Tiles: the ancient material we use every day

Since ancient times, tiles have been used for functional and decorative purposes. The earliest known examples of tiles date back to around 4,000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, where they were used to decorate the walls and floors of palaces and temples.

During the medieval period in Europe, the practice of tile manufacturing was brought about by the influence of the Moors, who were known for their advanced skills in ceramic arts. Then it was widely used during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, where it was used to create ornate decorations in churches, palaces, and grand houses.

In the 19th century, the industrial revolution brought new technology and mass production to tile-making, which made tiles more affordable and widely available; with the advent of new materials such as porcelain and new glazing techniques, the range of tiles available expanded dramatically. It became a popular choice for flooring and wall covering in many households.

Nowadays, tiles are widely used in various settings, from commercial and public spaces to private homes. They are increasingly popular due to their durability, low maintenance, variety of styles and materials, water resistance, variety of textures and patterns, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability. They are suitable for high-traffic areas, bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor spaces. They are easy to clean and disinfect, making them an excellent option for spaces where cleanliness and hygiene are essential.

What are the various types of tiles that are commonly used in various settings, and what are the unique characteristics of each?

There exists a plethora of ceramic tile options suited for both wall and floor applications, some examples of which include:

  • Ceramic wall tiles: They are used to clad walls and are commonly used in bathrooms and kitchens. They can be glazed or unglazed.
  • Porcelain tiles: Constructed from a denser variety of clay and undergoing firing at higher temperatures compared to regular ceramic tiles, they are incredibly resilient and stain- and moisture-resistant.
  • Quarry tiles: These are unglazed ceramic tiles commonly used for flooring in areas with heavy foot traffic. They are slip-resistant and ideal for outdoor patios and walkways.
  • Natural stone tiles: Natural stone tiles, such as granite, marble, and limestone, are valued for their strength and aesthetic appeal.
  • Mosaic tiles: These are small ceramic tiles that are often used to create intricate and complex patterns and designs. They can be arranged in various ways to create unique and visually appealing surfaces. They are often used for backsplashes and decorative accents.
  • Terracotta tiles: These are made from a type of clay that is fired at lower temperatures than regular ceramic tiles. They have a rustic, earthy look and are commonly used for floors and accent walls.
  • Ceramic floor tiles: They are used to cover floors and are commonly used in bathrooms, kitchens, and entryways. They can be glazed or unglazed.
  • Glass: Glass tiles, with their diverse range of hues and designs, can give a contemporary and polished appearance. They are low-maintenance and versatile enough to be used on both walls and floors, making them a popular choice for both residential and commercial spaces.
  • Metal: Metal tiles can create a modern or industrial look. They are robust and simple to clean, although they may be slippery.
  • Terrazzo: Terrazzo tiles are made by mixing marble chips, glass, or other aggregates with cement, pigmented with various colors, then polished and sealed. They are frequently seen in public and business settings.
  • Marble-look and Wood-look tiles: These are ceramic tiles designed to mimic the look of natural materials such as marble or wood. They are loved for both their endurance and visual appeal.
  • Stone-look tiles: These are ceramic tiles that are designed to mimic the look of natural stone such as granite, limestone, and travertine. They are popular for their aesthetic appeal and durability.
Modern bathroom mosaic

What are the pros and cons of tiles?


  • Durability: Tiles are extremely durable and can withstand heavy foot traffic, making them a popular choice for high-traffic areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and entryways.
  • Low maintenance: Tiles are easy to clean and maintain and do not require regular refinishing or resealing.
  • Variety of styles and materials: Tiles come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and materials, which allows for a lot of design flexibility. Depending on the design, glass tiles can be used to achieve a modern and polished or a traditional and classic aesthetic.
  • Water-resistance: Many tiles are water-resistant, making them an excellent option for areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor spaces.
  • Variety of textures and patterns: Tiles are available in a vast array of textures and designs, allowing for a personalized touch to any space.
  • Cost-effective: Tiles can be a cost-effective option in the long run, as they have a long lifespan and do not require regular refinishing or resealing.
  • Sustainability: Many tile manufacturers are creating sustainable and eco-friendly products, which is becoming an increasingly important consideration for many homeowners.
  • Hygiene: Tiles are easy to clean and disinfect, which makes them ideal for spaces where cleanliness and hygiene are important, such as hospitals, laboratories, and food-processing facilities.
  • Fire resistance: Some tile materials like ceramic and porcelain are naturally fire-resistant, which may give an added layer of safety.
  • Versatility: Tiles can be used on walls and floors inside and outside the house and are suitable for residential and commercial spaces.

Although tiles provide numerous advantages, there are a few drawbacks to take into account.


