When Bigger is Better - The Impact of Large Format Tile

When Bigger is Better - The Impact of Large Format Tile

2021 Nov 23rd

Floor: Deco Wood in Pearl 10.5”x71” porcelain plank from Elysium Tile
Akoya Ivory 24”x48” porcelain tile from Elysium Tile

Defined by its grand dimensions, large format tile is one of the top contenders for homes and businesses. They offer sleek lines, minimal need for grout and go well with design styles from contemporary to traditional.

In addition to their aesthetic appeal, they offer several benefits:

  • They deliver an undeniable, eye-catching impact that can make your room appear more spacious.
  • They allow for fewer grout joints, which creates a clean, modern look.
  • Available in so many versatile designs, colors and patterns that it has become a top trend in interior design.

What is Large Format Tile?

Floor: Reside Black Semi-Polished 24”x48” porcelain from Arizona Tile

Until 2011, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) handbook defined LFT as 8” x 8” and greater. Today’s definition is that a tile with any edge longer than 15” is considered a large format tile. Available in various shapes and sizes, expect to see rectangular sizes like 18"x36", 16"x32", 24"x24", plus long, plank formats like 6"x24", 8"x36", 12"x48". They’re also available in square sizes like 20"x20", 24"x24", and 30"x30". A newer option is large panels that go as large as 60"x60" and 60"x127".

One of the best things that large-format tiles do is minimize grout joints, creating a crisp and elegant design. Not only does this create a seamless look, it is also easier to clean and requires less maintenance.

The large size transforms a space; these tiles create a smooth look and a feeling of spaciousness, bringing unexpected drama to your home. It’s a myth that large scale tiles shouldn’t or can’t be used in compact rooms, when in fact, these spaces are perfect for them. Using oversized tiles in a small area tricks the eye into thinking that the room is much bigger than it is, so can help to create a sense of scale where it doesn’t naturally exist.

Not Just for Floors

Countertop and backsplash: Dekton Khalo slab from Cosentino

LFTs make walls and vertical surfaces soar. Create statement walls, fireplaces and shower areas with large tile panels and even glass large format tile. 

LFT is even for countertops! When we think of tile countertops, tiny white squares with lots grout comes to mind. But large format tile is also available in oversized panels that can look like marble, concrete, granite, wood, linen or just about any other natural material you could want – with none of their maintenance issues or usage restrictions. Designed to elevate your space, large format panels often feature bookmatched slabs with the realistic look of natural stone surfaces. It is also long-lasting, heat-proof, and resistant to scratches, stains, and aggressive chemicals. They are perfect for indoor and outdoor spaces like floors, countertops, exterior walls and facades and more.

Installation Considerations

While large format tiles are a great way to provide a modern look to a large space, they do come with their own set of challenges where installation is concerned. Large format tile installation requires particular attention to proper substrate preparation, mortar coverage and grout joint sizing .

  • Lippage Prevention - Proper subfloor preparation and leveling is vital. Installers will likely use a self-leveling underlayment to ensure adequate flatness and to avoid lippage (a term that describes a tile being higher than the one beside it). While a slight lippage can be acceptable for wall installations, lippage on flooring can be much more noticeable and even pose a tripping hazard.
  • Mortar Coverage - When installing large format tile, there must be at least 90% mortar contact and a minimum grout joint of 3/16". For proper bonding, medium bed mortar should be used in installing tiles with a dimensional length greater than 20"x20", large rectangles or tiles with greater dimensional thickness than normal. Back buttering tiles of this nature in the installation process will also assure proper coverage.
  • Grout Joint Size - All large format tile requires a minimum 1/16” grout joint according to ANSI. Some installers recommend that large tiles have a 1/8” or 3/16” minimum grout joint for the most successful installation. The difference is not really noticeable visually, but can make a big difference to the quality of the installation. 

Message to Designers and End-Users

More and more designers and homeowners want these expansive tiles in their projects and homes. Because installing large format tile requires attention to detail and sometimes very special handling, we suggest you find an installer with expert knowledge and experience installing these large tiles. They will be able to take into consideration the supplies and care it will take to create a beautiful space for you.

Whether you’re thinking floors, backsplashes, fireplaces, showers and tubs, or a stunning accent wall, CFM has the perfect solution for you.