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How to choose the right tiles for your kitchen


From floor tiles to wall tiles for the kitchen, we’ll take you through the how’s, which’s and what’s for all things tile related. Check out some of the top kitchen tile materials available out there and their pros and cons. 

© jodiejohnson | 123rf

If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that the kitchen is where the heart is. Our feet guide us there when we’re in need of comfort or snack time – and other times completely unknowingly! And well, our feet deserve something good to walk on. What am I talking about? Kitchen tiles.

In fact, these tiles go everywhere, not just the kitchen floor! They can go on the kitchen wall, work as backsplash tiles or go on as a countertop or an island. And whether you’ve been staring at yours for the past few months thinking “It’s time I give this a makeover” or you’ve gotten a new place and need to do some remodelling – here’s a guide to answering everything from the type of tile to tile design style. No matter your preference, from classic to modern tiles, we’ve got you covered.

How do I choose kitchen tiles?

We’re going to go through 12 types of kitchen floor tiles (which can be used as a backsplash or for an island). I know what you’re thinking, that’s a lot of tiles, how to choose just one. Don’t panic, all you need to do is use our trusty list of seven factors to decide which tile will complete your kitchen! All the different types of floor tiles have several hallmarks and benefits that characterise them…

1. Durability

Durability refers to the ability to withstand wear and tear. Kitchens are high traffic areas so this is a huge consideration, one that will stir up a battle between functionality and aesthetics.

2. Water-resistant

This one’s self-explanatory as the kitchen is a high-risk area for spills and food thrills (that moment you flip an omelette and you think you’ll catch it but you don’t – it’s okay, we’ve all been there). You don’t want something that’s soaking up spills which can lead to all sorts of problems!

3. Materials

A floor tile is a manufactured piece of hard-wearing material and will have varying characteristics according to the material it is made of. From ceramic to glass, to porcelain floor tiles – there are many types of materials and we’ll go through this list in the next section!

4. Texture

Textured tiles are not flat or smooth. They have distinct 3D quality adding dimension and interest to your kitchen. Oh, and texture gives tiles non-slip properties!

5. Pricing and lifestyle

Another factor that is self-explanatory; You’ll want to look at your budget and what you’re comfortable spending with before making any decisions. You’ll also want to check in with your partner or family members! Anybody living with you will also have to live with the chosen tile and removing tile is not in everyone’s budget! Avoid this costly mistake by considering all facets of your life that meet in the kitchen.

6. Underlayment

This process is the foundation of tile installation. Before setting down your tiles, the installer needs to fix the floor so that it is flat and that’s where underlayment comes into play. You have three underlayment options: sheet-type (called a backer board or cement board), liquid or semi-liquid products, and membranes that come in flexible sheets – each for different tiling situations.

7. Cleaning

Are you a spill and mop kind of person or “I’ll sweep all of that up over the weekend” kind? You’ll want to do some self-reflecting and figure it out before committing to a tile as some require specific cleaning products and others require periodic maintenance!

Read more: How to choose the right tiles for your home

Which type of tile is best for the kitchen?

More importantly, which is right for you? Time to put those 7 factors to the test. Let’s go through each tile in detail.

1. Ceramic tiles

© isabela66 | 123rf

Versatile and preferred for kitchens, ceramic tiles are an easy go-to choice.

Pros of installing ceramic tiles:

  1. Durable and elegant
  2. Because of its hard, solid surface, it does not hold on to dirt – making it low maintenance
  3. One of the more affordable tile options
  4. Glazed options are impervious to water and most stains
  5. Many design options

Cons of installing ceramic tiles:

  1. Hard and cold
  2. Tricky to install if you’re planning to DIY it (and quite labour intensive)
  3. Unglazed options will require sealing of grout lines to protect from stains and moisture.
  4. Cracking due to improper installation

How to clean: This type of tile is easy to care for – especially glazed tiles as this mean there is a smooth, protective top layer. Routine cleaning involves simply sweeping, vacuuming or mopping.

