Everything You Want to Know About Tile: Tips from a Tile Expert

19 min read

Everything You Want to Know About Tile: Tips from a Tile Expert - Architessa

Julie Taury has spent two decades building a vast knowledge of the tile industry. She has held many positions, including showroom manager, consumer education expert and product designer. She is the chief innovation officer at Architessaa woman-owned tile and stone company that has been around for more than 30 years. Taury is working remotely from Auckland, NZ, where she has white 4-by-12 inch subway tile installed from floor to ceiling on a wall in her kitchen. In her previous house, in Atlanta, she had a bathroom with Jerusalem Gold marble and a backsplash of gold and bronze matte chevron textured mosaic. She can answer all of your tile questions, including how to deal with dye lots, how to choose grout color, the pros and cons of unglazed tiles and how to work with glass tile.

You can read this Q&A "Everything you want to know about tile: tips from a tile expert" on The Washington Post's website here, or scroll down to see the content.

Every Thursday at 11 a.m. Eastern time, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests — whether it’s Martha Stewart, Marie KondoJasmine Roth of HGTV, Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage or TikTok’s Folding Lady, Sophie Liard — answer your decorating, decluttering, design, entertaining and home-keeping questions. For more than 20 years, our Q&A has hosted conversations about how to make your home comfortable, stylish, organized and fun. 


Julie: Hello I'm Julie from Architessa, a leading tile brand. I'm excited to chat with you about all things tile and hope you can learn to love it as much as I do!


Jura: Good morning Julie. Gosh hard to imagine you are in New Zealand doing this. What time is it there? Thanks for being here. I have an opening question for you: Is floor tile a good choice for every room of the house? I wonder if it's good for a baby's room or a bedroom? And if you do use tile and an area rug, how should you anchor the rug from slipping?


Julie: Hi Jura. Thanks for inviting me to share my knowledge. It’s early enough over here for a few flat whites, to say the least! Ceramic floor tile is an excellent choice for every room of the house - especially the nursery. The benefits of *ceramic tile could be a whole separate interview, but here are just a few.

  • Eco-friendly maintenance: No harsh chemicals are necessary for cleaning.
  • Bacteria-resistant: Ceramic tile is inhospitable to the growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Allergen-free: The high firing temperature of ceramic tile — generally more than 2000°F — burns off all organic compounds. Plus, ceramic’s nonporous surface doesn’t allow allergens in the environment, such as dust, dirt, and pollen, to penetrate.
  • Ceramic tile has NO formaldehyde, PVC, Plastic, or VOCs.
  • Fire-resistant and nontoxic: Ceramic tile does not melt, burn, or emit any toxic fumes when exposed to fire.
  • Slip-resistant.

Ceramic tile is a fantastic whole-house option because it has the lowest environmental impact of popular flooring types without sacrificing style or functionality. But, let’s face it - fashion and functionality are at the top of any nursery project checklist, right?!

Designing with rugs is a favorite topic of mine. The rug market has surely changed over the past 5 years, with washable options and more suitable outdoor products than ever before. I always utilize a rug pad no matter what surface the rug is lying on for slip resistance and longevity. Stone & Tile has specific rug pads, often made with felt fibers, recommended for their use. The most important feature to look for in a rug pad is that it’s anti-slip, and keep in mind that thin and inexpensive pads may be difficult to work with and not as effective.

*The term “ceramic” refers to both porcelain and ceramic tile, as porcelain is a type of ceramic.  Here is one of my favorite tiles, Sherwood, a wood tile chevron shape, which I would argue is too beautiful to cover up with a rug!


Q: How do I clean my tile floor which appears to have adhesive smears on it from installation?


