Ceramic tiles as the finish of furniture, worktops and islands

Krzysztof Kulig - Product Manager
Krzysztof Kulig - Product Manager

It might seem that tiles are laid indoors mainly on the floors and walls of the kitchen, bathroom and corridors. It is because it is hard to find competitive products of similar parameters and styles. Due to their durability and ease of cleaning, customers more frequently want to use them for a wider range of applications, as long as technology allows it.

Read this text to find out:

  • what makes porcelain tiles a good finish of kitchen furniture and more
  • what are the features of worktops made with porcelain tiles
  • how to create a block kitchen island with porcelain tiles
  • why choose cabinet fronts covered in porcelain
  • what are other non-standard applications of porcelain tiles.

In later sections, we will discuss how to connect the tiles and what technologies there are for their assembly on worktops and furniture fronts. We will focus on the most frequent mistakes and how to avoid them.

In recent years, we have noticed an increase in the use of ceramics on furniture for a wide variety of applications. Natural stone, despite its preciousness and excellent parameters, is not an easy material to work with; it is also quite expensive. Further to that, it is heavy and difficult to assemble. Due to these characteristics, the market has long been looking for an alternative to natural stone and found porcelain.

Porcelain tiles enable to create large-surface area without joints and connections while maintaining the pattern. Thanks to its qualities, the tiles are more and more frequently used on other surfaces, such as fireplaces and furniture, where the use of small-format tiles would not produce satisfying effects. As thinner large-format tiles entered the market, it provided architects with great opportunities to use the tiles on furniture.

Large-format porcelain tiles became a replacement for natural stone cladding. Large-format tiles enabled the use of porcelain in areas previously reserved for the stone industry. Natural stone comes in an almost unlimited range of sizes and thicknesses. It allows the production of self-bearing worktops without support and substructure. Stone bonding enables the production of monolithic worktops, glued at an angle and ground. This is an incredible advantage; however, if the proper technology is applied, similar designs can be made of porcelain tiles on a substructure.

One of the features of stone is its diversity not only in terms of looks but also in terms of use. Some species are characterised by great hardness, some can be fragile, and others are highly absorbent and require impregnation. Porcelain tiles on the other hand are uniform; their parameters are very similar, whereas the number of available finishes and patterns is unlimited. Worktops made of porcelain tiles are lighter, easier to transport and decidedly less expensive. If installed properly, their durability will be the same as of products made of natural stone.

Features of ceramic tiles on furniture

Unlike natural stone, porcelain tiles can be used as the covering of furniture fronts. They weigh only 15 kg/m2, which is not a problem when the proper load-bearing capacity and number of hinges are determined. You can see this solution for yourself at selected showrooms of Tubądzin Group's partners, in the so-called Home Zones.

Furniture finished with porcelain tiles is quite extraordinary, thanks to its resistance to soiling and ease of maintenance. Porcelain is resistant to stains; to clean them, you only need
a damp cloth or (in case of tougher stains) delicate detergent.

Large-format porcelain is manufactured at high temperatures, called firing, during which temperatures reach 1,200℃. As a result, the finished product is characterised by a very high resistance to high temperatures. When you put a hot pot on the tiles, it will not cause damage. The assembly of tiles on backsplashes between kitchen cabinets is very popular due to the ease of cleaning and resistance to temperature (features also essential in the case of worktops or cooking islands).

Tiles with high class abrasion resistance are perfect for worktops. They are durable, resistant to impact and stains and do not need impregnation, unlike natural stone. The range of Tubądzin Group includes many collections of tiles as large as 120 × 240 cm in matt finish, perfect for worktops. Grand Cave tiles or pastels from the Cielo e Terra by Dorota Koziara collection will work out well here.

Worktops are exposed to damage due to impact. Therefore, it is recommended to use tiles with coloured body, which allow hiding potential damage and chipping. Such tiles also allow to be worked on to shape the edges and create seamless joints.

