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Unread 09-17-2015, 05:13 PM   #1
Mikeltee
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What Makes Different Tile So Much More Expensive

Hi guys. First time poster... few week reader here. I'm about to tile my entire 1500sq basement. My two dobermans live down there and the carpet holds their smell making it unbearable even for a man cave. I want to spend more time down there with my toddlers so I figured tile would be the most sanitary flooring that can take a beating. I've put together a tool list and as soon as I can get my hands on the new Lackmond Beast, the fun shall begin. This is my first time doing tile work, but I am quite handy and have done a lot of research on tile. The good thing about tile is that it's not that expensive and if I mess up, it's not the end of the world.

I'm trying to pick the tile. I have several rooms down there so I am going to go with a few different styles. I'm going to start off with a 300sq section with just a plain Jane placement. If I get it right, I'll try some fancy subway placement and/or diamonds as I continue. I have decided to go with the least maintenance and get a dark porcelian with dark grout. While searching for tile, I notice that some is $1/sq and some is $8/sq. I don't feel any difference in it, nor do I really see a difference. The big box stores obviously have the best prices. "The Tile Shop" has quite a variety too but their cheapest is around $3/sq. Why such a dramatic price shift between porcelian tile? Am I ok to go with the cheap stuff? Does the specialty tile stores have better product than the big box stores?
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Unread 09-17-2015, 05:53 PM   #2
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Tile pricing can be confusing. In general, the differences in tile fall into a few categories:

* Country of origin
* Volume sold
* Compliance to A137.1 and 'Certified Porcelain'
* Shortcuts taken with manufacturing and decorating

As a very, very general statement, any porcelain tile with a visible abrasion rating of 3 or higher and a DCOF (Dynamic coefficient of frictino) of 0.42 or higher should be fine for your residential setting. You'll pay more for tile where the color goes all the way through, highly decorated tile, and some brand name tiles. Make sure any tile you buy says that it meets A137.1 at a minimum. "Certified Porcelain" and "Green Squared" certifications are a plus. The less you pay for the tile, the more you should buy that may be culled out for warpage, chips, etc. They can often be used for cuts, but sometimes you'll come across one that is simply too warped to be used or has too much size variation to look good.

Although you didn't ask, for your application (below grade), you should consider mortar and grout that aren't prone to efflorescence. At a minimum, a grout like our Ultracolor Plus will help reduce the likelihood of a whitish buildup on the grout joints called efflorescence while still standing up to the dogs and kids.
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Unread 09-17-2015, 05:56 PM   #3
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RUmor has it that sometimes in the big box stores, they accept pretty much anything off of the production line, whereas, the tile stores merchandise tends to be inspected prior to packaging. Obviously, something grossly defective wouldn't make it into a box, but something small might. It is a tribute to the manufacturing process that the vast majority of the stuff coming off of the production line is essentially perfect, so you get the stuff at a good price from the big box store.

One of the things that costs more is consistency in sizing and thickness, or warp and bowing of the tile. A tile that was rectified, will have a higher consistency from tile to tile and that costs money to verify, and a bowed or warped tile can be a major pain. Color consistency is usually pretty good, but regardless, you want to try to get all of the tile you need from the same lot, especially if it is glazed.

Anyways, that's my take...others may have more thoughts to add.
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Unread 09-18-2015, 03:59 AM   #4
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I know where your coming from with the "toddlers". At least yours are in the basement - mine are in the bedroom. Carpeting and dogs don't mix. Tile adds "elegance" to the room, IMO, but there are other alternatives like Epoxy Coatings that may be less expensive for a play area.
Enjoy.
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Unread 09-18-2015, 08:59 PM   #5
Mikeltee
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Thanks for your replies guys. I'm sure I'll have a lot of basic questions and I appreciate you guys taking the time to answer them.

Dan- Thanks for explaining the specs I need for a good product. I noted it and will shop accordingly. it appears Lowes carries your products and that is what I will go with. I didn't even think about the impact of being below ground so I am glad you explained the situation.

