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The Characteristics Of Glazed And Unglazed Tile

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When it comes time to plan out your home renovation project, you’re faced with finding a balance between the practical and the decorative. Luckily, with ceramic and porcelain tile you get both.Despite this, not all ceramic and porcelain tiles are the same – glazed and unglazed tile options have their differences that offer distinct advantages for different spaces.

The main differences between the two types of glazed tile come down to thickness, slip resistance, scratch resistance, stain resistance, style options, and finishing process. Here’s a quick snap shot of these differences:

Glazed Tile vs Unglazed Tile: At a Glance

Glazed Tile Unglazed Tile
Finishing touches Additional firing process in kiln, a layer of liquid glass is added to tiles No additional firing process
Thickness Less dense/thick (lighter glazes are harder than darker glazes) Denser and thicker
Slip Resistance Liquid glass top coat less slip resistant More slip resistant in moist/high traffic areas
Scratch Resistance Higher lustre shows more scratches Scratch resistance
Stain Resistance Resists staining with non-porous liquid glass top coat More vulnerable to stains
Style Options Wider range of styles/colors Earthy coloring/aesthetic

How are Glazed and Unglazed Tiles Made Differently?

In terms of how they are manufactured, there is no difference between glazed and unglazed ceramic and porcelain tile, other than the fact that glazed tiles undergo an additional phase in the firing process. During this additional process, a layer of liquid glass is added to glazed tiles by means of very high temperatures.

Unglazed Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Unglazed tiles tend to be denser and thicker than glazed tiles, and because of their unfinished exteriors, they tend to be a great choice if you’re looking for a slip resistant surface in an area like a laundry room or kitchen where the tile is likely to be subjected to high amounts of moisture. In terms of safety, this is a big consideration. For areas with heavy foot traffic, as well as outdoor applications (in milder climates), unglazed tiles are a very good choice.

Along with safety benefits, unglazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are sought after because of their scratch resistance and natural beauty. Since they’re colored by the mineral deposits from where the clay was originally taken, these tiles offer an earthy aesthetic quality. A limitation of unglazed ceramic and porcelain is their vulnerability to staining. As a precaution, it’s a good idea to use a sealant and a wax after installing unglazed ceramic tile indoors.

Glazed Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Although glazed ceramic and porcelain tile are a little less robust in terms of density and thickness than their unglazed counterpart, they allow for a wider range of styles and colors. Glazed tiles also tend to be more resistant to staining, as they’re protected by a non-porous layer of liquid glass.

When it comes to the glaze itself, different options are available and will impact the degree of durability. Some varieties of glazed tile are fired at higher temperatures than others, and therefore are harder as well. This can often be determined by how light or dark the glaze is, with lighter glazes generally being harder than darker glazes.

Then there is the issue of gloss: matte and satin finishes are generally harder than shiny finishes. As always, it’s a good idea to try and strike a balance between practicality and decorative taste when choosing your glazed ceramic and porcelain tile.

Whether you choose glazed or unglazed tile, both types have their own unique qualities. As always, it’s best to know the needs of your space and the look you are after. This way, your flooring project will be something you can enjoy for many years in the future.

What would work better for your space, glazed or unglazed tile? 
 

Browse our stunning selection of Ceramic & Porcelain Tile here. Discover the right surface for your renovation.

(48) Comments

  1. Hello,
    How do I remove a week old grout haze from polished porcelain tile without dulling the finish?

  2. Hello,
    I am considering a glazed porcelain brick-like tile for a kitchen backsplash. The light grey and beige matte surface is sort of rough and has me wondering if food stains that might land there would clean off or if they might stain the tile? My head knows a shiny smooth porcelain would be easy to clean but my heart wants the brick look.
    Thank you!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Carolyn,

      Thank you for getting in touch! You should be able to clean off most food but we can’t 100% guarantee it won’t stain. If you keep up the cleaning on the back splash and don’t let anything sit for a really long time it should be fine. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  3. I am going to be installing porcelain unglazed tile,is there any special procedure for grouting unglazed tile ?(do the tiles have to be sealed first etc..)Also the tile is a wood look plank,what would the smallest grout line i can have?I would like the tiles to be as tight together as possible.Thanks for any info….

