Tile Composition

Ceramic tile is made of clay and minerals that is fired at high temperatures. The tile is colored by glazing and/or ceramic staining. The finishes can range from matte to high gloss. Ceramic can be used for floors, walls and countertops.

Porcelain tile is made from finer materials than ceramic tile and is baked at far higher temperatures. This process makes for a denser, more moisture resistant tile.

Quarry tile is a dense tile that has color throughout rather than just on the surface. Quarry tile isn’t glazed and is stain resistant which is why it is preferred for commercial applications such as restaurant kitchens.

Glass tile can be opaque or translucent and is increasingly popular for use in backsplashes whether as decorative pieces or the primary field tile.

Metal tile is most commonly used as backsplash decorative elements that can repeat other finishes commonly found in kitchens.

Wear Layer (PEI Rating)

To help select appropriate tiles for specific applications tiles are rated with the P.E.I. (Porcelain Enamel Institute) scale. The tiles are evaluated for wear resistance on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).

  • PEI 1: Light Traffic - recommended for residential bathrooms or other areas with light traffic and where shoes are not frequently used.
  • PEI 2: Medium Traffic - recommended for residential interiors, except entryways, kitchens, stairs or any area where tiles may come into contact with gravel or sand.
  • PEI 3: Medium-heavy Traffic - recommended for all residential interiors and light commercial applications. Not recommended for commercial entryway.
  • PEI 4: Heavy Traffic - suitable for all residential interiors and most commercial applications, including shopping malls and public areas.
  • PEI 5: Heavy-plus Traffic - all residential and commercial areas where heavy-duty wearability is needed.

Shade Variation

One of the distinctive qualities of tile is the fact that they vary in terms of color, shade and tone. The variation can be very low, for a more consistent look, or quite high, resulting in a random appearance.

  • Low: Consistent color within each tile and from tile to tile
  • Medium: Color variation exists within each tile
  • High: Some variation from tile to tile, and within each tile.
  • Random: Considerable variation from tile to tile.


Although the function of grout is to fill the joints between tiles, grout has a lot to contribute to the tiles' design and impact. Whether you choose grout that contrasts or matches your tile (or anything in between) grout choice should be considered when contemplating the overall look of your project. Other things to consider are traffic and how the room is used. For example, light grout may not be a good choice in an entryway or busy kitchen.

Grout Width: Equally as essential to design, it is important to consider how wide or narrow to make the joints between tiles.

Wide Grout Joints: Wider grout lines, or spacing between tiles accentuate each individual tile. This style is considered a bit more casual and is popular for those who favor texture.

Tight Grout Joints: Tight (almost butted) joints allow for greater projection of the natural color and texture of the tiles themselves, and can appear nearly seamless. This look tends to be ideal for more elegant rooms.