Thin Tiles for Floors and Walls: Coverings 2014 Tile Trends

Jun 19th 2014

Tile trends from Coverings 2014 continue with thin tiles for floors and walls. Everyone likes to be thinner, so why not make our walls and floors skinny, too!

This is the fourth article in the series about tile trends from Coverings 2014 which took place April 29 through May 2, 2014 in the Las Vegas Convention Center. I started with Patchwork Tile, then Hexagon Tile Trends, 9 Glass Mosaic Tile Trends from Coverings 2014 and now we are going to explore thin tile for floors and walls.

Trending for Floors and Walls - Thinner Tiles

I know what you are thinking; if the tile is thin, is it cheap or brittle. Well that is not the case.

You'll find plenty of articles written about this latest trend in tile production. For example, the April 2014 issue of Floor Trends features an article by Matthew Spieler titled Thinner Tiles Create More Options Without Sacrificing Performance which discusses thin tile in big sizes (see photo above)!

Thin tile has been around for a few years now and is just starting to trend in the United States. What's particularly interesting about thin tile is that it can be installed over existing floor and wall tiles. As Floor Trends states,

"When it specifically comes to thin tile, Kristin Coleman, marketing rep for Ceramics of Italy, noted, “It is one of the most versatile products on the market. It has the same advantages as regular porcelain—durable, hygienic, easy to clean, no VOCs—but its slender profile, as thin as 3mm (Editor’s note: that translates into less than .12 inches, slightly under 1/8 of an inch), creates a lightweight and flexible surfacing solution for any flooring project.”"

The benefit in commercial tile installations is that thin tile weighs less than regular tile which means less weight in and on a building. The large format thin tiles can be used in elevators, main floors and bathrooms to tile over large areas. What a plus for the building industry! Not only do these thinner tiles create less weight on the structures, but installers will be shocked at the ease of handling these thinner and lighter tiles. The durability remains the same and the products are tested with industry standards to meet code requirements.

On the residential side, thin tiles are now being provided in sizes and formats that will work for homes as well. You'll find the wood plank look in thin tile (see image below) as well as some of the more popular residential sizes such as 20x40 and 24x24.

What's interesting is that once the tiles are laid on the floor or wall you will not know how thick or thin they are. The installer, though, will remember how heavy or light they are to install.

The thin tile plank featured below is a 9.6" x 40" and comes in different sizes and formats.

Meeting Thin Tiles for Floors and Walls During a 2013 Visit to Spain

In September 2013, I was invited to visit the Grespania Ceramic factory in Spain prior to attending the Cersaie ceramic show in Italy.

During the visit, we viewed the new thin porcelain tiles presented in large panels. As you can see in the image at the top of the article, these thin tiles are very large! Imagine looking up at these large panels and seeing an entire wall or floor with minimal grouting. Thin tiles are strong, too; some are even supported with a mesh backing for added strength.

The image above shows you how large thin tile panels are shipped on a large pallet in a crate for protection.

I was surprised at how light the small format thin tiles were: I was able to pick up a box of 32x32 thin tiles with no problem.

The best part of the thin tile demonstration I observed was the ability to take a straight edge and a utility knife, score the thin tile piece and then snap it with both hands to make a cut. The material was surprisingly easy to handle although it would take some mastery to make intricate cuts.

To wrap thin tile around a column, you would simply score the piece; the mesh backing will hold it in place and you then wrap the piece around the column.

As you can see in the picture below, the worker has scored one 3" piece; it is folded over the table waiting on the next cut.

Looking on is the factory owner, Luis Hernandez, who knows the company has made a great decision to produce thin porcelain tiles!

These large panels and smaller format thin tiles really caught my eye. We hear all the time how heavy larger format tiles are and this now takes that element out of the equation. Not to mention that being able to install over existing floors and walls is a plus. My house is currently on two layers of tile and thin tile would be my only option to tile it again. Just might have to explore this....

The Thin Tile Trend at Coverings 2013 and even in 2011

To put the thin tile trend into perspective, you'll want to read this account from Coverings 2013 about thin porcelain tiles, starting at thicknesses of about 2.5 mm for walls and up to about 6 mm thick for floors.

"The trend to thin porcelain tiles, starting at thicknesses of about 2.5 mm for walls up to about 6 mm thick for floors, will be taken to new levels at the show. Because they can be installed over existing floor or wall coverings, they save time and money, particularly on renovation projects."

And in November 2011, The Tile Letter wrote about The Skinny on Thin Tiles.

"The tiles are strong and lightweight, and reduce material consumption which benefits the environment. They can also be easily cut with a wet saw, and in some cases (easier with non-reinforced slabs) with a glass cutter."

The article explains that installation standards are in development.

How to Install Thin Tiles for Floors and Walls

In fact, it's very important to carefully review installation guidelines for thin tile, do your research and prepare the surface to be tiled. MAPEI has created a thin tile installation reference guide and Custom Building Products has developed a Technical Bulletin for the installation of thin tile,

For tiles up to 60cmx60cm, you can refer to Sodamco-Weber's Tiling with thin tiles (3 to 5mm thickness) guidelines.

Seeing Thin Tiles for Floors and Walls in Action on Houzz!

Our friends at KerTiles have a beautiful thin tile layout on Houzz and we wanted to share this with you. Be sure to check out their photo gallery of installations.

That's the skinny on thin tile for floors and walls! What do you think? How might you add thin tile in your home?

Next in tile trends from Coverings 2014: wood plank tiles and then patio tiles. Just in time for summer.