The kitchen is usually the busiest room in the home, and it’s vitally important that a floor tile is chosen that can withstand the demands of modern living. There are three factors to consider when answering this question:
- Alternative types of floor tile
- The subfloor
- The surface of the tile
Alternative Floor Tiles:
Other than porcelain, the most common types of floor tiles are those made of red clay or natural stone.
- Red clay tiles are not as strong as porcelain. In the factory kiln, they are not fired at the same high temperature as porcelain tiles, which are formulated with a different, often whitish clay, and have a different mineral and chemical composition. Red clay tiles are noticeably lighter in weight than porcelain. They also have a considerably higher water absorption rate. Having said that, the surface glaze should perform equally well on either type of tile, and in effect will last a lifetime.
- Natural stone tiles tend to be much thicker than manufactured tiles, and consequently heavier per square metre. They require regular cleaning and sealing to prevent staining, as this is the only way to prevent spillages being absorbed into the body of the tile.
What you install the tiles onto is of vital importance. The optimum surface is a concrete base or a poured screed, which has had sufficient time to cure. This ensures that the tiles are laid onto a solid subfloor which has little chance of moving. In this instance, there will really be no structural advantage in choosing porcelain over red body tiles or natural stone.
However, porcelain tiles come into their own when tiling over a wooden structure. Wooden beams naturally flex when subjected to pressure, and this includes the weight of an individual walking across them. While the surface sheeting should be made from building board, magnesium board or similar (not plywood or any other wood), these boards need to be braced as securely as possible to the timber beams beneath. This can be achieved by ensuring the board is screwed, and preferably glued to the joists.
That said, it’s practically impossible to guarantee there’ll be no movement under traffic. New joists have a tendency to shrink over the early years as the timber dries out fully. In this situation the wise, or indeed only choice is a porcelain tile. You’ll benefit enormously from the extra strength, and minimise the chance of cracks forming over time, which is far more likely with red clay or stone tiles.
In short, porcelain floor tiles are less likely to fail. Not only are porcelain tiles good for kitchen floors, in this situation they are the best solution.
Natural stone requires regular sealing and maintenance to prevent staining and discolouration.
Most factory-made tiles are covered with an impervious glaze, with one notable exception – polished porcelain. Polished porcelain is a clay product which has no glaze; it has been highly polished to produce its familiar, smooth mirror-like finish. Like natural stone, it will require sealing and deep cleaning on a regular basis. Most polished porcelains are sealed at the factory, and many people think this is a permanent condition; however, over time the seal will break down and the tile will need maintenance.
Because the kitchen is so busy, this is the area that will require more regular attention, and this is worth bearing in mind as you make your decision.
Porcelain Tiles are the best choice for kitchen floors. They are more robust than red body ceramic or stone tiles, and are the best option when tiling over timber joists.