Life at home can get messy. Prepping dinner (and washing dishes after) could plaster your kitchen counters and floor with water, stray sauce, or random gunk. Bathrooms somehow wind up looking like crime scenes after kids brush their teeth and perform other simple tasks. That’s why many homeowners use tile to cover floors, backsplashes, and even countertops in high-traffic, high-use areas. It’s waterproof, easy to clean, and comes in a range of materials and styles, from contemporary cool ceramic in hexagon shapes to marble mosaics worthy of a Greek temple.

But walk into a tile showroom or home improvement store and you may be overwhelmed with options. Cement or porcelain? White or off-white subway tiles? Glass tiles etched and painted with songbirds?

Even after you’ve narrowed your choices to a few, you’ll have to find a retailer that sells what you want for reasonable prices—and someone to install it. Unfortunately, tiling work is often complex, and many pros received lousy feedback in our surveys of consumers.

Here are tips on making all these hard decisions easier.

Before hiring an installer, be sure to check out our ratings, and get at least three quotes for your job. Since tile jobs often require demo of old wall and floor coverings, you'll want an expert you can trust.

There's a wide array of tiles you can choose for your project, from ceramics that look like wood to mosaics worthy of a Roman emperor. You can often get a very luxe look on a budget, too, so shop around.