The tile countertop trend is back – but is it a mistake you’ll come to regret?

Tile countertops have made a major comeback in recent years. After falling out of favor for decades, tile is now one of the hottest countertop trends on the market. The renewed popularity of tile can be attributed to advances in style and technology that have helped it shed its once-dated look. With so many options now available, tile delivers on affordability, durability, and easy maintenance – all high on homeowners’ wish lists.

Though tile has its advantages, it also comes with some drawbacks that must be considered. The grout between tiles is susceptible to staining and discoloration that can be difficult to remove. Tile can also chip and crack over time. With natural stone, there’s always a chance of encountering variations in color and veining. Once installed, tile countertops are largely unchangeable, so style regret is a real possibility. Weighing the pros and cons of tile countertops will help you determine if choosing it plays to your lifestyle or could end up being a decision you come to regret.

The Comeback of Tile Countertops

Tile countertops were hugely popular in kitchens and bathrooms throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The material was prized for being affordable, water-resistant, and easy to clean. By the 1980s and 1990s, solid surface materials like Corian and laminates became prominent kitchen countertop options. Granite soon followed as the rising luxury choice throughout the 2000s. Tile fell by the wayside as dated or too utilitarian.

In recent years, tile has shaken off its dowdy image with a stylish reboot. New shapes, patterns, colors, and textures make tile an exciting design choice versus the monotony of solid slab materials. From geometric designs to handpainted tiles, there are myriad options for achieving a custom high-end look at a more budget-friendly price point. Combining tiles and mosaics in complementary hues or contrasting colors and finishes elevates tile to a whole new level. The greater variety available allows tile to work with almost any home interior style from modern to traditional.

Advancements in technology have also improved the performance and durability of today’s tile:

  • Porcelain – Denser and less porous than ceramic tile, porcelain has superior strength and stain resistance. It can better mimic the look of pricier materials like marble or granite.
  • Glass – Gorgeous glass mosaic tiles make a serious style statement. Options like recycled glass tiles are eco-friendly.
  • Metal – Introducing metal brings an industrial edge through tiles mixing metal and porcelain or stainless steel tiles.
  • Cement – The mottled, reactive look of cement tile ties into popular modern farmhouse and industrial design aesthetics.

Pros of Tile Countertops

What has drawn many homeowners back to tile countertops? There are a number of beneficial features spurring its revival.


The number one advantage of tile is its affordability compared to most other countertop materials like quartz and granite. Price can vary widely based on the type and grade of tile chosen, but is typically on the lower end of the spectrum. And savings add up when you consider tile can be used on the countertops, backsplash, walls, and flooring. Standard ceramic or porcelain tile starts at $2-$10 per square foot installed. On average, expect to pay:

  • Ceramic tile: $7-$30 per square foot
  • Porcelain tile: $10-$50 per square foot
  • Glass tile: $20-$100 per square foot
  • Mosaic tile: $15-$50 per square foot
  • Cement tile: $25-$70 per square foot
  • Stone tile: $40-$100 per square foot

While special designer or handmade tiles can be pricey, tile still generally costs a fraction of materials like quartz at $70-$120 per square foot and granite at $70-$150 per square foot installed. The ability to create an affordable custom look makes tile compelling for many.


Properly installed and cared for, tile countertops can potentially last a lifetime. The durability comes from the fired clay or porcelain composition that is quite impervious to heat, stains, moisture, and most everyday wear and tear.

Tile resists scratches, scorching, and burning better than materials like laminate that can bubble or peel from hot pans. The hard glazed surface deters stains from setting into the tile, though spills should still be wiped up promptly. With proper sealing, the grout between tiles becomes stain-resistant as well. This level of durability makes tile popular for busy kitchens.

Tile is unlikely to chip, crack, or form defects like some natural stone. Any damage is usually limited to surface chips or cracks in individual tiles that can be replaced versus needing to refinish or replace the whole countertop.

Easy Maintenance

The non-porous nature of tile also lends itself to quick and simple maintenance. Occasional sweeping or vacuuming keeps tile clear of dust and debris. General cleaning is accomplished by wiping the countertop down with a damp cloth or sponge and mild detergent. Any spills or messes can be spot cleaned using the same method.

Grout may need periodic scrubbing to keep it looking fresh. Reapplying sealer every 1-2 years will preserve grout and make cleaning easier. Avoid abrasive cleaners or pads that could scratch the glazed tile surface. With routine care, tile maintains its like-new appearance with minimal effort.


From colors and patterns to shapes and textures, tile provides limitless options for achieving a personalized look. Mixing and matching tile layouts, trims, accents, and mosaics lets you infuse character and originality into the space. Tile allows you to replace an older existing countertop on a limited budget while still achieving a completely fresh custom feel.

Moisture Resistance

Tile’s impervious quality also means it offers protection from moisture. Tile countertops hold up to water splashes, spills, and high humidity. This makes tile a smart choice for bathrooms or kitchens in hot, humid climates. The grout may absorb some moisture, but the tile itself provides a water-resistant barrier.

