Which is better, porcelain or ceramic tiles?

After last week’s blog, New Trends in Bathroom Tiles, so many of you have asked me, “Which is better, porcelain or ceramic tiles?  It’s hard to answer that question, because there are so many variables to take into consideration.  Are you tiling inside or outside? What kind of traffic will be in the area? What is your budget?

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are both made from clay or bisque, so they are fired in a kiln.  From there, they can be glazed or not.  Ceramic tiles are made from either red or white clay.

 

Red clay based ceramics are usually glazed, they are a little softer and usually a little less expensive.  The hardness of the product can be a big factor, depending upon the location of your tile project.  An entryway or kitchen is going to get a lot more wear and tear than your guest bathroom, so a harder tile product will be a wise choice in that type of area.  You can easily go with a softer product in less used spaces.

All tile has a PEI rating (Porcelain Enamel Institute), which helps you determine the hardness and durability of the tile.  Using ratings from one to five, a PEI of 1 means the tile should not be exposed to any foot traffic, as it will chip easily, and it should only be use on walls.

PEI 2 indicates the tile can be used in light traffic areas like a bath or on walls.

PEI 3 indicates use in light to moderate traffic areas on surfaces such as countertops, floors and walls.

PEI 4 is for commercial grade use, and PEI 5 is heavy commercial, like a mall or office building.  These PEI ratings will help you make better decisions on your project.

Porcelain is harder and more durable than ceramic.  It’s been around for a while and is now more commonly used for all projects, not just commercial applications.  In the past, porcelain was a bit more expensive, but the price has come down and it’s comparable to ceramic.

There exists a common misconception that porcelain is the preferred tile of use because the color goes all the way through the tile.  Therefore, if the tile chipped, it would be less noticeable and less likely to need replacing.

 

This may be true in some porcelain tiles, but this is not the case with most porcelain these days!  Today, porcelain tiles are mostly made with a colored, ceramic glaze over a porcelain body, which is usually white or light tan.  Thus, if it chips, you will need to change the tile.

Generally, porcelain is much harder than ceramic. The fine sand slip is fired very hot, almost as if making glass, instead of a clay product.  The hardness makes the tile durable and dependable, as well as versatile in other ways.  The surface can be polished to compliment granite or marble.  The choices of color and style are quickly catching up to ceramic.

There are a few things to consider before using porcelain, however. If you’re laying the tile yourself, porcelain needs special tools to cut and shape it.  Basic homeowner tools, like a cutting board or wet saw, are not enough. You’ll need professional equipment with special porcelain blades.  Setting the tiles are different as well, and all these factors add to the installation cost.

In summary, remember that making a tile choice is much more complicated than simply choosing ceramic or porcelain.  You’ll need to consider the foot traffic and conditions first, and make sure you get something appropriate.  If you decide to use a glazed ceramic, stay away from high-end gloss finishes on floors, as the shinier the glaze, the more brittle the tile.  It can be easily scratched, not to mention how slippery the surface will be! If you live in wintry region, it’s good to know that porcelain is frost proof, so you can use it outside or anywhere the temperature drops below zero, such as a walk-in freezer.

 

Next, you can begin to choose what appeals to you aesthetically, such color, texture, and size. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to picking out tile for your next project!

I’m happy to help you pick out your tile!

Call me at 404 943 0779 or email me at Melanie@interior-revivals.com

 

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