A Complete Guide for Tile Shopping

The majority of people consider only the color, shape and size of tiles while buying them for kitchen or bathroom remodeling in Los Angeles but there are lots of other things you must consider. Color and shape are the most obvious traits of a tile and manufacturers mention other properties as well on the box. However, these things are mentioned in codes so you need to know what they are to understand the actual meaning.

Of course the better you understand the tiles and their properties, the better you can manage your project and save money. Let’s see what these codes say and how understanding these can help you in decision making.


Every ceramic and porcelain tile comes with mentioned grade; the grading depicts its rigidness and quality. Usually there are one to three grades where the grade one is considered the highest quality in that tile. Grade two is slightly less rigid and of less quality. Usually these two grades are used for floor tiling because of their stability and their ability to carry the weight. Grade three tiles are considered of least quality and they are not suitable for floor tiling as they can’t carry the weight.

You can use grade one and two tiles on walls too (although it would be more expensive considering the higher price of high quality tiles) but it is not recommended to use grade three tiles for flooring.


In Los Angeles, glazed tiles have five ratings and unglazed tiles have four ratings. These are friction rating, frost, tone, water resistance and wear rating. On ceramic and porcelain tile boxes, you would see all of these ratings. Let’s see what these ratings mean and why it is important for you to understand to buy the best tiles for the application.

Wear Resistance

Wear rating is something that is exclusively associated with glazed tiles. Unglazed tiles are not rated with this; wear rating is also known as PEI (Porcelain and Enamel Institute) that simply denotes the tile’s ability to withstand scratches and wears. This rating is used to decide whether the tile would be a good fit for the floor based on the lifestyle, traffic and other factors that may vary from buyer to buyer. There are five ratings which are called PEI I to PEI V.

PEI I and PEI II are for show-only and they cannot be used as floor tiles because they cannot bear people walking on them. These tiles are highly abrasive and only suitable for walls. PEI III rating ceramic tiles are recommended for residential use because they are wear resistant and cost efficient. PEI IV tiles are for high standard residential applications and some small commercial projects.

PEI V rating tiles are highly wear resistant and only suitable for high standard corporate application with lots of traffic. There is no need to use PEI V and even PEI IV in some residential projects because they are expensive.

Water Resistance

Water resistance is an important property of a tile and it should be considered while choosing tile for an outdoor or wet area. Water resistance is usually denoted as water absorption rate or simple WA rating. These categories have names and the percentage of water absorption. There are mainly four categories which are non-vitreous, semi-vitreous, vitreous and impervious. These categories have more than 7%, 3-7%, 0.5-3% and less than 0.5% water absorption rate respectively.

Non-vitreous tiles that absorb more than 7% water are not suitable for wet areas, semi-vitreous tiles could be used indoor in dry areas, and vitreous tiles could be used outdoor and wet areas while impervious tiles are suitable for highly moist areas which are in direct contact with water. Interestingly, porcelain tiles which are also impervious come with a higher price tag but you can use ceramic tiles with the same properties at a much lower cost.

Friction Rating

Friction rating is important in almost every application however it might be a deciding factor in application like bathroom floors and commercial areas which have to meet Americans with Disabilities Act. Friction is measures in Coefficient of Friction which is also known as COF. It is calculated by considering the weight of an object and the force required to slide that object on a surface.

Higher COF means the tile provides high slip resistance and lower COF means the floor would be smoother and more slippery. Usually 0.50 and above COF is recommended for residential applications while 0.60 and above COF is recommended for commercial applications to comply with the Act mentioned above. Carefully consider the COF rating of tiles while selecting them for specific applications like bathroom floors.

Frost Rating

Unlike other factors mentioned here, frost rating is a simple Yes/No rating where Yes refers to the abilities of a tile that can bear freezing temperature in outdoor applications while a No means the tile should be used indoor. This rating only matters in outdoor applications in cold areas otherwise you don’t have to consider it at all.

Tone Rating

The tone rating refers to the deliberate variation of tile tone to make it appear like a natural stone tile. Tiles with solid and consistent colors do not have tone rating.

How to Select the Right Tile Size?

Many people wonder about the right tile size and interestingly, there is no universal formula to calculate the tile size as it depends on the application and what you like. All types of tiles are available in different sizes and you can even get custom size at a slightly higher price. Usually the recommended size for wall tiles is 10cm to 60cm and for floor tiles is 30cm to 60cm. interior designers suggest using tile with appropriate size as compared to the application area. For example, 60cm tiles could look good in a bigger bathroom but they won’t look good on a smaller bathroom.