Tile Thickness: Things to Consider when buying tile
This isn’t something that typically comes up. Usually because for certain applications, most tiles are on average a similar thickness, and if you only use one style - you would never run into a situation where you’d notice an uneven installation. Assuming your tile was properly installed and leveled. Also most tiles for specific applications are all very similar thicknesses already.
But once you start using different tiles or installing tile in certain areas, like a shower floor for example, (they typically are installed with a slant or at an incline of sorts around the drain in order to allow water to properly exit) you will quickly run into situations where different thicknesses need to be accommodated..
Does it matter?
The importance of tile thickness goes a little further beyond adjusting your installation methods for an even and level surface. A tiles thickness has a great affect on many variables. To understand this, we need to define a few things. “Thin tile” can actually be split into three specific categories. All three categories have one thing in common, they are all 6mm or less in thickness. However this is where their similarities end.
The first category is made up of tiles that have been formed using traditional dust press methods. These are similar to pressed porcelain but they are only 5-6 mm thick and because of this, have a lower breaking strength.
The second category are for lamina tile products. These tiles are formed via the lamina process which means they are produced in large, thin ceramic sheets. These sheets are then cut into individual tiles. These are typically 3-4 mm thick and have an even lower breaking strength than compared to the tiles of the first category. The lower thickness however, allows these tiles to bend and be installed on curved surfaces (within their manufacturer specified limited of course).
Finally, the third category is comprised of more lamina tiles which are reinforced with backing materials that are made of a woven mesh. Usually fused tot he back of the lamina tile with resin adhesives or an epoxy of some kind. These reinforced lamina products can be bent even further than those in category two with a much higher resistance to breaking due to their reinforcements.
Simple enough right? These categories all follow a pattern. Thinner tiles are less resistant to breaking. This is why porcelain tiles are typically used on floors. They are typically at least 7 mm thick. This makes them ideal for use on floors - the added thickness makes them extremely durable and allows for them to last a lifetime of foot traffic.
What’s the Catch?
There’s a reason that the majority of porcelain tile is used on floors. It’s heavy.
The added thickness, unfortunately, does nothing to help its weight, and by association, also it’s cost.
Thinner tiles weigh less and allow them to be used on walls, where they don’t have to be as strong only appealing and while, not as durable, can still help save quite a bit on cost for your overall project, however other factors must be taken into account for installation, such as using more in mortar or adding layers up support materials to help both strengthen your tile and also help keep it level with the surrounding environment or any tiles of different thicknesses. It should be noted that thin tiles are much less forgiving than thicker tiles when installed, especially in areas where they will receive a lot of traffic. Thinner tiles need more support, and all it takes is an unevenly applied bed of mortar or support for them to buckle and break. Also any tiles that are not able, and reinforced with other materials need extra care and proper setting materials to ensure adhesion. We’d hate to have your new tile falling off the walls after a few days or months.
Thicker or thinner tiles might not align properly with certain elements of the area they are installed in. If a floor tile is too thick - your doors might catch and have trouble opening and closing. Just the same if tiles are too thin - they might not be level with the base of your doorway or other rooms and increase the chances of you tripping as you step in.
These are all important things to consider - things your should always discuss with your contractor as well as the manufacturer of your chosen product.
The same tile, depending on its materials, and just as importantly, it’s thickness, won’t always be installed the same way in every room or application.
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