For versatility and durability, it’s time to rethink tile.

If you’ve shied away from tile flooring because you always thought it was too hard or cold underfoot, it may be time to reconsider. The durability and versatility of tile may just help you change your mind.

“We’re seeing a lot of it now,” says Jim Korsmo, owner of the Tile SuperStore & More. “One of the biggest trends is going back to tile and stone, especially in the high-traffic areas.” Kitchens, master baths, bedrooms, front entries, family rooms, lower levels – all are seeing a resurgence in tile flooring, Korsmo notes. Tile’s ability to withstand moist conditions is partially driving the renewed interest. “The floods this past summer helped some people realize that it’s important to be careful about what material you choose for flooring in basements or areas that are damp or prone to water,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of people who’ve had to rip out their carpet and now want tile instead.”

In kitchens, some homeowners who fell in love with hardwood have became frustrated by frequent spills or perpetually damp areas around refrigerators that threaten to shorten the life of their flooring or have left it with unsightly damage, Korsmo says. “We’re redoing a lot of kitchens now with tile,” he says. Even new laminate products on the market that are billed as water-proof are still vulnerable because moisture can collect underneath, leading to mold growth. “You don’t have that with tile,” he says.

Tile is also extremely versatile, with the scores of colors, looks, styles, patterns and textures creating an almost infinite number of design options. Common tile types include ceramic, porcelain, quarry and terracotta. Not all tile is appropriate for all areas of your home, so choose carefully. For instance, tile that’s appropriate for a heavily trafficked front entry may not work in a master bath remodel, where a slip-resistant surface is important for safety.

Popular now are designs that feature random-size tiles interspersed, rather than an expanse of same-size squares. “People are mixing 19-by-19-inch tiles with 13-by-13 squares, for instance,” Korsmo says. “This random look helps create more visual interest. It’s more calming because you’re not seeing a massive gridwork pattern.” Hues of yellow, gold and burnt orange that evoke natural essences are also big sellers, he says.

Accent pieces are a great way to provide a burst of color or texture, too. “For a kitchen backsplash,” Korsmo says, “you might have 4-by-4-inch slate tiles and then clip in corners like brass, metal or glass as an accent. And it’s also budget-friendly, too, because if you want to add a very expensive glass tile as an accent, say one that costs $27 a square foot, keep in mind that you may need just one square foot of it.”

And what about that cold, hard feel of tile? Don’t let such fears deter you, Korsmo says. “We used to see a lot of people putting in heated floors for their tile,” he says. “But homes now are so well insulated and efficient that we’ve come to find that the floor isn’t colder, even tile. If you have a heated basement in your home, the hot air rises and warms the floor from underneath, so that it’s whatever temperature the ambient air is. What I recommend is that people take home some tile samples and let it sit on their floor for a while and then try it out. You’ll see that heated flooring isn’t a necessity with tile.” Area rugs are a solution in areas where you like a bit of padding underneath, such as a kitchen, Korsmo says. “People generally have area rugs in their kitchens anyway,” he says.

Maintenance and upkeep of tile flooring is usually a breeze, Korsmo says. Always check with the manufacturer or store for specific cleaning instructions and products. In general, clean spills immediately with a damp cloth. For heavier cleaning, look for cleaners that are neutral, since acidic cleaners – the kinds often found on grocery store shelves – may actually ruin the grout. Grout itself is easier to keep clean and fresh looking because it’s now often infused with acrylic additives that make it less permeable, preventing stains, Korsmo says.

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Copyright 2007 Rochester Area Builders, Inc. No part of the Remodel It Right Handbook articles may be reproduced or printed without written permission from Rochester Area Builders, 108 Elton Hills Lane NW, Rochester, MN 55901. Phone (507) 282-7698.