What’s the difference? Porcelain and Ceramic Tile are both are part of the large category of tile generically known as Ceramic. Both are durable, very moisture resistant, easy to maintain, and both are used in a wide variety of applications including floors, decorative wall coverings, ceilings, countertops, showers, and backsplashes. But Porcelain and Ceramic each have different features and benefits. Here are the basic factors you might consider when making a choice between them.
Porcelain Tiles are made from denser clay than ceramic, and then
baked at high temperature for a long period which ensures that most water is
removed. This longer drying time makes Porcelain Tile much harder and denser
• Ceramic Tiles are made from natural clay, sand, and water molded to form square or rectangular tiles. They are then kiln baked to remove moisture.
Porcelain Tiles can be expected to last longer than Ceramic Tiles
in almost any application, as they can withstand higher traffic levels and
increased wear and tear.
• Ceramic Tiles are more likely to chip or crack if objects are dropped on them, and are not expected to hold up as long as Porcelain Tiles. Ceramic Tiles should not be used in most commercial applications.
USES IN DIFFERRENT ENVIRONMENTS
Porcelain Tiles, fired at higher temperatures than regular ceramic
tile, are denser, better suited for high traffic flooring or wet areas, and
frost proof. They also have a lower moisture content and are less likely to
crack due to freezing. They can be used safely indoors or outside for walls
and flooring in cold weather climates. In addition to residential use,
Porcelain Tiles have been used outside mainly for light or medium-duty
• Ceramic Tiles are more porous, may crack easier, and are less resistant to cold. They cannot be used outside due to their higher moisture content, which makes them susceptible to freezing and cracking. They are best used on inside walls, especially the glazed versions, which are too slippery for floors, though some ceramic floor tiles come with an anti-slip finish that provides excellent traction when wet.
Porcelain Tiles are less porous, making them more stain resistant,
less likely to absorb moisture, and easier to clean.
• Ceramic Tiles are more porous, and may require replacement due to a difficulty of removing stains. They must be sealed periodically to prevent staining.
Porcelain Tiles are very hard and durable, and their dense nature
makes them difficult to cut when special shapes or rounded edges are
required. Special tools can be required, and you may require an expert
installer if you will need to cut them.
• Ceramic Tiles are often the better choice for the DIY installer because fewer special tools are required in general. They are especially easier to use when working in oddly shaped areas requiring special cuts.
Porcelain Tiles are typically made from refined white clay, which
is more refined and purified than red, brown and standard white clays. The
same color pattern runs through the entire tile. Porcelain is usually
unglazed, and being the same color top to bottom, chips in porcelain are not
• Ceramic Tiles, known for a natural red terra-cotta finish, are made from red, brown and regular white clay. Glazed ceramic has a glasslike coating applied prior to firing, giving it an unlimited variety of colors and textures, and making it virtually maintenance-free. The color is baked onto the top only, and is therefore more susceptible to visible chips.
Porcelain Tiles are generally the higher priced of the two, but are
typically a better buy in the long run because they are more dense and
durable. Costs can range from $2 to $100 per sqft., with installation costs
in the $5 to $10 per sqft. range.
• Ceramic Tiles cost varies anywhere from $1 to $100 per sqft., and you can expect to pay experienced tile-setters $4 to $12 per sqft.
PEI RATING GUIDE
The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) Rating Guide rates the strength of the glaze on tile against scratching and wear. It helps determine the hardness and durability for tile, an important consideration because not all tiles can be used in all areas. Here is a brief explanation of the ratings:
PEI 0 – No Foot Traffic
PEI 1 – Very Light Traffic for all indoor wall applications, countertops such as those in bathrooms, and very light traffic residential bathroom floors. These tiles are not recommended for any area with heavy foot traffic.
PEI 2 – Light Traffic for all interior wall and countertop applications, and light traffic residential floors. It should not be used in areas such as kitchens, entryways, stairs, or areas with heavy traffic.
PEI 3 – Moderate Traffic for all interior wall, countertop, and residential floor applications, including residential areas with high traffic. This rating is not Commercial grade.
PEI 4 – Moderate to Heavy Traffic for all interior wall, countertop, residential interior floors, and light commercial applications (think restaurants, etc). This Tile is not intended for Heavy Commercial Use.
PEI 5 – Heavy Traffic used for all interior wall, countertop, residential floors, and heavy commercial applications where extreme durability is required.
Porcelain Tile Ratings are typically at the high end of the scale,
often around 5.
• Ceramic Tile Ratings range at the lower end of the scale.
These are basic factors you should considered when choosing between Ceramic or Porcelain Tile for your home. Please feel free to call or online chat with one of our flooring experts should you have any questions.
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David is has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with W. David Lichty
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