Julie: Different types of tile matter when it comes to troubleshooting. Thin-set on tile that has dried is a big problem and shouldn't happen very often as it is common practice it be wiped off during installation. If you are dealing with porcelain tile there are cleaners on the market designed for removing grout haze referred to as grout release products. Stonetech by Laticrete makes a product called "Epoxy Grout Haze & Coating Stripper" that can be used on certain materials. The best resource I can point you to for other materials is this Care & Maintenance page that has tips on troubleshooting for different materials. No matter which grout release product you choose, always test it first in a less visible area.


Q: I'm having trouble finding good information about tile online. What is the best place to get info?


Julie: The internet is a scary place for tile information. I have written extensively about the amount of misinformation that is out there on this topic and visited many libraries in my lifetime, to dive into every tile book imaginable and it's no easy feat to sift through all the information out there. The simple answer here is your local tile store with a great reputation is the best place to start. I do not recommend the internet and would avoid it at all costs as I have even seen high profile bloggers spread wrong information on tile which can turn into disappointment when you discover the correct information. Locally owned stores often have designers or salespeople with decades of tile experience & a passion for tile as a material. These folks have been trained formally, and in practice and taking advantage of this knowledge is highly recommended. The online resources I previously mentioned are this blog that I recently wrote about the Ceramic Family Tree, and Tile 101, which is found in our Tile Learning Center and is suitable for anybody getting started on their tile journey.


Q: What tile designs are trending this year?


Julie: Reported trends this year are not too different from the previous year. We have transitioned out of the trends seen during the pandemic and into a new era, where customers are thinking more outside the box, and choosing more bold products that they love and are drawn to, as opposed to choosing the tile deemed “safe & neutral.” Below is a quick list of just a few trends and here is a tile trends Pinterest board to check out as well


Bold Colors - Bold and saturated colors have flooded the interior design market. The 2023 Pantone color of the year is Vivid Magenta, and we have seen an uptick on inquiries of this particular color. 

Geometric Shapes - This started with the hexagon trend many years ago and has evolved into a geometric gamut of both mosaics and printed patterns on field tiles. We have tiles with 3D cubes, triangles, abstract patterns, and more in mosaics and various field tile sizes and even 24”x48”. 

Mosaics - Mosaic patterns are not new by any means, but the options here are endless and the market has shifted to now provide more options than ever in off-the-shelf mosaic patterns in ceramic, porcelain, and even recycled glass - like this collection

Black & White Checkerboard - This is a classic trend that weaves in and out of history, but is more popular today than we realize. We can thank Mackenzie Childs for paving the way here, or perhaps it’s Bridgerton that rekindled the checkerboard flame. Checkerboard tile floors must be calibrated so make sure you check this before purchasing or you won’t have a floor that aligns.

Handmade looks & Zellige - Zellige tile is made with clay from Morocco which is kiln-fired over olive branches, giving each tile a unique glaze, color, and texture. It’s been trending for a while now, but is still picking up in popularity. Bold and bright colors are striking in Zellige, yet most Zellige installed in the US are actually white or neutral colors. Keep in mind that a lot of tiles are a Zellige “Look” which is typically made by large manufacturers, and designed to mimic the appearance with a lower price tag.

 Architessa Tile Trends 2023

Visit our Pinterest board featuring the biggest tile trends of 2023.


Q: Hi, we just purchased a 1926 Craftsman Bungalow which has some great fireplaces throughout. Unfortunately, the brick on each has been painted over. Is it possible to tile over painted brick without scraping or using acid to remove the paint (the floors have been restored). Thanks.


Julie: Have you looked into skim-coating the area with thinset to prep it? I would do some reasearch on that and see if the John Bridge forum has any advice.


Q: What size tile/design would you use for a small bathroom with low light?


