Old World Italian Craft Designed for Today
Tile and stone used to be a luxury, and were designed and installed by old world craftsmen to be virtually indestructible.
Today, tile and stone can be purchased on the internet, in hardware stores and chain stores of all kinds, and its use in homes is extremely common. That so many more people can enjoy tile in their homes today is wonderful. However, as a result of the explosion of stone and tile in construction and renovations, designs and installations often come with more problems – from tiles that move to stones that stain and tiles that crack – than beauty. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Follow Antonella Romano's The Tile Commandments and you too can have the beautiful – and indestructible – tile and stone showcase you dream of.

Tile Commandment 1
Never select on looks alone.

When selecting a tile or stone, you're always first drawn in by its beauty. But like in love, the right tile for you isn't just about looks, it's about compatibility. Not every tile or stone is meant for every environment — tiles in the kitchen have to deflect stains and tiles in the bathroom have to get wet. So that marble floor looks fabulous in that kitchen display at the store or in the magazine spread, but remember you're looking at a set. What they don't tell you is that marble absorbs and holds on to stains (whereas porcelain, for instance, does not). One drop of coffee or a drop of olive oil on a marble countertop in your kitchen, and it has a stain for life. So before you buy, make sure the tile or stone you select is right for the space you need it to function in.

Tile Commandment 2
Buy from a salesperson who knows about installation.

When you shop for stone or tile, you expect the salesperson to help you with the design. But the designs have to be installed around plumbing, outlets, vanities, plugs, switches, cabinets, and virtually every aspect of the layout of a room. If the salesperson is not familiar with installation as well as design, and sells it to you without a plan for installation, the result can be common problems such as border designs interrupted by valves; leaks into walls; and plugs on top of chair rails. So make sure you work with a salesperson who can provide specs to give to the installer so that you have a dreamy design rather than a money pit of problems.

Tile Commandment 3
Do not install on top of old flooring.

One of the most common – and unfortunate – shortcuts being made today is the installation of new tile on top of old flooring. Doing so raises the floors, causing unevenness with the rest of the house, and which can make moving appliances impossible. More important, you don't know how the other floor was installed, so if and when it moves, your new tile will move, and possibly break. So always have your installer strip the floor down to the lowest sub floor level and prep appropriately with cement backer board, tar paper and thin set before they install the new flooring. That way your tiles will be a testament to timelessness rather than the chaos of a quickie.

Tile Commandment 4
Make your backsplash the lightest thing in the kitchen.

Many homeowners have the instinct to make their backsplash darker than their floor or countertop in order to create contrast. But they call it a backsplash for a reason — it's supposed to meld into the background. It's not supposed to be the attention grabber. When a backsplash is darker than the floor or the countertop, it overpowers the kitchen and makes it top-heavy. In fact, the backsplash should be the lightest thing in the kitchen. Here's the code of color to follow: take the lightest shade on your floor or countertop and make that the canvas shade of the background for your backsplash, and use the boarders and accents to create the contrast.

Tile Commandment 5
Choose the installer with as much care as you did your materials.

Everyone puts thought into the stone or tile they want. But the installation is the other half of the picture — it's the yang to the stone and tile's yin. That's where the installer comes in. An inexperienced or unqualified installer can make the most beautiful and strongest stone or tile look like damaged goods from the get-go, including tiles that come up after less than a year, joints that don't line up, uneven floors, and messy grout seams. So don't just hire anyone – select an installer with 10 years under their belt – and you won't have to pay for bad installation later.

Tile Commandment 6
Plan your layout like you're planning a wedding.

Many home make-over segments, along with alluring pre-fab vignettes in stores, have given homeowners the perception that stone and tile renovations can be done practically overnight. The fact is that with quickie design and installations all kinds of things go haywire. For a tile design and installation to go right, you have to plan it like you're planning a wedding, which you would never do overnight. A tile design and installation has to properly coordinate window heights, vanity heights, plumbing, outlets, mirrors, and medicine cabinets, not to mention preparing any special details that add design or dimension. So think about all the planning that goes into a wedding, and put just as much into your tile design and installation. After all, you're going to be married to it for a long time. And unlike an actual marriage, you can have one long honeymoon with stone and tile. But it has to be more than a one-night stand to work out.

Tile Commandment 7
Ask your fabricator to use as few seams as possible.

If you've ever seen a perfect, majestic stone countertop that inspired you to want one of your own, you may not have noticed what it didn't have: a lot of seams. Seams are the divisions between slabs of stone assembled to make a surface. It takes a large slab to make a countertop with few seams, but it also costs more, so most fabricators are going to assemble a countertop using lots of little slabs, which creates lots of seams. Not only do seams mar the beauty with unnecessary lines and interrupt the natural veining of the stone so that the veins no longer match, as the house settles the various pieces will settle differently, so your countertop will no longer be 100% level. The grout will then crack which will form a crevice that will collect and retain all the food that falls in to it. So ask the fabricator to use as few seams as possible. Buying a larger slab will cost you more, but you can always use the remnants to make that vanity you've been fantasizing about.

Tile Commandment 8
Never put price first.

In our hearts, what we love about stone and tile is its sense of permanence — that it was there a hundred years ago, and will still be there a hundred years from now. But because there are so many ways to buy stone and tile today that put price first, a material's ability to endure has taken a back seat. What isn't mentioned in these deals is that stone and tile are divided into categories: first quality, which is the best and would be used in any residential installation intended to endure; second quality which often have imperfections, such as that the thickness of the tiles don't match, the tiles are not same size, or they aren't calibrated equally; and then third quality, which is used in commercial spaces like factories and office buildings and the tiles are not expected to be perfect. If you put price first, you might be getting second or third quality, and you just may be redoing that kitchen floor in just a few years, when the point with stone and tile is to never have – or want – to do it again.


Tile Commandment 9
Never use marble on kitchen countertops.

Everyone loves a marble kitchen countertop's beauty — until it's used, when they find that it's no longer beautiful. That's because marble does not release stains, and will absorb any substance that would naturally wind up on it, such as oil, juice, wine, coffee, etc. It also scratches easily. The beauty of a marble kitchen countertop is an illusion, because if you want a marble countertop to stay beautiful, you can't use it. Granite, on the other hand, releases stains and will not scratch. You can also use a manmade product like Saile or Caeser Stone which is made out of granite powder but looks just like marble. That way you can have your countertop and use it too.

Tile Commandment 10
Don't assume Pledge and Pine-Sol will maintain it properly.

Although many household cleaning products are appropriate for maintaining certain types of stone and tile, they can easily also cause damage. Just like you wouldn't put a wool sweater in the washing machine or iron a silk blouse, most stone and tile require very specific care and maintenance. For instance, cleaning products that contain vinegar – such as most window cleaners – will remove the polish from and dull the finish of polished marble, travertine and limestone. Instead, use a glass cleaner without vinegar. Green products are a good choice because they are less harsh. Use lemon furniture polish on a glossy countertop like marble or granite because it contains wax that puts a shine on the stone which will last a week, while also helping to seal the pores in order to repel stains. And if you spill red wine on marble and it stays there for any length of time, you'll probably need to hire a professional. So make sure you treat your stone and tile as you would your favorite silk blouse or cashmere sweater and find out the directions for care before you clean it.