The Surprising Difference Between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile

porcelain and ceramic tile difference

It’s a common question among TriFection clients when considering tile selections for a kitchen backsplash, flooring, bathtub or shower surrounds – what’s the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile? The answer is surprising.

7Myth-busting facts about porcelain and ceramic tile

The fact is, porcelain and ceramic tiles are not different kinds of tile! More plainly, porcelain is just a type of ceramic tile with a much more refined body and is dry pressed. They’re both made from a combination of water, clays, polymers, and fine powders such as sand.

Both ceramic and porcelain tile are manufactured in the same way – fired in a kiln to remove water and harden the clay, but Porcelain is fired under higher heat for longer periods of time while under pressure.

IMG_3507While the traditional European definition of porcelain and ceramic tile is based on the color of the clay, with porcelain referring to the use of lighter colored clay, the typical American definition has come to imply a perceived quality. American manufacturers may categorize tiles made from red, tan, white, or brown clays in the porcelain category. In reality the color of a tile, whether red or white bodied, is determined by the region in which the clay is mined and has no bearing on the quality of the tile.

Despite efforts to enact international standards for porcelain and ceramic tile definitions, use of the word “porcelain” is left to the discrepancy of the tile manufacturer.

IMG_3698The most common myth of all about porcelain tile is that it always has the same color and pattern all the way through the tile. Customers often believe this means future chips or scratches in the tile will not be visible. The fact is that this is true on a very small percentage of tiles designated as through body porcelain. Like ceramics, most porcelains are glazed with a coating that provides the tile’s outer color and texture; if the glaze is chipped deeply enough, the inner tile body will show (although some chips will be more noticeable than others, depending on the color of the clay).

IMG_3183Porcelain and ceramic tile advice

  1. Look for the color, pattern and price point you like; don’t get caught up checking the ceramic vs. porcelain designation for every tile in your search
  2. Once you’ve found a tile, evaluate its usefulness for your application by reading the box
  3. Review the tile’s rating for visible imperfections, wear resistance, water penetration, slippage and other factors
  4. Remember the tile’s rating only determines its best application; it’s not necessarily a measure of good or bad tile

Our best advice for choosing between porcelain and ceramic tile is to ignore the distinction. Focus on size, pattern, color, price and rating consistent with use. You can depend on TriFection’s design and selections team to help you choose the best tile to fit your specific needs and avoid unwanted surprises.

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