There was a time when the typical floor tile used in the U.S. was under a foot. Today, a 12-inch tile is considered small, as Americans have discovered the unique styling attributes of large format tiles. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago when 24-inch tiles were considered to be “large format.” But nowadays, even these sized tiles are considered standard.

Ryan Fasan, technical consultant to the Tile of Spain, noted, while the adoption rate for the larger formats has been slower in the U.S. compared to places like Europe, it “had more to do with the framed construction method—contrary to Europe’s block and slab method—as well as a lack of quality experienced trades to work with these larger sizes than a desire for more grout that comes with smaller formats. Thanks to better surface preparation materials and certified installer programs, the barriers to getting larger formats installed are disappearing.”

In fact, he said, “Americans are really starting to embrace the larger formats that have been coming out of Europe for over a decade now. Progressive markets like Miami, Los Angles and New York City are beginning to gobble up 36-inch squares and rectangles now and not just for large commercial spaces, the trend is even making it’s way to residential kitchens and baths.”

Santiago Manent, sales and marketing director for Porcelanosa, said, “Over the last year, developments in technology have allowed tiles to constantly increase in size, from the old standard in floor size—12-inches—to today’s standard—24-inches—and now we are seeing that progressively larger sizes—32-inches or 24 x 48-inches—are little by little gaining traction. In a recent survey of our 20 stores in the U.S., clients in major urban areas showed a preference for even bigger floor tiles—36-inches or 40-inches.”

Thomas Smith, president of Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola North America, pointed out, “The large-format porcelain category has really exploded for both our Imola and Leonardo Ceramica brands—especially in the retail segment. With our Continuum manufacturing technology, we’re able to produce standard thickness, large-format tiles, 48-inches, with the same extraordinary aesthetics. In fact, we’ve added a second Continuum production line to keep up with the demand.”

Jose Cantavella of Tile of Spain manufacturer Natucer, noted, while the market trend is moving toward large format tile, “not all markets are ready for this now. On the East and West coasts, for example, architects and designers want to work with large sizes and are shifting their mindset toward this reality. Meanwhile consumers visiting local tile shops may still want more traditional sizes specifically for renovations.”

Sean Cilona, Florida Tile’s director of marketing, noted 12-inch tiles remain the company’s best seller, but “there has been a shift to larger formats, especially in metropolitan areas, as well as high end residential and commercial.”

He added the trend is even in lineal tiles to compliment the growing wood visuals. “It was 6 x 24-inch, now it’s 12 x 24- and even 8 x 36-inch.”

Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville, feels the design sensibilities of the market have evolved in step with manufacturing capabilities, such as those used by the domestic mill. “Today, we’re capable of creating field tiles with up to 36-inch dimensions at our plants in Crossville, Tenn. We’re using these larger formats to create modular and plank size options for more design versatility and customization. For example, our new SpeakEasy line is a wood-look collection made even more convincing because it comes in 36-inch-long planks of varying widths.”

Rodolfo Panisi, CEO of StonePeak Ceramics, said,“The large porcelain tile market has always been there, however, the technology was not there yet. As soon as the technology allowed us to produce 5 x 10-foot porcelain panels, we jumped on it.”

He added, “Our blood is in commercial, and we conducted research for a product that could be used for floor, wall, countertop, and interior and exterior applications. We developed a large porcelain panel that has a breaking strength of over 300 pounds per square foot—classifying our material for commercial floor applications. Our product is unique and a breakthrough. We also believe that the polished finish is an innovative step.”

Lori Kirk-Rolley, vice president of brand marketing for Dal-Tile, said beyond just offering larger sized tiles, variety in the sizes is important. “Rectangular sized tile in both floor and wall applications continue to be extremely popular, specifically, long, linear plank sizes. Planks are often being used on both the floor and on the wall. This results in many more pattern options, which designers are utilizing more frequently to create unique designs. In terms of trends, we’ll continue to see larger and larger sizes being used, as manufacturing capabilities become even more sophisticated. We also anticipate the various shapes of tile will continue to evolve.”

Daniel Sanchez, sales director for TheSize, parent company of Neolith, said the extra large tiles, such as the mill’s 48 x 144-inch slab format with diamond straight rectified edges serves numerous purposes when it comes to design, such as allowing for fewer joints when covering a floor. This has two main benefits in terms of style: “It’s seamless, giving the space a minimalist and modern look, and it’s hygienic. Joints are usually where dust and dirt get trapped and are pretty difficult to clean. Minimizing the joints in a floor guarantees a cleaner and sleeker surface. Additionally, the large slabs are lightweight making transportation easier and expanding design capabilities.”

Porcelanosa’s Manent agreed, saying there are many advantages when working with bigger tiles. “They increase the room size, cut down on maintenance—less grout joints—and improve the overall look and feel of the project—whether using a marble looking tile, a stone looking tile, etc.”

Grant Huffine, senior market manager for H.B. Fuller Construction Products, manufacturer of TECbranded products, also feels large format tiles “visually expand rooms and produce a neat, modern appearance. Building owners and designers, now more than ever, desire these aesthetic benefits.”

While larger tiles are finding their way into homes, he said it is the commercial market where they have “become particularly popular.” One problem, he noted is these “commercial environments often need to remain open for business during construction renovations.”

In response to this, Huffine said the company has developed a number of products “to help contractors achieve innovative designs with large format tile,” including some such as The Same Day Installation System, which allows “large format tile to be laid, mortar to be set and grout to be applied within a matter of hours instead of days. As a result, construction teams can perform quick installations of large format tile overnight or minimize the time of renovations during regular business hours—while using products with the necessary medium bed, non-slip and non-slump characteristics.”

For many companies such as StonePeak the production of large panels—3 x 3-feet and larger—is the new trend in which our company is investing new resources in,” said Panisi. “The large-format tile is a new milestone for our industry.”

Porcelain, he concluded, “has always been a better choice than quarried material, but porcelain’s limitation was the size—with a maximum of 24- or 24 x 48-inches. Now, I do not see any reason for a quarried material. It is the future of the tile industry. We call it the tile revolution.”