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The Updated Tile Guide: Types, Sizes, Patterns and More

As is the case with so many elements in home design, the role tile plays is constantly evolving.  And while there are certain things you should understand about tile before using it in your home there, are applications for tile in your bathroom or kitchen that may make you think: I didn’t know you could do that with tile! With that in mind, let’s look at an updated tiled guide that looks at the various types, sizes, and patterns of tiles—and offers a look at some newer trends in tile work.

Before we delve into a lot of detail, we should talk briefly about the versatility of tile. You can use it to make a bold statement (such as you see in the kitchen above). But tile can also be incredibly subtle and be a perfect backdrop—allowing some other feature of your kitchen or bath to take center stage.

Types of Tiles

There are a number of different types of tiles that differ according to how you plan to use them. Wall tiles tend to be smaller, thinner and lighter, which makes it easier to get them to stay put when installed vertically on a bathroom or kitchen wall. Tiles used to create a backsplash fall into this category as well. Floor tiles, by comparison, are thicker, more durable and are designed to take a lot more wear and tear.

There are also tiles that lend themselves to us both indoor and outdoor.  Most of these are created from natural stone or hardy terra cotta. They’re usually much heavier and wear well. Some are more like flagstone in some respects than a classic tile.


You can choose from many different types of materials and finishes when selecting tiles.  Some of the basic, more common options you’ll find will include:

  • Travertine, which is actually a type of limestone.
  • Ceramic, which is a baked clay tile that can range from delicate porcelain to rustic terracotta.
  • Faux wood, which looks like wood and is warmer than traditional tile. If you have a hard time imagining a tile that looks like wood, check out the bathroom pictured here that uses large-format porcelain tiles to replicate the look and feel of wood in an area where wood simple wouldn’t hold up.
  • Marble tile, which is expensive and can be slippery as a floor tile, but is hard wearing and beautiful.
  • Slate tile, also a natural stone tile, that tends to be less delicate than marble, and because it’s textured, less slippery too.
  • Granite and quartz, two more natural stone options.
  • Pebbles and mosaic, which are popular in bathrooms and kitchens. They can be installed in many creative ways, making them a great option to add interest.


Once again, you’ll have an abundance of options when it comes to choosing the size of your tile—ranging from roughly 1-inch square (mosaic tile) to large, 24-by-24-inch tiles that are typically used for flooring. Some of the more common tile sizes are 16-by-16 inch, 12-by-12 inch, 6-by-6 inch, 4-by-4 inch. Subway tile remains a popular choice and is typically available in either 3-by-6 inch or 2-by-4-inch dimensions.

Tile thickness varies as well. Generally tiles will measure between about 1/8 inch and 1/3 inch of thickness. Of course, the size and thickness of a tile will determine the weight, and that often decides whether it is a good choice for installation on the wall or on your floors.


One has two primary considerations when selecting tile patterns: the design on the actual tile and the way it is laid on the wall or floor. In terms of style, there are historic options, modern, monochromatic designs and everything in between.

Tile installation patterns include the classic straight lay, where tiles are lined up vertically and horizontally; a brick pattern, where alternate rows are staggered; or herringbone, an alternating arrangement to achieve a V-shaped effect. The pattern in which tiles are laid can be as important to the overall look as the tile itself, so be sure to spend some time considering this and discussing options with your home builder or remodeler.

By the way, in the bathroom you see featured here, notice the blend of subway tiles on the wall and tiles laid in unique geometric patterns on the floor. Isn’t that fun?!

New manufacturing methods and printing technologies are expanding the options for how tile can be used in your home. The trend today seems to focus on patterns, shape, and texture. In short, there are plenty of ways you can use tile to add beautiful finishing touches to your home. Ask your home builder or remodeler about new materials and options when planning your kitchen or bath.


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