When you’re looking for new floor tiles for your washroom or kitchen, you may be tempted to choose the same ones you’ve got on your shower wall or backsplash. After all, what better way to create a consistent look than to use the same tiles on both surfaces? But although wall tiles and floor tiles may look similar, they can’t be used interchangeably. In particular, you can get away with using some types of floor tiles on your walls, but you should almost never use wall tiles on your floor. Here’s why:
Wall tiles tend to be low in friction. This isn’t a problem when they’re installed on a wall because no one will be walking on them. However, if you install wall tiles on your floor, you may run the risk that someone will slip on them and fall. This may be especially likely to happen in rooms where your floor tends to get wet (for example, in a washroom or kitchen). Be safe rather than sorry by saving wall tiles for your walls and choosing floor tiles for your floor.
Depending on the room you’re installing them in and the volume of traffic in your home, the tiles installed on your floor need to be able to handle the pressure (literally). This isn’t a problem for tiles that are meant to be installed on a floor. Generally stronger and more durable, floor tiles are meant to last even when they receive regular foot traffic.
In comparison, wall tiles are relatively soft and fragile. Some wall tiles, such as those that are made from glass, are very brittle. This doesn’t pose a problem when these tiles are installed on the wall. But if you use them as your floor, they won’t last long.
Not the right size
There’s a reason why designers usually recommend using small tiles on walls: they’re more proportionate to the space they’re meant to cover and they’re easier to install on a vertical surface. Although floor tiles can be small in some cases (think of mosaic floors), larger tiles tend to work better in most cases. This is because floor tiles usually need to cover larger surface areas. In addition, if you use smaller tiles to cover a floor, you’ll end up with more grout lines for dirt and debris to get stuck in.
Not the right material
Because they aren’t subjected to human foot traffic, wall tiles can be made from exotic materials. These include stainless steel, tin, leather, and honed natural stone. Wall tiles made from exotic materials can give your home a unique look. However, they’re usually too fragile to be installed on your floors. These materials also tend to be more expensive than many traditional flooring materials. So you wouldn’t want to install one on your floor only to discover that you need to replace it in a matter of months.
How to distinguish wall tiles and floor tiles
Tiles aren’t always marked as “wall tiles” and “floor tiles,” so it can be tricky to tell them apart. However, there are two metrics you can use to determine if a tile is suitable for your floors.
The first metric is the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) classification system. In this system, tiles are assigned to one of five classes ranging from Class 1 (walls only, no foot traffic) to Class 5 (commercial use, heavy foot traffic). Because they don’t need to be as durable as floor tiles, wall tiles can have lower PEI classifications. When choosing a tile for your floors, ensure that a tile has the appropriate PEI classification.
The second metric to pay attention to is the coefficient of friction (COF) rating. The COF rating indicates how much friction a tile has, with higher ratings indicating greater friction. Whereas wall tiles can have a low COF, floor tiles must have a COF of at least 0.5.
Use wall tiles and floor tiles correctly
No matter how much you love a wall tile, resist the temptation to install it on your floor if it doesn’t meet the requirements of a floor tile. Although it may look beautiful initially, you run the risk of creating a floor that’s slippery, fragile, and needs to be replaced quickly. To make the most of your investment in your new floor, use wall tiles only on your walls and choose dedicated floor tiles for your floors.
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