Wall tile, unlike floor tile, doesn’t have the burden of bearing weight or withstanding heavy traffic, so it can be thinner, have finer finishes, and, in some cases, be less expensive. Wall tile layouts tend to have more ex posed edges, so manufacturers often offer matching trim and border pieces with finished edges. Wall tile is generally self-spacing – individual tiles have small flanges on each edge to help keep the spacing even. You can use floor tile on walls, but since it is heavier, it tends to slide down during installation. Using battens while installing can help solve this problem. Fewer styles of matching trim tile are available for floor tile, which may make it difficult to conceal unfinished edges.
Wall tile should not be used on floors or countertops, however, because it will not stand up to much weight or sudden impacts. If you have concerns about a tile’s suitability for your application, ask your retailer or look for ratings by the American National Standards Institute or the Porcelain Enamel Institute. Wall tile can be a fairly inconspicuous wall covering or, if used in an elaborate design, can become the focal point of a room. As with floor tiles, there are styles for every effect from subtle to bold, so envision the effect you want before you head to the tile store or home improvement center.
Wall Tile Ratings
Most tile intended for walls comes labeled with a water absorption rating. As with f loor tile, absorbent wall tile will be susceptible to mildew and mold and be difficult to clean. Tiles are rated non-vitreous, semi-vitreous, vitreous, and impervious, in increasing order of water resistance. Practically speaking, these ratings tell you whether your tile may require sealant or if it can be left as is. Non-vitreous and semi-vitreous do absorb noticeable amounts of water and may need to be sealed in damp rooms like bathrooms. Sealant can alter a tile’s appearance, so test before you buy.
There are a few other ratings to consider when purchasing wall tile. Depending on where you buy tile, it may be graded from 1 to 3 for the quality of manufacturing. Grade 1 indicates standard grade, suitable for all installations. Grade 2 indicates minor glaze and size flaws, but the tile is structurally standard. Grade 3 tiles may be slightly irregular in shape and are decorative, suitable only for walls. Tiles with manufacturing irregularities may be more difficult to lay out and install precisely. If you live in a freeze zone and are looking for tile for outdoor walls, you’ll also want tile rated resistant to frost. If the frost-resistance rating is not on the package, the retailer should be able to tell you. Some colored tile may come with a graphic to indicate the degree of color variation from tile to tile – in most cases it will vary somewhat.
Wall tiles are usually less than 1/4″ thick and no larger than 6×6″, with 4×4″ tiles the most common. Lightweight tiles are less likely to sag during installation.