Julie: A small bathroom to me could be a standard bathroom (5'x7') or a powder room. Powder rooms are my favorite to design with tile, as you can really get creative with your selections, provided the lighting is great. If you want drama, choose a tile with saturated color(s) and tile the vanity wall to the ceiling along with a relatively solid-colored floor tile with little movement in pattern. The same rules apply here for any floor in that you need to see a handful of full-size pieces for the tile-to-surface ratio to work. Regarding standard bathrooms that are small to medium-sized, you have many options that will work, as a large portion of residential tile in the US market is designed with this application in mind. In the past few years, we have seen an influx of medium-sized porcelain hexagons in marble looks and fun designs, which are between 4" to 8", making excellent selections in terms of scale for small to medium-sized bathrooms. Here is a great example of an installation with a medium sized white marble hexagon, and another example is attached.


Q: We are doing a really tiny bathroom remodel and the floor and shower wall tiles from the 70s are pink, large and hideous. Looking for ideas for sizing and durability on floor tile to make the space larger and more cheery, and for people who hate cleaning shower tile and grout something really easy to clean.


Julie: The 70's was an interesting era for tile indeed! Porcelain tile is just about as durable as you can get - and it comes in nearly any option you can dream of. Cheery to me means warm and fun, so I would choose something with a shape in porcelain or a mosaic pattern. We often see floor to ceiling tile behind a vanity to make a big impact in small spaces, or even mosaic patterns on the floor, like this one If you want to keep it simple, yet spa-like choose a mosaic in a classic shape with neutral color like this collection

Bigger tiles can also make a space look larger, but there are some design boundaries even with those (skip the bigger tiles if you have to cut them all to fit them in the space. You would want to see a few full size pieces, or it will look out of scale). Another strategy designers use is to select wall tile with a reflective surface (glossy or polished finish) to make a space feel bigger. For grout I always recommend Epoxy based grout and for it to be installed by a tilesetter as it's more difficult to work compared to traditional cement based grout. Epoxy grout is a high performing stain proof grout for residential applications. SpectraLOCK Pro is one brand I would recommend, but you can find epoxy based from many manufacturers. If you choose an Epoxy based grout - having a mosaic with lots of grout becomes a more viable option.


Q: How to remove soap and water stain from natural stone shower tiles


Julie: I default to the Natural Stone Institutes recommendations here. They recommend to Buff with dry 0000 steel wool and you can find that info here: 

If you are looking for a product, Stonetech by Laticrete offers a Soapscum remover along with guidance on which types of stone it’s recommended for. If the stain persists after trying these, you may need to call in a stone restoration specialist. Your local tile store can likely make a recommendation on who to contact.


Q: Does self sealing grout really work or is the best way the old fashioned way of painting on the sealer?


Julie: I believe your reference to self sealing grout is actually epoxy based grout, versus traditional cement based grout. Epoxy grouts are indeed not porous and nearly stain-proof. Epoxy grout was traditionally used in sanitary applications such as hospitals, and such, and must be installed by a highly skilled tilesetter. Recently epoxy grouts have been reformulated to be more usable for residential applications, and although they are still more difficult to install, they are not as difficult to work with as they once were. Keep in mind, epoxy grout will increase your budget, and may increase labor costs, and should always be installed by a skilled tilesetter.

Painting on grout sealer is always an option, however the frequency of re-sealing will depend on the usage. Re-applying may be necessary after only a few short months, as foot traffic, pets, cleaning schedule & types of cleaners all play a part in sealer longevity. Even dust and essential oils/diffusers can affect grout appearance. The size of the tile (grout to tile ratio is a good way to look at it) will also dictate how long it will take to seal an entire area which also plays a part in the decision. A few short years ago I lived in a bungalow with 6x6 white tiled floors with white grout, which unfortunately was our main bathroom. With 2 labs and 2 toddlers, I opted to just clean it frequently instead of sealing as the wear & tear on the sealer would have been quite intense. I learned pretty fast that tiny spinning cleaning brushes are a smart investment!

If you do opt for sealing, here are some tips:

-Always test an inconspicuous area first when possible if painting on sealer.

-Check to make sure your sealer has not expired

-Mask up if there are fumes

-Only apply sealer to clean, dry, & in-tact grout

-Be prepared to re-seal as sealer is not permanent

-Sealing is not a replacement for cleaning.