Kitchen worktop porcelain – durable and lighter than stone

Worktops are frequently thought of as self-bearing, unsupported structures of stone and at least 2 cm thick. This solution is not optimal due to the weight of such a worktop, logistic problems related to its assembly and its high cost. A similar visual effect can be achieved when covering the substructure with tiles and apply the combination of a horizontal tile with a vertical strip, ground at an angle of 45 degrees. The flat surface of the worktop is connected to the strip on the side of the worktop so that it looks like a monolith. Such a solution is remarkably similar to a solid block of stone or concrete.

In order to connect both elements one should not use ordinary cement grouts due to their poor mechanical durability. Cement grouts do not merge both parts sufficiently and tend to crack. Furthermore, it is more susceptible to soiling. Experts who deal with the assembly of such worktops on a daily basis use professional chemicals, also used in the stone industry.

The use of resins for stone or epoxy joints best produce the monolithic effect. However, this requires considerable accuracy with grinding and bonding; therefore, it is recommended that you entrust this task to experts with sufficient experience.

Grinding at an angle of 45 degrees on the joint cannot be made without a proper gap. Usually, the joint gap is 1-1.5 mm. An exception to this rule is when we bond both elements with resin. In this case it is acceptable to directly connect both elements.

Another way to finish porcelain on the kitchen worktop is to round the edges. This is an easier solution and works out well while bonding tiles of various colours.

Porcelain worktops are supported by a load-bearing substructure of furniture or construction panels. Both solutions have their advantages; however, it is important for the contractor to use a tried-and-tested technology.

Furniture panels are relatively easy to produce, but preferably done by contractors from the furniture industry. It is worth checking the stability of the structure and, above all else, its protection against humidity. Wooden panels are an absorbent material to a varying degree; therefore, during the assembly of tiles on a wooden substructure, you should secure it against the absorption of humidity and its subsequent warping (caused by trapping humidity in the adhesive between the tile and substrate). For this reason one should use water insulation on the wooden surface.

A construction panel is a made of PIR boards covered with a mesh embedded in adhesive. This is a solution of choice for tilers; it is durable when applied properly. The construction panel is more flexible than wood, as it eliminates tension and vibration, which might result in the edges breaking.

Adhesives used for the assembly of porcelain on the kitchen worktop are significantly different from materials used in tile laying. Reactive adhesives are best suited for such applications or, in the case of wooden substructure assembly, floor adhesives. It is important for the product to be known to the contractor and tried-and-tested for such works and materials.

Block kitchen islands – open yourself up to original designs

Solutions used for worktops will also work out well for block kitchen islands. An island covered with stone-patterned material makes the impression of a monolithic block. Thanks to grinding at an angle of 45 degrees on all the joints, it is possible to produce an original effect.

In the context of ceramic islands and worktops, people frequently ask questions about the option of embedding a hotplate or sink. The installation of the hotplate or top-mounted sink is not problematic; however, when it comes to suspended sinks, it is necessary to properly prepare the substructure, which will entirely take over the task that supporting the kitchen sink is. For tiles with a thickness of 6 or 10 mm, it is not recommended suspending the sink directly from the tile. It is important that each opening in the tile be rounded in the corners to avoid them from breaking. Rounding the edges significantly reduces that risk. As you design block kitchen islands, you should pay attention to the features of the tile used. You can produce a beautiful effect of a marble block with a matt Pietrasanta or Marmo d’Oro tile from the latest Monolith collection. A perfect product for such applications are also the tiles from the Cielo e Terra collection by Dorota Koziara. These are matt colour body porcelain tiles, which significantly facilitates joining them at an angle. Satin-finished and polished tiles can successfully be used on vertical support elements, but for the worktop surface it is recommended that you use the matt finish due to its durability and resistance to soiling and scratching.

