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hexagon wall and floor tile in a shower bathroom

Wall and Floor Tiles: Are They Interchangeable?

If you've ever wondered whether wall and floor tiles are interchangeable, then you’re not alone as this is a common query we encounter here at In this blog, we look at the practicalities and limitations of using each tile type beyond its intended purpose, offering insights to help you make informed decisions for your renovation projects.

Wall and Floor Tiles - An Overview

When it comes to tiles, not all are created the same way. Wall tiles and floor tiles are distinct in their construction, materials, and purpose. To achieve a cohesive look, consider using matching tiles for both surfaces.

Wall tiles boast a lightweight nature, making them easy to adhere to vertical surfaces. They are typically crafted from materials like ceramic wall tiles, porcelain, mosaic, and vintage tiles, all of which are tiles suitable for various design preferences. To ensure a cohesive look, make sure your wall tiles match to complement the overall aesthetic of your space.

Floor tiles are built to withstand the test of time and traffic. They are robust, easy to maintain, hygienic, and fireproof, making them ideal for flooring. These tiles are commonly made from durable materials such as:

  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Glass
  • Natural stone like marble, granite, slate, and cement

Floor tiles are manufactured with increased thickness and durability to endure foot traffic, perfect to use as a bathroom floor tile for example. On the other hand, wall tiles are engineered to be thinner, smoother, and more delicate, facilitating easy adherence to vertical surfaces. This distinction aids in comprehending the interchangeability of wall and floor tiles, enabling us to make informed decisions when decorating our spaces.

Wall Tiles

Wall tiles are primarily designed for decorative purposes and aren’t built to withstand heavy foot traffic or pressure. The most common materials used for wall tiles include:

  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Mosaic

Each material offers a unique aesthetic appeal, with fewer grout lines adding to their sleek appearance. Their lightweight design and thin construction make them perfect for vertical applications, including bathroom walls, or as a kitchen wall tile or kitchen splashback.

However, some wall tiles’ thinner construction and material composition do not provide the necessary strength and durability found in floor tiles designed to handle heavy foot traffic or pressure. Therefore, even though wall tiles can enhance any space with their elegance, their limitations should be noted when considering using wall tiles on floor spaces.

Floor Tiles

Floor tiles, on the other hand, are designed to endure. They are constructed from materials such as:

  • ceramic
  • porcelain
  • natural stone
  • quartz
  • glass
  • cement
  • wood
  • concrete
  • vinyl
  • laminate

All combined with clay, minerals, and water, shaped, dried, and fired at high temperatures in a kiln. This manufacturing process results in tiles that are resistant to stains, easy to clean, and suitable for various applications.

The durability of floor tiles is impacted by various factors, including:

  • The quality of manufacturing
  • The durability of the materials used
  • The grade and PEI rating of the tiles
  • The installation and maintenance practices

Their ability to withstand foot traffic, bear significant loads, and resist impacts makes them indispensable in high-traffic areas, unlike wall tiling, which is generally lighter and less equipped to handle such impacts.

Factors Affecting Interchangeability

The interchangeability of wall and floor tiles isn’t just a matter of aesthetics; it’s also about functionality. Several factors come into play, such as tile ratings and the strength and durability of the materials. Tile ratings like the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating and Coefficient of Friction (COF) rating serve as indicators of a tile’s durability and slip resistance, respectively. These ratings help us determine whether tiles are suitable for high foot traffic areas such as floors.

Another significant factor is the material strength of tiles. The bending strength of ceramic porcelain stoneware tiles, for instance, determines the tile’s ability to resist force without breaking. This characteristic is particularly important for floor tiles, which need to support weight and foot traffic without getting damaged. Therefore, grasping these factors is fundamental when contemplating the use of wall tiles as floor tiles or the other way around.

Tile Ratings (PEI and COF)

Tile ratings, such as the PEI and COF, serve as a guide for determining the suitability of tiles for specific uses. The PEI Rating system is designed to assess the level of abrasion resistance exhibited by the surface of a given tile. Tiles receive a PEI Rating ranging from 0 to 5, with a rating of 5 denoting the highest level of wear resistance. This rating system proves to be particularly beneficial in tile selection, as it aids in determining their appropriateness for various levels of foot traffic.

