The Difference Between Porcelain Tiles and Ceramic Tiles

For most of us we choose the wall or floor tiles for our homes based often on the size, colour, pattern or cost. Those with a keen eye for interior design will be looking for the perfect colour match for the design scheme whereas those in their first home and on a tight budget will be more governed by the cost.

But when choosing any type of tiles, whether it’s porcelain tiles, ceramic tiles or natural stone tiles, it is also important to think about the material it is made from. Consider how hard wearing the material will be and how easy it will be to clean and maintain and keep looking like new for years to come.

When all you want to do is choose a wall tile that you like the look of, it is important to know that those beautiful floor tiles or wall tiles are going to stand the test of time, particularly if they are floor tiles which can take quite a battering in busy areas of the home like hallways and kitchens.

Many people think ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles are the same thing and both types are made from clay or a clay mixture so it’s not surprising there is some confusion. But they are manufactured using a different process and this makes the end-product quite different, especially with regard to strength, durability and resistance to frost (which might be important for outdoor installations).

Ceramic tiles are created from a mixture of clay, various minerals and water that is made into a tile shape; typically square or rectangular, but also hexagonal and other shapes too. They are fired in a kiln and then have a glaze applied in various colours and patterns. They can be used as wall tiles and floor tiles in most domestic situations.

Porcelain tiles on the other hand use very finely milled raw which are compressed into moulds under high pressure. They are then fired in the kiln at very high temperatures to form a dense and very strong tile. Porcelain tiles are also highly waterproof making them frost-resistant so can be used in outside areas such as patios, terraces and pool surrounds. They are sometimes glazed just like ceramic tiles or are “full bodied” where the colour and pattern runs through the entire thickness of the tile. All types are much harder-wearing than ceramic tiles.

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) uses a rating scale to help you decide which type of porcelain tile is most suitable for different areas of your home depending on how busy each area tends to be. For instance PEI scales vary from Class 0 to Class 5 with Class 0 being a quite fragile tile suitable only as wall tiles and Class 5 being suitable for high traffic floor tiles. In between Class 1 would typically be used in bathrooms, Class 2 in bedrooms, Class 3 in living areas with moderate foot traffic and Class 4 in hallways and kitchens.