If you are thinking of tiling some floor in your home, you might be weighing up the different options and wondering what all the differences are. Understanding the types of tile will help you to choose something suitable for your space – but how different are they really? Can you use wall tile for your floors, or do you need floor tiles?
If your favorite tile pattern is only available in a wall tile, you might be thinking about fitting it underfoot instead to create a gorgeous floor. Some people do this, but it may not be a good idea, and we’re going to find out why.
Can you use wall tile on the floor? Wall tiles tend to be thinner and less robust than floor tiles, and that means that they are likely to crack if they are walked on. Wall tiles are designed to be light enough to fix to a wall without putting too much pressure on the grout, while floor tiles are designed to be tough enough to withstand a human’s weight.
Is it Okay to Use Wall Tiles for Flooring?
You should not use wall tiles for flooring. This may not immediately prove problematic and indeed it might take a while to see issues – but after some use, there’s a high chance that your floor tiles might start to crack when you walk on them. They simply don’t have the strength to be used as flooring, especially when you add furniture and other pressures into the mix.
There are a couple of different measures that will tell you about the strength and integrity of your tile. These are the Porcelain Enamel Institute rating (PEI), and the Coefficient of Friction rating (COF). The PEI rating tells you how tough the tile is and how much foot traffic it can withstand, while the COF relates to how much friction the tile offers.
If your tile was intended for use on walls only, there is a risk that it will be low friction and very slippery. This makes it unsafe for walking on, even if it doesn’t crack under your weight.
Floor tiles need to have a certain degree of friction in order to be safe, so it’s important to look at the COF when determining whether a tile can be used for the floor.
Most retailers differentiate between wall and floor tiles to make it as easy as possible for their customers to get what they need, and to minimize the risk of tiles being used in unsuitable spots. However, it’s also worth looking at these two ratings yourself so you can determine what sort of tile you are buying.
What PEI Rating Should Floor Tiles Have?
PEI ratings range from 1 to 5, and Class 1 tiles are not suitable for walking on. All Class 1 tiles should only be used for walls. Class 2 tiles can be used in spots with a small amount of footfall, but they are generally better suited for flooring. Class 3 tiles are generally suitable for use throughout the home. For really heavy-use areas, opt for Class 4.
Class 5 tiles tend to be used in commercial settings, although you can use them in a home environment if you choose to. They tend to be more expensive because of their strength and durability.
Choosing your tiles with care is important, because if you don’t have a high enough class, your tiles will not wear well and you will soon have to replace them. Be realistic about the amount of footfall an area gets before you select a tile type.
Note that the PEI rating doesn’t just alter how likely the tile is to crack. It also affects how easily it will scratch and how much wear it will get. To maximize the longevity of your floor, you do need a higher tile class.
What COF Rating Should Floor Tiles Have?
To be used on the floor, tiles should have a minimum rating of 0.5 or more. This will ensure that the tiles are not too slippery, although you should be aware that 0.5 tiles may still be somewhat slippery. If you are going to use the tiles outside, make sure you use 0.6 or higher, since the tiles may be wet at times.
The friction rating is very important to think about, because slippery tiles can be a serious risk when used underfoot. If your foot skids, you will fall on a hard surface and may injure yourself, so don’t use unsuitable tiles.
Does the WA Rating Matter?
The WA rating refers to the tile’s water resistance, which is only important if the tile is going to be used in a potentially damp environment, like a bathroom or a kitchen. Tiles around a pool obviously need to be water-resistant.
There are four kinds of WA rating, including:
- Non-vitreous tiles
- Semi-vitreous tiles
- Vitreous tiles
- Impervious tiles
The non-vitreous tiles are the least waterproof, while impervious tiles are completely waterproof and can be used in showers, around pools, etc. If you want tiles for your kitchen, you might choose vitreous tiles, while semi-vitreous tiles are okay for bedrooms, living rooms, etc.
Non-vitreous tiles should only be used in areas that you are positive will remain completely dry. They are not suitable for outdoor use, and should be avoided in most living situations, because they will be damaged by even a small amount of water.
Do Wall Tiles Have Low Ratings?
Because wall tiles don’t need to be either tough or non-slip, it is quite likely that they’ll have a low rating for both PEI and COF. Slippery, weak tiles are perfectly fine on the walls, where they will never be underfoot, so there’s no need to reinforce them or reduce their friction.
You should not use most wall tiles for the floor, because they are unlikely to be strong enough. They may also be slippery, which could make your floor risky to walk on. Make sure you have checked both the PEI rating and the COF rating before you choose tiles for your floor.