In terms of the latest trends for porcelain tiles, bigger is definitely better. Large-format porcelain slabs have evolved into full-wall panels that nearly eliminate grout lines and decrease installation costs while giving a luxury-marble look, according to Joshua Odin, a tile expert in Portland. Thinner slabs are coming into vogue thanks to their flexibility and quicker-to-polish edges. But this style isn’t for beginners: Odin says the large size and weight of the panels mean that they’re less forgiving of the small bends and dents in some walls. But once mastered, the look can transform a bathroom.
Supertough and virtually stain proof and waterproof, porcelain tile is the undisputed champion of the modern bathroom. The latest development— and a logical extension of the big-tile trend—is full-wall porcelain panels, which nearly eliminate grout lines, delivering the rich look of marble with much less maintenance. Better yet, big-slab porcelain tile has an installed cost that’s 30% to 40% less than thick stone slabs.
Large porcelain slabs are known formally as gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP), with “gauged” referring to their precise thicknesses. The most common thicknesses are 6 mm (roughly 1/4 in.), the bread-and-butter choice for residential builders, and 12 mm (1/2 in.). The 6-mm panels are much lighter—160 lb. for a 10-ft. by 5-ft. slab vs. 320 lb. for the same size 12-mm panel— they’re easier to snap and cut, and their edges are quicker to polish.
The 6-mm slabs also make it easier to avoid lippage and misalignment, a notable perk because these huge panels are often bowed by the manufacturing process, and a thinner, more flexible slab makes that much easier to deal with.