On the other hand, COF ratings measure a tile’s slip resistance by determining the friction between two items. A higher COF rating means that the tile has a higher level of slip resistance, a crucial factor in selecting tiles for areas where slip resistance is important, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Material Strength and Durability

The material strength and durability of tiles significantly influence their appropriateness for different applications. Tiles crafted from materials such as porcelain tiles are known for their dense and less porous nature, exhibiting greater hardness and durability compared to ceramic tiles. Tiles made from stone, such as limestone, granite, and sandstone, along with concrete, are more suitable for high-traffic areas due to their robustness and ability to withstand frequent foot traffic without significant wear.

In terms of interchangeability, comprehending the strength disparity between wall and floor tiles is vital. Floor tiles are engineered to have greater weight, thickness, and strength to withstand the stresses of floor usage, including enduring physical impacts from foot traffic, weight, and dropped objects. On the other hand, wall tiles are typically lighter, more fragile, and less capable of handling such impacts.

Can You Use a Wall Tile on the Floor?

Having explored the characteristics of wall and floor tiles and the factors affecting their interchangeability, let's look at the practical aspects. Wall tiles should not typically be used as floor tiles because they are not usually designed to handle the weight and traffic of a floor. Tiles specifically rated for floor use should be employed to guarantee durability and safety.

So, the answer is yes, but with some caveats. Using wall tiles on floors can provide distinctive designs and patterns, potentially enhancing the visual aesthetics of the space. However, they can also present drawbacks including:

  • Increased fragility
  • Susceptibility to breakage
  • Susceptibility to dirt accumulation
  • Potential slipperiness

While it’s not common for all wall tiles to be suitable for use on floors, premium wall tiles with higher ratings and specific designs - such as porcelain tiles - may be suitable for floor use due to their increased durability and ability to withstand more wear. However, the thickness and strength of a wall tile can play a significant role in determining its suitability for use as floor tiles. Their lack of strength can result in breakage, as floor tiles are required to withstand a greater load.


When used correctly, wall tiles can offer unique designs and patterns for flooring, potentially creating a visually appealing space. Utilising wall tiles as floor tiles can greatly elevate the visual appeal of a room by introducing distinctive textures, patterns, and colours, thereby contributing to the depth and character of the flooring.

Wall tiles also offer a wider design variety than standard floor tiles, as they come in a broader range of colours, finishes, and sizes, including large format tiles. This allows for more creative and personalised design choices for flooring.


On the flip side, wall tiles are not designed to withstand heavy foot traffic, making them less durable and prone to damage when used as floor tiles. The typical drawbacks of using wall tiles as floor tiles include:

  • Lack of flexibility
  • Fragility
  • Susceptibility to breakage
  • Challenging to remove
  • Prone to getting dirty easily
  • May pose a slip hazard due to their lower absorption compared to floor tiles.

Also, the use of wall tiles on the floor can have a significant impact on their durability. Floor tiles are designed to bear heavier loads and are more robust, while wall tiles are generally lighter and may not be suited for high foot traffic, leading to accelerated wear if used inappropriately.

Can You Use Floor Tiles on Walls?

The reverse scenario is also possible – using floor tiles as wall tiles. Floor tiles offer durability and strength, which can be beneficial when used on walls. However, their weight can make installation more challenging and potentially lead to long-term problems.

The primary benefit of using a floor tile as a wall tile is its durability, which enhances the strength and longevity of the wall surface. However, the suitability of floor tiles for wall applications is primarily determined by the desired aesthetic, as both floor and wall tiles are available in various shapes, sizes, colours, and finishes.

crystal wall and floor tiles with free standing bath

Crystal Navy Blue and White, 60x120cm porcelain wall and floor tiles 

Here are the Pros:

Floor tiles can provide a more durable and long-lasting option for walls, especially in high-moisture areas like bathrooms. They are generally thicker than wall tiles and are specifically engineered to endure substantial wear and tear, offering enhanced sound resistance and the potential for heightened durability when utilised on walls.

