Monday, February 28, 2005

Porcelain vs. Mexican Tiles

I’ve continued to research the best type of tile to use on my countertops. My first parameter is color. I want a cobalt blue countertop. My color preference is one of the reasons I am considering tile at all. I couldn’t find laminate in any shade other than grayish blue. I found a great solid surface (Corian) in a color I love, but I can’t afford the $85/square foot price tag. I was under the impression that tiles came in every color imaginable, but I am finding it difficult to find tiles in my requisite shade. I found glazed wall tiles in Antique Cobalt Blue at Florida Tile (at right). While the color is great, I was warned away from using this tile on a countertop because it easily scratches. Louisville Tile didn’t have the correct shade of blue at all, but when the saleswoman unwittingly mentioned Mexican tile (which they don’t carry), I was intrigued.

Mexican tile is supposedly a popular souvenir for American tourists. I’ve never been to Mexico, and don’t plan on visiting any time soon, so I shopped for Mexican tile on the internet. I spent a day ogling gorgeous tiles at Color y Tradicion and Tierra y Fuego. I found fantastic patterns (such as the tile at left) and considered interspersing patterned tiles with blue field tiles on my countertop. My mind was set on Mexican tiles until I visited our local tile mecca: Mees Distributors.

I am kicking myself for wasting time at Louisville or Florida Tiles. Not only does Mees have a great selection, they also have a friendly and knowledgeable sales force. Unlike the other stores I visited, I was offered help within five minutes of entering the store. I accepted and told the saleswoman that I was looking for blue tile for a countertop. She recommended porcelain tile because it is more durable. She showed me a porcelain tile in a blue I really like and sent me home with a brochure.

Besides the color requirement, I want a tile durable enough to take countertop use without scratching or breaking. According to the Ceramic Tile Floor website, a tile intended for countertop use should have a Porcelain Enamel Institute classification of 4. (Tile used on a wall can have a PEI classification as low as 0 or 1.) While I can’t find a PEI for Mexican (terracotta) tiles, the general consensus seems to be that Mexican tiles are softer than porcelain and therefore more easily scratched. I don’t know the PEI for the porcelain tile I was shown at Mees, but I should be able to find it in the brochure.

Now, I have a dilemma: Mexican or porcelain tiles? The Mexican tile is cheaper and comes in exciting patterns. However, it is probably more prone to damage. The porcelain tile is expensive and plain, but more durable. The porcelain trim is very expensive ($22.50 for 8 inches). I’m considering a compromise. I could do the backsplash in Mexican tile and the countertop in porcelain. I am undecided on the counter trim; I may use wood.

The finished kitchen will have a blue and white theme: white cabinets, blue hardware, white beadboard wainscotting, blue tile. I may paint trompe l’oeil Mexican tiles along the top of the walls (where the sunflowers are now). A blue and white color scheme is sharp, but a little boring, so I’m painting the walls bright orange. I am going for a clean, bright, but a little exotic, theme.

With that in mind, what do you think of porcelain vs. Mexican tiles?


Blogger Kristin said...

Your kitchen is a lot like ours. Same hardware, similar countertops.

First of all, I think more people should be brave about color the way you are. Bright orange walls? Sounds great! Though blue and orange would not go over well in my town because they are the rival university's colors!

I vote for Mexican tiles as backsplash and porcelain tiles as countertops. Love those tiles!

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Steph said...

Wow - what a great site. You do fabulous work. Thanks for sharing it.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI, did you ever finish your kitchen and what did you end up using? I am building a home in Sayulita, Mexico and faced with the same problems. I think I will do porcelain on the counters and talavera tile on the backsplash with perhaps one in the counter here and there. Send pics if you are finished! Thanks.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Kasmira said...

Anonymous - nope, we haven't done anything with the kitchen. I got sidetracked by gardening. Hope your project goes well!

5:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we built an adobe home 25 years ago in Santa Fe, NM, we used Mexican tile on all countertops and bathroom walls. The designs and colors held up for a long time and was more than durable and fun. Now we are remodeling our kitchen with granite and porcelain tile countertop. If you want Mexican, we say ..go for it and enjoy.

8:53 PM  

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