Porcelain Tile vs Ceramic Tile: The Difference

Learn the main differences between ceramic and porcelain tile. Porcelain is impermeable to water, and ceramic is not; porcelain is made of a harder material, while ceramic is softer; porcelain has a through-body color, while ceramic often does not. 

Both ceramic and porcelain tile have been around for a long time, and with new technology available, gone are the days of tan square tiles. Lately, there’s been an emergence of ceramic and porcelain planks, wood-look tiles and more. 

What is Porcelain Tile?

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Porcelain tile is made from a dense clay and fired at a higher kiln temperature to create a drier, more durable tile than ceramic. It’s known to be exceptionally impermeable to water. 

There’s been quite a bit of dispute in the tile community about what “counts” as porcelain tile, but the consensus from the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) is that tile manufacturers must send in five porcelain samples to prove that they absorb less than 0.5% of water. 

Porcelain tile certified by this agency is the most authentic porcelain you can buy on the market. However because approximately 70% of porcelain tile purchased in North America is imported, there is a likelihood that not all porcelain meets these standards. 

One of the main porcelain manufacturers, Daltile, is on the list!

PROS OF PORCELAIN TILE

  • Density: Porcelain tile is created using dense clay and minerals that are then fused together in a process called vitrification. Basically, it means they’re super dense now.

  • Hardness: Porcelain tile is harder than ceramic tile and less prone to chips. If the tile is glazed, check out the PEI rating as well.

  • Great for High-Moisture Areas: Porcelain tile is impermeable to water, so you don’t have to worry about subfloor damage from water, or mold growth.

  • Outdoor Use: Since porcelain is water-resistant it can be used outside.

  • Maintenance: Porcelain is easy to clean and maintain. All you need is a vacuum and damp mop. However, keep in mind that grout should be resealed every few years.

  • Through-Color: Porcelain has a through color that ceramic often doesn’t. That means the body of the tile is the same color as the surface.

  • Great for Resale: Porcelain will definitely up your resale value, especially wood-look tile which is trending right now.

CONS OF PORCELAIN TILE

  • Cost: Porcelain is more expensive than ceramic tiles. However, it does last the longest.

  • Authenticity: Porcelain has rigorous testing and certifications. You’ll want to make sure the porcelain you’re buying is actually porcelain.

  • Difficult DIY Cutting: Porcelain isn’t a DIY-friendly material, as it requires a wet saw to cut properly.

Recommended Uses for Porcelain Tile

  • Showers, Backsplash, and other Wet Areas

  • Outdoor Applications

  • High-Traffic Tile Flooring

What is Ceramic Tile?

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Ceramic tile is made from a majority clay, mineral and water solution that is then pressed into a tile shape and fired in a kiln at a high temperature. Most ceramic tile is comprised of two layers: bisque and glaze. 

The bisque is the body of the tile- from the side this will be the thickest layer visible. The glaze is the top of the tile, where the color sits. Some ceramic tiles do not have a glaze- these tiles are often referred to as through-tile construction since they are solidly colored all the way through. 

Since ceramic is the main umbrella term for tiles, it does not need a governing body to certify it. The main difference between porcelain and ceramic tile is the ceramic tile absorbs more than 0.5% of water.  

PROS OF CERAMIC TILE

  • Inexpensive: Ceramic tile is an inexpensive way to upgrade your home. If you’re looking to take on a budget project, this is a great material for that purpose.

  • Great DIY Material: Ceramic tile is much easier to do custom cuts with, which means it’s a DIY-friendly product for weekend warriors.

  • Water Resistance: Though it’s not entirely impermeable to water like porcelain tile, a glazed finish offers a non-porous surface.

  • Maintenance: Ceramic tile is easy to clean- just grab a mop and vacuum, and remember to reseal your grout every few years.

  • Wide Selection: Ceramic tile has just as wide of a selection as porcelain tile. It even has the popular wood-look planks!

  • Family-Friendly: Ceramic tile is great for families and pets and won’t stain as long as the glaze is intact.

CONS OF CERAMIC TILE

  • Visible Damage: Unfortunately, if you chip ceramic tile, you’re probably going to see the body color come through and it will be noticeable.

  • Can’t be Used Outside: Ceramic tile needs to remain indoors, as freezing and heating can cause cracking over time.

  • More Likely to Chip: Since it’s not as hard or dense as porcelain, it is more prone to chipping.

Recommended Uses of Ceramic Tile

  • Bathrooms

  • Kitchens

  • Wall Tile

PORCELAIN TILE VS. CERAMIC TILE COST COMPARISON

High-quality porcelain is almost always more expensive than high-quality ceramic since it’s more dense and durable than the latter. 

However, there are porcelain tiles that are cost comparative to ceramic tiles, depending on the look you’re going for. Ceramic usually has the most inexpensive options, and that’s a great way to replace carpet flooring if you’re looking for an upgrade. 

Well, there you have it! The difference between porcelain tiles and ceramic tiles. If you have questions about which product would best suit you and your home, give our experience tile installers a call. We look forward to serving you!