The Difference Between Wall & Floor Tiles
230 view(s)

The Difference Between Wall & Floor Tiles

the difference between
wall tiles & floor tiles

Tiles have long been a popular decor choice, offering a stylish and beautiful yet hard wearing finish throughout the home. A versatile option, choices include a wide range of styles for both floor tiles and wall tiles for areas including kitchens, bathrooms and hallways.

Unlike other surfaces, tiles are more resistant to everyday wear and tear, and much less likely to warp and shift over the years. They are much easier to clean than materials such as wallpaper and paint, which means they will stay looking great for a lot longer. For these reasons, tiles are the preferred choice for homeowners looking for a premium material that will provide a high quality finish and last for many years.

Browse All Tiles

When thinking about installing tiles in a property, one of the first questions many people have is what is the difference between floor tiles and wall tiles?

In simple terms, floor tiles are usually manufactured to be thicker and more wear resistant in order to withstand foot traffic. They also offer a certain level of slip resistance. As wall tiles are not subject to the same amount of wear from being walked on, they can be produced to be thinner, more delicate and with different textures on their surface.

In years gone by there was perhaps a greater distinction between the two. Tiles for walls tended to be made from different materials than tiles for floors, they came in different sizes and shapes, and they were available in different styles.

These days the tile market has grown exponentially. Advancements in production technologies, changes in style preferences, and developments in installation methods all mean that the line between floor and wall tiles is now a little more blurred. Many tiles are made to be suitable for both floors and walls, but in some cases it can be hard to tell at first glance which type of surface a tile is designed for.

Can wall and floor tiles be swapped interchangeably? Should large tiles be used for your floors and small tiles be used for your walls? Are wall tiles ceramic and floor tiles porcelain? It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with all these questions so read on for all the answers to these questions and more.

floor tiles

So what is a floor tile? Put simply, a floor tile is a tile that is made to be used on the floor, that must be able to withstand the regular footfall that comes from daily use. This is particularly true for busy areas of the home like kitchen floor tiles which see a lot of use, as well as with floor tiles for hallways that experience regular foot traffic. After all, no one wants to see their new floor start to crack after a few months!

Browse All Floor Tiles

Floor Tile Specifications

To ensure that floor tiles are up to the job, many tile manufacturers use a Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating. This PEI scale, from 0 to 5, measures how resistant to wear and abrasion a tile is. A rating of 0 means a tile should not be used on the floor, and instead used only on the wall, while a rating of 5 indicates the tile can be used on any sort of floor no matter how busy it is.

Generally, tiles with a PEI rating of 3 or above are considered as suitable for residential use for all areas of the home. Tiles with a PEI rating of 2 may be suitable as bathroom floor tiles, as they will typically experience less footfall than other areas. PEI 4 rated tiles will be suitable for light commercial as well as residential use, while PEI 5 tiles generally only specified for busy commercial areas.

To ensure maximum safety, floor tiles also come with a slip rating, measuring how likely someone is to slip on a surface. The industry standard system of measurement is DIN 51130, which rates tiles between R9 and R13, with R9 being the least slip resistant and R13 the most slip resistant.

A slip rating of R9 indicates that a tile should only be used in dry areas, while a slip rating of R10 or R11 indicates that a tile can be used as a domestic bathroom floor tile where it is likely to become wet. An R12 rating indicates that the tile will be suitable for areas which may become very wet, such as a wet room or outdoor balcony, while R13 rated tiles are typically used for commercial swimming pool areas, factories or other areas that are likely to become very wet in combination with having steps or ramps, or be subject to contaminants such as oils.

Generally speaking, R9 tiles are suitable for most areas of the home, with R10 and above rated tiles suitable for bathrooms.

Floor Tile Styles & Colours

Floor tiles are slightly more restricted in terms of materials and styles than their wall counterparts due to more of a focus on durability, but this does not mean there are not many different options to choose from. In order to provide a balance between style and durability, the majority of floor tiles are made from porcelain as it is an extremely dense and hard-wearing material, however other materials such as stone are also popular.

Floor tiles are available in a wide range of colour options, as well as beautiful finishes achieved via the latest printing technologies.

