Problem with the use of ceramic tile


For anyone contemplating installing ceramic tile anyplace other than a bathroom or kitchen, a cautionary tale.
Couple days ago I went to a little eating establishment hereabouts (Bezerkeley). I was disappointed not to find the little burrito place I'd planned on eating at (Gallego's), but a new restaurant instead. They'd remodeled the place. It looked very clean and tidy, with the same ceramic tiles on both floor and partway up the walls.
It looked nice, but when I sat down with my pal to eat, I discovered a problem. Because of all the hard surfaces, my own voice echoed off the walls and floor and back to my ear in a quite unpleasant way. It sounded like a bad part of a subway station.
So you might want to keep this in mind if you plan on tiling a place where people might be sitting and conversing. I suppose it might work OK if there were some acoustically "soft" surfaces nearby to compensate.
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It's even more fun when some clown builds a venue where there will be live music, and uses clangy materials on all surfaces. People who review building permits should at least be trained to ask "Are you out of your mind?"
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Materials are important, but so are the configurations of surfaces. Lots of flat surfaces which are exactly parallel will exacerbate echo. Some non-parallel surfaces will break up the resonance. You'll never see parallel walls in a concert hall, but you'll see them all over restaurants and convention halls.
So I would say that if you are building a room where "people might be sitting and conversing", consult an architect with experience in acoustics.
Edward (who values quiet restaurants)
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On 6/26/2010 10:37 PM Edward Reid spake thus:

Well, that would be one way to deal with it. A much simpler way would be simply to use less acoustically-hard materials, or add some acoustical baffles to the room.

Me too. (Well, the restaurant can be noisy, but not ringy or echoey.)
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

It is.
When I was living in Mexico, one of the first thing I noticed was the omnipresent echo inside buildings. Everything was hard...floors, walls, ceiling. That is easily mitigated with drapes, area rugs, furniture, etc.
One of the reasons my wife and I eat out less frequently is the high noise level in so many restaurants, tiled or not. That seems to be especially prevalent in chains; I think it is on purpose...they want to get you out ASAP so they can turn the table.
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dadiOH
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Ever go into a tiled rest room on crutches where the floor was recently mopped? Bambi on the ice scene.
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