Heat Resistance

Tile exceeds the heat tolerance of many other popular countertop materials. Exposure to heat sources like hot pans, coffeemakers, and appliances will not damage its surface. The glazed finish can withstand temperatures up to 1200°F before any cracks or chips occur. Just use a trivet as a precaution to distribute concentrated heat from super hot pots.

Eco-Friendly Options

Tile can also be an environmentally responsible choice. Many companies now offer tile containing recycled content such as glass, porcelain, or metal tile. This keeps waste out of landfills. Look for sustainably sourced natural stone as well. Local and regional tiles also help reduce the environmental impact from cross-country transport.

Potential Drawbacks of Tile Countertops

Despite the revival in popularity, tile comes with some disadvantages homeowners should carefully weigh before deciding it’s the right material choice.

Grout Maintenance

One of the biggest headaches of tile countertops is the grout between tiles. Grout is porous and will absorb stains, moisture, and bacteria over time. This leads to dingy, discolored grout that compromises the look of the whole countertop.

Proper sealing helps protect grout, but sealers must be reapplied regularly. You may need to occasionally use special cleaners and scrubbers on the grout. Cracks or missing grout will also need repairing. Keeping grout well-maintained ends up being a never-ending chore.

Using darker grout colors like charcoal can help mask grime better versus white or light grout. Epoxy grout is another option offering increased stain resistance, though an epoxy film can wear off over time. Choosing larger format tiles means fewer grout lines overall to deal with.

Chips and Cracks

Even durable tile can become damaged from dropped items, bumps, or high impact. Surface glazes may chip, crack, or form spiderweb-like cracking patterns. Cracks usually start small and worsen over time.

Moisture seeping into cracks can lead to damage of the substructure or compromised sanitation from mold growth. Chipped or broken tiles must be replaced to restore the countertop’s integrity and appearance. This typically requires cutting out and replacing tiles or the entire damaged section.

Difficult Repairs

Major damage, extensive cracking, or desire for a new look means a tile countertop replacement. This entails ripping up and disposing of the existing tile and starting the installation process from scratch. The demolition process can be messy, disruptive, and costly.

Unlike other materials that can be resurfaced in place, the only tile repair option involves replacing broken, chipped, or cracked tiles. The original tiles may be hard to source for an exact match. Even subtle differences in color and texture when adding new tiles can be noticeable.

Not Resurfacing Friendly

Laminate, solid surface, and some natural stone countertops can be resurfaced by sanding down scratches or other flaws in the existing material and applying a fresh finish coat. This restores the countertop to like-new condition at a fraction of full replacement cost.

Unfortunately, tile cannot be resurfaced. Glazed tile doesn’t absorb topical refinishing products. The only remedy is ripping up and replacing the tile. For homeowners who like to remodel every decade or so, this can make tile a less appealing choice than materials that facilitate resurfacing.

Tricky Installation

A proper tile installation is complex. The substrate must be completely clean, flat, and appropriately prepped. Meticulous measurements are required to achieve the planned layout and pattern alignment. Tiles must be cut to fit around sinks, cooktops, and other obstructions. The mortar or adhesive must be applied evenly without voids. Joints should be uniform.

Rushing the job or inexperience can lead to poorly set tiles that crack or come loose. Uneven grout lines also scream amateur job. This is not a DIY for beginners. Hiring a qualified tile pro is advised, adding to your overall project investment.


While many homeowners are eager to renovate or remodel every 10-15 years, tile doesn’t allow this flexibility. Except for switching out some accent tiles, the countertop design is static once installed. The grout, adhesives, and construction techniques make tiles extremely stubborn to remove.

Even selective demolition of a section of tile often ends up damaging adjacent tiles. A change in tile color, pattern, or layout down the road requires complete replacement. For homeowners who like to periodically update their interior style, the permanence of tile can be restricting.

Style Regret

Tile’s unchangeable nature also leaves open the possibility of coming to regret your design choice down the road. Color and style trends come and go. What you adore today may feel dated in just a few years as your preferences evolve.

For resale value, neutral colors tend to have the widest appeal. Some trendy tile styles like bold patterns, intense colors, or metallics can be polarizing. If you ever go to sell, your tile could be a turn-off for buyers who don’t share your taste. Of course, you can’t predict future market trends, so style regret is a risk with any design selection.

Sourcing Matching Tiles

Damaged, cracked, or missing tiles will need replacement over the years. Tracking down additional tiles that are perfect matches to the existing tile can be challenging. If the tile came from a local provider, there’s a good chance they can source more from the same production lot.

For specialty or discontinued tiles, you may end up searching online swap groups to find additional quantities. Batch production means there can be natural variation between tile sets made at different times. Even slight color and texture differences will be noticeable, so an exact match is ideal.

