northstory + co

How to choose kitchen floor tiles when you hate tiled kitchen floors

How hard can it possibly be to choose kitchen floor tiles when you’re renovating your kitchen? In our case, I could write a a thesis but I’ll try and compact it for this blog post. It was the day before our contractor Andy was supposed to start the tiling the kitchen floor. What happened next is pretty much a great example of what happens when you’re married for a long time.

Me – “So James…” sitting down on the couch next to my husband.

My husband – “I am not taking back the floor tiles Alex.” (I hadn’t even eluded to the subject of floor tiles by the way).

Me – “Ok hear me out. If we put these in, I will regret it and it will be a huge mistake.”

My husband – “Alex. I am not taking back the floor tiles.”

Me – Silence.

My husband. Gets up. Walks to the front room where the floor tiles are. Comes back.

“You can call Andy and tell him.”

He didn’t speak to me for the next 48 hours. Aside from the next day where he loaded up 700 lbs of floor tile to the back of our truck and we drove to the tile store to return them. Then he turned to me in the truck and said “Go return them.”

How to choose kitchen floor tiles when you hate tiled kitchen floors

Our kitchen that day looked like this. You see our renovation was unexpected. Read this post to understand what happened.

And in case you’re wondering what water damage does to your sub floor under your laminate or wood floors over time, it’s kinda looks like this:

Not only were our sub floors rotting, they were warping and slanting down around the walls towards the basement due to the water damage from the back entrance of our home (which goes right into the kitchen).

All of our sub floors were replaced in this kitchen renovation.

I don’t blame my husband for being mad. In fact if you’re reading this you’re probably like “Girl, I would have divorced you.” I take full accountability for this fiasco. And the reason it happened to begin with is a very simple fact: I hate tiled floors in kitchens.

How to choose kitchen floor tiles when you love hardwood floors

I am a hardwood floor girl. I love wood floors. The older and messier the better. Wide planks. That feeling that you’re in some farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and you know some Toronto hipster would pay a fortune for the old barn boards type of floor.

Imagine a whole beautiful one level open floor flowing through to the kitchen from your living room without some jarring break for tile.

My experience with kitchen tile is reflective of the kitchen tiles from the 80’s. The creamy brown, swirly pattern, builder grade, ugly square tiles that dominate so many suburban homes.

That tile is the tile equivalent of parquet flooring.

However, we had been through four dishwasher leaks – FOUR – in various homes, all from different appliance brands.

That’s four experiences of seeing what water does to hardwood and laminate vs what it does to tile (the answer to the tile part is that it does nothing).

So there was absolutely no way we were putting wood, laminate or even the mystical new unicorn of floors, waterproof vinyl in this kitchen.

So against my will due to that awful thing called logic, I was forced to choose kitchen floor tiles.

These were the original tiles we settled on. We wanted a shade of grey. Some light cozy grey.

And at first we had two samples of them. Same brand, one was just a shade darker.

Among the greys, the middle tile (which is the one we wound up choosing) looked very neutral and grey in person. Until it wasn’t.

The day before the floor was supposed to go in, I opened up a pack of the floor tile and started to lay it out on our kitchen floor to see how it would feel.

It’s not like I could have done that in the 3 weeks they were sitting in our front room or anything.

Tried it in a different light.

Grey tile? What grey tile? It’s beige!

I had successfully chosen the 12 x 24 version of the 80’s beige brown pattern tiles that I despised.  It looked like a mist of dust was swirling through it.

I was so mad at myself for this, I honestly thought “How is this possible?” I had hundreds of kitchens pinned for inspiration and above all people, I should have known better.

There was no way these were going in our kitchen.  The tiles were returned, I had a rightfully angry husband and an understanding contractor who by fluke was thankful for the extra week I had given him as he was behind on another job. 

Then I went on a mission to find new grey tile.

Tile, tile, so many floor tile choices…

I have no joke, easily over 300 photos of different floor samples on my computer. I went *everywhere*. Several major local tile stores, every home improvement store and brought back a sample everything from grey to black tile.

Oh yes, we washed them to see what would happen when real life happens in your kitchen.

Finally I wound up at Ceramic Tile World as it’s by husbands work and we had purchased our subway tile for our previous kitchen renovation from them. They did not disappoint.

