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Wall Tile VS Floor Tile: 12 Major Differences You Need to Know

What is the difference between wall tile and floor tile? Well, wall tile goes on the wall, and the floor tile goes on the floor, right?

Not really.

Although most people assume the main difference between wall tile and floor tile is their shape and looks, in reality, much more goes into this. This is why getting into the nitty-gritty of wall tile vs floor tile is essential.

What is the Difference Between Wall Tiles and Floor Tiles?

What is the Difference Between Wall Tiles and Floor Tiles
Difference Between Wall Tiles and Floor Tiles

Wall tile and floor tile have unique characteristics to withstand the challenges they face in their lifespan. Wall tiles are lighter, thinner, and smaller in size, with rough backing for better adhesion. Floor tiles are thicker, larger in size, and thus, heavier. They have more durability to endure heavy foot traffic and loads.

Here is an overview of wall tile vs floor tile against different parameters and characteristics –

 Wall TilesFloor Tiles
Type of TilesCeramic tiles are more suited for wall tiles as their lightweightPorcelain tiles work better on the floor for their durability, stain, and water resistance
DurabilityWall tiles are thinner, lighter, and crack when put under pressureFloor tiles are sturdier and thicker and can endure more pressure in comparison, in line with their PEI rating
MaintenanceAll tiles are low maintenance and easy to clean regardless of their placementAll tiles are low maintenance and easy to clean regardless of their placement
Load Bearing CapacitiesWall tiles do not endure foot traffic or abrasion but are under the constant gravitational pullFloor tiles are subjected to heavy foot traffic and loads, and there are no risks of drop-down or gravitational pull
PEI RatingAny rating3 to 5
COF RatingAny rating0.50 or greater
Water ResistanceSame as floor tilesSimilar to wall tiles
Heat ResistanceLess resistant to heat as they are slightly thinnerThicker tiles with higher heat resistance
InstallationEasier to cut and installIt takes heavier machinery to cut floor tiles; hence, it takes more time and labor to install
CostComparable to floor tilesSame as wall tiles
LifespanMore than 75 years if installed correctlyThe lifespan of floor tiles is usually longer than wall tiles
SizeUsually smaller in size and lightweightIt can be larger and have a thicker texture
Water AbsorptionAround 10%Around 1%
Process characteristicsUsually, glazed tilesIt can be glazed tiles, through-body tiles (anti-slip tiles), polished tiles, vitrified tiles, and more    
Table: Wall tile VS floor tile

Wall Tile VS Floor tile

Wall Tile vs. Floor tile
Wall Tile VS Floor tile

Porcelain and Ceramic Tile

Porcelain tiles have been a long favorite floor tile for their incredible durability, stain, and water resistance. They are significantly more rigid than ceramic tiles. Therefore, they can tolerate foot traffic and heavy loads that floor tiles are exposed to. The PEI rating of porcelain tile is also a differentiating element between a wall and a floor tile.

The lightweight and softer properties of ceramic tile make it ideal for wall installation. Typically, the softer the tiles, the faster and easier the installation is. It minimizes labor time and installation cost, making ceramic tile more suited as wall tile even though they lack water and stain-resistant properties. 

Durability & Maintenance

As for the maintenance, both wall and floor tile have a similar profile. They can be cleaned with soap and water. The grout needs regular cleaning as well and replacing if necessary.

However, in terms of durability, wall and floor tile differ significantly. Wall tiles are thinner and lighter and, therefore, cannot handle foot traffic. Wall tiles also crack easily when put under high pressure. In comparison, floor tiles are sturdier and thicker. They can endure more pressure in comparison according to their PEI rating.

Load Bearing Capacities

Wall tiles and floor tiles take unique journeys in their lifetime, and it reflects well on their intrinsic properties. The type of load they will bear, their placement, probable abrasions, etc., are considered in the manufacturing process.

Wall tiles are not subjected to foot traffic, heavy loads, or abrasion. Hence, they can be less resilient. However, they are under constant gravitational pull. Therefore, generally, wall tiles are thinner and lightweight. They are also produced in a smaller size as it adds to the thickness. The increased thickness adds to the weight, escalating the chances of displacing the tiles or even falling over time.