Floor tiles, especially those made of porcelain, demonstrate exceptional durability and can withstand regular exposure to moisture without displaying any signs of deterioration. Their superior water resistance renders them a suitable option for bathroom tiles, as well as walls in high-moisture environments like kitchens and laundry rooms. A single floor tile can be an excellent sample to showcase the quality and design of these tiles.

And Cons:

Floor tiles can be heavier and more challenging to install on walls, potentially leading to installation issues and long-term problems. The weight of floor tiles can have a significant impact on wall installation. If the total weight of the floor tiles, along with grout and adhesive, exceeds the maximum weight per square foot, it is not advisable to use them for walls.

Potential long-term implications of using floor tiles as wall tiles include:

  • The risk of tiles detaching
  • Structural concerns
  • Aesthetic issues such as discolouration, deterioration, and mould, which can impact the structural integrity and visual appeal of the wall.

Best Practices for Using Tiles Interchangeably

For interchangeable use of tiles, it’s vital to select the appropriate tiles and adhere to correct installation techniques. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are recommended for interchangeable use because of their design flexibility, low water absorption, and durability. Additionally, natural stone tiles provide exceptional scratch resistance and stress tolerance, making them ideal for high-traffic areas. It’s also important to consider the size and strength of tiles due to their impact on weight, suitability for installation on walls, and load-bearing considerations for floor tiles.

Choosing the right adhesive or grout is also crucial for interchangeable tile installation. Epoxy grout is particularly well-suited for the installation of tiles that can be interchanged, especially in areas with increased moisture exposure or heavy-duty requirements.

Proper Installation Techniques

Proper installation techniques ensure that tiles are securely attached and can withstand the demands of their intended use.

The surface preparation for wall and floor tiles involves ensuring that the walls are level, clean, dry, and stable enough to support the weight of the tiles. It is important to have a surface that is free from dust, grease, or loose material. Additionally, for floor tiles, the ideal base is clean and contamination-free concrete, with old adhesives or mortar removed.

Common Misconceptions About Tile Interchangeability

Common misconceptions about tile interchangeability can result in poor choices and unsatisfactory outcomes. Therefore, comprehending the facts before decision-making is vital. One common misconception is that floor tiles cannot be used as wall tiles. In reality, any tile can be utilised on the wall provided it is suitable for the purpose and the wall can bear its weight.

Another misconception is that floor tiles are not suitable for wall installation and cannot support heavy objects. However, it’s important to note that porcelain floors, for example, are more than capable of bearing heavy loads, indicating that floor tiles can indeed be strong enough for use on walls.

Tips for Choosing the Perfect Tiles for Your Space

The selection of the perfect tiles for your space requires consideration of factors like tile ratings, material strength, durability, and aesthetics. When making a decision on the most suitable tiles for a specific area, it is important to take into account the architectural style of the house, the dimensions of the room, and the level of natural or artificial illumination available in the area. Prioritising tiles with strong material strength and durability is essential to ensure they can withstand heavy use, high impact, and the wear that comes with years of continual use.

The aesthetic allure of tiles can have a substantial impact on a room’s design by boosting the overall visual appeal and fostering a welcoming ambience. The selection of tile colours and grout can play a pivotal role in achieving the desired aesthetic and can also affect the perceived spaciousness of the room. Professionals can play a crucial role in the tile selection process by:

  • Providing comprehensive guidance
  • Offering insights on various tile options
  • Engaging in discussions with the tiler regarding the layout and functionality of the space.

To sum up, wall and floor tiles each have their distinct characteristics, uses, and benefits. While they can be used interchangeably in certain situations, it’s important to consider factors such as tile ratings, material strength, and durability. Whether you’re looking to use wall tiles as floor tiles or vice versa, understanding these factors is crucial to making an informed decision. Remember, choosing the right tiles and following proper installation techniques can make all the difference in achieving a beautiful, durable, and functional space that reflects your style.

Get in touch with us today to speak to one of our specialists and find out more.

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