Choosing the right flooring for your new kitchen can be a pain. With so many materials, styles, and colors to choose from, it can be daunting trying to figure out where to start. Not to mention that everyone has an opinion regarding which is best; your mother-in-law loves the natural look of hardwood, but your best friend recommends these super attractive vinyl tiles that would match your new cabinets perfectly. However, you’re not looking for anything too expensive or too high maintenance, but you still want something that will look good and blend easily with the aesthetic you’re going for. If this describes your situation perfectly, then ceramic tiling just might be exactly what you’re looking for.
What Exactly Is Ceramic?
Used as a common building and decorative material for thousands of years, ceramic is made from a mixture of natural clay minerals, water, and other inorganic materials that are hardened by extreme heat and coated with a glaze. This process creates an extremely durable, long-lasting and versatile material that can be used for a number of different applications. In fact, ceramic is rated on a scale of 0-5 based on its hardness, with 0-2 used for wall tiles, 3 for residential uses, and 4&5 for commercial uses. You may have heard that NASA uses ceramic coatings for their space shuttles, which is a testament to just how durable and reliable ceramic is as a material. As far as flooring goes, ceramic is a go-to material for those who rate durability high on their list of priorities.
Ceramic is one of those materials where the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. The durability of ceramic cannot be overstated. It is extremely difficult to crack. In fact, archaeological excursions have found ceramic tiles and products that are still in pristine conditions after thousands of years. Ceramic is naturally resistant to high humidity, making it the perfect choice for bathrooms and kitchens, which tend to frequently have moist conditions. It is a very easy to clean material that is resistant to dust, dirt and other allergens. Dust and dirt tend to stand out against the material, making it easy to spot and clean in order to keep these allergens out of the air. It is also a hygienic material that doesn’t harbor germs. Maintenance is pretty simple, as only regular sweeping or vacuuming with a soft brush attachment is required. As long as the ceramic is glazed, you won’t need to worry about water or stains from food particles penetrating too deep into the surface. Cleanup with a heavy duty household cleanser takes care of any hard stains.
Ceramic is a pretty basic material, but it doesn’t at all have to be boring. Ceramic tiles can be found with printed designs, giving you a wide range of style options. The sophisticated printing processes that exist these days can even offer you ceramic tiles printed to mimic the look of other materials, such as hardwood or even natural stones. Ceramic can also be cut into a variety of shapes, giving you an endless number of style combinations to match any kitchen style. Ceramic tiles used for residential purposes are also quite affordable, and can be found at a price of anywhere between $3 and $10 per square foot.
Like any other material, ceramic does have its downside. As mentioned before, ceramic must be sealed for protection from liquids. Sealing is a basic, common process for many materials used in the kitchen design process, and is only required for ceramic tiles that are unglazed. However, the grout lines between ceramic tiles are also susceptible to liquids and also require a sealant. Without a sealant, water or other liquids can seep beneath the grout and cause mold to grow. Also, as with most materials, neglect and a lack of regular cleaning can leave the tiles and grout looking unsightly.
Ceramic’s hardness has been touted as one of its major advantages, but it may be seen as a disadvantage to some, as it isn’t a very comfortable material to stand on for long periods of time, especially if you have back issues. Rugs or runners may be needed in areas where long-term standing is required. If you enjoy going barefooted, the hardness of ceramic isn’t its only downside. Ceramic does not hold heat very well, meaning that it can become very cold during the winter or if you live in a climate that is cold year-round.
Unlike other materials that tend to be DIY-friendly, it’s actually best that ceramic tiles are installed by an experienced professional. It requires a number of different tools and the process can be difficult and time consuming for someone who has never dealt with the material before. The labor intensive nature of ceramic installation also means that contractors will charge you upwards of an additional $5-$8 per square foot.
Ceramic is a durable, versatile, attractive and affordable material that can be a great addition to just about any kitchen style. If you’re a cook who loves to cook for hours on end, ceramic may not be the best choice for you. But if durability and affordability are your main concern, then ceramic just may be the way to go.