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Rich,

      Thank you for getting in touch! There is no specific procedure for grouting unglazed tile. Just be sure to clean off all the grout from the surface. The size of grout line will depend if you have a tile with rectified edges. If the tiles have rectified edges you can install with a grout line of 1/16″ but we ONLY recommend this if the subfloor is completely flat and you have an extremely experienced installer. If you are installing yourself I would suggest going with a 1/8″ grout. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  4. dear sir,

    i wanted to know thus the non glazed tiles are treated with chemicals on the top layer or there are any vitrified tiles which is non glazed and the top layer is not treated with any chemicals

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Uma,

      Thank you for getting in touch. Most tiles will use a type of chemical on the surface to seal or finish the tile. If you want something more natural I would suggest going with a natural stone and choosing an environmentally friendly sealer. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  5. Hi,
    I am considering regrouting my shower.
    It was initially installed 10 years ago with WHITE matte subway tile & dark brown grout that’s now faded. I’d like to use DARK BROWN grout again. Do I need to take special precautions to ensure the grout doesn’t stain the existing tile?
    I don’t know if the those was ever sealed
    Thank you for your help.
    Lucy

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Lucy – thanks for reaching out to us! If it’s a porcelain or ceramic tile, it should have come pre-sealed. If it didn’t come sealed, you would probably notice stains or residue on the tile that you’re unable to remove. In regards to re-grouting, there aren’t any precautions you would have to take if the tile was sealed. You would want to make sure that you are thoroughly cleaning off any grout that gets on the tile, as well as sealing the grout to help with preventing stains. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  6. We tiled our Dn stairs with a matte glazed porcelain tile. It looks more dull than shiny or wet look. Is there something that I can roll on to give it a wet look since its already glazed? Love the tile but don’t like the dullness. Thanks.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Charlotte. Thanks for reaching out to us! Unfortunately, there are no products on the market that we know of that will make a matte porcelain tile shiny. Your best bet is to go down to a local home hardware store and see if they have any products that would work. It’s always recommended to try out any new products on a small, discrete area, before applying it to the entire space. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  7. Hi I am looking at tiles for my kitchen renovation. I have seen some porcelain tiles that are shiny and some that are matte. Some tiles are smooth, semi-smooth and some have a rough texture to the touch.
    Which type would be the best for cleaning, my old house had a matte type tile and I found it very difficult to clean. Please advice, thanks.

  8. I have unglazed porcelain tiles in my kitchen. We have just moved in and the previous owners did not clean them properly. They appear to have oil stains and black scuff marks on them. I have tried vinegar, baking soda and a commercial tile cleaner, but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you for getting in touch! You can try TileLab’s Sulfamic Acid cleaner. If this does not work you will need to replace the tile. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  9. I AM CONSIDERING HAVING MY SHOWER CUBICAL TILED WITH DARK COLOURED UN GLAZED TILES.
    WILL THEY BE AS EASY TO KEEP CLEAN AS GLAZED TILES OR WILL THEY BE LIABLE TO STAINING.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi David,

      Thank you for getting in touch! Using a glazed tile in your shower will make cleaning easier because the extra protection layer helps prevent any extra staining. That being said, if you are cleaning the shower regularly and not leaving soap, shampoo or conditioner just sitting on the tile you shouldn’t have any issues with staining. I would suggest giving the shower a quick rinse with water once you are done showering so that there is nothing left sitting on the tile. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  10. Hi,
    I want to have a small dance floor laid in my back garden and I want to use tiles rather than wood for obvious reasons. The tiles need to have some slip in them to allow ease of movement, non slip wouldn’t work at all. Any ideas what I should look at?

    Great website by the way.
    Thanks,
    Wendy

  11. We have just installed a matte finish, textured porcelain tile in our kitchen. We are wondering if there is a wax or something that we can put on it to give it a “wet” look?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Amber,

      Thank you for getting in touch! Unfortunately porcelain already has a finish worked into the tile so you won’t be able to put anything on top that won’t collect dirt and dust and make the tiles have a foggy look. If you wanted the “wet” look on the tile you will have to switch it out for a polished porcelain tile. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  12. Hi all,

    Your site is extremely informative.. Can you tell me the variety of tile sizes (most preferred) can be used in the bathroom and what would be the best suitable material (porcelain/ceramic). Also if you could help me with preference for ceramic and porcelain (glazed/full body) for floors and walls.

