Ceramic and Porcelain 101: The Fundamentals

In the face of a renovation project, there are a lot of big questions to cover before even starting on the fun, creative questions.  Picking out a tile is the same as any other part of the project! That being said, there’s one question we get more often than others here at the office:

What are the fundamental differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles?

Here are some tips and facts that may be helpful when it comes time to redecorate your space and decide which material is best suited for your intended purpose.

Let’s start with porcelain tile, which is fired in a kiln at a higher temperature and greater pressure than ceramic tile, so it’s denser and more water-resistant. This makes it great for exterior applications in harsher climes that see a lot of frost and colder weather.  If you’re putting your tile somewhere where the weather is a little more extreme, don’t feel too restricted in terms of design. The possibilities with porcelain tile are endless – from breathtaking mosaics to subtler floor tile, a practical need for porcelain tile won’t hinder the capacity for the tasteful, stylish application you’re looking for.  However, a big misconception about porcelain tile is that if you chip the surface, it will be the same color all the way through. This is what’s called through-body porcelain.  A vast majority of porcelain tiles are glazed, which means that the color or pattern is on the surface only.  An exception is our Gotham series, which is a through-body porcelain.

On the other hand, ceramic definitely has some perks of its own. It may not be able to withstand the elements in extreme climates, but in milder areas, installing it outdoors is a popular choice.  Ceramic also tends to be less expensive by the square foot, and it’s a little easier to cut through than porcelain because it’s been fired at a lower temperature, making it preferable for smaller DIY projects.  Ceramic is also constantly evolving, with Spanish manufacturers applying tremendous effort and creativity to boost your options for colors and textures. Some of our options include the Duna Trencat, with its eye-catching concave and convex checkerboard effect and pearlescent coating:

Duna Trencat

Photo by Merola Tile.

Or even the Ocean Beige:

Ocean Beige

Photo by Merola Tile.

 So now you know the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile. Don’t get this confused with  P.E.I. ratings (more on that here), which can be the same between ceramic and porcelain tiles.

Whether you’re installing a small accent design or fully remodeling a space, going into it informed is important!  Hopefully this will give you some tips on what to look for when you start your project. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call, leave a comment, or drop us an e-mail!

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Sources: here, here, here, and, of course, our resident experts.


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