Offering the warmth and natural look of wood, but with the durability, slip and moisture resistance of porcelain, wood effect floor tiles are available in a range of colour and grain options and look fantastic in almost any area of the home.

For a contemporary and minimalist look, concrete effect floor tiles provide the look of a concrete floor with the convenience and low maintenance of tiling. These tiles look fantastic in design-led interiors and are available in a range of colour choices, textures and sizes.

A classic look that works in almost any interior, stone effect floor tiles are available in a superb choice of finishes including greys, creams, whites and blacks with everything from sandstone and limestone to granite and mixed stone styles available, all with the added convenience that comes with porcelain tiling.

For a luxurious finish, marble effect floor tiles offer beauty and elegance in a range of stunning colour options. These tiles offer a low maintenance, durable and cost effective way to achieve the look of marble flooring throughout the home.

The unique terrazzo style is made by mixing Ceppo di Gré, a type of Italian marble, and cement, creating a distinctive graphic richness of speckled flecks. Often used in bathrooms thanks to their defined and rare appearance, terrazzo effect tiles are quickly becoming a favourite for interior designers.

Thanks to new technologies, tile colours have become much more varied in recent years. Colours such as whites and cream have long been a popular choice, and along with other neutrals such as grey floor tiles, will look great with almost any decor style and never go out of fashion.

As well as these classics, homeowners are now also able to opt for more expressive colours. Pink and green are colours that have become increasingly popular over the last couple years, along with blue floor tiles which look great paired with blue walls as well as greys, whites and creams.

Floor Tile Size & Shape

In terms of size, large format floor tiles have become increasingly popular over recent years thanks to the clean, modern look that they offer. With fewer grout lines, larger tiles help to expand the space and make rooms feel larger. Another trend that we’re seeing more often is the use of floor tiles to connect indoor and outdoor spaces, with coordinated tiling used both inside and outside the home.

Tiles for floors are available in a range of shapes, including rectangle and square floor tiles in a choice of sizes, so there’s something to suit any area of the home. Popular laying patterns include linear, which is well suited to square tiles, and brick format which looks great with rectangular tiling for floors.

Plank floor tiles are another popular choice, particularly for wood effect tiling that can be laid in a number of creative ways. Typically longer and thinner than regular rectangle tiles, plank tiles take their name from the planks of wood that they resemble. Hexagonal floor tiles have also started to become more popular recently and are a great way to achieve a unique and contemporary style, and look stunning paired with coordinating tiles for walls.

Browse All Floor Tiles

Wall Tiles

A wall tile, as you would expect, is a type of tile that is designed for and is suitable for use on walls. Common uses include bathroom wall tiles, either in a fully tiled or a partially tiled space, and kitchen wall tiles where the water resistant and easy to clean properties of tiling provide significant benefits.

Browse All Wall Tiles

Wall Tile Specifications

Unlike their floor counterparts, wall tiles do not need to be able to withstand the same amount of wear and tear, as they won’t be getting walked and so won’t need to deal with continuous abrasion from footfall. Therefore tiles with a PEI rating of 0 are safe to be used on walls, however PEI 1 rated tiles will offer a little more resistance to damage for areas such as inside shower enclosures and kitchen splashbacks, where it’s likely they’ll need to be cleaned more frequently.

As they aren’t intended to be walked on, wall tiles do not need to offer anti-slip properties. This means that wall tiles can be produced in beautiful high gloss finishes that would not be suitable for flooring, particularly in areas that would be exposed to water.

Many wall tiles use a glaze; a thin coat that covers the tile and gives it an appealing shine that can be wiped clean. A glaze also adds another layer of colour to the tile, allowing wall tiles to be more expressive and eye-catching. This opens up a whole extra range of style options that aren’t easy to find with floor tiles.

Another important consideration when it comes to wall tiles is the size and weight of the tile. Different types of walls have different weight limits, so it’s vital to check that the surface you’ll be tiling onto can take the weight of the tiles you’d like to use.

