Can Wall Tiles be Used on the Floor? (Pro’s, Con’s and Warnings!)

Can wall tiles be used on the floor? It seems like they should be similar, right? 

But these tiles are going to be walked all over, especially if you’re laying them somewhere like your hallway where footfall is particularly heavy.

On a practical level, there are some structural and durability issues that you will need to consider.

Floor tiles are designed for walking on, and therefore needs to be less slippy, but the wall tiles doesn't have that issue as no one is walking on them.

But it's not even that simple, so let's look into this in more detail...

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How Do The Wall Tiles Rate? 

When it comes down to what you’re walking on, the two main things you’ll want to consider are durability (hardness) and friction (slipperiness).

It may not bring about seven years of bad luck, but nobody wants a cracked tile, and you’ll need some traction to avoid accidents.

To help you know which tiles are appropriate for your floor, ratings are given for each of these which determine whether or not they can be used.

These are known as the Coefficient of Friction (COF) rating and the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating. 

Wall tiles being used on the floor

Coefficient of Friction Rating 

The Coefficient of Friction rating will tell you if your tiles are safe enough to walk on.

There’s a minimum requirement of a 0.50 rating which is what the majority of floor tiles will have, as this is the recommended amount of friction you need to avoid slipping.

Wall tiles, by comparison, tend to have a much smoother surface because there’s no need to factor friction or grip into the equation.

Unless you have a habit of walking on walls, that is. Put simply, a COF rating of below 0.50 means that the tiles cannot be used for the floor. 

Porcelain Enamel Institute 

The PEI rating focuses more on durability, as your floor tiles will also need to be strong enough to withstand foot traffic.

Classed from 0-5, these ratings will tell you how much footfall certain tiles are capable of supporting without damage, with 0 being wall only with no foot traffic, and 5 being the strongest which can handle heavy foot traffic. 

Here’s a closer look at this scale in more detail: 

  • PEI Class 0: Tiles with this PEI class should never be used for flooring as they can handle NO footfall. 

  • PEI Class 1: These tiles should only be used on the wall for residential and commercial purposes and not for flooring, although some shower-surrounding tiles may have a PEI class 1 rating.  

  • PEI Class 2: These tiles should only be used for walls and floors with light footfall such as residential bathrooms. 

  • PEI Class 3: These tiles can be used for both walls and floors that experience a reasonable level of footfall. However, it should not be used for commercial applications.

  • PEI Class 4: These tiles can be used for all residential walls and flooring purposes and even some commercial applications where there is light to medium foot traffic.

  • PEI Class 5: The toughest tiles of the lot, these can be used for all residential and commercial flooring where foot traffic is heavy. 

The Differences Between Wall and Floor Tiles

If you don’t count the individual designs of each tile, there’s not a huge difference between them in terms of appearance.

Wall tiles tend to be slightly on the smaller side when compared to floor tiles, and they’re also more lightweight to prevent falling off the wall. 

Both can be made from porcelain or ceramic and they’re pretty equal in their water and heat resistance capabilities, but floor tiles are thicker which makes them stronger and more suitable for flooring use. 

As we’ve already mentioned, floor tiles also have a more textured surface which helps with grip and traction on the floor as you walk across it.

This is especially true when the tiles or wall are wet, for example, in the bathroom, so it’s vital to have something you won’t slip on underfoot. 

Wall tiles can afford to focus more on design and aesthetics rather than these kinds of practicalities, so they can utilize a more versatile range of materials, including metal, glass, stone, and many more!

That’s not to say that you can’t find beautiful designs in floor tiles, however, as recent advancements have seen lots of look-alike tiles being created to mimic the wood or stone materials 

Conclusion

Now you know a little more about the differences between wall and floor tiles, you should be able to work out for yourself that wall tiles are not suitable for both applications. 

In general, wall tiles lack the strength and COF rating to deem them safe for you to use when you’re replacing your flooring.

They’re too thin to handle the constant flow of foot traffic and the smooth, glass-like surfaces might bring a sleek, glossy look to your home, but they would be seriously slippery to try and walk on. 

Reverse The Question

What about if you flip it and reverse the question? Wall tiles may not be suitable for your floor, but it’s perfectly fine to use floor tiles on your walls. 

The areas in which wall tiles are found lacking for flooring use don’t apply to floor tiles when you’re thinking about using them for your walls.

The fact that they’re stronger and less slippery than those designed for the walls doesn’t make much difference at all. 

The only thing you need to make sure of is that the wall itself is structurally sound enough to support the tiles, which are typically thicker and heavier than the thin, smooth-surfaced, wall-specific tiles that are usually used for this area. 

Using floor tiles for your walls can be a great way to add a unique touch to the interior of your home, and there’s less chance that you’ll see someone else with the exact same tile pattern as you by choosing something from this range.