Ceramic tile is a trusted choice for educational facilities, helping to create learning environments worthy of students’ creativity and ambitions. Read on to learn more about the benefits of ceramic tile for schools and other educational facilities, as well as the specific spaces in which ceramic tile provides a clear advantage.
Benefits of Ceramic Tile for Educational Spaces
National data on the condition of school infrastructure is both limited and outdated. However, according to a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) survey for the 2012-2013 school year (the most comprehensive data available today) the average age of school buildings in the U.S. was 44 years old at the time.
Considering the gap in funding to meet infrastructure needs, when schools finally have funding to improve or build new facilities, a prime objective should be to make the funding serve as long as possible. This starts with choosing time-honored building materials, such as ceramic tile.
The family of ceramic tile products, which includes quarry tile, ceramic tile, and porcelain tile, tops the list of having the lowest life cycle costs of flooring materials for commercial buildings. This alone makes durable ceramic tile materials a smart investment for educational facilities that need to stand up to decades of heavy use.
Let’s take a closer look at the durable benefits of ceramic tile:
- Scratch resistance: Ceramic tile resists scratches, cuts, scrapes, dents, and dings even after years of heavy foot traffic.
- Water resistance: Ceramic tile is part of a waterproof installation system so that there’s no worry about water seeping through seams and ruining the flooring’s underlayment. This makes ceramic tile a great choice for everything from bathrooms and locker rooms to the cafeteria, kitchen, and science labs.
- Stain resistance: Messes are a given in educational environments, and especially in daycares and primary schools. Fortunately, ceramic tile resists stains and often needs nothing more than water for easy cleaning.
- Fade resistance: Ceramic tile won’t fade from exposure to the sun, harsh cleaning products, or heavy foot traffic — ensuring facilities will continue looking their best for decades.
See tile in action: When T.A. Brown Elementary School in Austin, Texas needed a durable and low-maintenance flooring material, they turned to ceramic tile:
“When designing for high-traffic areas, we like to choose materials that are easy to maintain, durable, and long-lasting like ceramic tile. Ceramic tile is also non-toxic and free of harsh chemicals, which is ideal for areas continuously filled with students. We also wanted to use locally sourced materials that contributed to LEED certification and the building’s overall sustainability, so selecting Green Squared Certified ceramic tile was the obvious choice.”
-Roberto Pruneda, interior designer at ERO Architects
Low maintenance isn’t just a nice-to-have desire for school systems. Considering budget constraints and the increasing pressure to maintain hygiene post-pandemic, low-maintenance cleaning is essential.
Low maintenance begins with ceramic tile’s simple cleaning routine:
- Sweep, vacuum, or brush away debris
- Wipe or mop with clean water
Water alone is often enough to clean tile. If you need to clean up stronger messes, consult the manufacturer for guidelines. Generally, a cleanser made for tile and grout or a neutral ph cleanser is best for cleaning tile.
Of course, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does recommend routine disinfecting of schools to reduce the spread of germs. Fortunately, when cleaning staff need to use specific cleaning products to disinfect, they won’t damage ceramic tile.
Pro tip: Share these tile cleaning tips with cleaning professionals for quick and straightforward guidance.
Safety & Hygiene
Perhaps the most important consideration when designing educational spaces consists of safety and hygiene — essentially synonymous today. Ceramic tile starts off on the right foot with numerous health benefits that help maintain a hygienic environment.
Public health demands materials that are not just easy to keep clean but that are inherently healthier building materials.
Ceramic tile makes the choice easy by providing numerous health benefits. For example, ceramic tile is:
- Bacteria-resistant, creating a surface that’s inhospitable to the growth of bacteria and other microbes
- Available in antimicrobial options that can suppress and even destroy harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, mold, and fungi
- Hypoallergenic, with a hard surface that doesn’t trap allergens
- Free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and plastic
- Made of naturally occurring materials
Considering that students in the U.S. have about 1,000 hours of compulsory instruction time every year, the materials they’re exposed to really do matter.
Ceramic tile is also fire-resistant, meaning that it will not burn, produce smoke, or give off toxic fumes in the case of a fire. Ceramic tile can even help maintain a clear exit path for staff and students.
Additionally, ceramic tile has a variety of slip-resistant options — especially important in areas that may be exposed to wet conditions, such as entrances and hallways, commercial kitchens and cafeterias, bathrooms and locker rooms.
[Related: Health Benefits of Ceramic Tile]
Studies show that interior design can actually impact students’ health, behavior, and performance.
For example, bright warm colors have been shown to stimulate the autonomic nervous system, whereas soft cool colors slow it down. These responses can affect students’ mood, attention, energy, productivity, and accuracy — all essential for academic performance.
Ceramic tile makes it easy to optimize schools’ interior design while also meeting the functional needs discussed above. Choose from options for tile colors, sizes, shapes, and textures as well as custom designs to create an environment that promotes learning and even reflects school spirit. Imagine a tile mosaic in the shape of a mascot, or geometric algorithms in a school’s colors lining the hallways.
Promote school spirit with tile design and do more than create a visually appealing space: According to an online poll, students with school spirit perform better academically, are more civically and socially engaged, and are even happier. Who wouldn’t want that for their student body?