-Wipe off excess spills from the tiles

-Always read the instructions in advance

-Give yourself enough time to finish the job after starting


Q: We have an old kitchen/bath where the walls are tiled. Kitchen is yellow tiled and bathroom is blue. We want to remove the tiles and replace with painted walls. We don’t have the first idea on how to start the removal process?


Julie: You might want to check out the John Bridge Forum for guidance on this. Without knowing anything about your particular installation it would not be prudent of me to give an answer here. Today’s installation techniques can greatly differ from the installation of the past and this plays a big part in any demo specific to tile. If you were to quote out the job with an installer, they typically need to see what they are removing or at least have more information to come up with a plan. I am not a tilesetter by trade, but I once removed tile from a bathroom my family renovated that had 2’ thick concrete walls behind the tile along with metal lathe - and it all had to be removed, chunk by chunk. I supposed you never know what you will unearth in the demo phase!

 Pantone Color of the Year

Visit our Pinterest board to see tiles we offer similar to Viva Magenta.


Q: Replacing 20 year old black granite with light color quartz. Please explain differences between "engineered quartz" and "quartzite" and what you recommend as best type for easy maintenance please.


Julie: Great questions and I'm glad you asked it because most people don't realize there is indeed a big difference between engineered quartz and quartzite. Engineered quartz is manufactured product made from quartz particles bonded together with resin, pigments, and other ingredients, so it's not actually true stone, but meant to mimic it. Quartzite is indeed a true natural stone, and it's extremely hard compared to other materials like marble. Quartzite can be difficult to fabricate because of its hardness, its higher price, and the fact that there are not many color options available. Quartzite is actually my personal favorite material for slabs (aside from porcelain slabs), and Walker Zanger has some really fantastic options.


Q: How do I know what type of grout I should use for a DIY tile project?


Julie: Grout has a lot of factors that play a part in matching up to your job. If your tile is rectified, it can be installed with grout joints as small as 1/16”. A rectified tile is defined by its extra step in the manufacturing process, which mechanically grinds each side to achieve precise and consistent dimensions. Tiles that aren't rectified are known as “pressed” with a factory edge and vary slightly in size from each production run. Although unnoticeable to the human eye-- due to the slight size variations, 3/8" grout joints are needed to align the tile correctly during installation. There may be special requirements for products, such as large format, and we are lucky to have established installation standards in our industry and guidance from ANSI, the TCNA, and the CTDA.

There are many different types of grouts on the market. Cement based grouts can be used on grout joints 1/16" to 1/2" (1.5mm – 12mm) wide on floor applications, but for wall applications, a non-sanded grout is recommended. Epoxy based grouts provide another option that is high performing, providing a stain proof option in most residential applications. In terms of what color to choose - now this is a personal choice. Matching the color of your tile creates a more subtle look, whereas a contrasting grout color makes the shape & pattern the grand feature. White subway tile with dark grey grout pays homage to the early days of tile, where cement was actually used as grout. Dark grey grout with subway tile is typical for historic renovations, but now this style is ubiquitous and has morphed over the years to be adaptable to any design style.


Q: We have a small bathroom (6 x 9') that we are getting ready to remodel. With so many different size tiles available, do you have recommendations on whether small or larger tiles on the floor and walls will make the space seem less cramped? Thanks!


Julie: Larger tiles generally make a space look bigger, but this can be tricky to do in a small or standard bathroom. Using a uniform mosaic can actually make a space feel more open. Check out this Pinterest board to get some ideas We specify a lot of 12"x24" in standard sized bathrooms, but mosaics as a whole are trending right now and we have seen an uptick on using them on bathroom floors (in addition to shower floors where you typically see them).

 Bright selections for small bathrooms

 Visit our Pinterest board to get ideas for tile in small bathrooms.


