Floors and Walls Home Improvement

Porcelain VS Ceramic Tiles – What’s the Difference?

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If you’re looking to install new tiles in your home, you’ve probably run into the dilemma of choosing between porcelain and ceramic. These two popular materials can appear quite confusing to many people. It’s not exactly clear what differentiates them because the terms might be used interchangeably in certain contexts. However, porcelain is not the same thing as ceramic. This fact is evidenced by many tile shop salespeople and the typically higher cost of porcelain.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the key differences between porcelain and ceramic tiles. Hopefully, you’ll have an easier time deciding when you have to pick one of the two. There are various similarities between porcelain and ceramic so that’s why it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each tile style to figure out which one is suitable for your needs. Both porcelain and ceramic can be considered to belong to the larger ceramics family but the tile industry keeps porcelain in a dedicated class with its own specific qualities.

1. Water Absorption

An essential aspect that differentiates porcelain tiles from ceramic tiles refers to water absorption. Due to featuring extra density, porcelain tiles absorb less water compared to typical ceramic materials. That translates to superior water resistance making porcelain better suited for areas prone to moisture such as bathrooms.

Because porcelain tile is treated with surface glazing, it performs better in terms of allowing water infiltration. It’s not as vulnerable to water damage as ordinary ceramic tiles. However, it’s worth mentioning that some high-quality ceramic tiles will also feature this type of special glazing to improve durability. In general, porcelain tiles feature lower water absorption rates compared to ceramic tiles.

2. Ease of Cutting

Installing floor tiles will usually involve a lot of cutting to properly fit the surface. This is another aspect that differentiates porcelain from ceramic. Due to its extra density and overall toughness, porcelain tiles are more difficult to cut without ruining the final finish. If you’re a DIYer, you will need a wet saw equipped with a strong diamond blade for smooth cuts.

Ceramic tiles are easier to cut and more suitable for DIY installation projects. The lack of heavy-duty equipment needed makes ceramic a more affordable choice. If you prefer porcelain tiles, it’s strongly recommended to opt for a professional installation to avoid ending up with an imperfect finish.

3. Appearance

When it comes to looks, porcelain and ceramic tiles share multiple similarities. That being said, ceramic tiles are typically more basic in appearance. Most varieties feature solid colors so they appear quite plain. If you prefer a little extra diversity in terms of visual aesthetics, porcelain could be a superior choice.

As opposed to ceramic tiles, porcelain ones are capable of resembling the look of other materials. They often mimic natural stone or wood grains. This is a notable quality of porcelain that makes the material stand out over ceramic. You can take advantage of more interesting patterns and designs if you select porcelain tiles.

4. Durability

Porcelain tile represents a better solution if you’re concerned about high water absorption. It’s also the superior option compared to ceramic in terms of overall durability. That extra density of porcelain makes the difference when it comes to heat resistance. It’s an important reason that makes porcelain suitable for countertops. The better durability of porcelain makes it a recommended pick for outdoor locations.

Ceramic tiles are not as durable as porcelain, on average. However, certain varieties that feature reliable surface glazing can reach porcelain’s impressive resistance to heat and moisture. Porcelain tiles still have the edge but the durability differences might not be as large as the cost differences would suggest.

5. Cost

Even when accounting for multiple factors, ceramic tiles are more affordable than porcelain. This is because porcelain tiles are simply more expensive to produce. You can make some considerable money savings per square foot by opting for ceramic tiles in your project instead of porcelain. Keep in mind that high-quality designer tiles will often have similar prices regardless of material.

6. Maintenance

Considering the greater durability of porcelain versus ceramic, it’s not unexpected to find out that a harder surface is also easier to maintain clean. Porcelain’s density makes the tile less vulnerable to moisture and chipping. This also suggests less effort is required in maintaining the material in top shape. Even when a porcelain tile gets chipped, the damage isn’t as obvious compared to ceramic tiles.

Maintaining ceramic tiles properly can take some extra effort. It’s particularly hard to avoid issues like cracking and breaking. A chipped ceramic tile usually shows a different color beneath the glazing. That makes it fairly visible. Unglazed ceramic tiles are particularly delicate and may need proper sealing for the whole surface to avoid long-term durability issues.

Even if the porcelain tile is installed in high-traffic areas, there’s usually no need to go beyond occasional sweeping and vacuuming. Just make sure you only use tile-friendly cleaning products and softer scrubbers to prevent damage to the glazing. Ceramic tiles can be cleaned in a similar manner but the dirt buildup can pose some additional removal difficulties.

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