2. Porcelain tiles

© tamu1500 | 123rf

A type of ceramic tile that’s usually considered an elevation.

Pros of installing porcelain tiles:

  1. Stronger, harder and more water-resistant than most other ceramic tiles making it very suitable for high-traffic areas
  2. If one is broken or damaged, it is not hard to simply remove and replace one piece
  3. Low maintenance as it’s easy to clean
  4. Can mimic traditional flooring like wood and marble, even steel and bamboo.
  5. A cheaper alternative to marble – while still achieving that classy look

Cons of installing porcelain tiles:

  1. Potentially expensive
  2. Tricky to install
  3. Heavy, brittle, cold and hard
  4. Cheaper versions of porcelain may be more susceptible to cracking
  5. Grout lines between tiles need to be sealed to protect from stains and moisture

How to clean: Strain resistant and low maintenance, a simple mopping, sweeping or vacuuming will do.

3. Travertine tiles

© maykal | 123rf

This tile comes from the limestone family and is exceptionally attractive with its marble-like texture and various colour tones. It’s also got options when it comes to the finish, either a polished, matte finish, a chiselled finish or the most common finish, filled and honed.

Pros of installing travertine tiles:

  1. Timeless appearance
  2. Ease of cutting and shaping these tiles make it easy to fill small or oddly shaped spaces
  3. Durable and non-slip
  4. Can withstand high temperatures (anyone else thinking of getting a restaurant-quality pizza oven?)
  5. An environmentally friendly, non-toxic option

Cons of installing travertine tiles:

  1. Porous with lots of holes which after some time will develop into signs of wear and tear
  2. Like all natural stones, it is susceptible to stains and etching
  3. Definitely not a good choice for countertops as it reacts badly with low acidic foods!

How to clean: If there are any spills, you will need to clean up immediately to maintain them. Sweep periodically to avoid scratches.

4. Slate tiles

© drpnncpp | 123rf

Slate lends an exciting, rugged look to your kitchen, making it stand out from the typical modern and often minimalistic kitchen design styles. If you want to bring a touch of the great outdoors into your home, then this is a great choice!

Pros of installing stale tiles:

  1. Resistant to scratches, scrapes and dents since it’s hard
  2. Very water-resistant
  3. Its rough texture and colour make it a very forgivable tile, hiding dust, dirt and damage easily
  4. Slate is a natural flooring material which means it doesn’t give off volatile organic chemicals – this means you can keep your indoor air quality high! And we all know how important air quality is nowadays
  5. Resistant to chemical attack making it a good choice for kitchen countertops/islands
  6. Another all-natural, eco-friendly option

Cons of installing stale tiles:

  1. Though a hard tile type, it’s quite brittle in that if you dropped something heavy on it, it’s likely to break
  2. Its brittle nature also makes it delicate for installation
  3. On the pricier end
  4. Due to its rough texture, it could potentially be painful to walk barefoot for long periods of time

How to clean: Very low maintenance, mostly only requiring regular sweeping. Once a month (or even less) you can slide a damp mop around.

5. Marble tiles

© studiodin | 123rf

Marble tiles come from all over the world – India, Iran, China, Turkey, Italy. Egypt, Portugal and there are many, many types to choose from with striking colour options; silver, beige, black or brown – you’ll find it hard to not fall in love with marble tiles.

Pros of installing marble tiles:

  1. Easily polished
  2. Another natural material making it eco-friendly
  3. Elegant, classy and glamorous looking – instantly elevates the vibe of a place
  4. And here’s a great one for investors, it adds real estate value!

Cons of installing marble tiles:

  1. Almost goes without saying – this tile option is expensive
  2. It scratches and stains easily as it’s a soft material
  3. Requires sealing
  4. Can be quite slippery and brittle
  5. Has an alkaline pH level so interacts with acidic foods and cleaning products negatively

How to clean: Marble is temperamental and will require care. However, maintenance is relatively easy, requiring sweeping and damp mopping. Do ensure that water does not puddle as it can penetrate the stone and discolour it!