Q: I have old kitchen floor tile that I can’t afford to replace. Laying vinyl presents some problems. Could I just pour some leveling compound or paint it?


Julie: For any floor installation the substrate has to be level and smooth. Self- leveling compound is the key to fixing this. I once removed builder ceramic grade tile in my townhouse and it was a beast to remove even with a jackhammer. I wound up removing large chunks of the slab, which I had to fill before painting on my crack isolation membrane in order to tile. I do not recommend painting any flooring material or having exposed leveling compound on the surface as it's not meant for this purpose.


Q: I am trying to install Lowes Sabella Marble 12" x 24" interlocking LVT. The problem is that I can click and lock the long side, but when I try to tap the short side to the adjacent tile, it will not lock. It doesn't matter how hard I try to tap the pieces together, I have no luck. I can see that the locking mechanism on the short side doesn't work. Am I doing something wrong, or is the tile defective? Thanks.


Julie: This is a great questions for the manufacturer of the product, which is COREtec. Try reaching out to them directly, or the Lowes Pro desk will be able to pass on this information so you can get in touch with their technical team. Have a video ready to send them to help pinpoint the problems you are having.


Q: I have a steam shower with ceramic tile walls and an intricate marble tile floor (Ann Sacks). I struggle with how to clean the marble and the grout, having been told that bleach should not be used on marble. And I am fearful of stripping the tile surface with products. What should I do and use? Please help! Thank you!


Julie: Your shower sounds beautiful, I have always loved Ann Sacks. I can understand your worry here, as it's not always clear how to care and maintain specialty products. I recommend to use a product called "Stone & Tile Cleaner Concentrate" from Stonetech (Laticrete brand). I can't speak to your exact installation, but I can tell you that ceramic tiles are almost always glazed, and you should not have to worry about stripping the surface. Glossy or polished finishes can be scratched by abrasive brushes, but the glaze will never rub off. We have created a Care & Maintenance guide that you can reference to help, but if you have specialized material, it's best to seek care & maintenance documents directly from the manufacturer.


Q: What is the best tile floor design for square bathroom in Scandinavian white-on-white in a beach house. Size of tiles, grout, and pattern or non. It should also not be very slippery as elders will use it.


Julie: My favorite tile for this application is from Mosa, called Terra Tones I love how it comes in many different sizes, so you can really get creative with design and install it to suit any design style. Choose the larger square size for a modern and contemporary feel, or go with a plank size in a herringbone or offset pattern for a more transitional design. This is an unglazed tile, which provides superior durability and slip resistance.

 Terra Tones



Q: I bought a house with a gas fireplace that has a dark granite surround. I hate the dark color. Is there a special paint that can be used to cover the granite, or must I replace it with a lighter stone or tile? Thanks


Julie: I see a lot of questions in my daily news feed on painting over tile or other building surfaces. This is a question for your local paint expert. I personally would not paint over granite. In some cases you can actually tile on top, without demo, but this is something an installer would need to assess as tiling over tile or other materials is not as easy as it sounds, and may take extra time to do correctly.


Q: I'm confused about when I have to seal something and when I don't. Do I have to seal porcelain tile in a kitchen?


Julie: Porcelain tile does not need to be sealed as it's water absorption rate is .5% or lower. This is one of the grand features of using porcelain tile. Ceramic tile has different water absorption rates depending on the specific material, and sealing is a good idea for many applications. There are many different types of sealers on the market, and finding one that is highly recommended is wise. Miracle and Stonetech are two established brands that come highly recommended. Make sure you have a penetrating sealer as opposed to a topical one, in cases where a sealer is needed.


Q: What types of tile are best to replace vinyl flooring in foyer and/or kitchen?


Julie: Glazed porcelain is the best option here in a matte, honed, or natural finish. The good news is this type of tile comprises most products on the market, and there are many options available that are manufactured in the US!


