Large-Format Porcelain Wall Panels

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Large-Format Porcelain Wall Panels

Porcelain is unmatched in the range of benefits that it has to offer. It can be used in a multitude of ways to cover a variety of surfaces. Porcelain offers highly acclaimed durability, water resistance, and stain resistance, all with low maintenance and natural allergen resistance. These properties are more high-performing when porcelain is installed as large-format panels or slabs rather than as traditional, smaller tiles. Installing porcelain in larger panels means fewer grout joints and better coverage.

What Are Large-Format Porcelain Wall Tiles?

Porcelain wall panels are made from large-scale porcelain slabs. The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) considers a tile with one side longer than 15” to be “large format.” Typically, the thickness of these porcelain panels range between ¼” and ¾”, but the size of the panels can be as large as 40” x 120”, allowing consumers to use oversized porcelain panels to create a modern, sleek, and seamless look. 

What are large-format porcelain wall tiles

How Large-Format Porcelain Wall Panels Are Used

Porcelain wall panels, of any size, are often used to cover and protect walls in areas particularly susceptible to damage from moisture and humidity as well as places subject to stains and splatters. 

Conventional Uses

Large porcelain wall panels are often used in conventional spaces like kitchens and bathrooms. Growing in popularity, they are also used to protect and enhance the functionality and look of oft-overlooked laundry and mudrooms. All of these spaces are prone to moist and humid conditions, making large-format porcelain wall panels an ideal material to use. Beyond their function, these large tiles also add a modern, sleek decor element that can give these spaces a more upscale, luxurious touch. 

Unconventional Uses

Large porcelain wall panels can be used in a variety of unconventional ways (e.g., tables, doors, and shower trays), but also as atypical wall coverings for fireplaces and kitchen islands. Using large porcelain panels or slabs for these areas creates a seamless look of continuous porcelain with few interruptions by joints and grout. In these use cases, porcelain’s durability and ease of care are especially on display.

Benefits

The benefits of porcelain are well known and highly regarded. As large-format panels with narrow joints and less grout, porcelain easily outperforms other tile options with its inimitable qualities, such as:

  • Durability: Just as typical porcelain tiles are rated using the Porcelain Enamel Institute’s PEI scale, large-format panels and slabs are given a PEI rating to demonstrate their level of hardness.

    Manufacturers label their porcelain tiles, panels, and slabs with a PEI rating, but will also typically label them as “floor tiles” or “wall tiles” in order to indicate their thickness. As a rule of thumb: floor tiles are thicker and, thus, more durable with a PEI rating between 3 and 5, and “wall tiles” are typically thinner, less durable with a PEI rating of 3 or lower. This makes sense considering wall tiles do not need to withstand the stress and impact of foot traffic.
  • Visual Impact: Few design elements can compete with large-format porcelain panels or slabs. Often referred to as “wall cladding,” large-format porcelain panels can be incorporated into your interior space as an artistic element or as a way to create a dramatic visual impact.

    What’s more, porcelain can be made to convincingly emulate other high-end surface types like marble, granite, or finished wood. This makes porcelain wall tile ideal for bringing a level of extravagance to a space in a cost-effective way..
  • Water Resistance: Porcelain touts a lower than 0.5% absorption rate which notably makes it one of the least absorbent tile options available. This is why, as a nonporous, impenetrable material, porcelain is ideal for areas – indoors and out – prone to moisture and humidity.

    Again, large-format panels provide the added benefit of fewer grout joints – meaning an even tighter seal against potential water damage than traditional-sized wall tile options.
  • Stain Resistance: Porcelain is praised for its resistance to surface stains. The glazed coating or post-process sealant makes porcelain impervious to even the worst stains and splatters. Installed in a kitchen (i.e., walls, backsplash, kitchen islands), porcelain effortlessly holds up against some of the worst culprits (e.g., red wine spills and spaghetti sauce splatters). Reducing the number of grout joints to contend with, large-format porcelain panels make cleaning up a breeze.
  • Allergen-free: In any size, porcelain is the optimal choice for an allergen-free space. Its nonporous nature is naturally resistant to bacteria, mildew, and air pollutants, and won’t absorb any harmful chemicals. For people with pets and/or allergies, porcelain will not attract or collect dust, dirt, dander, or other allergens. This helps keep your indoor air quality high.
  • Low Maintenance: Porcelain is one of the most low-maintenance materials on the market. As a wall covering, a simple routine of dusting and wiping away surface stains with a cloth and either mild soap and water or a ph-neutral cleaning solution is all that is needed to keep your porcelain panels clean. In large-format with fewer grout seams, porcelain panels are even easier to maintain.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) and Increased Property Value: Large-format porcelain panels and slabs are wildly popular as wall coverings, showcase pieces, or used as wall cladding. Whether installed for functionality and/or an extravagant design element, porcelain most assuredly offers a ROI.

    Porcelain is considered a highly desirable, “high-end” material from both a real estate and financial perspective. This equates to an increase in property value for any property – residential and commercial.

How are large-format porcelain panels installed?

Check out the step-by-step process below to see how our team of experts installs large-format porcelain panels.

First, we have compiled a list of required tools and materials that are used when installing large-format porcelain panels. 

