Ceramic tiles are made from a blend of clays and silicates that are pressed into shape and then fired in a kiln. The tiles produced are tough and hard wearing and typically display low water absorption rates.
The ceramic can remain unglazed or the tile can have a glaze added which is also fired in a kiln. Sometimes the drying and glazing process takes place in one operation depending on the production method employed. As ceramic tiles are a moulded product various colours, patterns and finishes can be incorporated into the surface design resulting in tiles that emulate the look of natural stone, marble and even wood as well as plain colours.
When selecting tiles for your bathroom you will be presented with a bewildering array of choices with varying materials, colours, patterns, sizes, finishes and effects all making the decision making process tricky. The bottom line is that the tiles need to look good, be suitable for use in their chosen location and fall within your budget.
The choice between ceramic tiles and natural stone is one that neatly encompasses these choices. Many ceramic tiles look exactly like their natural stone equivalents and these days can be similarly priced. Ceramic tiles will be a little more practical in many instances as they do not need to be sealed and cleaning them is less of an issue than is the case with many natural stone tiles. Ceramic tiles are usually physically lighter than natural stone tiles which can also be a problem if the wall structure is not strong enough to bare the weight. The natural beauty of stone tiles can, however, be enough to persuade some customers to choose these over a ceramic tile option.
The trend over recent years has seen the size of tiles, especially wall tiles, grow markedly. Where once tiles were all small, 4 ¼ inch squares, tiles have grown larger and larger to a point where a modern tile can have an area 10 times that of the old tiles. These large tiles can be difficult to fit if the substrate is not flat and level so it might be worth speaking to your installer prior to purchasing to ensure the tiles you have in mind can be fitted to the floor or walls you have in mind. Some other things to keep in mind is that the off-cuts from larger tiles are not always useable so extra has to be allowed for wastage when measuring. Also, as there are less grout lines, the adhesive can take longer to set so it is vital to follow the adhesive manufacturers recommendations regarding setting times before grouting commences.
At the other extreme of size we have mosaic tiles which have also seen a rise in popularity. These also require a flat surface for installation or the numerous grout lines can highlight any irregularities in the wall or floor surface. Also mosaic tiles require a lot of grout which can in itself be a problem area in bathrooms, with high levels of moisture causing mould to appear in the grout if it is not properly applied and sealed. Darker grout colours can help make this less noticeable but if left untreated the mould can weaken the grout cause it to fail leading to water ingress and damage.
When it comes to the overall design for the bathroom the huge choice of ceramic tiles available can be a real bonus as several different types of tile can be combined to create a unique and interesting effect. One of the most popular option at the moment is for large plain wall tiles to be broken up with a mosaic border. The wall tiles are usually a light, natural colour with the mosaic sometimes emulating the large tiles (relying on the pattern to break up the wall) or with more highly coloured mosaic to provide more of a visual contrast. Glass tiles are frequently used as a mosaic option as they provide a deep lustre and striking contrast to the main colour. Metal tiles can also be used to provide the same effect as glass tiles.