    Thanks and regards

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Aditya,

      Thank you for your inquiry! The size of tile that you use in your bathroom is really personal preference. The most common options are 12″x12″, 12″x24″, 18″x18″ or 24″x24″. You also have the option to use mosaics in the bathroom which provides quite a few more options. For floors you will need to go with a porcelain tile, they are much more durable. For the walls you can use either porcelain or ceramic but I usually find most people will use the same tile on the floor as well as the wall depending on the design of your bathroom. We do offer a bathroom design center on our website to help you choose tiles and products that go together. I’ve included the link below:

      https://www.builddirect.com/design-center/

      Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  13. Hi, I am unsure what kind of tile I have. I thought it was porcelain glazed. It is very slippery when wet. My question is regarding how porous it is. I am finding water seeps through it and stains the tile. It can be cleaned off if buffed. Is it porus? What is the problem here and how can I fix it?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Aileen,

      Thank you for getting in touch! Unfortunately we won’t be able to know how porous your tile is without knowing what type of material is it. If it absorbs the water then it is porous and you may want to try a sealer to protect it from the water. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  14. I recently had a wood plank looking porcelain tile laid in a large area that buts up to a brick floor. The brick has a semi glossy finish on it can I put the same type of finish on my glazed porcelain tile?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Jean,

      Thank you for getting in touch! Unfortunately you won’t be able to put a glossy finish on your porcelain tile. Porcelain already has a finish built into the product so any extra finish you put on top with just sit on the surface and collect dust and dirt. You will need to install a porcelain tile that already has a glossy finish. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  15. hi
    Based on the standard specification could you please advise what is the accepted absorption for the wall tiles and the floor tiles in case we use the ceramic or porcelain tiles.
    many thanks.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Mohammed,

      In general you would only need to look at the water absorption rate if you are using the tile outdoors. No water will be absorbed through the top of the tile, it is more through the base, which limits the tile you can use outside in freezing and thawing temperatures. Anything with less than a 0.5 rating is impervious which would be the best options to have. Most, if not all our porcelain tile will have a 0.5 rating or less, it will be listed in the product specifications on each product’s page. I have included the link to all our ceramic and porcelain tiles below:

      https://www.builddirect.com/Ceramic-Porcelain-Tile

      Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  16. Another question to my previous post …..
    Should I preferably get unglazed, polished tiles if I want the glossy look, and will I then still have the
    benefits of the slip resistance of the unglazed tile although it is polished (glossy)??
    Thanks again
    Audrey

  17. Hello.
    I want to make sure I am understanding the process and tiles correctly …..
    From my understanding you get UNGLAZED tiles that are matt and polished (shiny)
    as well as GLAZED tiles that are matt and polished (shiny)
    Unglazed is thicker and for more commercial / high area usage areas whereas unglazed are thinner and therefore more suited to household applications.
    What do I buy for bathroom floors (where floors do have a lot of moisture) and what makes the tiles more slippery or less slipper please?

    Thanks
    Audrey

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hello Audrey,

      Essentially, porcelain/ceramic tiles can be categorized as either ‘glazed’, ‘full body’ or ‘colour/through body’.

      ‘Glazed’ tiles are those where the colouring you see on the top surface will not continue through the body of the tile. This is the most common tile that we have in our collection and will typically have a much more varied aesthetic (such as a varied wood grain/marble effect). These ‘glazed’ tiles can either be polished or matte – the term ‘Glazed’ refers to the method of manufacture.

      ‘Full Body’ & ‘Colour/Through body’ are tiles where the colour seen on the surface will continue throughout the body of the tile – this can be beneficial as chips/deep scratches will be less visible. These varieties can also come as a matte or polished finish.

      Regardless of the type of tile (glazes, colour, full etc.) the biggest determining factor for durability will be the PEI rating – a scale of 1-5 with 3 suitable for residential, 4 for light commercial and 5 for heavy commercial. The longevity of the tile will also depend very heavily on the quality of installation.

      For a bathroom installation, you can use any ceramic or porcelain as the water absorption rate is almost non-existent. In terms of traction, most of the tiles we have will show a ‘Coefficient of Friction’ rating which should be between around 0.6 – 0.8 or above for a very good rating.