Key Considerations for Choosing Tile Countertops

Tile delivers on the popularity trifecta of affordability, durability, and low maintenance. Yet some disadvantages like cumbersome repairs and inflexibility give homeowners pause. As you weigh up benefits against drawbacks, keep these key factors in mind:

  • Where will tile be used? Consider your overall goals and lifestyle. Tile works beautifully in low-moisture areas like dining rooms or laundry rooms. High-traffic kitchens and baths come with more spills, splashes, and wear – intensifying grout hassles. Know what you’re signing up for.
  • What tile material suits your needs? From classic ceramic and porcelain to glass, metal and stone, different tile materials each have pros and cons. Porcelain, for instance, provides greater stain and water resistance than ceramic in trade for higher cost.
  • What tile aesthetic do you love? From basic white squares to bold patterns and vivid colors, tile design options span the spectrum. Look through photos and showrooms to identify your preferred tile styles. Neutrals suit a wider range of future décor, while strong styles make bolder statements.
  • How permanent are your plans? Tile’s essentially fixed nature doesn’t work well for homeowners who remodel frequently. If you foresee tweaking your kitchen decor down the road, a material like quartz that can be resurfaced may be a wiser bet.
  • How do grout drawbacks factor in? For maximum stain resistance, choose larger tiles with fewer grout lines. Dark grout disguises grime better than light colors. Maintaining grout well takes diligence. Know your tolerance for this maintenance commitment.
  • Can you afford professional installation? Don’t cut corners to save money on installation. Improper prep and technique leads to cracked grouting, loose tiles, and other issues. A skilled tile pro is strongly advised.
  • How readily can you source matching tiles? Some specialty, custom, or discontinued styles make finding additional tiles tough when repairs are needed. Stick with current widely available tile lines to avoid this problem.
  • Can I live with permanence and style risk? Once installed, you’re largely stuck with the tile design. Bold styles come with more risk of future regret. Make peace with the element of design permanence tiles involve before proceeding.

The tile countertop trend is back – but is it a mistake you’ll come to regret?

Tile offers so much to love, including ample choices that make personalized style affordable. When thoughtfully selected and expertly installed, tile countertops deliver on beauty, functionality, and longevity. Just weigh drawbacks like high grout maintenance against your skills, lifestyle, and willingness to take on tile’s permanence. For homeowners who embrace both the pros and cons, today’s tiles can provide enduring satisfaction.

FAQs About Tile Countertops

How do you clean and care for tile countertops?

  • Use a damp microfiber cloth and mild detergent to wipe down tile. Rinse and dry.
  • Seal grout every 1-2 years using a penetrating grout sealer.
  • Scrub grout occasionally using a specialized grout brush and grout cleaner.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach that may discolor grout.
  • Blot spills when they occur to avoid staining.
  • Use a trivet under hot pans and appliances.

Can you paint over existing tile countertops?

Painting over tile rarely has good results. The glazed surface causes most paints to chip, peel, or rub off easily. The grout also absorbs paint unevenly. Painting tile typically looks sloppy. Full replacement is better if you want an updated color.

What are the most durable and water-resistant tiles?

Porcelain tile is more durable and water-resistant than ceramic. Both are very hard. Stone tiles like granite, marble or travertine can etch from acids. Glass tile is prone to chipping. Porcelain stones offer strength plus stain, scratch and heat resistance.

How do you fix a cracked tile?

A cracked tile normally requires replacement. Removing the damaged tile involves cutting the grout and breaking tile adhesive bonds. After cleaning the area, apply fresh adhesive and grout the new tile into place. Repairing a few cracked tiles is doable as a DIY project.

Can you put tile over existing laminate countertops?

No, laminate provides too uneven and insecure a surface for tiling over successfully. Laminate tends to buckle over time. Any vulnerability allows future tile cracking or loosening. Safest approach is to remove old laminate and start fresh with proper subsurface prep for tile.

What thickness of tile works best for countertops?

A tile thickness between 1/4” to 3/8” provides the best balance of durability and weight for countertops. Thinner tiles risk cracking and lack stability. Thicker tiles add excessive weight requiring additional substrate support. Aim for tiles no thinner than 1/4” for secure lasting installation.

Should tile countertops have an edge?

Yes, a finished edge is strongly recommended. Leaving an exposed tile edge creates a breeding ground for dirt, debris and moisture issues. An aluminum, laminate, marble, granite or wood edge piece finishes the countertop perimeter nicely and protects tiles from damage.


The revival of tile as a coveted countertop option shows no signs of slowing down. Homeowners smitten with tile’s stylish, personalized vibe must also carefully consider the practical pros and cons. Budget-friendly tiles allow creativity to flourish within realistic constraints compared to pricier natural stone or quartz. The sheer variety of colors, shapes, textures, and patterns means the design possibilities are truly endless. This freedom of expression explains tile’s soaring popularity.

With proper installation and care, tile delivers durability and low maintenance sure to please busy homeowners. The unyielding surface stands up to years of wear, spills, and humidity. Yet the grout requires vigilant cleaning and sealing to prevent staining between tiles. Cracks and chips also necessitate tile replacement versus refinishing options with other materials.

For many, these drawbacks are worth the tradeoff. Yet lifestyle and priorities matter. Tile suits households comfortable with the permanence, style risk, and particular care tiles entail. If the enthusiasm for tile endures in the