Q: Why is there such a wide range in tile prices?
A: For most of us, shopping for new ceramic or porcelain tile is a once in a decade experience, so even for the savviest of shoppers, the wide range can be confusing. The short answer is, there are marked differences between branded and generic tiles. Continue reading to find out what these differences are.
The truth is that many factors affect the price of tile products, including where you buy it. If you’re wondering why tiles can range in cost from $1 to $100 per square foot, there are four main variables that affect the price: material costs, production processes, brands and customer service.
While all ceramic tiles are essentially made of the same ingredients, the quality and color of those ingredients can make a dramatic difference in the price. For example, to make a tile with a pure white body requires white clay, which is much harder to find than the red or beige clays found in most tiles. To achieve bright blue and red glazes requires minerals that are much more expensive than cream, brown or even green colors.
Modern digital printing techniques allow for tile that looks like other materials such as wood or natural stone. Higher quality tile will use as many as 36 different patterns to replicate the look of wood or natural stone so that you will not get a repeating pattern that ruins the realism of the tile. Lesser quality tiles will use far fewer patterns and will not come close to the realism that more patterns provide.
The simplest form of ceramic tile consists of one body color and no glaze, and requires a single firing. But there is a wide variety of production options, so prices for ceramic tiles can vary greatly.
Applying glaze or an additional surface color to the body, cutting down the original pressed size into modular sizes, polishing the surface or straightening the edges to accommodate tighter grout joints are all additional processes that add value to the finished product, but also increase the price. There are a host of tile attributes that affect its price and are very important to know before installing your tile. These important attributes are things like durability, texture and color.
Branded vs. Generic Tile
Tile has both branded (often referred to as first quality) and generic versions. Branded-tile manufacturers create beautiful brochures and catalogs that show room scenes and full installations in a variety of formats. This may not seem important but it’s really the only effective way to visualize how tile may look in your room.
More importantly, they also test the materials for qualities such as slip resistance, breaking strength, suitability for exterior or submerged environments, and stain resistance. Generic tiles do not go through that kind of testing and are not suitable for many types of installations such as wet areas, outdoors or high traffic areas such as your kitchen or entryway. The real problem with generic tile is you won’t often find these things out until after it’s installed.
Another cost determinant is the customer service you receive both before and after your purchase. You may find a very good deal on tile at a big box store, for example, but there will likely be no design support, limited or no technical knowledge or installation recommendations.
More importantly, should anything go wrong with the project for any reason, you may not receive the necessary support to back up your claim.
At full-service showrooms like Tiles Unlimited, the tile may carry a higher price tag, but the price will include a showroom designer to help you make your selections, and a knowledgeable staff who can handle a claim if there are concerns with tile quality and/or installation.
Furthermore, a tile installation is more than just the tile you select. Selecting the appropriate thin-set and grout is as important as the tile, as there is a big difference between different thin-sets and grouts and the types of tiles they are meant to be used on. See an earlier story on how grout affects your tile installation by clicking here.