It was kind of kismet too as the day I went to the store, my friend Becki from Becki and Chris who knew all about this kitchen insanity and who has very similar aesthetic tastes to me, suggested I check out a tile brand called Ceragres.

Well wouldn’t you know it, all the samples from Ceramic Tile world that I had narrowed down, happened to be from them.

The other stores did not carry this brand.

Grey kitchen floor tiles are hard to select

Grey tile, for the record is crazy. Because it can look blue to silver to beige to taupe depending on the light.

The thing that’s really great about Ceramic Tile World is they have cabinet doors and counter top samples that you can walk around with and see how they look in different lights next to the tile.

We didn’t have our cabinet fronts at this point so that was immensely helpful.

My husband met me there on his lunch break and he selected the two tile samples that I had narrowed down as part of my top 3 but I didn’t tell him which ones they were, so that was a good sign that we were on the same page.

We took them home and put them all up against our butcher block counter tops and in different areas of our kitchen and home light overall to see how they looked.

This is the Ceragres Slab tile in Silver.

This is the Ceragres Slab tile in Coke.

Then I forgot the name of this brand but I really like the look of it as well. It however photographs much better than it looks in person though.

It was ceramic, had a sheen on it and it looked really cheap compared to the porcelain Ceragres which looked like natural stone that you would find in a Plain English style kitchen such as the ones from deVOL Kitchens.

After much conversation and even a Facebook poll in our town’s local home decor group (no really), we chose the Silver.

What about choosing grout?

Choosing grout was another story. Luckily that was a little easier. We went with Dove Grey from Tec grout. That’s the sample on the right in the photo below.

And now? I love this floor.


Our kitchen floor tile makes me happy when I walk into our kitchen.

It masks dirt so well which is really important to us as this is a very high traffic area of our home, due to the back door entrance going right into the kitchen.

Water spots don’t show at all after they dry. I cannot praise it enough. In fact I love it so much, that it has completely changed how I feel about tile floors in kitchens. I can’t even imagine not having this tile in ours.

In order to save your marriage or your sanity, may I present:


(or any floor tile for that matter)


Bring home as many samples of the tile as you can. Buy a case if you are able to. One little tile, will not show you the full pattern of that tile. You may get that one tile from the case that doesn’t have all the swirls and misty features that you may or may not want.

Lighting matters

Test out your tile in different lighting. Halogen will cause a different look than LED than daylight.

If possible, have your cabinets, counter top and back splash available to how they all look. Otherwise known as a mood board.

Test Water on your Tile (I’m serious)

Put water on your tile. See how it dries. I have a friend who renovated her kitchen and while she loves her slate tiles, she hates that they show every drop of water on them. Not all tile is the same when it comes to this. If you have young kids or drink a lot of wine and are prone to spilling, you need to see how the tile will look when it’s being used vs how pretty and shiny it looks on a showroom wall.

Get Inspired by Pinterest

Pin photos of kitchens you love and looks you’re hoping to achieve. Bring them to an expert at the tile store. If you’re in the Toronto area, go to Ceramic Tile World and ask for Terry. He’s awesome and has the patience of a saint and made this happen for us.

Do not judge tiles based on online photographs

Photographs online will appear different from how the tiles will look in your own home. When I look at Ceragres site for the Silver slab tile wall they show, I don’t like it at all. It looks dark and harsh. In our kitchen, it’s warm and cozy. Even some of these photographs don’t show it the way it feels if you saw it in person. It’s just like grey paint. Lighting changes everything.

Choose Porcelain over Ceramic Tile

Choose Porcelain over Ceramic tile if you have the budget for it. Ceramic tile can crack. Porcelain tends to be much tougher. And again, not all brands are equal. Check the depth of the tile, how it dips and arches when you’re looking at it horizontally as that will impact how your tile lays on the floor, depending on what tile layout you choose. This is also why choosing a good tiler is very, very, very important because they will know how to ensure the floor is level.

Grout colors

Grout color matters. A lot. It can change the entire feeling of your floor. Do you want constrasting tile or solid body of tile? Take your time selecting your grout color.

Pay attention to Store Return Policies

Check store return policies. Some have a restocking fee if you change your mind. Ask me how I know.