6. Granite tiles

© studiodin | 123rf

Here’s a fun fact, granite tile is made from processing volcanic rock until it becomes smooth.

Pros of installing granite tiles:

  1. Quite beautiful
  2. Exceptionally durable – perfect if you’re looking for longevity
  3. A favourite choice for kitchen tile countertops
  4. Pretty much impenetrable to liquids, even puddles of water won’t do harm!
  5. A hypoallergenic flooring option for those with allergies
  6. Many styles and colours, and works great when you want to mix and match your countertop and floor,

Cons of installing granite tiles:

  1. Very heavy – you would need an expert to inspect your floor to make sure it can withstand this tile’s weight as some floors cannot support it
  2. Difficult to install

How to clean: Maintenance may require professional services. Advice for cleaning is also contradictory so you would need to do quite a bit of research before committing to this tile type.

7. Onyx tiles

© olga_sweet | 123rf

Not the most practical option for high traffic areas because of its fragility – it is still used amazingly well as an accent piece like a backsplash. It’s translucency gives you plenty of options in terms of design from placing it in an area where the Sun will hit in the afternoons to having it backlit and glowing.

Pros of installing onyx tiles:

  1. A luxurious option for those who love beautiful things
  2. Soft to touch and has pretty, reflective properties
  3. Loads of variety from colours to patterns

Cons of installing onyx tiles:

  1. Fragile and brittle, this is another one that probably won’t do well as a kitchen countertops
  2. Easily scratched or scraped

How to clean: Onyx can be easily cleaned with soap and warm water – stay away from acidic cleaning products. Maintenance wise, you’ll need to inspect and seal it regularly to protect it from staining.

8. Quartzite tiles

© stevanzz | 123rf

Naturally occurring and similar to granite, this tile is a great alternative to marble for the busy (or lazy) ones out there as it doesn’t require as much in terms of maintenance.

Pros of installing quartzite tiles:

  1. Durable
  2. Low maintenance
  3. UV resistant, making it perfect if your kitchen gets loads of direct, natural light!

Cons of installing quartzite tiles:

  1. Can be damaged by sharp objects – not a great countertop option unless you’re careful to stay within the lines of your cutting board
  2. Some types of quartzite will require sealing more often
  3. Limited colour choices – mainly whites and greys with shades in between

How to clean: You’ll want to mop up spills immediately. Other than that, it’s an uncomplicated tile not requiring any special cleaning solutions, pads or sponges. A soft cloth in the beginning with some warm water followed by another soft cloth for buffing is all you’ll need.

9. Sandstone tiles

© maykal | 123rf

Particularly well suited for older properties, sandstone tiles have a subtlety that set them apart. This rich, natural stone is a wonderful option as a wall, floor or island – having options to make your kitchen look cool or warm or something in between.

Pros of installing sandstone tiles: 

  1. A variety of natural colours from tones of white to a multicoloured whirlpool to hues of black and charcoal.
  2. Choice in texture as it can be ‘honed’ meaning you can choose for it to be jagged or 100% polished and smooth – or something in between!
  3. Easy to replace just one piece in case of damage

Cons of installing sandstone tiles:

  1. Relatively porous making it have high water absorption properties leaving it vulnerable to damage and staining from liquids and mould
  2. It’s another soft rock so scratches are easy to come by
  3. Weathering with age – it will not look the way it did in 10 years time even if you keep up maintenance (though this could be seen as a pro if you like the character time adds!)
  4. Quite slippery when wet – making it a risky choice for families with young ones or those who are prone to spilling liquids

How to clean: It’s recommended that one vacuum first then spray the tile flooring with a light layer of chlorine or some other cleaning product. Leave this for about a half-hour before rinsing it with water.  

