared for whatever the maintenance regime might be. Remember, you can always refinish and rejuvenate the stone every so often to get it back to its original state.

We generally don’t recommend white limestone tiles in kitchen and living areas as they can stain and mark easily, even if they are sealed properly. We only recommend the use of white limestone tiles in bathrooms, as there is much less usage and typically you don’t trample dirt into a bathroom from shoes. We strongly recommend dense limestone tiles like Jura Beige Limestone for use on floor areas that will get lots of traffic.

  • Choosing polished vs honed tiles:

Polished tiles are shiny, where you can see your reflection in the tiles. Honed is generally a non-shiny matt or satin finish.

Polished marble tiles have been used in people’s homes for hundreds of years; the use of marble in Roman properties was ubiquitous. We’re not sure if Caesar himself would have had polished marble tiles on his floors or if they even had the ability to do this, but it would definitely have had a sheen of some description and would absolutely not have been “anti-slip”.

We often get asked if our stone or porcelain tiles are anti-slip and the answer is definitely no. Anti-slip tiles have a special surface finish that makes them completely non-slip. Generally, nobody would install an anti-slip tile in a kitchen or even a bathroom, as they are intended for special use generally where disabled access is required. True anti-slip tiles are extremely hard to clean as they have a rough, almost sandpaper-like surface, which holds dirt and is practically impossible to mop properly.

Ultimately it is down to you to decide if you want to use polished porcelain tiles in your kitchen or bathroom, as polished will undoubtedly be more slippery than a honed/ natural finish. Polished 600 x 600mm porcelain tiles are widely used throughout the entire floor areas of many modern properties and there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be used, otherwise they wouldn’t be produced in their millions. When it comes to bathrooms, it’s a bit different. Again, there is no reason at all why you can’t use a polished tile on your bathroom floor. All tiles, whether they are ceramic, porcelain or natural stone will become slippery to a certain extent when they are covered in water. This is why people generally have mats in bathroom so they can step out onto them from the shower or bath. There is practically no difference in slip resistance between a honed and a polished tile when they come into contact with water. Only you will know who is going to be walking around on your floors, so it's down to you to make the final decision.

Brushed, sandblasted and tumbled natural stone tiles will provide a certain level of slip resistance over and above polished and matt finish tiles. Of course, these surface finishes are intended to give an aged appearance generally to kitchen and living area floors, but to a lesser extent bathroom walls. It’s down to you to decide which look you prefer, and if that look is going to give you what you want in terms of usability. Slip resistance legislation: Current building regulations have no stipulation for slip resistance to be of a certain level in a domestic property’s living areas or bathrooms. This means you can use whatever you want wherever you want. There are however regulations covering the slip resistance of floors in commercial and DDA (disabled use) compliant toilets and bathrooms, where the slip resistance must be above a certain level, technically known as R10.

  • Can your bathroom walls take the weight of the tiles you plan to buy?

Before buying your bathroom wall tiles, ensuring the structure of the wall can take the weight is key to the success of your project. Failure to prepare your walls correctly may result in the wall tiles cracking, coming loose, or the tile adhesive de-bonding from the substrate.

Generally, the wall will be either solid or a boarded wooden frame and often the room will have a mix of solid external walls and wooden frame internal walls. There are four reasons why walls will be uneven: poor quality plastering, the wall being damaged by the removal of existing wall tiles, when the room shape has changed or has increased or decreased in size and when the design of the room changes such as when a bath is removed and replaced with a wetroom area.

More often than not, bathroom walls are uneven as damage occurs to the wall surface on removing the existing tiles. Modern bathroom design often dictates pipework should be hidden to give clean lines, as a result walls are often damaged as surfaces are channelled out to sink pipework. Consideration needs to be given to this eventuality arising when calculating your project budget, the effect on tradesman’s time and project schedule, along with the availability of tradesmen who have the skills to remedy any problems which may be uncovered.

Solid walls of older properties may inherently have uneven walls due to changes in building techniques and materials, becoming apparent only when existing fixtures and fittings have been removed. We have seen cases where projects have been delayed due to discovering asbestos, a network of wires, lead pipework and alarm wires. Solid walls which require remedial action should be made level and flat with a cement-based render. Avoid using a gypsum plaster finishing coat as this dramatically reduces the load baring of the wall from a tiling viewpoint.

Wooden framed walls will be faced with plasterboard finished with a thin coat off plaster. Damaged plasterboard should be removed and replaced with purposeful tile backer boards, especially if fixing natural stone bathroom wall tiles as these are considerably heavier than porcelain bathroom wall tiles. Original framework isn’t constructed, faced, and finished to hold the weight of stone tiles, therefore, at the point of removing the old plasterboard, it’s prudent to add extra noggins to the framework, giving you more points at which to secure the boards to give the optimum tiling surface.

Often when you have a mixture of boarded frame and solid wall surfaces to tile onto there will be a difference in wall thickness and one will protrude. To overcome this, a suitable render or levelling compound can be applied to give you a flat even surface on which to fix your bathroom wall tiles.

Customers can be put off fixing natural stone tiles such as limestone onto bathroom walls as they are concerned that they’re too heavy for the wall, opting for the lighter porcelain bathroom tile instead. Standard internal walls in modern houses are built to a tight budget with bathroom design incorporating a minimal amount of tiling, perhaps just in the shower area and a splashback behind a basin unit, with remaining exposed walls plastered and painted. The truth is that standard walls are not designed to cope with heavy loads and are barely suitable to cope with the weight of porcelain tiles let alone heavy natural stone tiles, so it’s the wall construction which needs addressing not the tile material.

It’s desirable to tile on all walls, and all too often little or no attention is given to the suitability of a wall structure and whether it can cope with the load baring of tiling floor to ceiling. When bathrooms are being refurbished the existing token tiling is easily removed as the walls have been plastered and the bond between tile and plaster is poor, as a result the thin layer of plaster comes away with the tile without damaging the plasterboard.

To save on time and cost, customers and tilers view the walls as being sound and suitable for taking the weight of modern, heavy, large-format porcelain bathroom wall tiles. In reality, the standard wooden frame plasterboard faced plaster coated finish wall can only cope with a weight of 20kg per square meter. The once rare 600 x 300 large format porcelain tiles now adorn bathroom walls nationwide. Plasterboarded wooden structured walls can take approx. 30kg if they’re not plastered.

The best option, particularly as the additional cost is minimal as an integral part of the overall project cost, is to remove the flimsy plasterboard, add a few reinforcing noggins to the wooden frame and add a fit-for-purpose tile backer board which are designed to bare weight of up to 50kg.

If you are unsure of anything or want to discuss suitability with an expert, please call us now and we will help you find the right tiles for your project.

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