Q: I recently put in a lovely kitchen backsplash, but unfortunately, I managed to scratch a few of my tiles when I was removing excess thinset from the grout lines. The tiles are glossy porcelain. Is there a way to repair a small scratch on a porcelain finish? If it's relevant, the tiles are shades of blue and green.


Julie: I have heard of a product called Akemi color match that can repair products, but I'm not certain about using it on polished products. I suspect the best way to fix this is to replace the scratched tiles. It's always a good idea to have extra tiles on hand in case this ever happens because tile does have dye lots and the color can change slightly from dye lot to dye lot, just like fabric.


Q: Hello! My husband and I are in the process of building a house. We have three large dogs, who of course have potty accidents from time to time. We currently have wood flooring in our current house, which the dogs have pretty much destroyed. We were thinking about doing our new house in tile flooring, but we would like it to look like stone flooring. What would be the best type of tile flooring to withstand liquid accidents and damage from dog claws? Thank you!


Julie: If you had your heart set on natural stone, I would recommend using a brushed finish, which is essentially a surface that comes with Patina from the outset. You have to embrace a patina and it's timeworn surface, as this is what makes it like a fine wine I suppose. A good tile option is to look for a large format glazed or unglazed porcelain and use an epoxy based grout. Unglazed porcelain doesn't have great options in a marble look, but you can find just about any marble pattern, color, and texture in glazed porcelain.


Q: Hi Julie, for a high traffic residential kitchen and eating area that has a door access from the outside, it there one type of tile you suggest over others? Also, what is your opinion of Floor & Decor, mgt, strategy etc?


Julie: Hi Patrick. Glazed porcelain is a great option for this type of application and you have the gamut on choices here in terms of size, design, and color. Big box stores can have great selections, but can sometimes be overwhelming & may be hard to get technical assistance from. Make sure you purchase plenty of tile if you do go with a cash and carry type of store, as finding matching dye lots can be an issue if you need to purchase more tile at another time.


Q: Have you installed marble tile and then seen it irregularly change color for long periods of time after getting wet? First time our builder installed it and the shower was used the discoloration was dramatic and did not go back. They ripped it out and installed new, but now we’re seeing some discoloration after showering.


Julie: I'm so sorry you are going through this. I can't imagine how stressful this must be for you! Troubleshooting can be really hard, especially in cases like this. Without knowing anything about the material, installation methods, thinset used, etc., location of the problem, it's difficult to give helpful advice here. I have seen all kinds of problems arise in my career, ranging from blocked weep holes, improper sloping of a shower floor, wrong thinset being used which caused a moisture wicking limestone to be wet for months from the back, as well as things like plug-in oil based air fresheners damaging stone above an outlet. Here is related blog that may provide more helpful info to you. It's also important to note that shampoos and soaps (organic compunds) can be a factor here, especially if the material is not sealed.


Q: Tile...should I splurge on flooring, shower, or tub? Recommendations??? Thanks!


Julie: I like to splurge on the floor first, then shower. You can always splurge on a shower accent, or the inside of a niche to add a nice touch and stretch your budget.


Q: What sort of routine maintenance should I do to keep outdoor tile in good condition?


Julie: The best way to maintain outdoor tile is to routinely sweep it of debris. You can clean it the same way you would clean your interior tile, which is typically with soap and water. Be very careful if you are drawn to a power sprayer, as even on the lowest setting it can damage the grout. I have witnessed loose grout actually blasted out of a patio with a power sprayer before!


Jura: This was really a very informative chat Julie. Thanks so much -you are the diva of tile! Great chat coming up next week too. We have the authors of the new book "AphroChic: Celebrating the Legacy of the Black Family Home" on for you. Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason share stories of how art and culture comes together in the homes of tastemakers and designers. Send in your questions here.


Julie: Thanks Jura for allowing me to talk about tile - my favorite topic. Best of luck to all the readers out there working on tile projects!



Julie Taury Author

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