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PDB Debrief: Ceramic Tile Shapes & Styles

April 2022

One look at any catalog or trip to a home improvement store will show you all the different sizes, types, and styles of ceramic tile. An infinite number of ways to decorate such tile just adds to the task of finding the right tile for the client and then performing a quality installation based on the manufacturer’s instruction. And we haven’t even started talking about the adhesive and grout options, or even placement of the tiles (floor, wall, exterior or interior, or even on a ceiling). There is a wide world of ceramic tile, and this debrief will only touch on a small part of it.

Focusing on just size and shape takes some thought. Depending on the tile (solid, patterned, decorative), the way it is laid out will affect the final aesthetic. Finding a pleasing pattern that fits with the client’s needs to maintain a certain brand standard is not always easy. Outside of perfectly square tiles of the same size, any tile can be used to create a variety of patterns. The illustration shows 12 different ways to lay a fairly simple style—subway tile. Once we start mixing in a variety of colors, and multiple styles in a space, it can become overwhelming. Accent areas can become complicated when there is a transition from one type of tile to another. However, in other cases, having a border can help transition a complicated pattern to a straight line needed against a transition or anywhere a cleaner line is needed, especially with tiles that lack a square edge.

As discussed in previous debriefs, when laying certain patterns, lippage must also be considered, and offsetting the tile appropriately will help manage lippage, especially in large tiles. Grout line size, lighting, and subfloor preparation can also affect noticeable lippage. Large format tile will make it even more difficult to overcome the challenges of lippage and warping. Ceramic tile is a broad topic, and this debrief is only the tip of the iceberg—and it is what is underwater that will sink the ship. Take care to know the manufacturer’s specifications when dealing with ceramic tile.

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