The Ultimate Review of Emser Tile: Quality, History and Best Options Explored

As an interior designer always on the hunt for my client‘s perfect flooring, I‘ve installed my fair share of tile. In this overflowing industry, finding a brand that combines quality, style and affordability can feel downright impossible. But then I discovered Emser Tile – and had high hopes it could meet my discerning needs.

Over the past two years and across four major home projects, I‘ve purchased, designed with and installed hundreds of Emser tiles. I‘ve been impressed by not only the breadth of products, but also the durability and my overall experience.

That said, nothing is completely perfect – there‘s always room for improvement. Read my experiences to see if Emser is the tile partner for your next remodeling or new construction project. I discuss all the ups and downs I encountered – from material limitations to their exceptional customer service.

Brief Emser Tile Company Background

First, a little context on Emser before diving into product specifics. Founded in Los Angeles in 1968, Emser has grown over 50+ years into one of the largest specialist tile manufacturers in the US. The company‘s showrooms span 15 states, and you can also conveniently purchase Emser tiles at most major big box home stores.

I love working directly with smaller artisan brands as much as possible. But I understand Emser‘s value in using high-tech manufacturing processes to expertly craft tile styles that mimic sought-after looks popular among clients – like decorative cement patterns or authentic travertine stone. Yet they achieve the visual at just a fraction of the cost.

Evaluating the Quality and Durability of Emser Tiles

As a designer often called in to renovate bathrooms and kitchens in older homes, waterproofing and durability are huge priorities for me. I need materials that can withstand decades of foot traffic, dropped dishes and dampness. Based on my experience, Emser tiles deliver long-lasting beauty and resilience.

Through their proprietary UltraColor PlusTM printing technology and automated inkjet glaze application, the colors saturate each tile body for vibrant hues that don‘t fade or wear down over time. I‘ve personally had no issues with scratches, stains or other damage even in my own notoriously accident-prone kitchen!

And from a strength standpoint, their ceramic and porcelain tiles undergo extremely high kiln temperatures during manufacturing, making them denser and 50-75% harder than comparative products. I‘ve asked my installer to intentionally break leftover scraps – it takes quite the effort! No cracks or breakage anywhere in the hundreds of square feet I‘ve installed.

Ideal Installation Practices for Emser Tiles

To provide context around these glowing testaments to durability – proper installation plays a huge role. I strictly follow best practices for all my tile projects, no matter the brand. This includes checking for level subfloors, using quality polymer-modified thinset mortars as adhesives, adding appropriate waterproofing barriers and expertly applying grout.

Without sound prep and setup work, I have seen cracking occur eventually in even the strongest porcelain or ceramic tiles as subfloor shifting stresses the tiles over time. Luckily I‘ve had no such issues following proper protocols with Emser. Their dense tiles almost over-engineered for the task at hand!

The 6 Best Emser Tile Series Rated

Enough about performance – on to the fun stuff! As you start browsing Emser‘s immense catalog spanning hundreds of tile collections, it quickly becomes information overload. I‘m breaking down my highlights across six top-rated Emser products actually put to use across my own and client projects this past two years:

Sterlina Glazed Porcelain – Classic Beauty

The Sterlina series provides an affordable, dead-ringer substitute for gorgeous marble floors and walls. I especially love the minimized veining and soft gray palette which serves as a blank canvas for layering colorful textiles, furnishings and art.

   - 7 neutral colors to choose from
   - Durable porcelain body easily cleaned
   - Realistic marble aesthetic

   - Porcelain can feel cold underfoot  
   - Needs sealing to reduce staining

BEST USES: Master bathrooms, entry foyers, kitchen backsplashes

I‘ve used these 12×24" floor tiles paired with coordinating mosaic sheets for tub/shower surrounds and kitchen backsplashes. Tip: Allow extra lead time as some of the lighter colors stay backordered for months due to popularity!

Raku Glazed Ceramic – Vibrant Vintage Charm

The vibrant Raku color palette draws inspiration from majolica pottery tradition with Mediterranean blue & yellow designs. I fell head over heels for these tiles after using them across two recent laundry room makeovers! They infuse cheer and character into a usually bland space.

  - Bright glossy colors won‘t fade over time
  - Distressed variation between tiles 
  - Works beautifully in smaller spaces

   - Prone to chipping on floors
   - Heavy color saturation – not for all styles  

BEST USES: Backsplashes, accent walls, laundries 

Beyond backsplashes, I‘ve also had clients use Raku successfully on accent walls in bedrooms or entry spaces. More traditional homes can pull this off better than contemporary spaces. My one gripe is I wish Emser made them in larger than 4.25”x4.25” sizes!

Traccia Marble-Look Porcelain Pavers – Outdoor Elegance

The Traccia series replicates refined marble in six colors perfect for upgrading outdoor living areas. The porcelain material withstands freezing, thawing and the elements better than natural stone. I prefer the tumbled edge for pool deck and patio use.

   - Slip resistant surface wet or dry
   - Porcelain is lower maintenance
   - Tumbled edge has charm

   - Colors seem flatter than images  
   - Large sizes (18"x36") very heavy

BEST USES: Pool decks, patios, outdoor kitchens

I generally recommend a professional installer tackle these larger porcelain pavers. Make sure the excavated area has a 6 inch gravel base and sand atop properly sloped and tamped for drainage. They do occasionally crack if underlying ground shifts.

