Is It Okay to Use Wall Tiles On The Floor?

Is It Okay to Use Wall Tiles on the Floor

Are you retiling your bathroom and want to match the floor to the walls? Or maybe you really love the design of the wall tiles you saw online and cannot find them in a floor tile. Is it okay to use those wall tiles on the floor?

Experts say no. There are quite a few reasons why not. The wall tiles are not made to the same standard as floor tiles because you do not walk on your walls.

Floor tiles have to be made to a certain rating of friction and durability to protect you from falling and your tiles from breaking. Wall tiles do not have to meet those ratings.

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What Are the Differences Between Wall Tiles and Floor Tiles?

In general, tiles are divided into five groups according to specific guidelines. Each group is suited for a certain job or room in your home. These are rated by the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI), so they are typically referred to as a PEI rating. The groups include:

  • Group 1 is only for walls in homes or businesses. These are tiles that are not made for walking on. They definitely do not pass the stringent codes for floor tiles in any room in your home.
  • Group 2 is fine for very light traffic. However, it is not made for rooms with heavy traffic like bathrooms, hallways, and kitchens.
  • Group 3 is suitable for floors in any room in your home or light foot traffic rooms in a business. But not in a garage or any outdoor use.
  • Group 4 is made for any room in your home as well as medium-use commercial floors and light use industrial floors. Lobbies, hotels, and restaurants are a few examples.
  • Group 5+ is perfect for any floor no matter where it is. It is commonly used in subways, malls, airports, and even the space shuttle.

The Water Absorption Rating

Another type of rating is the water absorption (WA) rating. This is a calculation that is decided on whether or not a tile is safe to use on the floor. This is especially important in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms where moisture is frequently found. There are four grades of water absorption.

Non-vitreous Not for use in wet or outdoor floors.
Semi-vitreous Can be used in dry rooms like the living room or bedroom.
Vitreous Fine to use in rooms with moderate moisture such as the kitchen or laundry room.
Impervious With zero water absorption, this tile is perfect for wet rooms like bathrooms, showers, pools, and basements.

Skid Resistance of Tiles

Yet another rating that is important is the coefficient of friction (COF) rating. This is what rates the skid resistance of a tile. The slipperier tiles are best for the walls and the tiles with a COF rating of more than 0.5 are suitable for the floor. Outside tiles and pavers have to have a COF rating of 0.6 at the minimum.

The Ceramic Tile Institute rates all tile into three categories, which include:

  • Less than 0.5 is slippery or has a higher degree of slippage. These are not to be used as floor tiles anywhere.
  • Tiles with a COF of 0.5 to 0.59 are conditionally skid resistant. They will meet the general safety rules for most floors in the home.
  • A COF of 0.6 or more exceeds the general safety and health regulations and can be used anywhere.

Placing Your Floor Tiles on an Incline

If you want to place tiles on an incline, you have to use the German Institute for Standardization (DIN). These are as follows:

  • Rating R9 is fine to use on a less than 10-degree incline (minimal friction).
  • Rating R10 is okay for a 10-degree to 19-degree incline (normal friction).
  • Rating R11 is appropriate for a 19-degree to 27-degree incline (normal friction).
  • Rating R12 is okay to use on a 27-degree to 35-degree incline (high friction).
  • Rating R13 is suitable for inclines more than 35-degrees (very high friction).

What Are They Made Of?

Another difference between the floor and wall tiles is what they are made of. For example, those that are made for walls are thinner and lighter than floor tiles. Also, the glaze used on the wall tiles is not made to resist heavy force from foot traffic.

So, you can use your floor tiles on your wall, but you usually do not want to use your wall tiles on your floor.

The substance that tile is made of is weighted per m2, which is a British Standard for Wall Substrate Weight of Tiling. Here are some of the most common tiles with their substrate weight:

  • Gypsum fiberboard is 35 to 40kg per m2
  • Glass-reinforced cement tile can go up to 50kg per m2
  • Tile backing board can go up to 40kg per m2 depending on the thickness
  • Plywood is about 30kg per m2
  • Gypsum plasterboard without plaster skim is 32kg per m2
  • Gypsum plaster is 20kg per m2

The Size of the Tiles

Another thing you have to consider when thinking about placing wall tiles on the floor is their size. Most floor tiles are larger, up to 18 inches by 18 inches.

Wall tiles are usually smaller, and you will be using a lot more of them if you use them on your floor. The larger tiles look better on the floor and take a lot less time. Smaller tiles on the floor can take a long, long time to install.

What About Using Floor Tiles on the Wall?

You can typically use floor tiles on the wall, but you have to consider where you are using them and the weight of the tiles. While wall tiles are not recommended for the floor, most floor tiles can be used on the wall, so long as your wall can withstand the weight of the tile. 

Because many tile substances can absorb water, it is not suggested to put them on shower or bath walls. They can soak up the moisture, making them heavier and causing them to fall off the wall.

The Cost of Wall Versus Tile Floors

Both wall tiles and floor tiles are about the same but some fancy floor tiles can cost a lot more. You can get a basic floor tile for as little as one dollar per square foot, but the price can increase to over $50 per square foot for some luxurious or rare tiles.

For example, marble tiles range from $50 to $80 per square foot. Then again, you can find some marble mosaic wall tiles that go for up to $150 per square foot!

Matching Your Tiles

If you want your floor tiles to match your wall tiles, choose one of the vitreous or semi-vitreous PEI group 2 or 3 tiles. These are essentially floor tiles, but you can run them up your wall and give your room that minimal design look.

Your room will look endless, in fact, so this is a fantastic idea for a small room like a bathroom or small kitchen.

Choosing the Right Tile for the Floor

For a variety of reasons and in most cases, wall tiles simply aren’t suitable for use on the floor. They will likely be slipperier and less water resistant than floor tiles should be and those made of glass are too fragile. Fortunately, with the sheer amount of flooring tile options available, you likely won’t ever need to consider wall tiles. You should have little trouble finding the right floor tile that fits your needs.

Floor tiles are generally made of stone, ceramic or porcelain. Stone and porcelain tiles tend to be the most durable and are also denser. Whereas, ceramic tiles are less resistant to wear and softer.

In regards to size, larger tiles on the floor can actually make your space appear larger than it actually is due to the fewer grout lines. Larger tiles are more intense and can portray a minimalistic look. Small tiles, on the other hand, create visual interest, texture, and are the ideal choice for small spaces.

When it comes to shape, floor tiles don’t need to be a rectangular or square shape. In fact, choose a hexagonal shape for a unique, stunning look in your kitchen or bathroom.

The Bottom Line

Whichever tile you choose, just make sure it is durable enough for years of foot traffic, water resistant where needed, and safe enough, so you do not fall and hit your head if it gets wet. It is probably best to stick with wall tiles on walls and floor tiles for floors. But if you are careful and do enough research, you can mix them up.

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Related Questions

What surfaces can you place tile over?

In the ideal situation, you should place new tiles directly over top of underlayment. Concrete slabs are a great choice, so long as they are level and have no damage. Cement board and exterior-grade plywood are also great surfaces for tile. Whereas, carpeting should be removed before installing tile flooring.

Can you put tile over old flooring?

Installing tiling over old flooring is a great choice for flooring that is difficult to remove. However, you want to make sure that the substrate is a good base for the new tile first.

Patricia Oelze

I am a DIYer who loves writing about anything home-related. When I am not writing, you can find me studying for my PhD in Psychology, photographing nature, and swimming at the lake with my grandkids.

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