6 Kitchen Tile Mistakes You Should Never Make, According to Designers

published Jun 13, 2024
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Kitchen brass utensils, chef accessories. Hanging kitchen with white tiles wall and wood tabletop.Green plant on kitchen background
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One of the most important things that goes in a kitchen is, of course, tile. Between the floor and the backsplash, it informs at least half of your kitchen aesthetic if you choose to use it. That’s why it’s so important to pick the right kind of tile — and know what mistakes you need to avoid so that you’re not stuck with overly trendy picks or a poorly done backsplash. 

I spoke to Jean Stoffer and Grace Start of Jean Stoffer Design, Ramey Caulkins of Griffin Design, and Vanessa Francis of Design Happy to find out what tile mistakes they’ve seen, and try to avoid at all costs. Here’s what they had to say. 

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Avoid thick or white grout.

White grout is an absolute no-no, according to Stoffer and Start. “I would ban white grout if I could,” Stoffer says with emphasis. According to them, it looks messy, stands out, and makes both backsplash and floor tiles look poorly done. 

Caulkins agrees, and adds, “I really detest grout so the less there is, the better. Always [opt for] monochromatic in color and never contrasting.” She also points out that large grout joints are a sign of poor installation, and the tighter the tile, the better. 

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Don’t let the backsplash peter off into nothingness. 

“You need to have a good place to end the [backsplash] tiles,” Start says. “It needs a place to ‘die into,’ like a wall.” Stoffer explains that you can even build a border around the backsplash with wood — it just needs an obvious end point on both sides.

Francis adds, “You don’t want the backsplash to go beyond your counter or cabinets. That’s a sign of a poor install — you want it aligned with the base and the uppers.” If you really want to go past the end points, and extend it to a window or range hood, she suggests taking it all the way up the ceiling, instead of stopping halfway. 

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Don’t choose slippery floor tiles. 

“Polished marble looks great in the kitchen, but it’s pretty slippery — and you don’t want to risk falls in the kitchen!” Start says. If you’re looking to keep an elegant aesthetic while still staying safe, opt for a material like ceramic or porcelain instead. 

Francis has a different, if slightly impractical, approach. “All my kitchen floors are hardwood,” she says. This can definitely be an easier choice to make if you have an open concept kitchen that flows from your living room!

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Avoid super trendy tiles. 

“Anything that’s stylistic becomes dated quickly,” Stoffer says. “You want to go classic, and preferably stick to a neutral color.” Stoffer and Start are fans of the classic 3×6-inch subway tiles, or if you want to go slightly bolder, 2.5” x 6” ceramic tiles. 

Caulkins has a slightly different view on this — while she agrees super trendy tiles aren’t the way to go, she’s not a fan of subway tiles either. “Subway tile is well … for the subway. The square tile is back and more classic than ever.” She prefers a ceramic square tile — 3” x 3” or 4” x 4” are best, according to her. 

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Skip mosaic or patterned concrete tiles, too. 

Stoffer and Start prefer to skip mosaic tiles, which are expensive to install and hard to replace. “They’re super trendy and look great, but they’re not very practical, “ Stoffer explains. 

For similar reasons, Caulkins isn’t a fan of patterned concrete tiles. “I think that the patterned concrete tile has had a moment, and that moment has passed. Solid concrete tiles, which provide a watercolor-like palette I can still get behind, but those crazy patterns are definitely not a timeless look,” she says. 

Credit: Joseph Hendrickson/Shutterstock

Consider avoiding porous materials. 

This one comes with a caveat, as Stoffer and Start have used porous tiles like marble and limestone in clients’ kitchens before. “You have to be careful with these materials, especially in a backsplash. They absorb everything and it’s hard to remove stains — but you can use them if you’re careful,” Start says. 

Caulkins, however, disagrees, saying limestone is deeply misunderstood. “I personally have had limestone floors in my kitchen and bathroom for over 20 years. The patina that has built up is enviable,” she declares. She prefers it for its softness, and argues it’s easier to clean up a spill on it. If you prefer to use it in your own home, your mileage may vary — but there’s no arguing that both marble and limestone are timeless and elegant.