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Porcelain & Ceramic Tile Differences

The difference between ceramic tile and porcelain tile is a small one. Both tiles are made of ceramic, which is a fired clay material. Porcelain tile is a specific type of ceramic that has unique features such as a high density and durability that is hard to beat for high-traffic areas in your home. Ceramic tile is less expensive, however, and easier to cut and shape to fit tight spaces.

Often, what tile you choose will come down to the style that you need to make a room functional, or the design that inspires your living or working space. There are a number of different options that may fit the bill.


Choosing tile features that work for you

Let’s start with texture. Surface patterning on tiles can include wood, stone, metal, and even fabric. Most of these patterns, such as those replicating wood and fabric, are produced through transfer printing, where a pattern is pressed into the ceramic itself.

ceramic texture montage

Metal patterns, however, are usually the result of glazing, where a metallic lustre is added to the final firing process. While unglazed tiles show the color of the ceramic itself, glazed tiles can add a palette of colors and levels of reflection to your room.

Tile edge styles can also have an effect on the design of your tiled floor or wall. Rectified tile has gone through a manufacturing process to assure each tile is exactly the same size and shape, and therefore it is possible to lay them cleanly and carefully with very little grout.

rectified edge ceramic tile

Non-rectified, or standard, tiles, are produced so that there are slight variations in tile size. From a design perspective, rectified tiles will produce a more modern and exacting look, while standard tiles may have a more natural or rustic feel.

standard edges ceramic tile

Size and shape

With respect to tile sizing, there are also a number of options to choose from. Rectangular tiles can vary from subway tile for your bathroom to faux bois flooring. Square tiles are more commonly used in entranceways and sunrooms, or on backsplashes. Interlocking tile is popular on decks.

Mosaic tile is cut and carved into small pieces according to a previously prepared pattern, and these pieces are placed close together for a dramatic effect. Although it is always possible to lay out and grout tiny, individual mosaic tiles, they are provided on a mesh backing to make it simple and easy to get the effect you want in your home.

A fiber mesh resin is permanently attached to the back and edges of the mosaic tile so that a portion of the back of each tile is exposed to the bond coat. Mosaic tile comes in a range of materials, such as glass, ceramic and stone, and even pebbles, each of which has a variety of beautiful glazes that can match any design scheme.

Look and feel

Saltillo tile and other handmade tiles are often unglazed. The majority appear in a range  of tones of red, because they are handmade with quarried clay on a wooden frame, or pressed to fit a mold. fw03

Without a glaze, Saltillo tile is highly porous, which means that it should not be used in bathrooms or kitchens where water will soak through to the underflooring.

Saltillo Tile

With so many ceramic and porcelain tile options available to you, it is important to pick a style that will suit your home over the long term. Subway tile can work simply in hallways and bathrooms because of its relative durability, but also because it is a great backdrop for design.


Hard-wearing porcelain tile like Kaska Ceramic Tile’s Gator Series can be used in homes and businesses both on the floor and walls, as it is easy to clean. The modern porcelain Base Metal Series by Salerno looks like a metal tile, but is created to ensure that you can keep to a budget.

(6) Comments

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Deborah,

      Although it is not required, it is highly recommended as it will help with the overall comfort, feel, and look.

    • Deborah,

      The tile industry and tile manufacturers recommend using grout. Grout serves a couple functions; it provides protection to the edges of tiles and minimizes chipping of edges and it permits expansion & contraction due to variations within the environment – heating & cooling, moisture, etc and it permits vapor transmission from beneath the tile in the case of tile installed on concrete.

      Always rely on industry experts for the correct answers to your questions about tile. Go to the web sites of:
      Tile Council of North America, Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, National Tile Contractors Association, Ceramic Tile Education Foundation.

  1. What can be done to make the tile warmer under foot beside using radiant heating ???…the tile will be installed on cement base floor….

  2. I have a outside grill that we use to cook several nights a week, there is a painted brick wall behind the grill. The wall is currently black from the smoke of the grill. If I tile the wall with a porcelain tile will I be able to clean it as to not have all that black stain on the wall

    thank you

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