Pay attention to your gut

Don’t settle. Ever. Even at the risk of divorce. Replacing tile is messy, costly and you do not want to have to rip it all up and start over.

I want to make clear that this post is NOT sponsored by Ceragres or Ceramic Tile World.

We paid for it all on our own. We chose the Ceragres because we really liked the quality of their product and really appreciate the customer service that Terry offered at Ceramic Tile World.

In this complicated world of online reviews, I’d like to ensure that no one is swaying my voice here as lately more and more people are being skeptical of sponsored posts.

And if you have hardwood floors in your house that have lasted 25 years without any issue, I don’t even want to hear it. I’m kidding. I still love our floors. No regrets here.

PS – We still haven’t chosen a back splash. Or a range hood. Or a fridge. Namaste.


It’s been 2 years since we installed the tile and while we still love the tile, the grout has been a total shit show. Either the batch we got was old and grainy or possibly mixed wrong, but it’s been popping out since about 3 months in. This is with reinforced joists in the floor and basement ceiling.

First the sections that started to pop out were small. Little slivers falling out and crumbling. A popping tile here and there. Now? It’s almost the whole kitchen floor. 

My summer project will be to remove all of the grout in the floor tile and re-grout it with a different brand of grout. When we renovated the Master Bathroom, our tilers recommended a different brand because of the long term problems with it. 

It’s going to be another long project in the kitchen renovation that never ends.

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  • Reply
    July 17, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    The floor looks great, I really like the grout color! You’ve had four dishwasher leaks?! Our current DW died after only 2 years, an Electrolux…I’m curious of the brands of yours that failed.

    • Reply
      July 19, 2017 at 5:41 pm

      They’re pretty equal across the board. Whirlpool. Kenmore. Amana. Fridigaire. And oh wait there was a 5th! I stand corrected. And that was GE. The one we bought for this kitchen is from IKEA and that is made by Whirlpool but it comes with a 5 year warranty. Most of the brands all sort of all fall under one maker. So Whirlpool, Amana, Maytag, JennAir and Kitchen Aid are all owned by Whirlpool. And Frigidaire is Electrolux. I have not tried LG or Samsung yet.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2017 at 8:55 am

    What a roller coaster…..I have to say, it is absolutely crucial to physically see all YOUR material selections together. I just finished our kitchen remodel, and went with white shaker cabinets, marble on the island and backsplash, and white quartz on the counters along the wall. For the quartz, I chose a prefab “super white”, one that I had seen in-person at one time along the long road of remodel planning. I just assumed “super white” was, well – super white. It was installed, and….I didn’t love it. At all. It was just a little off against the white cabinets and gray/white marble – kinda dingy, yellowish too. Thank goodness I pulled the trigger on replacing the prefab quartz – went on a frantic wild goose hunt to track down a pure white quartz, finally found it in a slab of Silestone Zeus White. While it was a costly mistake, it would have been a bigger mistake to not fix it.

    As this post mentions, there are tons of grays in the world, same goes with whites. And I’m guessing there’s a floor tile and a sample cabinet door in your trunk when you’re out and about looking at backsplash material options…..

    • Reply
      July 21, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      I so agree about the various white shades and products out there. This is how I felt about IKEA’s GRIMSLOV cabinets. In the stores, they can appear white. When you put them against a bright white subway tile, they may as well be yellow. Because I personally like a crisp white, they were a no go for me (and that sucked b/c I wanted white shakers for our pending uppers) so now it’s Ok who makes a bright white shaker? I empathize with your counter experience. I would have done the same thing. Even if it’s just a little off, you’ll stare at it every day and be like nope.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Ha, I stared at the dingy quartz for THREE weeks before pulling the trigger on replacing it. There was a 3 week delay b/c our contractor (who is AH-MAY-ZING) had the counter fabricator buy a new slab of marble for the backsplash b/c he wasn’t happy with the cuts (talk about Grade-A Quality Control!). Once I heard they were starting over with a slab of marble (granted at no expense to us) I was like “OK, let’s fix the quartz too and get it right, we’re going this far”.

