Originally Posted by socrates
I'm new to tile. I have owned houses with tile in them but never picked my own tile... From what I've gathered online the differences between porcelain ceramic travertine etc is really just the looks and the finishes... My next question is are there serious differences between the ones I buy at home depot and lowes vs's a tile store? I've heard at home depot the only real difference is that home depot tiles sometimes are seconds so they vary in size but I can pick some that are exactly the same and return the ones that are abnormal sizes... Is there any other differences in the tile? I'm more worried abut durability and how long it'll last....
(From an amateur who has read a lot, not a pro. I hope others will correct me if I am wrong, or add to this.)
Tiles are rated primarily via their grade and their PEI rating. Grade 1 is the highest grade. PEI is the Porcelain and Enamel Institute and it rates durability. PEI 3 is good for floors in residential houses and PEI 4 is for commercial areas. Below 3 is for walls.
There are other characteristics such as water absorption (if it absorbs a certain amount it will crack if it freezes, so this really just determines whether it is suitable for outdoor areas).
You'll see that even the cheapest tiles from Home Depot and Lowes are Grade 1 and PEI 3, which is fine for your house. Porcelain tile can vary a lot but the primary difference over ceramic is that porcelain absorbs very little water and can usually be used outdoors, and they tend to be tougher. Some porcelain tiles also have consistent color through the tile, so if it chips, the same color shows.
To get consistent sizes and colors, you want to match the dye lot. There are variations between dye lots, but inside a dye lot they are pretty darn consistent. The dye lots are marked on the boxes, and if you order a large quantity they will get them all from the same dye lot.