Tile 101: The Ultimate Guide to Tile Types and Styles

Tile brings beauty and charm to spaces, but selecting the right type of tile can be overwhelming for first-time remodelers or homeowners. By learning about tile types and styles, you can feel more empowered to make your selection. With this foundation of knowledge, you’ll be able to collaborate with contractors, suppliers and interior designers.

Why Tile? Unique and Sophisticated Designs

If you’ve decided on tile for your kitchen or bath remodel, it’s time to learn about your options. In addition to being highly durable and easy to clean, tile offers an opportunity for a unique design. You can show off your personality with charming and colorful tile or opt for a modern look with neutrals.

With so many options available for materials—ceramic, porcelain, and stone—shapes and sizes, there’s a perfect look for any space. But how will you know what type of tile is best for your application and design inspiration? Through education on tile terminology.

Tile Terms: What You Should Know

Use this glossary of tile terms when choosing tile:


  • Base Molding Outside Corner: Used to trim the wall/floor at an outer facing edge       
  • Base Molding: Architectural feature used to trim the wall/floor joint                            
  • Beak: Trim piece used as a corner where two or more quarter rounds meet               
  • Brushed: Textured finish                                                                                                      
  • Bullnose (left vs right): Rectangle tile with bullnose on the long edge and right side or long edge and left side
  • Bullnose Short: Trim piece with a finished edge on the short side
  • Bullnose: Trim piece slightly eased on one edge
  • Ceramic Tile: Tile made from clay with other additives, usually fired at medium temperature ceramic


  • Chair Rail: Architectural detail that can be used in the middle or top of a field tile installation   
  • Color Blend: Tile that shows a range of tones of the same color
  • Column Class: Architectural feature; can be decorative or functional                                
  • Cornice Molding: Architectural molding                                                                              
  • Crown Molding Outside Corner: Refers to outside edge trim piece                          
  • Crown Molding: Molding installed at ceiling and wall joint or the top edge of a tile
  • Decorative Field: Any tile with a surface design that’s used to cover a large wall area.
  • Dot: Small plain or decorative tile   
  • Double Bullnose: Trim with finished edges on two sides
  • Face Mount: Paper or tape is applied to the face of the tile, creating a sheet for an easy install. Good for pools, as the back of tile can fully adhere to a substrate
  • Field Tile: Square or rectangle shape; non-mosaic
  • Gloss: Reflective    
  • Honed: Matte finish
  • Liner: A small decorative or architectural feature piece that can also be used as a trim piece  
  • Long Bullnose: Trim with a finished edge on the long side
  • Matte: Non-reflective
  • Mesh Mount: Individual tiles (usually smaller pieces like mosaics) are glued to mesh, creating a sheet of tile for easy installation.
  • Molding Corner: Used when a molding tile wraps a corner or as an end piece for a molding    
  • Molding: Architectural detail like a Cornice or Rail Molding used as a design element or trim piece
  • Mosaic: Smaller cut tiles mesh-mounted to make a decorative or field pattern                
  • Natural Stone: Marble, Limestone, Granite, Quartzite, etc. (natural geological material)  
  • Polished: Gloss finish
  • Porcelain Slab: Large format tile (36"x72" or larger) made from porcelain, usually mimicking stone, concrete or wood
  • Porcelain Tile: Tile made from porcelain clay, fired at high temperature. More durable than ceramic tile and less absorbent
  • Quarter Round: Trim piece
  • Rail Molding: Architectural detail that can be used in the middle or top of a field tile installation           
  • Relief: Tile or stone surface with dimensional  articulation
  • Slab: Large sheets of natural stone, quartz or ceramic used to clad walls or as countertops.
  • Stick Liner: Used to as a border or trim piece
  • Stone Tile: Tile made of stone
  • Trim: Any piece of tile used to finish the edge of a tile installation. Bullnose and quarter round are typical examples.
  • Wainscoting: A partially tiled wall with a finished molding/trim at the top.
  • Water Jet: Tile cut with precision using a high-pressure stream of water.



Tile Materials: What’s the Difference?

The tile material you select is likely the most important decision. Each material has its own advantages and drawbacks. You’ll also need to consider your budget, as some materials are more expensive than others.


Terrazzo is made from a collection of other materials, such as glass and marble, bound by cement. It is low-maintenance, but also slippery. It ranks as one of the most expensive materials.


You’ll have many colors to choose from and appreciate that it’s stain-resistant. Use it on walls and in mosaics. Cost is slightly higher than other materials.


Marble is porous, making it not ideal for high traffic areas. It also must be regularly sealed and has a higher-than-average cost.


You’ll have a variety of color choices and benefit from the material being scratch-resistant. Granite is a good choice for high-traffic areas and is affordable.


This highly durable material can be finished smooth or rough; however, it’s not stain or scratch resistant. It’s a mid-tier-priced material.


Not as dense as other natural stone, it can be stained or scratched. It is, however, budget-friendly.


This material is porous and soft with pitted texture and can be susceptible to scratches and stains. It’s also a mid-tier-priced material.


Slate is dense and typically has a textured surface unless smooth-finished. It’s an affordable option.


This popular type of tile is made from clay and dust or sand. It’s durable and stain-resistant and does not easily absorb water. You can choose this well-priced material glazed or unglazed.


Ceramic tiles are made from quarried clay. They are the most economical choice and are available glazed or unglazed.

Now that you know all the tile terms, styles and materials, it’s time to design your room. Walker Zanger creates some of the world’s most treasured tiles. Check out our collections by making an appointment to visit a showroom here. We welcome you! 


Socialize with Us!

@walkerzanger #walkerzanger #mywalkerzanger