Which tiles are suitable for which applications?
It is generally believed throughout the natural stone tile industry that you can use any stone tile anywhere throughout your house, whether they are honed, polished or tumbled. It's the same for porcelain tiles, which come in polished, matt or textured finishes.
It’s ultimately down to the individual buying the tiles to make the decision if they want to use them or not based upon advice they receive from whoever is selling them. If you don’t discuss the application of the tiles (i.e. a bathroom wet area, a well trodden kitchen floor) with whoever you are buying them from, then you take on the absolute responsibility of their usage yourself.
Imagine if you went into any of the multiples like 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. If you don’t do your homework and exercise an amount of due diligence, you may not get what you wanted.
Natural stone tiles - Softness vs Hardness:
With respect to natural stone, it is possible to install and use all natural stone tiles in all areas throughout your house. However, some are softer than others and in general aren’t wholly 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 for two reasons.
1. It’s quite soft, will wear quite quickly and “traffic routes” will become apparent (areas where people have walked over continuously bordered by areas where nobody has walked).
2. While it was polished from the factory, it won't stay shiny for long underfoot as soft limestone doesn’t take to polishing as well as hard/dense limestone; the shine can wear off quite quickly.
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; we sold him the tiles on the basis of our recommendations.
We’ve sent one of our recommended floor restorers over to Portugal recently 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 get somebody in 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” banner 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 down to you how much maintenance you can be bothered with. Some natural 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.
So what’s the moral of all of this? 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 or our Dijon Limestone tiles 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. I’m not sure if Cesar 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 honed/natural finish tiles. Polished 600x600mm porcelain tiles are widely used throughout the entire floor areas of many modern properties. There’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be used, otherwise they wouldn’t be produced in their millions.
Polished tiles in bathrooms:
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.
If you are unsure of anything or want to discuss suitability with an expert, please call us now and we will guide you through.