If you are a busy household with children, pets and lots of traffic, then durability may be your number one factor in selecting a floor tile. Flooring more than anything needs to suit your lifestyle. You don’t want to be constantly worried about it getting scuffed and scratched and losing its original luster. So which floor tile is the most durable?
Vinyl is affordable, low maintenance, easy to install and extremely durable. But vinyl, I hear you say. Who on earth wants that? It’s so fake! Vinyl has been around for a long time and has in the past received a very bad rap. It has long been thought of as the epitome of cheap and not so cheerful. But in recent years it has totally reinvented itself by offering a huge array of design options. Vinyl tiles can successfully mimic just about any pattern and texture you can think of, allowing you to create a look that may normally be beyond your budget. You can even have faux grout lines. So don’t count it out before you have investigated further. Vinyl is tough and easy to clean and comes in at a lower price point than stone, ceramic and porcelain. Vinyl is kid-friendly and mess-friendly making it a practical and durable choice.
At the other end of the scale, we have stone. Stone is natural. Stone is warm. Stone is more expensive. The appearance of stone varies from tile to tile due to veining and natural imperfections. Because it comes out of the earth, its patterns are unique and individual. A natural stone floor looks luxurious and timeless. It ages gracefully and can last for centuries, although it will definitely dull over time due to foot traffic and dirt. Under the heading of stone you will find granite, slate, marble, limestone, travertine, onyx, quartzite and sandstone. The porosity of stone, that’s the amount and size of pores, affects its strength and stain resistance.
Granite is the hardest and densest stone. It is non-porous and therefore highly stain resistant and easy to clean, making it ideal for high traffic areas. Granite flooring can handle all sorts of spills – grease, coffee, wine, spaghetti sauce – to name but a few. Granite is so hard that if you throw a tantrum and hurl pots and glasses to the floor, they will dent and shatter before the floor does. Make sure every last little bit of glass is vacuumed up or the tiny granules will scratch the surface. Slate is also a hard, tough cookie and extremely water tolerant.
Limestone, marble and travertine are softer and more porous and therefore need a little more pampering. They require sealants and frequent cleaning to prevent staining and pitting. Travertine, which is in fact crystallized, partially metamorphosed limestone, is the biggest softie and can be fragile and riddled with sponge-like holes. It is beautiful but over the years you may find yourself filling in lots of those little holes.
Ceramic and porcelain are not interchangeable words. There is a difference between them. Ceramic tiles are made with clay, minerals and water and are porous. They need to be fired and glazed to add color and stain resistance. When the tiles are coated with a glaze of grade III or higher, they are extremely resistant to scratching.
Porcelain tile is harder than ceramic and offers greater design flexibility. Although both are made from clay and fired in a kiln, the clay used to make porcelain tile is more refined and purified. It’s fired at a higher temperature and greater pressure, resulting in an extremely dense and hard material. Dense and hard are the words you want to hear if durability is your number one requirement.
A WORD OF WARNING
When picking your porcelain tiles, make sure that you choose one where the color runs all the way through the tile. Some tiles have the ceramic glaze just on the surface so that if they get chipped, the clay base beneath will show through.
Porcelain tile is an ideal choice for a cold weather climate where you may experience constant freezing and then thawing. Because porcelain absorbs so little water, it is less likely to crack and is more impervious to stains.