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Friday 18 November 2011

What is the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile?

Posted by at 1:00 PM

What is the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile?

Have you ever looked at tile and wondered what the difference is between ceramic and porcelain? I know I have!  Don’t worry, you are in the majority. The answer is actually pretty simple too; porcelain tile is ceramic tile, just made from a more refined material.   Porcelain and ceramic are not different kinds of tile. Porcelain is just one of many varieties of ceramic tile.

Ceramic tiles are made primarily from red or white clay mixed with various minerals and water. This composition is then processed with heat to create the solidified product. Since ceramic material is porous, the top surface is usually sealed with a glaze. The glazed surface is referred to as the design layer since it determines the tile’s finished color, design and texture. In other words, ceramic tiles only have the design or color that you see on the top layer, not all the way through the tile.

Ceramic tiles are used in both wall tile and floor tile applications; they are softer and easier to cut than porcelain. Non-porcelain ceramic tiles are usually suitable for very light to moderate traffic and generally have a relatively high water absorption rating, around 4%, making them less frost resistant and they are more prone to wear and chipping than porcelain tiles.

Ceramic tile comes in either glazed or unglazed surfaces. Glazed ceramic is one of the easiest surfaces to clean, and because of its composition, it will not absorb odors, nor support allergens or bacteria. The glazed surfaces are like glass and are best used on walls as they are too slippery for floor applications. Glazed ceramic tiles are also a little more susceptible to cracking.

Unglazed ceramic tile is strongly recommended for most exterior horizontal applications, interior applications subject to standing water such as shower floors, for very high traffic floors such as airports, train stations, etc.

The primary ingredient in the composition of true porcelain tile is finely-ground sand. Unlike ceramic, processing of the porcelain composition involves pressure and extremely high temperature. The end result is a very dense, less porous, glass-like material with a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%. Because of its density and composition of natural ingredients, porcelain tile has all the same excellent qualities of glazed ceramic.

Full body porcelain tiles carry the color and pattern through the entire thickness of the tile making them virtually impervious to wear and are suitable for any application from residential to the highest traffic commercial or industrial applications. Porcelain tiles are available in matte, unglazed or a high polished finish. Remember, ceramic tiles only carry their color and pattern on the top layer, whereas porcelain tiles carry the color or patter through the entire tile.

Since porcelain is a denser material, it is stronger than its ceramic counterpart. By the same token, porcelain’s hardness makes it a little more challenging to install. Porcelain tile requires special tools for cutting and shaping. So, leave the installing to a professional.

Let’s recap what we just went over. Porcelain tile is one of the many varieties of ceramic tile. Ceramic tiles only have their design/color on the top layer, where Porcelain tiles carry the color/design through the entire thickness of the tile. Porcelain is more challenging to install due to its hardness. Now, go ahead and impress all your friends; I know you can do it. Thanks for reading!