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How is Porcelain Tile Rated for Hardness?

porcelain tile

Sessemo Trento Series Rectified Self-Leveling Wood Look Porcelain SKU: 15032459

If you’re like most casual DIYers, your main considerations when picking out ceramic or porcelain tile are cost, color, and size. In fact, if you’re like most DIYers, you probably haven’t heard of a PEI rating — but this should actually be one of your top considerations when selecting tile for your next home improvement project.

Not all ceramic and porcelain tiles are equally strong and durable. Some can withstand heavy foot traffic, while others are only suitable for decorative wall installations. Most reputable lines of porcelain tiles are rated for use by the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) abrasion test. This test is recommended by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). PEI ratings will tell you which tiles are best for different uses in the home.

10101032-porcelain-tile-glacier-white-polished

Considering PEI ratings will help you achieve a beautiful, lasting installation. (Salerno Micro Crystal Porcelain Tile – Glacier White Polished)

What are PEI Ratings?

Known as the PEI Scale, it is the standard consumers can rely on and refer to in order to determine which tiles to buy according to purpose and location. The PEI rating indicates the tile hardness, and these ratings are valuable to help in tile choices for different projects. The scale ranges from one to five, with five being the strongest and most durable.

How Do PEI Ratings Differ?

Each tile rating, or class, includes recommendations for use and installation. Most tile manufacturers list the PEI rating on the tile’s tear sheet, and most re-sellers include the rating in the product description in their catalog or website. The ratings are as follows:

Group 0: Tiles technically unsuitable for floors. These are generally used as wall tile.

Group 1 or PEI 1: Tiles suitable only for locations where softer footwear is worn or where shoes are not frequently used, for e.g., residential bathroom or other areas with light traffic. Also for interior commercial and residential walls.

Group 2 or PEI II: Tiles suited for general residential traffic. For areas that are walked on by soft soled or “normal” footwear with very small amounts of scratching dirt. Not for kitchen, entrance halls, stairs and other areas subjected to heavy traffic.

Group 3 or PEI 3: Tiles suited for all residential and light commercial areas such as offices, reception areas, boutiques, interior walls, countertops and residential bathroom floors. Not recommended for commercial entryways.

Group 4 or PEI 4: Tiles suited for regular traffic. Recommended for medium commercial and light institutional use, such as restaurants, hotels, hospital lobbies and corridors.

Group 5 or PEI 5: Tiles suitable for areas with heavy traffic, abrasive dirt and moisture, and where safety and maximum performance are required. Examples are shopping malls, public buildings, building entrances, or swimming pools.

A Final Note

The PEI rating only refers to a tile’s strength and suitability for a particular application; it is not an indicator of the tile’s overall quality or value. In many cases, some of the most beautiful and costly tiles have a PEI 1 or 2 rating. The PEI rating is simply a guide to help you choose tile that will hold up to the demands of the environment in which it will be used.

If you’re doing a tile shower surround, for example, the PEI rating isn’t such a big deal, but when you’re choosing tile for counters and floors, check the PEI before you buy.

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What PEI rating will work best for your space?

Browse our elegant yet practical selection of porcelain tile here. Find the right tile for your installation!

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(29) Comments

  1. I am debating between
    a porcelain tile from Happy Floors
    Reserve Talc
    Or….
    Marazzi Harmony Tone?????
    To do my living room, bedrooms, closets,
    entry way…
    Almost the the entire home
    Which one is the best tile between
    Them two ,according
    to each one of them specifications?
    Thank you.

  2. I am looking at purchasing Travertine for my kitchen flooring. Would this be a good recommendation to install

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  6. Hello, I have a porcelain tile at home that has a lot of scratches and I am not sure how to find out the main cause of them is. My tile is supposed to be a 5 in the Moh’s scale and is scratching with the plastic legs of a chair. I am trying to find out a lab that can run a test on my tile or advise on how to avoid this type of problem.
    Thank you very much in advance

  7. We are extending our kitchen through to the garage, we have a husky dog and a cat, what would the best type of tile for the amount of traffic in this area be.

  8. I’m hoping you will be able to answer this question for us… My wife and I are looking at porcelain floor tile and was hoping to get a pool table after the installation of flooring. Would a PEI tile rating >= 3 suffice? My fear is that if one of the pool balls jump off the table, will it crack the porcelain tile? I have had several people tell me that we would be fine, though I am just a bit leery of their answer.

    Any help is appreciated.

