Four Ways to Modernize a Kitchen using Eco-Friendly Tiling

seedling sprouting between tiles being laid - 4 ways to modernize your kitchen with eco-friendly tiling

If there’s one thing that helps to make a kitchen feel modern and luxurious, it’s the quality of the tiling on both the floor and the backsplashes. Tiles are durable, cheap to maintain and cost-effective in the long run, even if they command a high cost of entry to begin with. You can even install them yourself—though a professional tiler, with their experience, skillsets and access to tools and materials like professional-grade adhesive, is surely going to make a safer bet.

How to Choose Eco-Friendly Tiling

Tile is already a fairly eco-friendly material, barring cement tiles or synthetics such as vinyl. Tiles are most commonly made from natural materials, such as ceramic, porcelain, clay, slate, glass or stone. They’re also long-lasting and durable, and can be repurposed at the end of their lifespan.

Tiles do need to be fired, which increases their embodied energy. If renovating with materials that have a low embodied energy is an important feature of your green living strategy, consider terracotta—it’s fired at lower temperatures. Consider where your tile is coming from, as well. Tile that’s transported great distances will carry a higher carbon footprint than tile you source locally. Fortunately, tile is pretty ubiquitous, and finding a local source won’t be a problem in most regions.

To be even greener, look for tiles that have natural glazes and contain post-industrial recycled content (reprocessed scrap tiles or post-consumer recycled glass tiles, for example). Be savvy with finishing products like grouts and adhesives, too. Many of these substances contain toxic chemicals like VOCs, but there are non-toxic alternatives on the market.

Now that you know what to look for in your eco-friendly tiling, let’s talk about how to modernize your kitchen with it.

Split-Face Tiles

A split-face tile is effectively a tile with a rough surface. You might have bits of the tile protruding a little further out than others, often because it’s unfinished natural stone that’s being used. The term comes from the concrete industry, where “split face” refers to a concrete block that’s been broken in half to reveal the rougher surface within. Of course, tiles of this sort aren’t suitable for floors and they might be marginally more difficult to clean.

Two-Tone Tile Designs

multi-coloured tiles - 4 ways to modernize your kitchen with eco-friendly tiling

Many tile designs incorporate two or more different colours of tiles. You might employ them in a chequerboard pattern, or (more commonly) have one colour on the floor and another on the wall. In addition to mixing tones, you might also mix styles and patterns, too.

There are a few rules of thumb that’ll help you to achieve pleasant results. First, it’s a good idea to match complex, intricate tiling with a simple straightforward counterpart. Keep at least one variable constant, be it size, shape, colour or style, and you’ll stand a good chance of avoiding disaster.

Traditional Patterns

What’s traditional is what’s been proven to work. You needn’t try to reinvent the wheel every time you try to re-tile the kitchen. Traditional patterns will be simpler for the average DIYer to do well. Most professional tilers will be comfortable with a range of different styles, from the straightforward offset to the all-in-a-row to the more exotic styles like Herringbone. 

Large Tiles

Large tiles give an impression of luxury and splendour, especially if you’ve got a floorspace that’s large enough that you can see the edges of a few of them. If a tile has a single edge that’s longer than fifteen inches, it’ll fall into this category.

Large tiles mean less grout lines breaking up your perfectly-smooth floorspace. This in turn means easy cleaning, for much the same reason that a split-face tile makes things more difficult. It also makes a space appear bigger, thanks to the illusion created by fewer grout lines. If you arrange rectangular tiles horizontally, then your space is going to look wider; if you arrange them vertically, then it’s going to look longer.

These design options and tricks are just the beginning. The internet is awash with fantastic ideas for tile kitchen floors and backsplashes that are gorgeous and practical, so have fun searching for ideas. Just be careful that you don’t get carried away by anything too modish—your eco-friendly tiling is going to last a long time, and keeping it classic will help you love it for as long as it lasts.

Feature image: Engin Akyurt; Image 1: Tim Mossholder

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