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Porcelain Tile Renovation

Updated on October 20, 2014

Upgrade to porcelain tile for durability, style and easy cleaning.

There comes a time for every homeowner when upgrades just need to be done. One of the most difficult decisions when it comes to flooring, particularly for pet owners, is which type to choose. We just completed a major renovation using porcelain tile. So, if you want to see how it's done and learn more about this beautiful flooring choice, keep reading!

The Finished Product

The Finished Product
The Finished Product

Why choose porcelain tile?

How a simple idea morphed into a full-scale renovation

My decision to remove the carpet in the family room was just the tip of the iceberg for an entire renovation process.

Initially, the only thing on my mind was to replace the carpet. The house was about 15 years old and the carpet was just starting to show signs of wear from human traffic. We also have two Shih-Tzus who had some accidents, particularly when they were puppies in the training stages. As any pet owner can attest to, removing urine stains and odors from a carpet is a real challenge because if you don't remove the odor, the dogs will continue to return to the scent and pee there. I tried everything, from popular odor removers to Oxyclean to vinegar to fabric softener to steam cleaners...nothing was able to permeate the scent.

Of course, there were other issues. Many dog chews contain dyes which seep into the carpet. Should I go into my story about the cute strawberry chews I spotted in a pet store that resulted in pink dogs and a large pink spot on the carpet?

And then, there was also muddy paws, wet paws and snowy paws. My husband's dirty socks. Spills from food and soft drinks. Pet hair. And don't even start me on the issue of dust. Although we vacuum the carpet religiously every week, I was totally stuffed up and sneezed constantly when I ripped it out.

So why porcelain?

Let's start with the area I had to cover. The kitchen is open to the eating area and the family room. There are also two doorways where we enter from either the garage or the back yard, at times bringing in sand, gravel, mud, grass or snow. And, there is a bathroom.

So the question for me is what flooring works with water, grit, food, pets and a husband? What flooring cleans easily? And, which flooring is practical in a kitchen yet can flow seamlessly into a family room? These are the choices I considered:

1. Cork - Personally, I hate the look of cork. And although it is environmentally friendly, I discovered it was not good for a high traffic area, particularly if there are chairs being scraped against the floor.

2. Hardwood - Although my cousin swears by hardwoods, I personally don't think they're the best choice in a kitchen, particularly in a busy kitchen. Actually, I cornered a relative who owns a flooring store with my flooring questions and his wife told me they had just put beautiful hardwoods in their kitchen and she regretted it.

3. Vinyl - Although I hate the look of the old vinyl floor in the kitchen, I loved the fact that it was so easy to clean. However, I didn't think it could flow well into a family room for a more formal look.

4. Travertine - I love travertine, but discovered it chipped easily, and given that my husband is a fabulous yet clumsy cook, it was not an option. Also, a number of food products can stain it.

5. Granite - Although I love my granite countertops, it was far too expensive to use granite for the huge area we had to tile.

6. Marble - Again, very pricey. Two small dogs would ruin the finish and my tile guys told me about a marble floor they installed that was ruined by a small dog.

7. Laminate - I see laminate like hardwoods - probably not so good in areas like a kitchen where there is water and other liquids that will get on the floors and possibly warp the boards. I talked to my mom's real estate agent who told me that every laminate floor he's seen has buckled after 5 years and needed to be redone. I do not want to go through this process again for a very long time.

8. Porcelain or ceramic tile - Porcelain and ceramic are similar in many ways. Both are very easy to clean, durable, and come in a mind-boggling array of colors and textures. The downside? If I drop a glass item, it will shatter into seventeen million pieces and I will have to hunt down every one of them.

But, given all the research, I narrowed my choice down to ceramic or porcelain. What's the difference?

According to my tile experts, if you drop something on a ceramic floor and it chips, the chip will be white. If you chip a porcelain floor, because the colors are baked through the tile, you will not necessarily see the chip unless you are on your hands and knees inspecting the tile. Also, replacing a porcelain tile is easy - chip it out, remud and replace the tile. Add a bit of grout and you're done.

As for cleaning, my tile guys said vinegar and water will clean the tiles and will not affect the color of the grout. And so that is how I ended up deciding to go with porcelain.

Is this a DIY project?

There are so many home renovation shows that encourage us to save money and undertake projects on our own. Personally, unless you've had previous experience, I would not recommend you tile major areas of your house on your own.

I've seen the half hour shows. In fact, I'm addicted to a lot of them. I also watched closely as our tile guys worked day after day on our flooring. What do the renovation shows teach you? Quite a bit. What do they miss? A lot.