    Regards,
    -Tony

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Tony. Thanks so much for getting in touch with us! The PEI rating is more to do with the amount of foot traffic that a tile can handle, not how it would hold up if something heavy was dropped on it. A PEI rating of 3 is suited for any type of residential project, so in that sense of things, it will be okay for your application. Porcelain is definitely a good option, but you do have to keep in mind that any type of material can chip, crack, or dent, it just really depends on what and how something is dropped on it. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  9. We are looking at different wood look porcelain tiles. Most of them have a wear rating of 5, but the one we like has a rating of P1. How does a P1 rate against the PEI wear rating?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Donna. Thanks for reaching out to us! A PEI rating of 1 is for very light traffic areas where shoes are not frequently used or wall projects. A PEI rating of 5 on the other hand, is the highest rating and suited for any type of commercial application (airports, hotel lobbies, etc.). All of the floor tiles on our website will have a PEI rating of 3 or higher. What type of project is this for? This will help determine what PEI rating to go with. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  10. I have a covered concrete patio (10×25). I live in Texas and want to cover the patio with tile. What is the best type of tile for this project and what rating should I be looking for? I heard porcelain is better than ceramic for outdoor use.

  11. Hi. My contractor ordered tiles for our floor (whole house) from his showroom, it’s a porcelain 20″ tile called Ankara Beige, and I can’t find the PEI rating on it anywhere. I asked him, and he said it was 3-4, but he can’t show me anything in writing to verify that. I’m nervous to use a tile that I can’t verify the rating of. I can only find the tile listed a few places online, and they also don’t show any specs for it. (This is the tile: http://www.worldsalesgroup.com/products/porcelain-tile-ankara.htm) … Should it be durable enough, or should I tell my contractor we want a tile we can see the specs for? I want to be sure we have a quality product.

    • Hi Laura!
      Here is what I found on this tile:
      •P.E.I. Rating III is suitable for medium-duty residential floors including kitchens, halls, corridors, balconies, terraces and areas used more often with normal footwear and small amounts of dirt

      My Opinion now:
      Since your paying a contractor to do your tile installation, then YOU SHOULD HAVE THE LAST WORD
      on the materials they use.

      I’m sure they will use another tile of YOUR CHOICE from ANOTHER STORE (Lowes/Home Depot, etc).
      I’ll also choose a PEI of 4 or 5

      Good Luck!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Lara,

      Thank you for getting in touch! I do agree with Jim, if you are not comfortable with that tile then you should ask to use something else. A PEI rating of 3 is usually used for light residential use so if it is going in a high traffic area you maybe want something with a 4 or 5 rating. You want to be comfortable and confident in what is being used in your home so it is perfectly acceptable to ask for more information or another product altogether. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  12. We are looking at some Porcelain Tile from Lowes:

    Style Selections Natural Timber Cinnamon Porcelain Granite Floor and Wall Tile (Common: 8-in x 48-in; Actual: 7.72-in x 47.4-in). Item #: 487331 ; Model #: 0400101; PEI Rating 3-medium heavy traffic

    and would like to know if this tile would be suitable for our Living Room, Foyer, hallway and Dining Room.

    Thanks in advance!
    Jim

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Jim. Thanks so much for reaching out to us! A PEI rating of 3 or higher is suitable for any type of residential project, so yes this would be suitable for your needs. Anything lower than a 3 would not be recommended for those high traffic areas :). Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  13. I am considering a tile withe a PEI rating of 2 for the floor of the shower in my master bathroom. The shower is used daily by two people, who weigh between 245-300 lbs. Is a PEI rating of 2 sufficient?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Sammi. Thanks so much for reaching out! The PEI rating has more has to do with the actual foot traffic in regards to the durability aspect. A PEI rating of 2 is suited for general residential traffic and for areas that are walked on by soft soled or “normal” footwear with very small amounts of scratching dirt, so you should be okay using it for the shower floor. This rating is not recommended for kitchen, entrance halls, stairs and other areas subjected to heavy traffic. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  14. Hi BuildDirect Team,
    Thanks for your informative articles. I changed some door frames some time ago and recently noticed that the builder left polyurethene varnish dropings on the ceramic floor tiles in the areas where he worked. I have tried to remove them with the standard supermarket fare cleaners with no success. What can you recommend?

    Thanks
    Anthony.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Anthony,

      Sorry to hear about your tile! I would try searching TileLab on Google to see if they have something locally that might work. They have quite a wide range of cleaners that may be able to help. Good luck and let us know if you need anything else!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Brian!

      Unfortunately we are not installers so it would be best to get a professional installer to take a look at the area. Technically you should be able to lay tile over a floor if it is completely solid and flat and level but I wouldn’t suggest installing over a vinyl floor as it may not be the most solid floor. You would want to make sure to use a heavy underlay beneath. I would definitely get a professional installer to take a look and give you their opinion on the specific area.

  15. Had a tile floor put in our kitchen /dining room. We suspect our little 16 year old Yorkie might have urinated on some sots and turned it dull. Is this possible? If so what can we do? Don’t know the P
    EI of the tile. Thank you for any info you might have. Hoyt

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Hoyt,

      Thank you for getting in touch with BuildDirect!

      Why the tile is going dull depends on the type of tile you have. If it is porcelain it should just be an issue of finding a cleaner that works as porcelain already has a built in sealer. If you have natural stone you will most likely need to seal the floor as any natural stone will absorb moisture. Once you figure out what type of flooring you have you should be able to deal with the dullness issue.

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

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