Furniture fronts – ideally matching the floor and walls with porcelain tiles

An interesting area of application of large-format porcelain tiles are furniture fronts. This is an especially attractive solution, as it allows the fronts to be matched with the wall and floor tiles. Many customers, however, have doubts as to the weight, durability and comfort of use of furniture finished this way. Finishing the furniture fronts identically as the worktops requires an experienced contractor. Luckily, an increasing number of contractors provide such services. Many of them are well-experienced and have the right knowledge. It is advised to look for contractors that have a professional portfolio of completed projects and letters of recommendation issued by previous clients.

As for the assembly on furniture fronts, we use tiles thinner than standard ones, that is 6 mm. The weight of 1 m2 of such a tile is less than 15 kg. In case of a standard kitchen door in the size of 60 × 80 cm the weight of porcelain mounted on it is only 7 kg. Three pieces of standard furniture hinges per wing should fully ensure the safety of their use. To clear any doubt with regards to the weight, you might want to visit one of the showrooms of Tubądzin Group's partners with a Home Zone and see for yourself how porcelain-finished furniture works.

Note that the porcelain finish is also available for built-in furniture. The load-bearing capacity of the dishwasher or refrigerator door is sufficient to allow the assembly of a ceramic tile on a furniture-panel substructure.

Another question often asked in the context of fronts is finishing the edges of doors and drawers. The selection of the right solution should start with the colour of the tile and furniture panel, the investor's budget, customer's preferences and contractor's know-how. The most damage-resistant will be elements secured with aluminium sections; however, not every investor will accept the aesthetics of such a solution. The vast majority choose the finish with the uncovered edges of the tile, which – despite the great resistance of porcelain – exposes it to chipping due to mechanical damage.

Let’s start from the simplest solution, which is a quick assembly without additional finish. It involves gluing porcelain to the front with the exact same dimension, without finishing it with strips, paint or veneer. If the tiles have a coloured body, they can be carefully polished, whereas the visual effect will be satisfying. Gluing the tile to the front with no additional cover of the edges requires a significant accuracy of assembly. Porcelain should be glued so that the tile does not stick out and there is no adhesive run-off; similarly, make sure that it is mounted in a stable manner along the entire surface.

This solution is accessible to the majority of contractors and does not carry the risk of cracks where both materials connect. It is worth considering this option when you use coloured body tiles. In case of glazed products that produce a contrast between the colour of glaze and tile mass, it is good to consider other finishing methods.

The side of the furniture front can be finished with veneer, aluminium sections or be painted. The most aesthetic option is varnishing the front and edges. It requires covering the edges of the front so as to cover the joint of both materials. Such a solution can be reinforced with a metal strip.

Another solution involves using furniture veneer on the front edge. This is a heat-applied tape, in a similar fashion as in the case of traditional furniture elements. When properly applied, it will prove a durable and aesthetic solution. In addition, the veneer can be matched with other built-in elements in terms of colours.

An aluminium frame on the front can often be seen in glass-finished structures. Such a frame can be applied in its natural colour or can be powder-coated in any colour. Fronts secured with such a frame are resistant to all types of damage to the edges.

Other applications of porcelain tiles on furniture

One of the most interesting ideas for using tiles on furniture we have come across so far is related to sliding wardrobe doors. Double-wing doors in the dimension of two full panels as large as 120 × 240 cm, each sliding extremely smoothly thanks to the high class of rails. After the doors are opened, they provide an easy access to the wardrobe; when closed, the entirety looks like a solid porcelain wall.

Summary

Based on interior design trends it is predicted that the scale of porcelain tiles being used beyond their original intended purpose will continue to grow. After the internal walls, floors, façades and fireplaces, the time has come for connected joints.
Costs of such solutions have decreased a lot thanks to the availability of materials manufactured in Poland as well as an increasing number of experienced contractors from the furniture and tile laying sectors.

The option to build in furniture finished with porcelain tiles is limited only by the contractor's skills. Make sure you choose an experienced designer and installer. Remember also, that the key is in the details and diligence of workmanship, especially in the case of kitchen furniture.

Also check our tutorials on YouTube

Find out more from our expert:

KRZYSZTOF KULIG

PRODUCT MANAGER

k.kulig@tubadzin.pl

tel: +48 661 944 900