If you have ever installed floating laminate floor before and found it easy, you might wonder if a similar product in ceramic tile form is a worthwhile purchase.
SnapStone is a rare product: a floating tile floor.
It can make your tile installation speedy and clean--if you are willing to accept two conditions: higher prices and a dramatically limited selection of tiles.
What We Mean By "Floating"
For the uninitiated, whenever we use the word floating in conjunction with any kind of flooring, we mean that it is unattached to the subfloor or underlayment.
To illustrate, here are two typical flooring installations that are not floating:
- Hardwood: Solid hardwood is nailed down to the subfloor with floor staples. Nothing is used to attach floorboards to each other.
- Tile: Tile laid into a bed of mortar. The mortar holds the tile in place and prevents lateral motion. After the mortar is dry, grout is forced into the seams between the tiles. Grout keeps the seams from accumulating dirt and it provides some lateral strength.
In a floating floor, flooring components attach only to each other--side to side. Laminate flooring is a prime example of a type of flooring that "floats." The boards lock into place with each other. After installation, you essentially have a monolithic floor, like a giant puzzle.
Tile has been installed in homes for thousands of years, but the practice of tiling hasn't changed much. The mortar-and-grout method used today was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Many professional tile installers wonder why innovation is needed. Adept at designing layouts, mixing mortar and grout, cutting and spacing tile, they have no need for workarounds: it's the DIY crowd that does. It's exceedingly difficult for the average DIY tiler to scale the learning curve necessary to lay a perfect tile floor. Most of us learn to live with something less than perfect. Enter the floating tile.
SnapStone Floating Tile
Unlike a product like the Cerama-Lock Tile Tray--a tray that you place tile into--SnapStone is an integrated system: tile, tray, and side locking mechanisms together. Even if you wanted to, you cannot separate the tile from the tray.
Unlike floating laminate flooring, which tends to lock by pushing downward, SnapStone tiles lock by placing each tile flat on the floor and then sliding one tile toward the other until you hear a click.
One of the best things about SnapStone is automatic spacing. In order to maintain grout space with traditional tile, you either eyeball it or you use tiny plastic removable spacers. Both methods can be difficult for the casual DIY tiler.
The locking system automatically gives you a 1/4" space which will not move, even if you walk on the tile (mortar-bedded tile is notorious for sliding around). The downside is that you have to live with the 1/4" space. There is no way to go down to 1/8".
SnapStone cuts with a wet tile saw and snaps with a snap cutter, just like normal porcelain tile.
The price might be a hindrance for some homeowners. At Lowe's, 12" x 12" SnapStone Latte Glazed tile will run you about $6.40 per square foot, if bought in a five-pack. If you've ever shopped for tile, you'll know that $6.40 is not an exorbitant amount to pay for tile.
With SnapStone the high price doesn't mean you're getting a giant selection of premium tiles. Currently, SnapStone offers only 11 color choices for 12" x 12" and 6" x 6". As for the 18" x 18" tiles, you only have 5 to choose from.
As for another limitation, you are required to use SnapStone's urethane-based grout. Because floating tiles have the possibility of, well, floating slightly after installation, you need to have a grout that will respond to these minute shifts. Traditional grout cannot do this.
SnapStone would be a worthy purchase if you don't mind limited color section or paying a bit more for the simplicity that the locking system provides.