How Are Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles Different?
June 9, 2017 Steven Murphy
If you are planning to re-tile a bathroom or kitchen then one of the main factors affecting which tiles you choose is how they look; are they the right colour, texture and size to create the look and feel that you are after? And, of course, do they fit with your budget as well as your design ideas?
But there is more to a wall or floor tile than how they look and feel; no matter how beautiful a tile might appear it will not be suitable if it doesn’t meet the requirements of your installation. For example, if you plan to use floor tiles in a wet-room are they slip resistant? Safety should always be a consideration when tiling a floor.
So it is worth checking out the technical information available with the tiles; it is not just boring details that are of no concern to you this stuff will help you make a choice that proves to be safe and durable enough for a particular environment as well as one that looks great.
Firstly, what are the tiles made of? It is not uncommon for consumers to refer to all wall and floor tiles that are not made from natural stone as “ceramic”. And whilst, technically, this may be true there is a big difference between the manufacturing processes for traditional ceramic tiles and the more technologically advanced processes for making porcelain tiles.
There is confusion with the terminology because both types of tile are made from clay or from a clay mixture but that is where the similarity ends because the different manufacturing processes produce a quite different end product. There is a marked difference between how much stronger, more hard-wearing and more frost resistant a porcelain tile is compared to a ceramic tile.
To produce a ceramic tile the mixture of clay and water is shaped into a tile, which is then fired in a kiln. A glaze is then applied to the surface to produce the desired colour. Whilst not as strong or hard-wearing as porcelain tiles they are still perfectly suited to domestic installations and particularly for tiling walls.
Porcelain tiles on the other had are produced by mixing the clay with coloured minerals and finely milling it. The shaped tile is then created by pressing the mixture into moulds under high pressure. The kiln firing is then done at an extremely high temperature and this process results in a dense and very strong tile. Some porcelain tiles are glazed in the same way as ceramic tiles but many are now “full-bodied” which means they have the colour and pattern running throughout the tile rather than just as a surface layer on top. The advantage of a full bodied tile is that any chips or damage to the tile will be less noticeable because the chip will not reveal a clay coloured base layer. But even glazed porcelain tiles are much more durable than their ceramic cousins.
Another advantage of using porcelain tiles in the home is that they are also highly waterproof so are perfect for today’s modern wet-room style bathrooms. The fact that they are waterproof also means that they are highly frost-resistant so some types are suitable for outdoor use; but do check this with the supplier as some types are not. Most porcelain tiles will be graded for the most suitable type of use so make sure to check the PEI rating on any tiles you are considering buying: 0 means they are the most fragile and only suitable as wall tiles and 5 means they are suitable as floor tiles in both residential and commercial settings.