See tile in action: This project spotlight from Fireclay Tile shows how Detroit Achievement Academy “outfitted their school with the perfect pops of color and texture to stimulate young minds.”
What better way to show students respect for the environment than incorporating sustainability into the very design of their schools?
As the K12 Facilities Forum, a community for facilities and operations leaders from the top school districts in the U.S., points out: “The call to incorporate greener elements is amplifying with the recognition that learning and academic performance is closely tied to the built environment.”
What’s more, students themselves are concerned about sustainability. In a 2020 global survey of nearly 7,000 higher education students, 92% of respondents agreed that all universities and colleges should actively incorporate and promote sustainable development.
Ceramic tile simplifies sustainable development by combining the above benefits with numerous eco-friendly features. For example, ceramic tile is:
- Made from naturally occurring and indigenous raw materials, significantly decreasing emissions and energy from long-distance shipping
- Incredibly durable, allowing tile to be used for generations without replacement and minimizing environmental impact
- Energy-efficient, reducing the draw on HVAC systems
- Available in options made from pre- and post-consumer recycled content
- Salvageable during renovations and capable of being repurposed for other projects
- Qualifies for clean fill, meaning it won’t leach caustic liquids or decompose when disposed of
- Reusable in paving and asphalt applications when ground up
[Related: Guide to Going Green With Ceramic Tile]
See tile in action: Colorado College chose porcelain tile for its Great Hall because of its inherent sustainability.
“While this building was not LEED [certified], we wanted to be aware of our environmental impact. These products were chosen because of recycled content as well as performance. Sustainable products have come a long way; these products are performing great in a high traffic space.”
-Cally Dalton, Interior Designer at Oz Architecture
Where to Use Tile in Educational Spaces
Ceramic tile’s many benefits lend themselves to a variety of educational facilities, from preschools to universities.
Daycares and Preschools
Ceramic tile makes it easy to clean up the messes that young ones inevitably make. Let them have their fun and engage in hands-on learning without worrying about damaging ceramic tile.
Whether kindergarten or post-grad, classrooms benefit from ceramic tile’s dependable durability. Classroom flooring will continue in great shape as students come and go over the years, despite moving chairs/desks and heavy foot traffic.
Concerned about beakers bubbling over? Ceramic tile can take the spills thanks to its flame, water, and stain resistance.
School Kitchens and Cafeterias
Ceramic tile meets the needs of school kitchens and cafeterias with low-maintenance cleaning and resistance to water, flames, and bacterial growth. Looking for flooring that will work for a school’s walk-in freezer or that has slip resistance appropriate for areas exposed to oils and moisture? Ceramic tile has it covered.
See tile in action: Learn why Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical Schools chose quarry tile for its culinary program’s full-service commercial kitchen.
Bathrooms and Locker Rooms
Maintain a hygienic environment in school bathrooms and locker rooms with ceramic tile’s easy cleaning and bacteria resistance. Slip-resistant ceramic tile options are also important for areas exposed to wet conditions.
[Related: The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Ceramic Tile]
Keeping books dust-free can be a challenge in libraries but thanks to ceramic tile’s nonporous surface, allergens such as dust can’t penetrate ceramic tile (as they would with some other flooring materials) and allergens can be easily wiped away.
Libraries are a school’s go-to space for multipurpose performance. Ceramic tile surfaces allow for the rearrangement of furniture without fear of exposing areas faded from the sun or damaged from wear patterns. Additionally, ceramic tile’s easy cleaning means spaces can be quickly cleaned and repurposed for the next activity/group.
While none of us typically want to be called to an administrator’s office, ceramic tile helps create a professional, low-maintenance space for school administrators to carry out their work.
Common areas take the brunt of wear for educational buildings (e.g. hallways when the bell sounds). Ceramic tile can withstand year-round heavy foot traffic in school entrances, hallways, and other common areas without compromising its appearance or functionality.
Easy cleaning also means less down-time for common areas, less interruption to a school’s schedule, and less after-hours maintenance for custodial staff.
Ceramic tile isn’t limited to building interiors. In fact, many educational facilities take advantage of the thermal and acoustic insulation, unique style options, durability, and weather protection of ceramic tile for a building facade.
We’ve discussed how ceramic tile can withstand decades of heavy use while still looking great and how design options include coordinating with school colors and custom branding. These two advantages of ceramic tile are sure winners when it comes to sports facilities that take a workout from student athletes, as well as fans.
All the benefits of ceramic tile indoors, are also true of ceramic tile outdoors: durability, easy maintenance and cleaning, scratch, dent, stain, scuff, water, fade, and flame resistance, sustainability features, appropriate slip resistance options, and, of course, a large range of design choices.
Outdoor learning spaces and common areas are appreciated for extending a school’s footprint, as well as providing durable walkways and gathering spaces for high traffic areas. Additionally, indoor-outdoor transition spaces provide added flexibility to the demands of an active environment. Outdoor surfaces may be exposed to extreme temperatures, humid or arid conditions, moisture from rain, snow, landscape sprinklers, freeze-thaw conditions, and more. Ceramic tile options can withstand a variety of outdoor conditions not just once, but repeatedly over the years.
High-Performance Materials for High-Performance Environments
Ready to design a durable and healthy building in which students can excel? Explore our Design Gallery for examples of tile styles for your educational facilities, and learn more about the many benefits of tile from our blog.