Large Format Tile: What to Know When You Go Big

Jun 23, 2017

Agata Azzurro Gallery

Series: Agata | Colour: Azzurro

Believe it or not, it wasn’t that long ago when 12” x 12” tile was considered ‘large format’ in the tile industry. 6” x 6” and 8” x 8” sizes were the more common formats available. In the past few years, 12” x 24” has become the tile format of choice for most homeowners in Atlantic Canada, and is one that can be found in a multitude of colours and patterns in any flooring showroom.

We are, however, seeing an increase in options (and demand) for even larger tiles. Large format tile is currently defined as any tile with at least one length greater than 15”.  In Atlantic Canada, 24” x 24”, 24” x 48” and 6” x 36” tiles are only three of the many large format tiles available to residential and commercial homeowners and builders. Do you love the look of large format tile but wonder how (or if) it can work in your space? Here’s what you need to know:

The Good

There are many great benefits to using large format tile in any space.

  •  Large format tile results in fewer grout lines. This means that there will be less maintenance/cleaning required. For homeowners, this means more time spent on things you love to do. This time of year, sitting on a deck with a cold drink comes to mind!
  • Large format tile provides a modern look and high-end appeal. Whether it’s used inside on the floors and walls or on an exterior façade, a large format surface will give your space a contemporary edge.
  • Large format tile can make your space seem larger. It’s a myth that using large format tile in a small bathroom will make the room seem small. No matter the size or layout of your room, large format tile can give the illusion of extra space.
  • Large format tile can be used to create a barrier-free shower (as long as you opt for a line drain in your shower; more on that here). Barrier-free showers provide accessibility to individuals with mobility issues, and are also popular for homeowners who simply love the look of a shower without a curb. Omitting the curb from your shower design results in a seamless look from bathroom floor to shower floor, which is very appealing to homeowners who desire an open-concept feel.  
  • Large format tile can be used on counters and backsplashes! Porcelain is not porous like natural stone, making it a more sanitary product and one that won’t stain. Porcelain is also heat resistant, meaning you can place hot pots on the surface without damaging the counter.

The Technical

Congratulations! You’ve decided that large format tile might be a good option for you. If so, preparation is key. Keep these recommendations in mind when planning a large format tile installation.

  • Budget accordingly for large format tile installation. Subfloor preparation will cost you money. It might even cost you as much or more than the tile itself. If you live in a 100- year-old home (or any home) in which the floors aren’t level, be prepared to increase your budget to have the floors levelled properly. A level surface is imperative in order to install large format tile properly. Consult with your retail flooring representative, contractor and/or installer if you are concerned whether or not large format tile will work based on the structural framework of your home.
  • Use a crack isolation membrane between your tile and substrate (typically plywood) to prevent cracked tiles and grout. Remember – wood substrates expand and contract due to ever-changing weather patterns. This expansion and contraction, which does happen due to Atlantic Canada’s extreme warm/cool weather cycles, can cause tile to crack. Concrete is another subfloor that is susceptible to cracking by its very nature, which can also lead to cracked tiles. We recommend a membrane such as Schluter®-DITRA to remedy these issues and save you heartaches and repair work down the road.
  • Discuss the inclusion of expansion/movement joints with your installer and/or supplier prior to installation. Movement joints should be added around the perimeter of the room, around columns, kitchen islands and cabinetry and where the tile meets flooring of another kind. You can read more about the importance of movement joints here.
  • Select a suitable mortar for the job. Large tile is HEAVY, therefore an installer should be using a sag-resistant mortar such as Kiesel Servolight S2 SuperTec when applying large format tile to walls. For floor installations, Kiesel Servolight S2 SuperTec or Servoflex Trio SuperTec will work.
  • Observe the tile installation process. When laying large format tile, there must be full mortar coverage on both the floor/wall surface AND the back of the tile prior to laying each piece.
  • Give yourself time. At Elegant Flooring, we do stock various large format tiles in our Burnside, Nova Scotia warehouse. If we have what you like, perfect! Plan your renovation at any time. There are other large format tiles that we offer by special order only. These tiles can take anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks to arrive in our warehouse, so your tile installation must be planned far enough in advance to allow for special order shipping.

The Ugly

Just kidding - there is nothing ugly about large format tile! With the right knowledge and preparation, choosing a large format tile for your home can be a stress-free experience. With all different looks available and technology advancing every year, large format tile is beautiful, versatile and most definitely here to stay.