Floor tiles are subjected to heavy foot traffic and loads. This is why floor tiles need to be thicker and more robust. Also, as there is no risk of drop-down or gravitational pull, they usually come in a larger size to alleviate the aesthetics, as well as decrease the number of joints.

PEI Rating

PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) rating helps you determine the durability of ceramic and porcelain tiles. It makes it easier for consumers to understand and determine the right tile that suits their requirements.

For example, a wall tile can have any PEI rating. In fact, manufacturers often label tiles that score low on the PEI scale as a wall tile. On the contrary, PEI rating becomes extremely crucial in the case of floor tile as it determines its load-bearing capacity. A tile must score between 3 to 5 on the PEI scale to qualify as a floor tile.

COF Rating

COF rating is another measurement that determines whether a tile will go on the wall or the floor. The coefficient of friction (COF) rating is an objective standard for how slippery an item is. Every ceramic and porcelain tile has a particular COF rating.

Wall tiles can have any COF rating, while floor tiles must have a COF rating of 0.50 or greater. For exterior paver tile, this rating can go up to 0.60. Floor tiles need to maintain a minimum level of friction for them to be safe to walk on.

Water & Heat Resistance

Ceramic and porcelain wall tiles have the same water resistance as floor tiles. However, since they are thinner in comparison, they show less resistance to heat — especially in countertop applications. Since floor tiles are thicker than wall tiles, they subsequently have better heat resistance — hence, they are more suited for countertop applications.

Installation

The installation process for wall tile and floor tile are the same. However, since wall tiles are thinner, they are easier to cut and take less time to install. As floor tiles are thicker, they are slightly more challenging to cut. Typically, they require a power-wet saw to cut them into desired shapes.

Cost

In terms of cost, the wall and floor tiles are at a tie. They both start at $1 per square foot or less. However, spending as much as $50 per square foot on designer tiles on walls or floors is not unusual. The cost is primarily dependent on the quality and manufacturer.

Lifespan

If installed and maintained correctly, tiles can last over 75 years. Tiles are typically replaced to change the look rather than because of the worn-out material. That being said, improper installation can lead to cracks on tiles. Although floor tiles are thicker and more durable, wall and floor tiles have the same lifespan if used for intended purposes.

Size of Tiles

Since wall tile needs to be lightweight, they are smaller in size and thinner in texture. If you increase the size, you’d also need to make the tile proportionately thicker, which adds to the weight and heightens the risk of falling.

As there is no weight limit on floor tiles, they can be larger, thicker, and heavier. Floor tiles are typically larger to lessen the number of joints on the surface at the time of its installation.

Water Absorption

The water absorption of wall tiles is about 10%, which is significantly greater than floor tile, which features 1% water absorption. Although floor and wall tiles usually come from the same material, how they are processed influences how they interact with water. Therefore, floor tiles are preferable for areas of the house that are constantly in touch with water.

Process Characteristics

Wall tiles are mostly glazed tiles with three main parts – body, bottom glaze, and surface glaze. Floor tiles are made of clay and fired with different specifications. Depending on the material, they can be divided into glazed tiles, through-body tiles (anti-slip tiles), polished tiles, vitrified tiles, etc.    

Can You Use Wall Tiles on the Floor or Floor Tiles on the Wall?

Can You Use Wall Tiles on the Floor or Floor Tiles on the Wall
Can You Use Wall Tiles on the Floor or Floor Tiles on the Wall?

Wall tiles are not suitable to use on the floor because they lack the durability to endure foot traffic and heavy loads that your flooring needs to withstand. Also, they are not slip-resistant, making them unsafe to walk on. If you use wall tiles on the floor, there is a risk that the tiles will crack under high pressure. Wall tiles are also smaller in size, hence requiring more joints that will compromise the aesthetics.

On the flip side, floor tiles are not recommended to use on the wall. Floor tiles are usually larger and thicker, which makes them heavier. If you install them on the wall, they will experience higher gravitational pull due to their weight, increasing the risks of falling over in an extended period of time. They are also challenging to stick firmly to the wall. Most floor tiles come in a large size that you cannot fit into the wall without cutting excessively. 

When shopping for tiles, taking the time and learning the nitty-gritty really pays off. The function of wall tile vs floor tile varies greatly, and so do their properties. Pay attention to the rating and labeling of your tiles to install them in their correct place and enjoy them worry-free for years to come.

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