All About Tiles

Use these ratings as a guide for choosing the best tiles for home use.

all about tilesWhen buying tiles, it's important to consider your design goals and the tile's specific use. On each box, you can find different ratings, including the tile's grade, the level at which it absorbs water and its wear rating, among other categories. Use these ratings as a guide for choosing the best tiles for home use: 


Every tile has a grade, ranging from one to three, with one being the best quality. If you are looking for a floor tile, make sure that you are only considering grade one or grade two tiles. These two grades are intended for floors. Grade two is usually less expensive than grade one but offers many of the same benefits. Tiles that are grade three are not strong enough to be floor tiles and are used solely for walls. While floor tile can be substituted for wall tile, the opposite is not true.  

Level of Water Absorption 

One of the benefits of tiles is their water resistance. A tile's water absorption rate signals whether it's suitable for a bathroom, outdoors or other areas with moisture. Nonvitreous, semivitreous, vitreous and impervious are the four categories within this rating. Each category absorbs a different amount of its weight in water, with nonvitreous tile absorbing over 7%, followed by semivitreous (3-7%), vitreous (0.5-3%) and impervious (under 0.5%). The first two categories are not intended for bathroom use or outdoors, and are instead best for indoor, dry areas. Vitreous tile can be used in areas with moisture, while impervious tile is suitable for areas with considerable amounts of moisture. Porcelain tile falls into this last category. Tile classified as vitreous must be referred to as ceramic tile. 

Wear Rating

Durability is another one of the benefits of tiles. The tile's PEI wear rating (Porcelain Enamel Institute) is a measurement of strength and durability, and therefore its suitability for different floor applications. The PEI scale has ratings from one to five, with five being the strongest and most capable of resisting abrasion. If you are looking for tiles for home use, a rating of PEI 3 is suitable for nearly all residential applications. One of the main benefits of tiles with PEI ratings of 4 or 5 is their suitability for commercial applications, including areas with heavy traffic.