What is the Difference Between Ceramic and Porcelain Tile?
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If you’re thinking of redoing your flooring, you might be confused about all the tile options. Many people think of porcelain tiles and ceramic tiles as vastly different types, while others use the names interchangeably. To begin with, both porcelain and ceramic tiles belong to the same family of tile types, which is called ceramic, but their functionality differs.
This can get very confusing, so let’s break down the differences.
- Porcelain tiles have a lower water absorption rate than ceramic tiles, at 0.5%. Porcelain also has fewer impurities than ceramic tiles, as well as more kaolin clay. Its general makeup is of quartz, clay, and feldspar.
- Porcelain is certified so that it can be called “porcelain”. Because of many imposters and manufacturers who claim to make porcelain tiles when they are actually not porcelain tiles, the PTCA (Porcelain Tile Certification Agency) certifies whether a tile is a porcelain or not, giving you a sure understanding of what tiles you’re using are.
- Ceramic tiles are not suitable for the outdoors, as they have a lower durability and absorb too much water. In colder climates, this could be a problem when temperatures dip below zero, as your ceramic tiles most likely will crack. Porcelain tiles should also not be used outdoors, but they have a much higher durability and can be available in a specific exterior make.
- Porcelain tiles are denser than ceramic tiles, making them harder and more impervious to moisture.
- When it comes to durability, porcelain takes the win. Porcelain is much better suited for heavier usage than ceramic, as ceramic tiles can easily chip. This is due to the fact that porcelain tiles are fired at a much high temperature and for a longer time than ceramic tiles.
Choose the Right Type of Tile
When choosing tile options for different areas in your home, you might not be sure which option is best. Here are some things to look for:
- In areas like kitchens and bathrooms, porcelain tiles are your better bet. Since these are high-traffic areas, the durability of porcelain will stand the test of time. Also, more impervious to stains, anything that is dropped on your kitchen flooring will have a much less likelihood of staining. When picking porcelain tile, be sure to choose one that has a “through-body color”. This means that the tile doesn’t just have a ceramic glaze fired over it, but rather the color runs through. If a chip does occur, you won’t have a stark difference in tile shade, but rather an exposed base that can blend with the rest of the surface.
- When choosing tiles for your kitchen, bathroom, or wet area, look for a tile with a high coefficient of friction. On a measured scale from 1-10, 10 is the most slip-resistant.
- The general rule of thumb here is that moisture and water prone areas should avoid ceramic tiles at all costs, as the water absorption rate is much higher in ceramic tiles than porcelain. Porcelain tiles are ideal for colder climates, and can be used in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, patios, and can be used as countertop material as well. Ceramic tiles are ideal for warmer climates and can be used in areas with low to moderate foot traffic, like accent areas or hallways with low traffic.
What is the Price Difference?
When comparing and contrasting costs, ceramic tiles are definitely the cheaper option. Porcelain tiles cost around $4-$8 per square foot, which is slightly more expensive than ceramic tiles. The cost of porcelain tiles can skyrocket though when it comes to custom tiles. With the vast variety and ease of customization in porcelain tiles, many homeowners opt to go with a tile that will blend seamlessly with their homes and tastes. Porcelain tiles are not only available in a range of colors and finishes, but they can be cut into a plethora of shapes as well. Because of that, you might have heard that porcelain tiles are very expensive, with custom quotes going anywhere to $25 per square foot.
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PEI stands for “Porcelain Enamel Institute” and this rating system helps you to determine the hardness and durability of the tile, allowing you to understand where it can be installed. In general, tiles are rated starting with the number 1, and go up to 5. Here is the general scheme:
1 – no foot traffic and should be used in residential and commercial wall applications only. Never to be used underfoot or in shower areas.
2 – light foot traffic, and can be used on walls and floors that receive little traffic such as residential bathrooms.
3 – light to moderate traffic, and can be used on countertops, walls, and floors that receive normal foot traffic.
4 – moderate to heavy traffic, and can be used in all residential areas, and medium commercial areas.
5 – heavy to extra heavy traffic, and can be used in all residential and heavy commercial foot traffic areas. Used for flooring, and is generally thought too unattractive to use in interior residential applications.
When it comes down to choosing a tile, the choice between ceramic and porcelain tile is entirely up to you and depends heavily on the area in which you decide to use it in. Both are attractive, versatile in colors and shapes, and are popular across the board.
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