6 expert tips for buying tiles online from interior designers

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With these tips for buying tiles online, you can make the best decision for your home and your budget. Choosing the tile for your bathroom, kitchen or floor is one of the most interesting aspects of a home renovation. Pinning images of favorite tile patterns and deciding where to place them is fun and creative.

The practical elements may be less so and this is where some of us may stumble when buying tiles online. Tiles are available in many different materials, some suitable for certain areas and some not. These materials can also vary wildly in price.

It pays to know the pros and cons of tile types, as well as what you need and don’t need upfront. The tiles are heavy, so it is not always easy to turn them over. So whether you’re considering sticking with the latest bathroom tile trends or looking for the perfect entryway flooring, here’s what the experts suggest.

black and white tiles

(Image credit: Future/Simon Bevan)

1. Always order samples first

tiles

(Image credit: Future/Anna Stathaki)

Placing an order for tiles without seeing them first is risky. Tiles may not look like you imagined in space. Seeing colors on a screen is never the same as seeing them in real life because the full color spectrum is not available.

The available light – or lack thereof – in a modern bathroom or kitchen will change the color of the tiles. You want to lay the tiles will also affect the appearance of colors and finish. So never buy tiles without first seeing and touching them.

Tile samples are usually free, so it’s easy to order cut samples,” says Amanda Telford, Tile Expert at CTD tiles (opens in a new tab). “You can often order a full-size option too if you feel you need to see a larger area.”

2. Consider a cheaper material

green and white diagonal striped tile in the shower

(Image credit: Bert & May tiles at Fired Earth)

Ok, so we’re not asking you to get a degree in tile composition, but it’s worth knowing the pros and cons of the different materials on offer. Depending on where you intend to put them, a cheaper version may suffice.

Encaustic tiles are made from cement and their color comes from pigments that are mixed together rather than a surface glaze. These tend to be handmade artisan tiles, with slight variations as part of their charm, and although beautiful they are a more expensive option.

Porcelain tiles are extremely hard-wearing. They are virtually non-porous, so easy to clean and maintain. They are especially good in bathrooms, as well as outdoors because they are frost resistant. They can also be screen printed to look like wood, marble, stone and other materials.

Ceramic tiles are less dense than porcelain, therefore less resistant to wear. However, it is suitable if you choose tiles for the walls. Some can also be used on certain floors and can cost up to half the price of similar porcelain models.

Stone and marble tiles are quarried and cut from natural materials with beautiful shades of texture and tone. Are therefore more expensive than ceramic or porcelain.

Some tiles will need to be sealed, and possibly resealed, so it’s worth asking about the maintenance required.

“Check the material of your tiles carefully before ordering and make sure it is suitable for the room you want to use them in,” says Harriet Goodacre, tile expert at Topps Tiles (opens in a new tab).

“For example, natural stone tiles need sealing and therefore require more maintenance in wet areas, making them less suitable when considering how to tile a bathroom floor. Porcelain tiles are very versatile as they are extremely hard wearing – you can also find some with high slip resistance for wet rooms and outdoors.

3. Consider delivery costs

hallway tile

(Image credit: Future/Alexander James)

It goes without saying that the tiles are heavy. This means shipping may cost more than expected. Some companies are transparent about shipping costs up front, offering free shipping if you spend more than a certain amount, or with tiered pricing accordingly.

Other companies calculate shipping after you checkout. To avoid unpleasant surprises, call for a quote and take it into account if you are comparing costs between different companies.

Take a cue from interior designers and write a project estimate spec sheet with details and costs, including delivery, before deciding which one to order, if budget is an important factor.

4. Combine tile types

white tiles

(Image credit: Future/Rei Moon)

If you’ve fallen in love with an expensive tile, consider the size of the area you want to cover. Do you need to tile the whole floor or wall with these premium pieces? Or could you tile a section and mix them in with a cheaper option like white or subway tile?

“You can also mix tiles with other materials like wood for flooring,” says Hayley Robson, creative director at True Day (opens in a new tab). ‘Then you can have a splash of color without having to cover the whole surface with the same tile.

“If you’re mixing tiles, it’s a good idea to work out the pattern beforehand so you know how much of each to order.

“Layering your tiles in different styles but in the same color palette adds texture to your interior and frames your space and means you can vary the price of your tile which has a big impact on your design. “

Super stylist Lucinda Chambers recently told Livingetc how she tiled her powder room with cheap green tiles, topped with a less budget-friendly row of black tile beads.

5. Check room dimensions and tile size

First, be sure to measure the room correctly and check the size of tiles you are considering. “Tile comes in a huge range of styles and sizes, from tiny mosaics to large stone slabs,” says Harriet Goodacre, tile consultant at Topps Tiles.

‘Although it might seem natural to tile a small room with smaller tiles, it might not have the effect you are looking for. Larger tiles mean fewer grout lines, which can make small rooms appear larger.

“When measuring an irregularly shaped room, divide the area into segments and calculate them individually. Then add all the measurements together to get the area. Also measure the doors and windows, then subtract that from the total.

6. Allow cutting and wasting

black tiles

(Image credit: Future/Chris Tubbs)

It might seem counterintuitive to order extra tiles, but it can actually avoid costly mistakes, like an uneven bathroom.

“The tiles are like wallpaper and have specific batches, which means shades may differ slightly between batches,” says Amanda Telford of CTD Tiles. “A common error is ordering, which occurs when customers don’t allow breakages and wasted cuts.

“If you don’t order enough tiles, then you’ll have to try and match the exact same shade later, which can be tricky.” We advise customers to order 10% more tiles than required.

“This fixes any breakages and cuts and provides spares for a later date if you need them if changes are made.”

“It’s always worth asking for batch codes, so if you run out, you have the same batch and color to work with,” adds Hayley Robson at Day True.

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