For homeowners, selecting the right tiles for their new homes is usually an overwhelming decision. This is according to Nairobi-based flooring contractor Wilfred Mutuma, who opines that the reason homeowners take a lot of time and effort to mull over the tiling options is the availability of a wide range of tile choices.
“The major deciding factors when choosing tiles is the colour and how it would fit in with the décor. However, other aspects such as durability of the tiles, the size and lighting of the room, and the foot traffic of the particular floor, should also be put into consideration,” says Mr Mutuma.
For a sophisticated and rustic look, the contractor observes that homeowners usually go for natural stone tiles. Although more expensive than most tile types, Mr Mutuma assures they are the most durable and can withstand heavy foot traffic. They are beautiful and add a personal touch since no two stones would be exactly alike.
In the Kenyan market, however, Mr Mutuma has observed during his 10-year stint as a contractor that ceramic tiles are the most popular. This is because they are relatively budget-friendly, and are a good fit for many rooms. They are also waterproof, easy to clean and install, and long-lasting.
Before embarking on a journey to choose tiles, it pays off to take time and think about the desired design of the home.
The contractor says, “You will be surprised how many people replace their tiles just months or even weeks after moving into their new homes. Consult every family member when selecting tiles, and never let the contractor make the decision for you as their preferences may not be your cup of tea. I usually advise people to download pictures of what they deem to be idyllic tiling designs, and use them as a guide when shopping for tiles.”
He further advises that when selecting a particular tile pattern or colour, the design of surrounding furniture and fittings such as sofas and curtains should also be put in mind. “Consult an interior designer if you can afford it to avoid mistakes that might turn out to be costly,” he says.
When selecting tiles for your bathroom and kitchen, you should pay close attention to the slip resistance properties. In this case, Mr Mutuma says, choose tiles with grooves and slightly rough surfaces to avoid slipping accidents that may be fatal. A good flooring contractor will always ensure that the tiles are laid in such a gradient that all the water is drained instantaneously.
“Many people are of the opinion that dark tiles, especially when put in kids’ bedrooms and bathrooms, hide dirt and therefore require less cleaning. This is not true as dark coloured tiles show just as much dirt as white ones. If reducing the amount of cleaning in your home is what you are going for, then medium colours such as grey is what you should select,” he says.
Tiling can also be used to create the illusion that a room is bigger than it actually is. If the room you intend to tile is small, Mr Mutuma advises that you avoid complicated patterns and stick to plain tiles. Using extra-large tiles in a room has the effect of making space appear bigger and airier. For small bathrooms, you may want to create a conception of more space by using the same shade of tiles on both the floor and the wall. Dark tiles should only be used for spacious rooms as they tend to make a space to seem smaller.
How much light does the room get from its windows? If the room does not have enough natural light, you are better off going for lighter colours that will reflect back light into the room, making it feel airier. Darker colours will suit a room that receives ample natural light perfectly.
“When shopping for tiles, watch out for substandard brands. They might appear cheaper than genuine brands, but they have a low abrasion resistance value and could easily get scratched and broken,” states Mr Mutuma, affirming that with tiles, just as it is with many construction materials, cheap always turns out to be expensive.
Another tip is that you should go shopping for tiles with your flooring plan at hand. This will enable store operators to calculate the exact dimensions of the floors to determine the number of tiles that you’ll need. “Always purchase 10 percent more tiles than the actual amount required to cater for breakages,” he says.
But perhaps the most important part of the tiling process is selecting a competent contractor. “Get someone who specialises on floors if you want the job to be well done. Ask for references and when you zero in on one contractor, request to see photos of their previous work before hiring them,” he says.