One of the things I am most grateful for is that I hired a professional to do the tile work in my home. The tile layout? Perfect. The cuts? Perfect. Are they all level? Yes. The overall impression? That our home was tiled professionally. The value at resale? Priceless.

Renovating? Expect the unexpected.

And learn to live in total chaos

The old adage is that when you rip something out, you may find something else you need to fix. And this is true with flooring.

Did we find a problem with the existing flooring? Absolutely not. But here are some of the residual effects you may encounter, or should plan to encounter, when renovating your home. And in the planning stages, I would highly recommend that you set aside a few extra dollars for some of the unforeseen expenses that you will encounter.

1. Dust. After ripping out the existing carpet and the tiling process, your home will be filled with dust. Try to do your tiling at a time when you can open the windows and let in fresh air.

2. Moving furniture and appliances. Moving furniture is a given. Appliances? You really should go the extra mile and have the flooring under the fridge and stove replaced completely. Why? Because you can often see the old flooring through the gaps. If you were thinking of upgrading you fridge, stove and dishwasher, this is the time to do it.

3. If you are tiling in a bathroom, you will have to remove the toilet or hire a plumber to do it. The toilet needs to be taken out and replaced after the tiling job because the tile will raise the entire floor by about 1/2 inch. At this point, you may also have to purchase a plumbing kit that will build up the flange so it meets the higher toilet. Which, of course leads to the question, should you replace your toilet too?

4. If you are tiling over existing vinyl floors or directly on the floorboards, you need to ensure that your doors still close. Often, you will have to replane or cut the bottom of the doors by 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Or, if you have pocket doors, you will have to remove the door frame to get them out and back in. You may also have to cut closet doors as well as the trim around the doorways.

5. There will be a lot of humidity because of the water mixed with the cement compound that is laid over the are to be tiled and left to dry. This is done to level the area. Can your windows handle the extra moisture?

6. Because each phase of the tiling process is dependant upon the drying time of each compound, the initial estimate of time may be longer than expected. So if your contractor tells you it's a three day process, it may end up being six or seven. As with any construction project, delays are inevitable so prepare for them ahead of time. In other words, if your contractor tells you it will take five days, don't invite people for a dinner party on day six.

7. Your house will be topsy turvy and you will be inconvenienced. Expect it and deal with it.

8. Your tiling person does have a life. Do not expect them to work 12 - 20 hour days. And, some days they make work 2 hours because they need to wait until the compound dries before they can get to the next step.

9. Tiling is a noisy job, from stapling the mesh to scraping in the cement compound to cutting the tile. If you have pets or young children, they will be bothered by the noise. Not to mention that there may be a radio blasting while the tilers get to work...

10 If you are removing a dishwasher, turn off the water at the main valve. Turn off the power. If you are removing a toilet, turn off the water. Have a second person available to turn it on and off at your command. Why? Let's talk about dishwashers. My husband unhooked ours...he turned off the valve for the dishwasher...and water still spewed everywhere. I turned it off at the main water hookup in the basement, called a friend who was a plumber and discovered that the valve to turn off the water under the sink was not properly installed. After we got that under control, my husband unhooked the electrical and received a really good shock. Although he did turn off the power at the electrical box labelled "dishwasher", we discovered that someone before us had changed the electrical connections and neglected to make a note of it on the electrical box.

11. You will have to remove your baseboards so do it carefully if you plan to reuse them. We opted for a baseboard made of tile so we just ripped ours out without worry. However, we paid more for the labour and extra tile.

12. You may need touch-up paint for areas around the floor as small chips and scrapes on the wall do happen.

13. If your kitchen is being tiled, you will be eating out. A lot.

A Few Tips on Selecting Your Tile

One very important item to consider when selecting porcelain tile is the pattern, particularly in the tiles that emulate stone. Even though you can see first-hand the gradiation in pattern when you look at a piece of tile in a showroom, it doesn't give you the big picture. Here are a few tips to ensure you select the right look for your home:

1. Look at the tile in different lights. If you are able to bring some home, look at them in the morning, afternoon and at night. See how the color changes. If you have a room with windows, put them next to the windows and place them in dark corners. Again, take a good look at them in different lights at different times of the day. For example, I found a tile I had liked that was black and gray. However, when I took the tile to a window, the gray turned blue. I hate blue. I put that tile back and kept looking.

2. If there is a color running through the tile as an accent, that color will become brighter and bolder when you put it in your home. So, for example, if there is a hint of green running through a single tile, make sure you like green because it will become a very noticeable color when the entire job is complete.

