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Last edited 07 Mar 2021
Porcelain tiles v ceramic tiles
Ceramic or porcelain tiles can create elegant and versatile surfaces. These tiles can be found in kitchen and 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 best style for you, it is important to understand the differences 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 for 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.
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.
- Composition: Because of the uniform colours of material in unglazed porcelain tile, small chips may not be as noticeable as they would be on a piece of ceramic tile.
- Versatile: Ceramic tile comes in finishes ranging from simple to ornate and classic to contemporary.
- Cost: The differences in ingredients and preparation mean that ceramic tile can be less expensive than porcelain tile.
- Ease of cutting: Ceramic tile is easier to cut, making it better suited for home DIY projects.
- Flexibility: Some experts find ceramic tile more flexible if you want a more artful, intricate and eye-catching design in such places as backsplashes. In addition, glazed ceramic tiles can be customised in more colours and patterns.
- Texture: Some varieties of ceramic tiles have a textured surface that adds visual depth and dimension. You can often find tiles with ripples, waves or raised shapes.
 Making a selection
When deciding between ceramic vs. porcelain tiles for shower installations, 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, 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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