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How to Read a Tile Flooring Box

Morgan Huntley

Tile manufacturers don't just put their name and the color of the tile on the box. They also provide a wide variety of information on their boxes and shipping labels to help consumers make purchasing decisions about their product. Understanding what information is provided, and how it can affect your tile installation can help you choose the right tile the first time, and what, if any, additional care and maintenance might be required after the tile is put down on the floor.

Choosing tile carefully ensures a beautiful, consistent finish along your floors.
  1. Locate the shipping label on your tile flooring box. If one cannot be found, look for a panel of the box itself that has blanks printed on it for information. Have a pencil and paper on hand to note any information that might be important to your application.

  2. Write down how many square feet of tile come in each package. This basic piece of information doesn't just tell you how many tiles are included in the box, instead it gives you an idea of how much space the package will cover on your floor or wall. This is especially important on tiles that are larger or smaller than a square foot each.

  3. Check the box label to determine what material the tile is made out of. Examples of this are natural stone, like slate or granite, porcelain or ceramic. If your tile is not a natural material, also check whether the tile is labeled as glazed or unglazed. Glazed tiles are pre-sealed with a finished surface, and are suitable for walking on after they are installed without any additional sealers or finishes.

  4. Check for the wear rating, sometimes mistakenly referred to as grade, of your tile. This can be marked as "Wear Rating" or "PEI Wear Rating." This is normally provided as a I to V scale in roman numerals. Higher numbers are better. Ratings I and II are only suitable for wall installations, as they may crack or scuff under the normal pressures of walking. A rating of III is a good residential tile. A rating of IV can handle light commercial use, and V is suitable for use in all applications, including heavy commercial use.

  5. Examine the grade of the tile, which is the purity and quality of materials, color and finish. This is ranked in numbers ranging from 1 to 3 on the box, with 1 being the highest quality available.

  6. Note the tone characterization that is found on the box. This is normally indicated by a grid that is shaded in variegated colors. The closer to monochrome the grid is, the more uniform your tile will be from piece to piece and box to box.

  7. Inspect the dye lot or manufacturing date code of the tile. This will normally be indicated with words like "lot" or "run." Especially if you are buying tile for a large room or more, buying the same dye lot will ensure your floor's consistency over a large space.

  8. Look for any additional information that may be important to your installation the tile manufacturer may have provided. This can be things like frost resistance for an outdoor installation, or the coefficient of friction (C.O.F.) rating, which is a measure of slip resistance. C.O.F. is graded from 0 to 1 in decimals, with a .5 or higher recommended for residential flooring applications and a .6 required by the Americans with Disabilities Act for commercial applications.