Jim- Thanks for explaining that I will get a better product avoiding the big box stores. Money really isn't an issue so I will go with The Tile Shop to receive a better product.

Mike- I see you have 2 dobes as well. I've owned 2 dobes since I was born and always will. One of mine has an issue with one of his ears just like yours. I had a floppy eared dobe once. She was a great dog, but I'll always crop even if I know they won't stand properly. In addition to my 2 dobes, I have 4 kids... 2 of them toddlers which is the reason for the sanitary surfaces. I want to go with tile because removing tile is a lot easier than removing glue... at least for me anyways. I've read there are harsh chemicals now that can make the job easy. We have vinyl floors on the main level and they destruct very easily. Hopefully this basement goes smoothly and I'll surely replace the vinyl with tile in the future.

Edit: sorry Mike I thought you were recommending vinyl and I reread you mention epoxy. I'll have to look into that. I have 250sq that I want to use as a gym and I was going to leave it bare. The epoxy would be a much better idea.
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Unread 09-18-2015, 09:56 PM   #6
jadnashua
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Epoxy grout is good stuff. Some of the newest single-part, premixed grouts are pretty bulletproof as well and are easier to install and clean up. THe biggest advantage is that you can use what you need or want to, then close the bucket back up since it has a fair shelf-life even after it is opened up. They aren't as hard as cement, but may be about the same as some epoxy grouts. Think acrylic comb, as an example of how hard they get once cured. The aggregate in them can be harder than cement, depending on whose you choose.
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Unread 09-18-2015, 11:53 PM   #7
Mikeltee
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Pretty much the whole reason I am tiling the basement is because I don't want it to smell like dogs down there. Now I am reading about urine absorbing into the grout and potentially having the same problem as I am now. The epoxy grout would solve this problem correct? I read that it's really not for DIYers. Is this true? If I go the epoxy grout way, should I use the pastry bag method so that cleanup is a lot easier?
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Unread 09-19-2015, 12:09 AM   #8
Steve in Denver
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I'm a DIYer. Depending on how you count, I've done 3 or 5 tile installations, and every one has been done with epoxy grout (Laticrete spectralock pro). With nothing else to compare it to, I can't really say how much more difficult it is, but I haven't found it to be too bad. With more practice I'd probably get better results, particularly in the 1/16" grout joints, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

You do have less working time and less of a margin of error with cleanup, as I understand it, but it's not that big of a deal if you go in prepared. The urethane grouts probably are a lot easier, as Jim mentions, particularly because you don't have to worry about mixing up small batches and getting it all in place in a fixed time window.

Given your situation, I don't believe I would even consider cementitous grout, given that it is porous / absorbent. I think the epoxy grout is pretty well impermeable, but maybe that's just marketing.

I think you are on the right track...I'd think porcelain tile with epoxy grout (or the similar one-part products) would be a pretty good approach. Do consider floor slope and whether or not you might want a drain..urine getting trapped behind a baseboard seems undesirable.
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Unread 09-19-2015, 12:23 AM   #9
Mikeltee
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I just watched a few videos with pros working with the epoxy and it seems to be easy, but then again, they are pros. I am in no hurry to do this so I can work a small section at a time and mixing small batches at a time.

Thanks Steve. How big of tiles are you laying with the 1/16" grout line? I plan to do 12x12s in this first section of the basement, and I plan on leveling the concrete if I have to. Im waiting on my 6' level to arrive from the brown truck tomorrow to find out. I have been contemplating how wide a grout line to use, and I was going to wait to measure my tiles and see the variance before I decide. I would like to go with 1/16 because I want to use the RLS 3D leveling system.

Maybe I should change the name of this thread to Mikes 1st Time Basement Set. I really appreciate all your guys help. It means a lot to me, and hopefully some day I'll be able to contribute back to the community.
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