Walking into a tile showroom can be as overwhelming as it is inspiring. The displays are spectacular, but there are so many options, at so many price points. Before you run to the home center for a box of plain white subway tile—and miss out on the chance to make a bold impact in your kitchen—use Consumer Reports’ tile primer to get the lowdown on this durable, beautiful material. To help you shop, we’ve asked an expert panel of tile manufacturers, retailers, and installers for their best tips on the pros and cons of the most common types of tile.
Price: $2 to $7 per square foot
What is it? A mix of clay, minerals, and water, ceramic tiles are fired at high temperatures. Glazed styles are then treated with a liquid glass coating and fired again, creating a hard, stain- and scratch-resistant surface. Unglazed tiles are sometimes referred to as “quarry” tiles.
Best for: Ceramic tile is typically affordable, durable, easy to install and comes in a nearly endless array of colors and designs.
But: Colors can vary from lot to lot and ceramic is not ideal for high impact areas. Handmade or “art” tiles can be extremely pricey.
Price: $3 to $7 per square foot
What is it? Porcelain tile is a type of ceramic tile that is fired at a higher temperature than standard ceramic, making it denser and less porous.
Best for: Use stain- and impact-resistant porcelain tiles on floors, walls, backsplashes. It’s easy to clean and comes in a wide variety of styles.
But: It requires a special setting material designed to adhere non-porous materials—DIYers often buy the wrong one. Check with the manufacturer to be sure you’re using the recommended adhesive.