3. If you see a bold pattern on the single tile, understand that when each tile is placed side by side over a large area, that pattern will be very noticeable. Also, if the tile itself is light and the pattern is dark, you will have a very bold room when the job is done. If that is the look you want...great. If it isn't, make sure you select a tile that has a subtle pattern in it and the color gradiations are similar.

4. If you select a tile that has a wavy edge as opposed to a straight edge, it will be very noticeable. Our tiler related a story of one couple who did select the wavy edge and, when he was half-way through the room, had to rip out the tile because the effect was too much for the clients and they decided to go with a straight edge tile.

Simply remember that any unique features (colors, patterns, edging) will be magnified when all the tiles are laid.

And finally...thank goodness for the internet!!! What I did when I thought I saw a tile I liked was to take down the name of the manufacturer and their number code for the tile and go to their website. Often, they will show the tile you're considering (or a similar one) in a staged room so you can get a better visual of what a room full of tiles will look like.

Dark Tile or Light Tile?

It's your home...don't make decisions based on someone else's "expert" opinion

Before selecting my tile, I spent a lot of time watching design shows and flipping through design magazines to get an idea of what color flooring to put into my home. I'd say that 90% of the pictures I looked at showed a light beige type of tile. Personally, it wasn't doing anything for me.

Of course, the old adage is that light colors make a room look bigger and dark colors make them look smaller.


Initially, our family room had an eggshell color on the wall with pale grey carpet. I painted the walls a dark, earthy green. All of a sudden, the room looked twice the size.

As for tiles, I selected a dark chocolate color with copper highlights and...guess what? Our family room looks bigger still.

Black, chocolate, grey, sable, charcoal...these colors look magnificent and add a rich texture to your floors. These colors are also considered neutrals so don't just think of beige and white if you're looking for a color that will serve as a base for the rest of your design scheme. If dark floors scare you, paint your walls a light color. Or, if you have very light furniture for the room, you can go dark. However, if you're aiming for a warm, cozy, welcoming feel, then go with the dark flooring.

Many magazines and TV shows show light tile, but I personally don't like the look of light flooring. So if you're like me, forget the "experts" and think of what you want. We've already dispelled the myth about dark tiles making a room look smaller so don't worry about that. But if you love dark flooring, and you plan to live in your home (rather than sell it in the next six months), pick something that you love...that makes you feel warm and comfortable...that makes you feel like you entered your own personal sanctuary. After all, it's your live see it every day...and it should reflect your style.

Cleaning Porcelain Tile

Say "hello" to your new best friends - white vinegar and the Swiffer dry mop.

White vinegar and water is how you clean your floor. The vinegar will remove odors, stains and germs. However, most importantly, white vinegar will not alter the color of the grout between the tiles as some commercial cleaners will.

The dry Swiffer? Fabulous on those days you just want to get the dust off the floor. It's quick, it's easy and it works.

Need ideas?

Flooring is a big will not change it year by year. So make sure the flooring your choose is the right one for you. It took me 8 months to decide on the type of flooring I needed and to select the pattern and color I wanted, so take your time and do your research.

I hope this lens helped you decide if porcelain flooring is right for you. If I've missed something, or you have an experience you'd like to share with others, please submit your comments.

Reader Feedback

Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Thank you so much for the information!! It was extremely helpful.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    WOW from a simple google , so much useful and KISS information , xx

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I agree, porcelain tile is better than any flooring. Itâs good too especially in the kitchen since that area has a high traffic. But having a glass or mirror in your kitchen wall is good too. Itâll help to look big your small kitchen. I have one in my kitchen and I got it from Raleigh Glass Repair.

  • CJ Denis profile imageAUTHOR

    CJ Denis 

    6 years ago

    I would not use water and ammonia as the ammonia could alter the color of the grout.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Thanks for so much useful information. I just have one question though. I have a friend who uses the dry Swifer and a water vinegar solution like you. Whenever I enter her house the vinegary smell is overwhelming !!! Do you notice that in your home? Have you ever tried water-ammonia instead?

  • SusanDeppner profile image

    Susan Deppner 

    6 years ago from Arkansas USA

    White vinegar and water. Got it! Our new house has all porcelain tile and it just occurred to me that I'd better check up on the best way to clean it. Personally, I'll use my Rubbermaid Reveal microfiber mop but with vinegar and water in the bottle. Yours looks gorgeous!

  • CJ Denis profile imageAUTHOR

    CJ Denis 

    8 years ago

    @anonymous: The company was Imola Ceramica in Italy and the tile is from the Antares collection.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I am in the same position right now. I love the look of the dark tiles. What is the manufacture and name of the tile you show in your finished rooms?


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