    During a reno, days can feel like months, but it’s so important to hold the design paramount, even if it means more time. While we’ve been in our new kitchen for a month, a wall of backsplash hasn’t yet been installed. Why? B/c CA Code requires an absurd amount of outlets. Well, I don’t want white plastic outlets on top of gorgeous marble. The only way to achieve this was to have the contractor install the outlets on the (marble-less) drywall backsplash, get signed off for the inspection, and then remove the outlets and put up the marble. (I have plenty of outlets installed on the bottom of my upper cabinets.) Of course this decision resulted in a long delay b/c our fabricator happened to be traveling to Mexico for six weeks as soon as our job was done. But next week he’s back, marble’s going in Thursday and again – the time we waited to really get it right is SO worth it!

  • Reply
    Tiling London
    January 2, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    Choosing your tiles can be the hardest part of the job as they can be expensive and will be a part of your life for many years. I have heard of couples breaking into huge arguments in tile stores as they try to find something they both agree on. That’s a very helpful post that I’m sure will help lots of people make a good choice.

  • Reply
    Linda Vuong
    January 24, 2018 at 11:34 am

    This made me LOL! I also could not find tile that inspired me and ended at ceragres this weekend and Silver and Coke are the 2 colours I’m looking at!

  • Reply
    Chris G
    August 26, 2018 at 3:15 am

    Hey There ! Appreciate all the info. What brand and model are the black cabinet fronts in your new kitchen? They look lovely !!

    • Reply
      August 29, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      Hi there! The cabinet fronts are the now discontinued (to our still unfinished kitchen horror) LAXARBY fronts. They’ve been replaced by LERHYTTAN door. It’s more a black shaker than the additional grooves. If you can’t find the cabinet fronts you want for your IKEA kitchen, try the company Semi Handmade Doors. They make custom cabinet fronts specifically for IKEA cabinets.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2018 at 8:09 am

    Thank you for sharing your story and experience! I am getting ready to redo my kitchen floor and I am driving myself (and everyone who knows me) nuts. I currently have sheet vinyl that has to come out and I am putting in radiant heat because I had to pull a radiator out of the kitchen. I know for practicality purposes porcelain tile is the way to go because it will conduct and hold the heat best. I have picked a tile that I really like the look of but I am so afraid of the hardness!! What are your thoughts on that? I know your first choice was the coziness of wood so how is the tile on the feet? I almost never wear shoes around home so I would be barefoot/socks most of the time.
    Thank you for your feedback!

    • Reply
      August 29, 2018 at 9:18 pm

      I thought I would hate tile in the kitchen for the same reasons. Walking on it, would it feel cold and hard? I *LOVE* it. Dare I say even more than our old hardwood kitchen in our previous home? A lot of that is due to the type of tile we chose in the end, which has a very stone like feeling. So it’s similar to walking on a nice patio or pool side vs the flat untextured tiles of the 80’s. We’ve spent a winter with these and my feet have never felt cold during those months and if anything I really enjoy going barefoot on them in the summer when I am cooking. Cleaning is so much easier and I don’t freak out over water spills and melting ice cubes at all anymore. My recommendation would be to honestly get some tiles that you want and lay them out and stand on them and walk around on them (also helpful for the unexpected patterns you may see in them as the nightmare in my post). I know that sounds silly but not all tile feels the same. The size, the texture, the thickness of the spaces between the tiles, all of that will impact your comfort level. I can’t stand standing on my bathroom floor because it’s flat and is made of small squares but I am very happy with the kitchen due to the size and texture. I am never in slippers either.

  • Reply
    October 1, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    I am SO feeling your post, even though a year later. I need a new kitchen floor to replace a 20+ vinyl one. LVT was almost a home run choice, until I read about PVC and VOCs and Phthalates. Yes, these concerns are lessening, but they are still a small issue. Real wood in three potential flood areas (kitchen, powder room and laundry room) are too much of a risk to install this. So I’m giving porcelain tile a good look-see now.

    • Reply
      October 5, 2018 at 4:45 pm

      LOL! Sorry for the late reply. You made me laugh in the best way possible. I understand the struggle. When you find the right tile, it will be a good fit. I have no regrets about our tile. Still love them so much! Our grout choice however, oy! Bad batch and some pockets are dissolving so we need to fix them. We should have realized something was off when it felt too grainy in the beginning.

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