Ceramic vs. Porcelain Tile: What You Need to Know

Choosing flooring can be a complicated process due, in no small part, to the fact that there are so many choices. Tile is a durable and beautiful choice, but you still need to decide what kind to use. Being aware of your different options and weighing the pros and cons is the best way to make an informed decision. Here, we take a look at both ceramic and porcelain tiles and give some insight into the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Ceramic

Ceramic tiles are a popular choice in homes today. They come in countless colors and finishes and work especially well in rooms that may get moisture on the floor, including the bathroom, kitchen, and entryway. They also make beautiful backsplashes, and require very little maintenance. Short of the application of sealant every four or five years, tile requires only regular cleaning that any flooring surface would require. With the installation of grout, tile becomes almost impervious to water damage and can be hosed off, if necessary.

Ceramic tiles are widely available and are regularly used in home renovation projects. While porcelain tiles are made from baked clay as well, ceramic tiles are not as hard as porcelain ones. Despite that, ceramic tiles are still plenty strong for most home projects. As Dave Gobis, executive director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation explains in an article for HGTV, “Porcelain is designed for, say, airports. Plain ceramic tile is all you need for residential uses.”  

Due to the fact that ceramic isn’t as complicated to make as porcelain, it tends to come at a lower price point as well. It also doesn’t require as much skill to install. With its larger pore composition, do-it-yourselfers can fairly easily cut and install ceramic tile with setting materials found in home improvement stores.

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Porcelain

Porcelain tiles are a form of ceramic tiles, but they have to meet higher standards to be called porcelain. To make porcelain tiles, a more refined clay is used. The tiles are baked at a higher temperature and more pressure is applied to them during the firing process. These distinctions all add up to a tile that is harder and less porous than regular ceramic tiles.

Due to its harder consistency, porcelain tiles work well in high traffic areas. If you know your tile floor is going to have to stand up to a lot of abuse, then porcelain may be the way to go. This kind of tile also works well if the tiles are to be used in a colder outdoor area. Porcelain tile will stand up better to freezing and thawing as very little water is absorbed into these tiles. For the same reason, porcelain tiles are highly resistant to staining and cracking. In addition, the added strength of porcelain tiles means that they can be created with more intricate designs and come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.

Of course, with higher quality comes higher cost. The more refined consistency of porcelain means that installing it is best left to the professionals, as regular tile setting products don’t adhere well to porcelain and most do-it-yourselfers don’t have the equipment necessary to cut hard porcelain tiles.

As you can see, while ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles share some common ground, they are actually quite different. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but choosing one over the other typically depends on how and where the tile will be used. Assess your tile requirements and you’re sure to find the flooring that will work best for you.  

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