      I hope these answers clarified a few things for you but do get in touch if you have any further questions.

      Thanks,

      Alex Krause

  18. hi
    i want to put glazed tiles on my stairs and enterance.everyone is saying they will be slippery ,specially there r more chances to slip on stairs.plz let me know is it ok to put glazed tiles on stairs and the front enterance.

    and also i want to know white tiles in kitchen is a good idea or no.
    thanKS

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Nosh,

      Thank you for getting in touch! Tiles can be slippery but it always depends on the person and area it is installed. As long as they are not wet and people are careful when they walk on them tiles should be fine. It is really up to what you like and think would work best in that situation. Also, white tiles in a kitchen are quite common but that would be your personal preference as to whether you want white or another color. I highly suggest getting some samples to see what colors work best in that area. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  19. This summer, we had 20 straight days of heavy rain. Although the water touched my front door it did not come in, but it must have come up under my house because bout a month later my wood floors started “tenting” and buckling. I had it repaired but now months later other areas of the floor are buckling. If I replace my floor with porcelain tile that looks like wood, will the tiles survive a monsoon? Please advise.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Ann,

      Porcelain tile would be a much better option for you because it is waterproof. We can never 100% guarantee there will be no damage in a monsoon or if you have a flood, but tile will do much better over a natural wood product like solid or engineered hardwood floors. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  20. I bought a house in middle Florida. I need new floors. Because of all the humidity in Fl I think Porcelain tile is the way to go. I am looking for a dark wood look like chocolate. I don’t know if I need different floors in the kitchen and bath as to the rest of the house. I like the polished look. I also don’t know about glazed vs unglazed. I read what was said on your website but still don’t know which to use. I would like to eventually have a cat and dog. Thanks for your help.

    • Sorry, it’s me, Pat, again. I was looking at more info on your site and is there a way not to have any gout lines? I really don’t want any grout lines at all. Thanks

      • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
        BuildDirect Product Expert Team

        Hi Pat,

        Thank you for getting in touch! If you have high humidity porcelain tile is a great option! We do have products that technically don’t require grout lines but we always suggest using an installer that is very experienced with this method because it can be very tricky. In regards to different types of flooring, you are able to use tile in your whole house including the kitchen and bathroom, it just depends on your aesthetic preference. If you can I would definitely suggest calling in at 1-877-631-2845 and speaking to a tile expert. They would definitely be able to answer any other questions you have and help suggest what may work best in your areas. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  21. Hi there,

    I am still deciding on what type of tile to use in my kitchen. I like the 12 x 24 polished porcelain tile in your website and intending to purchase same from you but I am a senior and not sure if it is advisable to get the polished one or not. I like the look of the polished one and I think it will be easier for me to clean.

    What are your thoughts and suggestions please –

    Thanks a bunch,
    M

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Machie,

      The polished should work for you, maybe just keep it out of wet areas like in the shower. Either way the polished or matte finish won’t be too hard to clean and they will both be very durable! Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  22. Hi there,
    I have porcelain glazed tile. It is sealed as well when it was recently installed. I also put a special product on it (that I got from the tile manufactuor) to help with the porous level of the tile. However, I have having a few issues:
    1. Mainl, that there is still a haze from the product that is now appearing. How do I remove this?
    2. Iam concerned water will still stain it since the product won’t come off easily. What are the chances water will stain it?
    3. What is the best way to clean and maintain the tile?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Aileen,

      Porcelain already has a sealer incorporated into the glaze of the tile so you don’t need to seal it. It also isn’t a porous material so the other product you added on top is probably adding to the haze. The haze and cleaning issues you are having are due to the sealer just sitting on top of the tile rather than being absorbed. You should completely remove the sealant and the haze should go away. Once the sealer and other sealing product you used has been removed you will be able to clean the tile with any regular household floor cleaner. Please let us know how it goes and if you have any other questions!

  23. BuildDirect Product Expert Team
    BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

    Hi Denis,

    There won’t be a difference in regards to maintenance between a tile with a glaze and one without a glaze. They will both be very easy to maintain and clean. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  24. Hello I won to now if ceramic and porcelain tils unglazed is is mor maintenance to clean then glazed tiles, and if so wat is the maintenance procidur

    Tancks!
    Denis Beaulieu

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