When deciding on a style of flooring to install in a home, the choice comes down to a lot more than simply how the tile looks. Durability, functionality, and safety are all factors that should play pivotal roles in the tile selection process. Ceramic tile and natural stone are two of the most popular flooring options, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks depending on where it is being installed.

Ceramic Tile

Composition. Ceramic tiles are kiln-fired and usually made from red or white clay. They are typically evaluated by the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) to have a PEI rating between Class 1 and Class 3, which means they range from being able to handle little to moderate foot traffic. The higher the PEI rating, the more foot traffic the tile can handle. Ceramic tile rated PEI Class 1 is not suitable for any foot traffic and is recommended only for use on walls.

Benefits. For homeowners who want their flooring to have an identifiable color pattern, ceramic tile is the way to go. Because ceramic tiles are not hardened by natural processes, they can be made to look the same before being kiln-fired. Due to their uniformity, ceramic tiles are typically very easy to clean and seal because they usually have smoother textures and a color pattern. This allows sealant or cleaning products to be evenly distributed very easily. Ceramic tile is also generally less expensive than natural stone.

Drawbacks. Ceramic tile is less weather resistant than natural stone and is more suitable in areas that are not prone to harsh weather exposure. In cold climates, ceramic tile should not be installed near home entryways because frost can cause them to crack or break.

Natural Stone

Most popular types. Slate, marble, limestone, travertine, and granite are the kinds of natural stone that are most frequently used for flooring. Slate is a metamorphic rock that was transformed from a sedimentary rock through years of natural heat and compression. Marble, limestone, and travertine are sedimentary, which means they formed from the natural, long-term compression of fossil remains. Granite, an igneous rock that resulted from the cooling and hardening of molten substances, is the most durable and resistant to cracks—it is actually one of the hardest known substances in the world.

Benefits. Because natural stone is found in nature, it is very resistant to weather and wear. It is also more valuable than ceramic tile because it cannot simply be reproduced from synthetic materials. Installing natural stone drives up the market value of a home more than installation of ceramic tile would.

Drawbacks. One of the reasons that natural stone is able to increase the value of a home is because it is more expensive and unique. While some homeowners may find beauty in natural stone’s inconsistent texture and colors, these attributes can sometimes cause the stone to seem too busy for a room. This type of flooring can also be harder to maintain since its unevenness makes it tougher to evenly apply sealant and cleaners.

It is important to consider all of these facts when settling on a type of flooring. Ceramic tile and natural stone can both be beautiful options, but their beauty will be overshadowed by issues if they are installed incorrectly or in an unsuitable area. Be sure to take into account how you will be using the tile before making your final decision. If chosen and cared for properly, ceramic tile and natural stone can enhance your home’s design and last for many years.

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Sources: HGTV; National Kitchen & Bath Association.

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