The word ceramic comes from the Greek word keramikos, which means potter’s clay and is, in turn, derived from a Sanskrit term keramos, which means “to burn.” S loosely, the term “burned earth” was the early reference to tiles or other products made from applying fire to natural materials from the earth.
Essentially, today’s ceramic and porcelain are materials from the earth still fired as they were in ancient days. Porcelain products are a bit more modern, made from finer materials and fired at higher temperatures making them less porous and therefore more water resistant for use in more places, like outdoors.
With so many tiles and patterns flowing in from all over the world, how do you decide which to choose?
Right now, the stone look is in. Ceramic and porcelain products are being constructed to look like natural stone. Unlike natural stone, ceramic and porcelain stone looks are unlimited by color and texture and designs. Different types of metal chips and other materials can be also “flashed” into the design.
Tile formats are getting larger, but be careful where you use large tiles. If a room is small, not square or oddly shaped, larger tile might require too many cuts and make the room look choppy. If you can use larger tile, your floor will have fewer grout lines and will appear more like one continuous slab. Using smaller tiles can make a room look busy because of more numerous grout lines, which means more areas to catch dirt.
Look for elongated tiles, 6 inches by 24 inches, which may make for easier installation. (For stone, they can be referred to as “stone planks.”) Ask your flooring professional or interior designer for the availability of tile sizes if this is important for the installation. Make sure your installer seal the grout or uses a grout additive to enhance its elasticity. That limits expansion and contraction and cuts down on “dirt catches.”
There is no limit to the designs of tile and materials in the market place. Silkscreen technology using permanent inks is producing very interesting designs as well as etched tiles washed with ink: the ink seeps into the tile giving the tile a crackled finish making it appear more stone-like.
Look, too, for more metallic tiles, porcelains with a metallic glaze that add shine to a room. You’ll want to make sure that the glazes coordinate with other metals in your room – appliances, plumbing and cabinet fixtures, even pots and pans. Metallics offer more opportunity to coordinate. Pewter palettes of gray, black and solid-textured neutrals will continue to be important as will nickel finishes similar to the ones found in bath and kitchen fixtures. Metallics can add glitz and fun to your room.