10. Cement tiles

© piovesempre | 123rf

A tile trend that will never go out of date – you can’t go wrong with cement tiles! You can do beautiful things with cement tiles, a quick search on Pinterest is all you need.

Pros of installing cement tiles:

  1. The design effects give off a highly sought after look – it’s beautiful and timeless for a reason!
  2. Durable and impervious to damage when it has a layer of glaze (it also has additional protection because of the way it is created, in high temperatures)
  3. Environmentally friendly as it is completely made from natural materials (making it 100% recyclable as well)

Cons of installing cement tiles:

  1. Requires continuous sealing over time (in some cases even once a month)
  2. High maintenance
  3. Tricky installation due to inconsistent sizing

How to clean: Simply wash it weekly or monthly with water and some mild pH-neutral soap. Avoid acid-based cleaning products as this can lead to quicker wear and tear.

11. Wooden tiles

© in4mal | 123rf

Natural hardwood flooring has always been a popular option around the world, in hot and cold climates. However, with the world becoming more conscious of the environmental effects, more and more people opt for wood-like tile floorings.

Pros of installing wooden tiles:

  1. Affordable compared to hardwood floors
  2. Much more durable to scratches, spills and dirt when compared to its hardwood counterpart
  3. Longevity and beauty – it will look good for years to come and the wear and tear often adds character
  4. Great for people with allergies as they are often scratch and moisture resistant
  5. Adds a rustic opulence just as hardwood flooring would but without the effort, expenditure and environmental guilt

Cons of installing wooden tiles:

  1. Tricky installation
  2. Some versions of this tile require grout and this could lead to dirt and grime being stuck in between tiles if forget to clean thoroughly

How to clean: Though it requires special attention to grout lines, it is relatively easy to maintain as you can use any cleaning products and methods – and if it gets damaged, you can easily remove and replace them!

12. Mosaic tiles

© phokin | 123rf

Mosaic tiles combine many different tile types to give you a large option to choose from and to mix and match from. Here’s the one to get really creative with!

Pros of installing mosaic tiles:

  1. Resistant to chemicals – making it the choice option as tiles for kitchens
  2. Durable
  3. Easy to maintain
  4. Visual flair – adds elegance and something exciting. It’s also very versatile in design
  5. Cheaper to install – value for money

Cons of installing mosaic tiles:

  1. Its small size makes it fragile, requiring careful instruction
  2. Because it is translucent, bad installation could lead to things like being able to see the adhesive used and the wall behind it

How to clean: Cleaning is easy, simply rinsed the area with cold water and wipe dry! If you want to add sparkle and some shine, equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle is all you need.

What Colour tile is best for the kitchen?

Often, we see neutral colours like beige and cream as the backdrop for a kitchen, with strong colours used to accentuate a specific area like the backsplash. But that doesn’t mean you need to go in the same direction.

Feeling bold? Have a feature wall with multiple colours or patterns! Want to show your chill but playful side? How about a pastel theme! Maybe have a statement tile surrounded by some plain tiles, or maybe you want to play with different hues of the same colour. Different types of stones also have different textures and natural colours ranging from charcoal to earthy tones. The options are endless! Speaking textures, floor tile texture can make or break a kitchen design so it’s definitely something to consider alongside colour.

Whether you match your tiles to your countertop, go all white or bring a party to your floor, go with your gut (and our guide), and we’re sure you’ll end up with the kitchen of your dreams.

Disclaimer: The information is provided for general information only. Malaysia Sdn Bhd makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information, including but not limited to any representation or warranty as to the fitness for any particular purpose of the information to the fullest extent permitted by law. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this article is accurate, reliable, and complete as of the time of writing, the information provided in this article should not be relied upon to make any financial, investment, real estate or legal decisions. Additionally, the information should not substitute advice from a trained professional who can take into account your personal facts and circumstances, and we accept no liability if you use the information to form decisions.

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