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Tile Design Rules

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Tile has its own personality. So it is best to keep a few time-tested rules in mind when designing with tile in your kitchen or bathroom.

1. No large tiles in the bathroom

Unless you have a supersized bathroom, keep bathroom tiles 4 inches square or smaller. Larger tiles are difficult to fit around the many obstacles in a bathroom (toilet, pipes, bathtub, shower, cabinets, etc.). Also, larger tiles can look visually strange.

2. Think twice before installing tiled counter tops

Tiled counter tops are good in the fact that they are inexpensive. Manmade materials such as Corian and natural material such as granite can be prohibitively expensive. By contrast, tile is a bargain. However, many cooks do not like the seams between the tiles, and they find the grout lines difficult to keep clean.

3. Do not choose a tile color to match your furnishings

While this may seem like common sense, many homeowners forget about this in their rush to install new tile. Furnishings, wall color, fabrics—all of these things are temporary. Tile is permanent.

4. Be careful with multiple colors

Multiple collars often become tiresome. Instead, consider using a generally neutral background color, and installing a few splashes of color here and there as accents.

5. Grout is an amazing design tool

This is a big secret that many homeowners do not even consider when designing with tile. While it seems boring—after all, it’s just that gritty stuff you put between the lines—grout can become almost as important as the tile itself from a design perspective. You can change the color of grout, space the tiles wider or narrower to emphasize or deemphasize the grout, and many other things. Do not ignore the design possibilities of grout.

6. Small tiles emphasize the grid

Sometimes, the design that you wish to achieve has as much to do with the grid pattern created by the tiles as it does with the tiles themselves. You can work miracles with grout. By using smaller tiles, you are emphasizing the grid pattern created by those tiles.

7. Tile need not be a cold material

Heated or radiant tile was, at one time, a speciality item reserved for the homes of rich people. Now, heated tile (friendly to bare feet!) can be found more and more in homes of ordinary folk.

8. Tile is not 100% waterproof

Even though tile has been used in wet applications ever since Roman times, water can still be introduced through the porous seams created by the grout. You need to apply grout sealer to the seams after the tile is first installed, and you need to keep applying the sealer periodically to keep the seams waterproof. Not only that, but some tile itself (granite, marble, quarry, etc.) is porous and needs to be sealed and polished on a regular basis.

9. Tile in the kitchen is difficult to stand on

Many people find it painful and tedious to stand on hard ceramic tile on a kitchen floor for the long periods of time. Many homeowners prefer to install more flexible, “giving” materials. Or, you can mitigate the problem with throw rugs or gel pads of the type used by professional chefs. Examples of "giving" floor materials:
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