Geo Hexagon Mixed Natural Stone Mosaic – Classic Yet Modern

Who doesn‘t love a statement-making geometric mosaic moment in a bathroom? I‘m obsessed with the Geo hex shapes combining marble, travertine, granite and quartzite StoneStripsTM. Great way to add interest yet draw the eye upwards in a small space.

   - Playful modern shapes 
   - Mix of premium stone types
   - Ideal for niches and borders

   - Stone is less durable than porcelain    
   - Small grout lines prone to discolor

BEST USES: Half walls, bathroom floors, accent niches 

Because natural stone has slightly more variation and colors can skew from batch to batch, always order all you need at once. I also recommend waterproofing and sealing to prevent moisture damage and help the grout better resist staining.

Cementa Decorative Cement-Look Porcelain – Industrial Chic

The Cementa tiles realistically mimic scored concrete in gray and black tones, but perform so much better. Clients wanting the warehouse aesthetic need to use porcelain instead for improved durability and easier maintenance.

   - Large format 35x35” tile 
   - Doesn‘t require sealing
   - Porcelain is higher density

   - Color/finish consistency varies 
   - Can crack if subfloor shifts

BEST USES: Bathroom floors, kitchen backsplashes, man caves

I appreciate how oversized Cementa tiles paired with exposed pipes and metal accents transform even the most mundane basement into a trendy hangout. Tip: Use a tile leveling system during install to keep tile edges and grout super straight.

Jewels Metallic Glass Mosaic – Glitzy and Glam

My most recent addiction comes in the form of the Jewels glass mosaics offered in gold, silver and copper metallic finishes. Nothing adds luxury quite like these iridescent tiles illuminating a space. Yet they cost a fraction of specialty art glass or mother of pearl tile.

   – Endless custom design potential 
   – Can mix metal colors 
   – Easy to clean

   – Prone to scratching and chipping
   – Translucent finish shows thinset color

BEST USES: Kitchen backsplashes, bath surround accents, fireplace facades

Use Jewels judiciously as too much metallic can feel gaudy outside glam or transitional spaces. I love using them central to a backsplash flanked by classic white subway tile. Their reflective sheen casts gorgeous light around the whole room!

Designer Tips and Tricks for Showstopping Installations

Hopefully reading about my first-hand experience with those Emser products inspires your own future design schemes! To take things even further, I connected with two other top designers to get their inside scoops on product pairings and creative applications:

Los Angeles-based designer Aimee Lagos loves marrying natural stone patterns with matching printed textiles and accessories:
"I‘ll use Emser‘s Traccia marble-look porcelain tile on an accent wall, layering in throw pillows or a area rug with similar grey and white veining. Matching those patterns grounds the look and keeps the stone from feeling too bold."

San Francisco designer Dylan Blake infuses old Hollywood glamour into spaces with metallic accents:
"Nothing imparts luxury quite like Emser‘s Jewels glass mosaics or textural Venatino marble tiles with brass metal inlays floating on a wall behind a tub. Then accessorize with black and gold embroidered linens, dark wood accents and Art Deco inspired wall mirrors."

How Emser Compares to Similar Tile Brands

Emser sits at an attractive middle point both cost and quality-wise relative to competitors. Their prices run higher than Home Depot’s house brands Hampton Bay and MSI yet lower than ultra-high end designer tiles from Clé, Heath Ceramics or Ann Sacks.

Drilling down further across a few key evaluation criteria sheds more light on Emser‘s positioning:

Big Box Brand Comparison

  • Emser tiles rate higher on durability and aesthetic finish versus Hampton Bay, but have fewer contemporary patterns. Both share wide availability.
  • Versus MSI‘s Canterbury brand, Emser offers substantially more variety across material and styling, justifying 10-15% pricing premium.

Artisan Brand Comparison

  • Bespoke handmade cement tiles from Clé offer unmatched artistry and customization opportunities compared to Emser. But with 4X+ the price and longer lead times.
  • Both Heath and Emser masterfully recreate sought-after looks like Moroccan encaustic patterns and crackle glazes, but Heath‘s made-to-order approach guarantees more customization.

Weighing all aspects collectively, Emser hits a compelling balance between mass manufacturing efficiency and artisan detail. Their combination of immense yet curated style selection, consistent quality control, competitive pricing and easy purchasing through big box or showrooms makes for an outstanding overall value.

My Final Takeaway: Should You Choose Emser Tile?

If you haven‘t figured out my enthusiasm yet, let me clearly state – Emser Tile receives my glowing seal of approval for quality, beauty, durability and beyond. Throughout my experiences across four major home projects, they have continuously impressed while also making the overall process enjoyable.

Between their immense product selection spanning styles from ornately vintage to rustically modern, convenient purchasing options online or in-store and outstanding customer service assisting promptly any time an issue arose, I struggle coming up with many negatives about Emser!

No tile company offers literally endless options across color, size, texture, embellishments, etc – there‘s always some limitations or gaps compared to custom fabricated materials. But Emser comes damn close, filling most needs for most clients with occasionally only boutique artisan sources besting them on hyper-customization.

If sourcing quality tile spanning traditional to contemporary designs for bath, kitchen, outdoor and beyond applications, I highly recommend Emser as an excellent one-stop-shop. Their products combine everyday livability and resilient performance to indulge even your boldest design visions!

I‘m happy to share more details about specific Emser collections I‘ve used successfully, or installation tips and tricks I‘ve amassed over the years. Never hesitate to reach out with tile questions big and small!

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