Don’t install tile until you know the difference between porcelain vs. ceramic tile. This post will help show you which will best fit your space!
DESIGN AND DECOR
Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile: Everything You Could Possibly Want To Know
When shopping for tiles, you’ll come across two terms – porcelain and ceramic. Now, you may have some expert DIY’er tell you they’re the same thing. WRONG!
Not that I’m the expert, but we just do this a LOT. We’ve now officially flipped our first house and our second and Jordan has been the project manager on about 20+ with his team of investors.
These two tiles share lots of similarities, and you can use them in many of the same ways. But minor differences can make one tile type better than the other for certain situations.
The Tile Council of North America is a professional group that sets the criteria for whether a tile classifies as porcelain or ceramic. It’s based on a tile’s performance to highly controlled water absorption testing. Keep reading to learn the varying differences between ceramic and porcelain tile.
- Porcelain Tile
- Ceramic Tile
- Comparing Porcelain Tile vs. Ceramic Tile
- Which is Better for a Bathroom – Porcelain or Ceramic Tile?
- Which Tile is Better for Flooring?
Porcelain tile is a less absorbent material than ceramic. According to the ASTM – American Society for Testing and Materials, it holds less than 0.5% liquid than other non-porcelain pieces.
This non-absorption is due to the construction and materials. For example, porcelain tiles make great flooring because of the manufacturing process. But the tile’s dense weight also allows it to be used on the walls.
Typically any floor tile will be porcelain. Porcelain tile can be screen printed which allows for the cool patterns we have used in our guest bathroom and the hall bathroom at our shotgun flip house.
How is it Made?
Porcelain tiles consist of a specific type of clay – kaolin – finely-ground sand (or quartz), and feldspar. By firing the tiles at a higher temperature – 2,200 to 2,500 degrees – porcelain hardens into a hardwearing surface.
Once it’s fired, the tile gets weighed. Then it’s boiled for five hours. And for the next 24 hours, the tiles sit in the water.
The final step is a second weigh-in. To get a porcelain rating, the tile weight should be less than 0.5% (less than half of one percent) heavier than the first weigh-in.
Most porcelain tiles have a glazed surface treatment – liquefied glass coating. But some porcelain tiles are unglazed.
Porcelain has a denser structure that gives the tile less porousness. This harder structure makes the tiles more durable and less absorbing.
Because of porcelain’s more rigid, unporous surface, they are better for foot traffic and heavy indoor or mild outdoor use.
Porcelain tiles can also have the appearance of other materials, like wood grain or natural stone. And it has higher heat resistance, making porcelain a suitable option for countertops.
Porcelain tiles have a heavier weight, making them challenging to use for walls. And due to the rigidity of porcelain, the tiles can’t flex, which results in cracking from movement or shifting.
Ceramic tile is a more porous tile due to having a more porous surface from the coarser ingredients. As a result, this tile type will have more than 0.5% water absorption and a softer texture.
The materials and manufacturing process makes ceramic tiles suitable for indoor flooring or hanging on the walls like bathrooms.
Orrrr ya know, our absolutely gorgeous backsplash in our modern remodeled kitchen that I installed all by myself like a BAWSS.
If you install your own tile, here’s the easiest way to clean grout haze off of tile!
How is it Made?
Ceramic tile has a coarser clay concentration with a lower ratio of fine kaolin clay and fewer additives found in porcelain.
The tiles heat at less than 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit. Then some tiles get a final glazed coating, but others are unglazed.
Ceramic’s heat resistance makes it an unconventional but appropriate choice for countertops. The lightweightness and durability can also make ceramic a good option to hang on walls or to use as flooring for minor foot traffic.
Ceramic tiles typically come in solid patterns or colors. But they cannot be made to look like other materials.
And ceramic is a more porous material that absorbs water. So although a glazed coating can make ceramic impervious to water, the coat only protects the tile’s face.
The sides and back of the tile are not water resistant. However, embedding the tiles in a thin set mortar should help protect the tile from water damage.
Comparing Porcelain Tile vs. Ceramic Tile
Okay, I’ve covered all the technical mambo jumbo. So, how do you pick between the two types?
At a glance, ceramic and porcelain tiles can look nearly identical with a glazed coat. And both tiles have the same ease of cleaning using damp mopping with a mild soap solution. Plus, both tiles require periodic grout joint sealing.
Cost: Which is cheaper?
Porcelain tiles are more expensive than the cheaper ceramic option. This higher cost is due to the material’s more expensive manufacturing process and better durability.
On average, you can find porcelain tiles starting at around $3 a square foot. Higher costs can run up to $35 per square foot. Eh, no thanks!
Ceramics is more affordable, with a 60% to 70% lower cost than porcelain tile. You can find ceramic tiles at whoo-hoo affordability of fifty cents a square foot. But you can also get a high-value ceramic tile for as much as $35 a square foot.
Ceramic tile is the most budget-friendly option on the bottom end. But you can get porcelain and ceramic designer tiles on the more pricey end for around the same cost.
Longevity: Which Lasts Longer?
There is little difference in which tile lasts longer. You can get the same longevity from ceramic and porcelain tiles with the proper care and maintenance.
Due to porcelain’s hardness, it has better wear with use. But this hardness can also cause the tile to be more prone to cracking from structural shifting.
It’s estimated that ceramic tile can survive from 75 to 100 years with proper sealing and grout maintenance. In addition, ceramics can sustain more resistance to cracks from structural shifting. But due to the higher softness, ceramic is more vulnerable to chips and cracks with use.
Durability: Which Cracks Easier?
This is the ceramic subway tile in our guest bathroom. You can see the little dots where the grout lines are which are tiny little chips that happened while we were installing it. First time little mistakes that you live and learn.
Ceramic tiles are softer due to their water absorption. But the dense, less porous nature of the through-body porcelain creates a harder surface.
If a porcelain tile gets chipped, it would be almost invisible due to how the tile’s color goes through to the bottom. But ceramic tile will look a different color if it cracks. And because the material is softer, it’s more prone to cracks and chips.
Which is Better for a Bathroom – Porcelain or Ceramic Tile?
The PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) rating can help you determine the best type of tile for home uses, such as in the bathroom. Tiles get a rating from 0 to 5 based on their harness. These are:
- PEI 0 – wall tiles (no foot traffic)
- PEI 1 – bathrooms (very little traffic)
- PEI 2 – bedrooms and bathrooms (light traffic)
- PEI 3 – domestic floors (light to moderate use)
- PEI 4 – domestic and some commercial (medium to high traffic)
- PEI 5 – all services (heavy traffic)
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are between 3 and 5, with ceramic tiles falling as 3 or 4. Porcelain tile is best for use in the bathroom because it is more water resistant. But ceramics can also work for bathroom use, with some tiles being anti-slip.
Which Tile is Better for Flooring?
Tile is a common material to use for flooring due to its ease of cleaning, durability, and longevity.
Porcelain tiles are the preferred choice for flooring in high-traffic areas like kitchens and minor outdoor use. Its excellent water resistance is also useful for bathrooms and wet and mud rooms.
But ceramic tiles can make for excellent flooring too in rooms with less heavy foot traffic.
Hopefully I’ve helped arm you with enough information you need to know to decide between porcelain tile vs. ceramic tile.
Ceramic tile is more affordable and is okay for some uses, like covering your walls or low traffic. But you get better performance, durability, and visual variety with porcelain tiles for heavy traffic.