Porcelain Tiles vs. Ceramic Tiles


I am often asked the difference between Porcelain and Ceramic tiles. Both fall under the broad category of Ceramics. They are both used for floors, walls, and countertops. They can both have a wide range of colors, styles, and designs. So what are the main differences?

The type of clay body, the density of that clay body, and the water absorption rate are the main differences between Porcelain and Ceramic tiles. For the average homeowner, these differences will not mean very much unless you are installing a swimming pool, fountain, or other product where the tiles will be submerged. Porcelain is made from finer grain clay making it denser and it has a water absorption rate of less than .5%.

Ceramic tiles are made from a coarser grain clay, making them a little less dense and have a water absorption rate of greater than .5%. Both Porcelain and Ceramic are typically glazed with liquified glass material and cooked in a kiln at high temperatures. Porcelain is fired at higher temperatures making it harder and more brittle than ceramic.

The hardness and water absorption rate both help to guide which product is best for an installation. Ceramics are generally used for indoor floors and walls while porcelains can be used indoors and outdoors on floors and walls. Porcelain can be used outdoors in milder climates but with technology, even this is changing the possibilities.

Ceramic clay is generally red or “greige”. If a chip happens on a ceramic tile you will see it. Porcelain clays can be red or greige but they can also be dyed to match the main color of the glazed surface making it more difficult to notice a chip if one were to occur.

Pricing for both Ceramic and Porcelain can have huge ranges and will depend on a number of factors like machine-made or handmade, Size, Color, country of origin, and so forth.

Installation practices for Porcelain and Ceramic tiles are similar however for a DIYer a ceramic tile is a little easier as the clay is softer and easier to cut with a snap cutter or small wet saw. Porcelain tiles will generally need to be cut on a wet saw with a good-quality diamond blade. If installed and maintained properly porcelain and ceramic tile should last a lifetime. Of course, there are always exceptions like structural shift which can cause cracks but that can occur with many different flooring and wall products.

Care and maintenance are similar for both products using damp mopping and a mild water and soap mixture. The grout will need to be maintained but that is a topic for another day.

As you can see the differences are minimal. When we work with our clients we can make recommendations for which tile option will best serve the needs of the installation project. Porcelain and Ceramic have many similarities. For indoor residential projects, either one would be a good choice depending on the lifestyle of the homeowner. We are here to help guide you to make the best purchase for your home.

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