Factors to consider when buying tiles

There is great excitement when embarking on a home renovation project, but it can also be a bit overwhelming when it comes to selecting the right flooring and walling. The choices seem endless and all the tiles look the same, right?  Wrong! Although many colours, finishes and patterns may appear similar, all tiles are not created equal.

Various factors need to be considered. Obviously price, colour, pattern and finish are very important from a decorative perspective as the floor sets the tone of the room and can help to create the look you are after. But, on the practical side of the spectrum, there is more to choosing a tile than may initially meet the eye.

One of the first things to consider when deciding what tiles to purchase is the area that is being tiled. This will help you to decide what kind of tile will work best. Is the area a high traffic area?  Is slip resistance a concern? Is the project indoors or outdoors? Is the area large or relatively small?  Knowing the answers to these questions will ensure you choose the correct tiles for your project. Let’s explore these questions in more detail.

1. Is the area a high-traffic area?

Tiles have a wear resistance or PEI (porcelain enamel institute) rating which is an international standard that measures the degree to which a tile’s surface will withstand wear. There are 5 ratings:





Domestic footwear, bathrooms and bedrooms

Low traffic domestic areas where soft or elastic footwear, free of abrasive materials is worn. Not suitable for areas directly adjoining outside areas where grit could be tracked in.


Domestic light traffic, interior

Domestic areas where normal footwear is worn, and where a small amount of abrasive material could be brought in from outside.


Domestic interior and exterior, light commercial

Entire domestic area including entrance halls, corridors, bathrooms, kitchens and patios. Also light commercial areas such as offices subject to low traffic.


Commercial and heavy traffic

All areas exposed to frequent traffic. All public buildings, eg shops, hospitals, garages, restaurants and industrial kitchens.



Some manufacturers now claim PEI5, an industrial grading for sports stadiums, factories, workshops etc.

As you can see in the table above, if you are tiling a bathroom, a tile with a PEI rating of 1 or 2 will suffice. But if you are tiling a kitchen, entrance hall, living area or passage, you will need to select a tile with a PEI rating of 3 or 4. If there is no information available about the wear resistance of the tile at the point of sale, be sure to ask the salesperson, or even better, contact the manufacturer directly.

2. Is slip resistance a concern?

Tiles have a multitude of finishes which make them either suitable for certain areas or not. If you are tiling an area where the tiles are likely to get wet, like in the bathroom, kitchen or patio, then it is best to select a slip resistant tile, one with a textured, matte finish.  A smooth, high gloss tile, although nice to look at, is just not practical for these applications. I am sure you will agree that it is best to avoid the potential safety hazards that can be caused by fitting the incorrect tile.

3. Is the area indoors or outdoors?

Ceramic tiles should not be used in any outdoor areas subject to frost, as the tile will crack. Porcelain tiles which have a lower porosity are suitable for all outdoor areas. If using porcelain tiles outdoors, it should be noted that the tile should not be polished, to ensure slip resistance when wet. Terracotta, slate and other natural stone tiles are also good to use in outdoor areas but require a lot of maintenance and should be installed by a professional.

4. Is the area large or small?

Tiles come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. If the room you are tiling is very small, then it may not look good with large dark 500x500 tiles as this will just make the room appear even smaller. However, large tiles would work very well in a wide, open space. When choosing colour you need to consider fixtures and fittings and the wall colour of the room. Ask for tile samples so that you can take them back home to see if they add to or detract from the overall look. Listellos, mosaics and other decorative tiles can also add a personalised touch to your room, so be sure to ask for samples of these. It is a good idea to shop around to see what sizes, shapes, colours and patterns are available to be sure you are making the right choice.

Johnson glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are manufactured to the highest standards ensuring excellent wear resistance and porosity ratings.  Our tiles also come in a wide variety of colours, patterns and finishes – take a look at the Our Products page for more information. We have included all the technical specifications of our tiles to make choosing the correct tile so much easier.

Once you have considered all the above factors and have decided on the perfect tile, the next very important step is the installation. Always follow the manufacturer’s advice (usually found on the packaging of the tile), and be sure to make use of SABS approved adhesives, sealants and grouts. We recommend using TAL for all your fixing requirements - visit www.tal.co.za to find out more.

Are you a DIY enthusiast? Then why not take a look at our floor and wall tile laying instructions for helpful hints and tips.

Need ideas? Check out our Inspiration Gallery.


Johnson Tiles has a factory shop which is open to the public. In this shop, we stock a limited variety of discontinued and mixed 1st grade tiles and 2nd grade tiles at bargain prices!

Check out our available stock >>>

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