Ceramic tile floors are moving from up-sell status to a staple for kitchens, bathrooms, foyers and even other rooms of the home. Clients are willing to pay the extra dollars for the easy-to-clean, durable floor surface that ceramic tile provides, and designers are demanding the beauty and versatility of the product.
"Obviously [tile] is easy maintenance, and is a very hygienic product," says Massimo Ballucchi, product support manager for American Marazzi Tile."It’s fire-proof, adds value to a house, and is very clean. People are trying to be more ecological, and they realize the advantage of tile."
Those ecological concerns are reflected in tile trends, too. Homeowners are using bigger and bigger tiles, moving the standard size from 828-in. units to 12212-in. and larger sizes. And those tiles being installed replicate the look and feel of natural stone as well. Slate, marble and traverteen replicas are common. "We’ve been in a rustic rut lately," says Bruce De Pasquale, vice president of sales and marketing for Laufen International. "Rustics are very dominant. There aren’t too many new developments [in style.] We still do them, but everything is based around a stone look."
Manufacturing developments have brought the cost of tile down to within the range of the average homeowner. According to Floor Covering Weekly, in 1998 the average cost per square foot of tile was $1.01, compared to $.50 for vinyl, $.70 for carpet and $1.95 for laminate flooring. "I think that the biggest stigma of ceramic tile is that it’s too expensive," says Kevin Prather, marketing manager for Interceramic. "For years, that has been the case. If you had a tiled entryway, you were rich. [Now, when homeowners] start shopping, they find it’s quite affordable. A lot of the manufacturing processes have brought the cost down." The movement from clay-based to porcelain-based tile has contributed to this.
Also, new stain-resistant grout, under-floor radiant heating, and slip-resistant glazes have all helped address homeowners’ concerns that tile is hard to maintain, cold and slippery. Solving these problems has helped tile move from the kitchen and bath to dining rooms, great rooms and other high-traffic areas. The ability to easily match a tile floor with a tile backsplash, tile countertop, and listellos, or wall accents, has brought more tile into the home. According to Matthew Kahny, vice president of marketing for Daltile, "It’s very common to see listellos used like wallpaper borders done with tile. The solid floor looks like travertine stone, and you’ll decorate the border to have a geometric or roman mosaic motif. It adds a splash of color or a unique design signature. It’s more exciting, done on the floor and the wall." The use of smaller mosaic tiles to accent the larger tiles popular now is one common technique being used.
There’s no doubt the tile market is growing. "We’re not doing a fraction of what Europe is doing with tile," says Jimmy Watts, national sales manager for home centers for U.S. Ceramic Tile. "It will continue to grow. The strong economy has been a big contributor."
State of the Market
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