A regular plastered wall typically has a weight limit of around 20 kg/m2, whereas a plasterboard wall without a layer of plaster skip can take up to 32 kg/m2. If you’re planning to use large wall tiles, which can be significantly heavier than smaller tiles, you may need to use tiling backer boards to create a surface to tile onto, which can take a load of up to 200 kg/m2.

Wall Tile Styles & Colours

Wall tiles also come in a range of different styles and materials. Most wall tiles are made from porcelain, but as they do not need to be able to withstand the same amount of weight as floor tiles, they can also be made from ceramic.

There is an incredible range of choices when it comes to wall tile styles, with designers continuously pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. This means that whether you’re looking for the latest trends, or want something classic and timeless, it won’t be hard to find the perfect choice of tiles for your walls.

Marble effect wall tiles offer an on-trend look that’s high on luxury as well as high on performance. From large marble tiles to small accent tiles in complementary or contrasting colour options, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to this style.

Metallic effect wall tiles add a premium touch to any room, and work particularly well in bathrooms and kitchens where they complement metallic fixtures such as taps, appliances and towel rails. From a subtle sheen, to aged metal and rust effect tiles for an industrial look, it’s possible to create some truly stunning spaces with metallic tiling.

Mosaics have long been a popular choice of tiling, and in fact are one of the oldest types of tile which makes them timeless in style. There are plenty of options to choose from including linear or grid shaped mosaic in glass, beautiful brick style mosaics in stone or ceramic, and mixed material mosaic tiles that catch the eye and add a premium touch to showers, kitchen splashbacks or anywhere else you want to use them.

Stone is a classic choice when it comes to tiles, but that’s not to say it doesn’t look exceptional in contemporary interiors as well. Stone effect tiles are available in a range of beautiful natural colours and textures, and help to add a calming and high quality feeling wherever they are used. Pair with stone floor tiles for a high impact look, or combine with plain tiles in a bathroom for a designer touch.

One of the best things about wall tiles is the sheer amount of choice on offer. While plain tiles look great, if you’re looking for more impact or want to make a statement then patterned wall tiles are the perfect choice. They look stunning when used for a tiled feature wall in a bathroom or kitchen, and bring an extra pop of personality to any home.

A popular style of wall tile at the moment is the subway brick. This style of tile is reflective of the tiles used on the London Underground, consisting of small horizontal rectangles that interlock in a visually pleasing manner. A brick style layout works well with a range of smaller rectangle wall tiles and looks great everywhere from kitchen splashback to a bathroom tile in the shower.

In terms of colour, you’ll be spoilt for choice with wall tiles. White wall tiles are a timeless choice and always popular, along with neutrals such as cream and grey wall tiles. There are also some fantastic blue tiles for walls, as well as on-tend options like green wall tiles.

Due to there being less restrictions around slip resistance and wear resistance, designers and manufacturers have a little more freedom with wall tiles. This means there are an array of beautiful artisan finishes available including different coloured glazes, as well as a huge choice of textures that enable you to achieve a stunning finish in your home.

Wall Tile Size & Shape

In terms of size, small format wall tiles remain popular as they are easy to work with and can be used to create beautiful finishes, whether used as a feature in a room or as the primary choice of tile. Smaller tiles also mean there won’t likely be issues with the weight capacity of the wall, which means there is greater choice available. Larger will tiles however are becoming more popular, and help to provide a high end finish. With less grout lines they offer a cleaner, more spacious finish and look spectacular when paired with coordinating floor tiles and trim.

Rectangle and square wall tiles are the most popular choices of shape, but there are also some fantastic unconventional shaped wall tiles that can be used to great effect for a gorgeous designer look.

Browse All Wall Tiles

Accentuate & Define The Space

The differences between wall and floor tiles can be overwhelming, but understanding the key aspects of each can help you make the right choice when it comes to selecting tiles for your project.

Be it glossy, simple ceramics in single colours or patterned, textured and funky shaped; whichever you decide, we've got a range of tiles in varying colours, shapes, materials and sizes to bring your vision to life.

For expert advice on choosing the most suitable tiles, adhesive, grout and other accessories for your next tiling project, get in touch with our team who will be happy to talk through the options and help you find the best product for your specific requirements.

Contact The Tile Experience