“I love those tile floors I see in model homes, but I’m used to wall to wall carpet. Will I be happy with all that tile?”
Tile floors are beautiful. They are cool, easy to clean and have that “Florida look!” But you need to keep in mind that like all materials used in a home, there are advantages and disadvantages. In the construction of a new home, the cost of tile can be offset somewhat by not preparing the floor slab for carpet or other final finish. It is less costly to just level concrete than to finish it perfectly flat for carpet or resilient tile. But the cost of quality tile can run anywhere from $3.00 to $6.00 or more per square foot. At five dollars a square foot installed, tile equals carpet costing $45.00 a square yard installed. (3′ x 3′ = 9′ x $5 = $45) But then you won’t be replacing the carpet every five to ten years, nor paying for annual cleaning. Note that you must hire a professional carpet cleaner every now and then for the carpet option.
The drawbacks to tile are noise, safety from slipping and possible back and leg problems from walking on the hard surfaces. The issue of noise is relative to the amount and type of furnishings you have in the house. When all the surfaces are hard, such as tile floors, sheet rock walls and ceilings, lots of glass sliding doors and hard surface furniture, the noise bouncing off all those surfaces can make it difficult to enjoy conversation, TV or music. It is similar to being in a good concert hall versus a high school gymnasium. In the concert hall, the surfaces are hard behind the orchestra to reflect sound out to the audience and in the audience, seats are padded and people and their clothing soak up the reflected sounds, letting those pure, brilliant tones come through.
In the gymnasium, all the surfaces, gym floor, concrete block walls and metal roof are hard, making all sounds bounce off every surface several times. This contributes to the din and difficulty hearing clearly. However in your home with adequate area carpets, upholstered furniture and window treatments, tile floors will not unduly make your home noisy. Another helpful factor are rooms that have one or more walls not parallel to each other. Using tile around the perimeter of a room for example with an area rug let into the center gives you the best of both without excessive cost. Particularly in high activity areas like family rooms, dens and children’s play areas, some carpet or other resilient material should be used to control sound and make the inevitable falls and spills less dangerous.
Bear in mind that there are many kinds of tile on the market today in many sizes, shapes and textures. One other thing to consider is that when you tile down, it’s there for a long time. If you decide to change you decorating scheme later on and want to change the tile, you can only cover up the tile with carpet, removing and replacing it is very expensive!
Some of the newer tiles are porcelain tiles in sizes as large as 18″ by 18″. They are very flat and go down beautifully! However the finish is fairly fragile, and dragging heavy furniture over the floor can sometimes chip the edges which may expose a different color underneath. Replacing individual tiles is a difficult job also.
The traditional Spanish Saltillo tiles work well, however they are uneven and furniture tends to rock and not always sit level on this tile. There is the problem of having to apply a finish to Saltillo tiles every so often as the tile is very soft and will absorb water without a finish.
If you decide to use tile, ask your architect or builder to discuss with you the advantages and disadvantages of the particular tile you are considering. You will enjoy it for a long time.