Tile Countertops

tile countertop
Photo Credit: Carlos Delgado Architect LLC


Have you ever thought about specifying tile for countertops?


Ceramic and porcelain tiles are relatively low-impact and a stain/burn resistant material for a countertop installation.1 Tile is also a more cost effective solution than typical countertop materials. In order to maintain their integrity as a healthier alternative, it’s important to understand all of the associated factors which could introduce toxic additives into their composition such as pigments, frits, and glazes.5


When specifying tile, check the manufacturing location and avoid products with non-specific post-consumer recycled content. Some recycled content has been found to contain cathode ray tubes (CRT) from TV sets and computer monitors, which have high concentrations of lead. Manufacturers outside of the United States may also use lead in glazes. Lead is a toxic heavy metal which causes cancer, developmental, and reproductive issues.1


Tiles can also contain respirable crystalline silica, a known human carcinogen.6 Enough inhalation of silica particulates can cause permanent lung scarring, lung cancer, and COPD, therefore, proper PPE is crucial during tile installation to minimize risk.2


Large-format ceramic tiles or porcelain slabs are preferred because they minimize joints and grout lines, which require sealing. Sealants can introduce hazardous “forever chemicals” (PFAS) and pose a variety of health concerns.5 Porcelain is generally considered stronger than ceramic and should be specified where chipping is a concern.7 If chipping does occur, individual damaged tiles can be replaced without having to replace a full countertop.


When specifying ceramic and porcelain tile, use the ANSI A138.1Green Squared Standard for sustainable tiling. This is a multi-attribute standard that covers manufacturing, end-of-life management, social responsibility, and innovation.3 Don’t have a copy? Ask your local tiling rep!


✓ Look for products that:

  • Are made in the United States, OR, if made abroad, provide disclosures/transparency documentation.5
  • Carry an abrasion rating of at least 4.5
  • Are certified to ANSI A138.1 Green Squared.3

✗ Watch out for:

  • Glazes containing lead.5
  • Unidentified recycled content. Ask about the origin of the product and if it has been screed to avoid hazardous chemicals.2
  • Adhesives. If they are present, be sure they contain no formaldehyde, antimicrobials, and meet South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) 1168 VOC limits.3