When it comes to giving your kitchen a clean and classic look that's also extremely durable, you can't beat tile floors. There are nearly endless options to fit any design aesthetic and most budgets. Even better, given tile's universal appeal, it's a smart investment that can actually boost your home's resale value. Some of the more popular tile materials include ceramic, quarry, terra cotta, and marble, and they come in a great variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns.
Design is rarely a limiting factor with tile, but there are downsides to the flooring. It is cold underfoot, provides a hard walking surface, and offers no sound insulation. Glasses or dishes dropped on a tile floor are unlikely to survive and echo can be a problem in a spacious kitchen unless area rugs are used. On the upside, tile is perfect for installation over a radiant floor heating system, which can be a smart investment if budget allows. Also, glossy finishes can be slick, a concern in kitchens where wet floors can lead to slip-and-fall accidents. Ask your dealer about newer products designed with anti-slip surfaces or talk to your installer about applying non-slip additives on top of your floor.
On the upside, most tile is stain-resistant (porous marble, however, is easily stained if spills aren't quickly wiped up). Sealed tile and grout are also water-resistant, making it a great choice for the kitchen. Likewise, tile is scratch resistant, perfect for homes with pets. And as long as non-toxic grout and sealants are used, tile floors are great for allergy sufferers.
Tile can be tricky to install for even seasoned DIYers as the process requires a special saw for cutting pieces to fit around cabinets or corners. It can also be difficult to give grout a consistent and professional look. Different types of tile have different installation requirements so, if you plan to install your floor yourself, it's important to talk to your dealer and educate yourself on the material you've chosen.
More recently, snap-together tiles have hit the market. These interlocking pieces are designed to help handy homeowners create a professional-looking floor. Not all materials are available in this construction, but there are options that consist of real ceramic bonded to the interlocking base. Although some cutting is still required around fixtures, the no-glue installation, pre-cut edging pieces, and variety of tile sizes reduce much of the installation hassle.
Tile is generally easy to maintain, requiring routine sweeping and damp mopping as needed. Some types of tile, including marble, need regular sealing to protect them from stains. Grout can be a bit more difficult to keep clean and is likely to discolor over time. Although tile is very durable, it can be cracked or chipped if something heavy is dropped on it. This damage is difficult to repair and almost always requires a professional.