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Last edited 17 Jul 2020
Comparing porcelain and ceramic tiles
Ceramic or porcelain tiles are two elegant and versatile surfaces. These tiles can be found in kitchen, bathroom floors, on walls and backsplashes. The popular tiles are available in colours and designs to match – or create – the decor of your room. Before picking the style for you, understand the difference between porcelain tile and ceramic tile.
Both tiles are clay-based and kiln-fired, but porcelain is technically a specialised type of ceramic. The clays used to make porcelain have a higher density and are fired longer at a higher temperature than ceramic.
Porcelain tile has the same colour throughout the material. A broken or chipped piece of unglazed porcelain will have a uniform colour throughout its thickness. Ceramic tile often has a glazed surface colouring, so chips may reveal different colours underneath.
The finish of porcelain is smoother than that of ceramic. Turn over a piece of loose tile. The unglazed surface of ceramic tile will feel coarse. The finer grain of porcelain will be smooth to the touch.
Ceramic tiles are not as dense as porcelain and therefore are slightly lighter by comparison.
 Benefits of porcelain
Porcelain tile has several important traits.
Durability: The density of porcelain tile can make it more durable than ceramic tile while being less subject to wear and tear. This sometimes makes it more suitable for commercial use as well as in the home.
Water resistance: Porcelain tile is almost impervious to water compared to ceramic tile. According to the ASTM standards, porcelain must have a water absorption rate of 0.5-percent or lower. Ceramic tiles are more porous and often have a higher water absorption rate.
Flexibility: Some experts find ceramic tile more flexible if you want a more artful, intricate and eye-catching design in such places as backsplashes. Ceramic wall tile can be preferable in such situations. In addition, glazed ceramic tiles can be customised in more colours and patterns.
 Making a selection
When deciding between ceramic vs. porcelain tiles for shower installation, some decorators suggest balancing functionality and budget by using ceramic shower tiles for walls and porcelain shower tiles for the flooring.
The higher water resistance of porcelain tiles makes them an option for outdoor patio or other exterior uses. This is particularly true for areas with colder weather – porous tile is more likely to absorb water and then crack in freezing conditions.
Porcelain floor tile is harder and denser. It is useful in high-traffic areas such as kitchens, mudrooms, hallways and living areas. Ceramic floor tiles, however, tend to have a softer surface. They are more comfortable to walk on than porcelain. Their tendency to stay cooler than porcelain makes them popular in homes in warmer climates.
When evaluating the pros and cons of porcelain tile and ceramic tile, consider your taste in decor, your budget and the needs of the rooms to be decorated. Choosing between ceramic or porcelain tiles can mean prioritising durability, water resistance and the tiles’ overall appearance.
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