Tiles have been used for decorative and functional purposes for literally thousands of years. They are square or rectangular manmade products that serve many purposes from the purely ornamental��beautiful mosaics and borders��to the practical like covering floors. Clay was one of the first materials used for manufacturing floor tiles. Today tile is formed from clay, ceramic, porcelain, and reformed ceramic slurry. These materials are hand cast, molded, or machine pressed into tiles. Stone, hand quarried and cut, is another popular material for tiles. Wood veneer, laminate, and resilient (linoleum and vinyl) are other popular modern tile flooring materials. With the some exceptions, floor tiles should be laid over an underlayment of plywood to provide flexibility. This makes the floor more comfortable to walk on and enhances durability. Hard tiles like ceramic are laid on an adhesive. They are set in evenly spaced grids and the space between the tiles is filled with grout. It is important to follow the installation directions and recommendations provided by the tile manufacturer when installing any tile flooring. Common sizes for floor tiles include 4" x 4" (known as builder basic), 6" sq., 12" sq., and 12" x 18". Laminates and veneers often come in planks of 4" x 18". Small mosaic tiles used as decorative elements and tile spacers are manufactured in 3/4" sq., or even smaller 3/8" sq. mini tile sizes.
Tile flooring comes in a variety of surface finishes, colors, and textures. Hard tiles like ceramic often feature a glazed finish that provides a nice luster and helps protect the tiles from staining. Hand painted motifs are also very common and popular for hard tiles and a wavy, mottled, or pebbled surface may be affected to give the tiles added dimension. Stone tiles may be left natural as is popular with slate or have a highly polished finish like that achieved with marble and granite. There are two methods used to make resilient floor coverings: inlay and rotovinyl. For inlaid layers of vinyl or polyurethane are fused together. Colors and patterns go all the way through the material. For rotovinyl, colors and patterns are printed on a sheet of clear vinyl or polyurethane. Resilient tile provides an economical alternative to hard tiles, stones, veneers, or laminates. Tile flooring can be very cold to step onto. Electric floor heating systems install easily beneath ceramic and stone tile flooring. They provide luxurious comfort and help keep tile-floored rooms warm.