Wall tile buying guide

Wall tile buying guide

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

Guide written by:

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

30 guides

Attractive and easy to care for, wall tiles are a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms. Whether you go for wood effect or stone, or a through-body or glazed tile, tiles can really transform a space. From mosaic or patterned designs to square or rectangular tiles, read on to find the right wall tiles for you!

Important features

  • Material
  • PEI rating
  • Size
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In theory, your decision should be quite straightforward. First of all, you can use any type of outdoor tile indoors, but you cannot do the opposite! In order to make the right choice of indoor tile, it's worth bearing in mind that a PEI rating of 0 will generally suffice for wall tiles as they are not subject to footfall. However, in the kitchen you'll need to pick tiles that can stand up to cleaning products and water-resistant tiles are a must for the bathroom!

Tiles all have different levels of resistance, depending on how and where they will be used. While wall tiles won't have to deal with footfall or a lot of day-to-day wear, they should usually be water- and chemical- resistant. This is especially important if the tile is going to be installed in a kitchen or bathroom.

PEI rating and waterproof tiles

PEI ratings range from 0 to 5 and are designed to categorise tiles according to wear resistance and surface hardness.

A PEI rating of 0 should be just fine for use on a wall.

As porcelain is nearly waterproof, it is generally the best choice of material for kitchens or bathroom use.

Both porcelain and ceramic tiles are able to cope with a range of cleaning products.

Wall tiles come in a range of different materials.

Unglazed through-body porcelain

Through-body porcelain tiles are made from one consistent composition of material throughout the tile. Highly impact-resistant, these porcelain tiles are a popular choice in modern and minimalist-style homes. They are particularly stylish as large rectangular tiles, although you will have to pay close attention to weight!

Glazed porcelain

Glazed porcelain can be more fragile as it is covered with a thin layer of enamel which can get chipped. Porcelain is often confused with ceramic but is, in fact, a type of ceramic and a much harder material. Glazed porcelain often has a glossy appearance and usually comes in smaller formats.

Polished porcelain

Polished porcelain offers an alternative to a glazed surface. The surface of these tiles is finely polished to create a shine in the same way as marble or granite. These tiles are more expensive than glazed tiles and are more susceptible to staining.

The overall design of your bathroom depends largely on the type of wall tiles you choose. Don't be afraid to think outside the box! You can tile anywhere you like in a bathroom. As a bare minimum, however, we recommend that you tile the entire wall behind a bathtub or shower. It's also a good idea to tile behind the wash basin. For the rest of the room, it's up to you to decide!

Porcelain is the best choice for a bathroom as it is more hard-wearing than ceramic. Go for large glazed tiles to give your bathroom the impression of space and volume.

Stone wall tiles provide a very original look. You can choose between natural stone or stone effect. Stone tiles are becoming an increasingly popular choice for rustic-style interiors. Installed just like traditional tiles, this type of wall covering is quick to fix to the wall. It's important to choose the right type of stone for your space.

For outdoor use or indoor walls that are subject to wear, it's a good idea to choose a solid natural stone or even concrete wall cladding. You can even use plasterboard cladding for little-seen areas such as behind a wood burning stove. When it comes to design, be sure to choose a material that matches the rest of your décor. A dark stone wall with little texture will look more modern than a lighter colour of textured stone, which will fit in better with a country-style interior.

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Wall cladding

From stone, pebble and wood effect to traditional or glassmosaics, decorative tiles are a great way to really make a space your own. Often used in bathrooms as borders, decorative tiles are making their way into other rooms of the house; for example, in the bedroom to form a headboard or in a kitchen to create a more original backsplash.

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Tile borders

Wall tiles come in a range of sizes and your choice will come down to the type of room they will be used in and your personal preferences.

Small format for a subtle look:

  • 10 x 10 cm

Standard tiles to play it safe:

  • 20 x 20 cm
  • 30 x 30 cm
  • 20 x 33 cm

Large format to make the most of a big space:

  • 60 x 60 cm
  • 80 x 80 cm
  • 30 x 60 cm
  • 45 x 90 cm

Rectangular tiles for contemporary style:

  • 30 x 60 cm
  • 20 x 50 cm
  • 33 x 50 cm

How to choose the right size of tile

We can't emphasise this enough: choosing the right type of material, wear resistance and look is essential, but when it comes to design, the size of the tile is equally important. A huge bathroom wall will look pretty silly covered with tiny tiles while the same tile format can work great in a kitchen!

Tile size is often overlooked but is an element that can be played around with to achieve an original look or to make a smaller space, such as a shower, look bigger. Finally, installing some lovely big tiles behind a wash basin is a great way to create a real sense of space. 

Now you have all you need to know to let your inner decorator run wild!

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Guide written by:

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester, 30 guides

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

After years of DIY, renovation, designing, I decided to turn my passion into my career. Starting in 2006, in the South-West, I helped people with renovation or contruction projects. My expertise and my curiosity led me to look further into innovative ideas for myself and my clients. Indeed, to live your passion is also to transform the space you live in and the objects you use daily. My family love my creations and ideas that I bring into their lives! My favourite thing to do: use colour to brighten up interior space. But also tips to hide away clutter. Your home is just never big enough, is it? It is thus a great pleasure to share my tips with you, so that you also can take as much pleasure as I do when starting up your next project!