Thursday, March 31, 2011


Tile, as it turns out, is quite difficult to find made in North America at a reasonable price. Sure, there are drop dead gorgeous tiles like these..
Heath Ceramics - made in California
... but as much as I would have loved to use hand glazed ceramic, or recycled glass, they just weren't in the budget.  Which I get, really.  Things produced here will cost more until it becomes commonplace.  It makes complete sense, it just doesn't help the bottom line.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that American Olean, a widely distributed tile manufacturer, actually produces some of their product in the US.  We got ours through the Tile and Stone factory in Kelowna.  They use recycled content,and lead-free glazes.  And it is priced no differently than ceramic tile coming from China or Mexico.  

On their very informational (if somewhat difficult to navigate) website, you can look up the recycled content, and the manufacturing plant of every tile they produce.   Cool, right?  Why don't all tile companies do this?

And so I happily picked an un-glazed colour body porcelain penny-round tile for the backsplash.  This tile comes in many beautiful colours, has 16.5% pre-consumer recycled content, and is made it Olean, New York.

The penny rounds are so happy, but because they are white the effect is a beautiful textured effect in the background.

One added benefit to the white tiles?  I can see the spiders before I get in.  Important.  

In the bathroom I wanted square, and this tile comes in many lovely colours.  I debated making a real colour statement in here, but Greg talked me out of it.  So we went with minimal white.  Both tiles are made with 34.9% pre-consumer recycled content and are made in El Paso, Texas.  To add some interest, I ordered 60% bright (gloss) and 40% matte, and then had them installed in random horizontal stripes.

I was going for subtle... but not this subtle.

The stripes actually show up better in these photos than they do in real life, if you can believe that.  If I were to do it again, I would have ordered the gloss in the warm white, and the matte in the cool white.  That would have shown up, and still been subtle.  Lesson learned.

can you see the stripes?  Wait.. try zooming in... look a little closer... there they are!

We had the tile wrapped around the end wall of the tub to add some texture to the rest of the bathroom, and it goes right to the ceiling.  Although I am still a little sad about not injecting some colour with the tile, in the long run I think I will be really happy with the white tile.. this tile will never date, and I am not committed to any colour in the finishes.  Honey, you were right.

All the grout and thin-set is low VOC, and I chose a grout colour darker than the tile hoping that it will show less staining over time.  Also, when choosing grout and tile colours for a shower, it is always important to take into consideration the water quality.  Water with a lot  of tannins (read: brown) will leave a film on tiles that will look grubby all the time, so in that case a darker tile and grout colour are preferable.  If you have hard water, matte white tiles do the best job of hiding the little white spots that refuse to come off.  Our water is treated coming into the house, so is clear and soft which gives  the most freedom in tile colours.  And yet we ended up with white.  Huh.

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