Tools:

  • Pencil
  • Chalk line
  • Tape Measure
  • Level
  • Speed Square
  • Notched-edge trowel
  • Rubber grout float
  • Squeegee (optional)
  • Soft cloth
  • Grout sponge(s)
  • Tile spacers (for a minimum 1/16” grout joint)
  • Scoring cutter or wet saw
  • Rubber mallet
  • Hairspray (optional)

Materials:

  • Porcelain tiles
  • Non-sag adhesive (manufactured for heavy, large format tiles)
  • Grout

Safety & Comfort:

  • Safety glasses
  • Earplugs

Preparation

Before installation, we make sure that your walls are completely flat (i.e., no bumps, cracks, or divots). Once we have a flat, smooth, clean underlayer, then we can start the installation process.

Installation

Be sure that you already have your layout in mind before you commit to installation.

Before commiting to installation, we make sure that we have your layout in mind. When installing on walls, we cannot lay out design as with flooring. We use a tape measure and chalk line to mark the layout and the midpoint of your wall(s) to use as a guide.

Typically, we want to install your first panel at the bottom, center of your wall(s) and work our way out. This will ensure an even, centered tile pattern.

With the flat side of your notched-edge trowel, we apply a non-sag adhesive (specifically manufactured for heavy, large-format tiles) directly to the wall, covering the entire area of the wall where your panel will be installed. Then, with the notched edge of your trowel, comb the adhesive in one direction. Set your panel onto the adhesive-covered wall and press. Before moving on to the next panel, use your level to make sure that your panel is laid plumb against the wall. If not, use your rubber mallet and gently, but firmly tap until the panel is level.

Set the next panel beside the existing panel using tile spacers to separate the panels and to keep the spacing uniform. 

  • Remember: when spacing your panels apart, large-format porcelain panels require a minimum 1/16” grout joint.

As you’re applying your adhesive, be sure that you are using the same amount of adhesive for each panel to help keep them at an even depth, using your level as you work. If any excess adhesive gets onto the porcelain’s surface, simply wipe it off with a damp, soft cloth or sponge. 

Continue setting your panels, starting at the midpoint of your wall(s) and working your way out and up until you reach an area where the panels must be drilled or cut for a proper fit.

Cutting Large-Format Panels

A significant benefit of using large-format porcelain panels is that they can easily be cut down to any shape or size with the proper tools.

Tools:

  • Industrial workbench (with aluminum profiles)
  • Scoring cutter or wet saw
  • Heavy duty cutting-off pliers
  • Diamond polishing pad
  • Traditional drill (non-percussion)
  • Angle grinder 
  • Diamond blade

Your cutting station should be an industrial-style workbench that is on level, stable ground.

Before cutting your tile, be sure to measure and mark your cut lines. You always want to check and double-check before committing to a cut.

After your cut line has been properly measured and marked, use your scoring cutter or wet saw to score along the cut line, keeping firm and steady pressure along the line.

  • If you are using a wet saw, make sure that the water is turned on and firmly place one hand on each side of the tile as you move the tile through the saw; this will help ensure a smooth, uniform cut.

Once the tile cutter has scored the cut line, use a pair of heavy duty cutting-off pliers along the scored line to finish the cut.

Next, with a diamond polishing pad, smooth the edges of the panel along the cut line. 

For most panels or slabs, the previous steps will be repeated for every panel that requires cutting. But, for those panels that require drilled holes or cutouts (i.e., electrical outlets, light switches. etc.), follow the next few steps:

When drilling into porcelain, you’ll need to work from the back of your panel or slab in order to protect the porcelain’s outer-facing surface. Also, keep the surface of the porcelain wet as you drill or cut.

As before, measure and mark exactly where the holes and/or cutouts are needed. 

Once marked, use a non-percussion drill to make your holes and/or start your cutouts, keeping the surface of the porcelain and the drill bits wet as you work.

If you’re working on a cutout, use your drill and make a hole in each corner of the shape that you are cutting out. For example, if you are cutting a square, drill a hole in all four corners. Then, using an angle grinder with a diamond blade, follow your cut lines to complete the cutout. Again, keep the surface of the porcelain wet while cutting.

After your holes are drilled and your cutouts are complete, smooth all of your holes and cutouts with a diamond polishing pad.

Grout

We’ve mentioned before that large-format tiles require a minimum 1/16” grout joint to ensure a successful installation and optimal endurance. Basically, the larger the tile, the larger the grout lines need to be in order to allow for proper expansion and contraction. For example, a 24” x 48” panel would need a 3/16” grout joint.

Once all of your tiles are set, you’ll need to wait a minimum of 24 to 48 hours for the adhesive to Cure. After the adhesive is cured, it’s time to apply the grout.

The best way to apply and spread grout is in approximately 3’ x 3’ sections. It’s generally easier to start at the top corner and work your way over and down, completing your 3’ x 3’ section completely before moving on to the next. 

At your starting point, remove the tile spacers from the tiles in your 3’ x 3’ section. With a rubber grout float, apply and spread the grout over the surface of the panel. Then, use a clean grout float or squeegee to press the grout down into the joints. Be sure to remove any excess grout from the tile’s surface immediately with a damp, soft cloth or grout sponge. Repeat this process until the entire wall has been grouted.

Once grouted, allow the grout to dry for at least 72 hours before either applying a sealant to the panels (for unglazed porcelain) or cleaning.

Care & Maintenance

Porcelain is renowned for its easy-to-care-for properties. And, as large-format wall panels with narrower grout joints, cleaning and maintenance are essentially effortless.

Since polishing and buffing are not needed, large-format porcelain wall panels will only require a regular routine of dusting. On occasion or as needed, the panels can be wiped with a soft cloth and either a mixture of mild soap and water or a ph-neutral cleaning solution – this will wipe away any surface stains, splatters, or grime. 

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