Large-format tiles represent one of the hottest trends in tile today. With their larger surface area, they can present a unique look while also offering design versatility. However, as with any specialized product, large-format tile can present its challenges. Since large format tiles are constructed and can be used in different ways than traditional tile, using the proper adhesives is essential.

Advantages. Large-format tile has made its way to the U.S., and it doesn’t seem like it will be fading away anytime soon. It offers the end-user a different look for the job they want. Because they tend to be lightweight, large format tiles can be used in a variety of spaces. “They’re light enough to skin an array of surfaces that would otherwise not have been feasible for traditional tile. Think door and cabinet facings, door panels, walls on ships, countertops – any surface for which weigh is a consideration,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vp marketing for Crossville.

One big advantage, literally, is that the sizes of large-format tiles offer the ability to cover a lot of space with fewer pieces of tile. Waldrep commented, “These panels cover lots of surface area yet install with minimal grout lines. The overall look that’s achieved is sleek, sustained and clean.”

She points to her company’s Laminam by Crossville collection, which  comes in extra-large dimensions of 3’x10’ and is only 3mm thick, making it very versatile in locations that can accept them. The panels can be installed directly to many existing surfaces materials, including previously installed tile. Waldrep noted that not having to remove a previous tile or surface allows for minimal labor costs and time during renovations.

The versatility of large-format tile also offers designers and product specifiers ways to achieve specific looks that they couldn’t otherwise accomplish. “These panels offer the durability and low maintenance of porcelain tile in a very versatile material that is thin enough to be installed over curved surfaces if desired,” Waldrep said.

Challenges .Since the use of these types of large-format tiles is still fairly new in the U.S., education and training have been slow to come along. “The contractors’ ability to install larger format tile at a reasonable cost and their willingness to learn new installation techniques are all troubles with large-format tile,” said Rodolfo Panisi, CEO of StonePeak Ceramics.

While there is more training on the product available today, many contractors go in thinking them know how to install it, without the proper knowledge of working with such large formats. “These large-format panels do not install like standard tiles, so specific training is needed,” Waldrep warned. Also, having the proper tools to install large-format tiles, including using the correct mortar for the product to prevent cracking or lippage, is important to completing a successful installation.

Adhesives. We spoke to LATICRETE about the adhesive they recommend for large-format tiles and why. With this type of project, weight and size both become a factor when choosing an adhesive to use. “A medium bed mortar like LATICRETE 4-XLT can be built up to help eliminate lippage and slumping that is commonly seen in large-format tile installations,” explained Jay DeLuca, product manager at LATICRETE.

Achieving the proper buildup of mortar under large-format tiles is also very important to how successful the installation will be. “Basic thin-bed tile mortars have a limit of 3/16” build up, so they do not provide adequate buildup under large-format tiles. Since they cannot achieve the necessary build up, the use of standard thin-bed tile mortars with large-format tiles could create a trip hazard due to lippage or lead to cracked tiles,” said DeLuca.

LATICRETE now offers four products that are specifically formulated for use with large-format tiles, and is one of several manufacturers that offers installation products designed specifically for this type of product.

Future. With its versatility and great aesthetics, Waldrep said the future of the segment looks bright. “This category of product has a strong appeal for the commercial market. We see this category competing more with laminates than other types of tile,” she noted, adding, “It offers us the chance to bring tile to new projects that tile wasn’t a viable option in before.”