  • Coldness: Tiles can feel cold underfoot, especially during the winter months. This can be alleviated by using underfloor heating or by placing rugs or mats on top of the tiles.
  • Hardness: Tiles can be hard and unforgiving, which may not be suitable for spaces such as bedrooms or playrooms, where people may be standing or playing for long periods of time.
  • Slipperiness: When they are wet, some tiles can become dangerously slick. This can be addressed by choosing slip-resistant tiles or applying a slip-resistant coating to the surface.
  • Grout lines: Tiles are often installed with grout lines, which can be difficult to clean and can discolor over time. Regular cleaning and sealant can help to minimize this issue.
  • Expensive: Some types of tiles can be pretty expensive, especially natural stone tiles. This can make them less accessible for those working with a tight budget.
  • Fragility: Some tiles can be fragile and crack or chip easily, especially if not installed or maintained properly.
  • Limited design options: Some people may find tile options are limited compared to other flooring options like hardwood, carpeting, or engineered flooring.
  • Professional installation: Tiles often require professional installation, which can add to the project’s overall cost.

Buying tiles might be tricky.

Here are some tips for buying tiles:

  • Consider the purpose of the tiles: Will the tiles be used for walls or floors? Will they be used in high-traffic areas or a low-traffic areas?
  • Decide on a material: Tiles come in a wide variety of materials, such as ceramic, porcelain, stone, glass, and mosaic. It's crucial to select a material that is appropriate for the intended purpose, as each one has distinct characteristics and advantages.
  • Think about style and design: Tiles are available in a variety of looks, from traditional to contemporary. Consider what type of tile will complement your room’s decor.
  • Consider the size of the tiles: When choosing tile, it's important to consider the size that will work best in your space, as tiles come in a range of sizes from small mosaic tiles to large format tiles. Consider the size of the tile that will work best in your space.
  • Check the quality of the tiles: Tiles should be of good quality, with no cracks, chips, or other defects. To ensure you are getting a high-quality product, it is crucial to thoroughly examine the tiles before making a purchase.
  • Think about the cost: Tiles can vary significantly in price, depending on the type of tile, material, and design. It is advisable to establish a budget for your tile project and make sure to stick to it. This will help you to avoid overspending and ensure that you can afford the materials and labor needed to complete your project.
  • Look for manufacturer's warranty: Some tiles manufacturers offer warranties on their products

Keep in mind batch color differences.

It's essential to be aware that the color of tiles can vary slightly from batch to batch. This is a common issue with ceramic and porcelain tiles, as they are often produced in large quantities, and the color can vary slightly from batch to batch.

 To avoid this, it's important to order enough tiles to complete the entire project at once to match the color throughout the space. If you need to order more tiles later, try to purchase them from the same batch or manufacturer to ensure consistent color. 

Another tip is to ask the retailer or manufacturer to provide you with a tile sample. This can help you see if the color is what you are looking for and check if there are any variations between different batches.
It is also important to note that different lighting conditions, room arrangements, and other factors may affect the perceived color of the tile. So, it's always a good idea to see the tile in the space where it will be installed.

What are the essential factors to take into account when installing tiles?

There are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Surface preparation: The surface on which the tiles will be installed should be clean, smooth, and level. Any uneven areas should be filled and smoothed out before the tiles are installed.
  • Measure and layout: Before installing the tiles, measuring the area and planning out the tile layout is essential. This will help in ensuring that the tiles are installed in a consistent manner and that the pattern is symmetrical.
  • Adhesive and grout: The type of adhesive and grout used will depend on the type of tile and the surface on which it is being installed. It's crucial to use the proper grout and adhesive for the particular tile and surface.
  • Cutting tiles: Some tiles may need to be cut to fit around corners or edges, which can be done with a tile cutter or saw.
  • Allow enough time for the adhesive to set: Be sure to allow enough time for the adhesive to set and dry before moving on to the next step.
  • Sealing: Some types of tile require sealing after installation to protect them from moisture and stains. It is crucial to adhere to the manufacturer's recommendations for the specific kind of tile.
  • Grout cleaning: Grout is usually installed after the tiles, and it's important to remove any excess grout and clean the tiles before it dries.
  • Professional installation: If you're not confident in your tile installation skills, it's always a good idea to hire a professional to do the job.
  • Safety measures: Tiling can be a dangerous job, so it's essential to wear safety gear such as goggles, dust mask, and gloves and to take necessary safety measures such as using proper tools and equipment and working in well-ventilated areas.

Tile installation process


In conclusion, tiles offer a durable, low-maintenance, and versatile flooring option for various spaces. However, it's important to consider factors such as the type of tile, the surface it will be installed on, and the overall design aesthetic. Proper surface preparation, layout planning, and the use of appropriate adhesive and grout are crucial for a successful installation. It's also important to allow adequate drying time and clean and seal the tiles as needed. If you are uncertain about your tile installation skills, it might be a wise decision to hire a professional installer. This can help ensure that the installation is done correctly and that the tiles are laid out evenly and symmetrically.