Learning Center

Find the answers to your home improvement questions.

Top 5 Ceramic and Porcelain Tile FAQs

With so many options available, selecting the perfect tile for your space can be challenging. When it comes to choosing between ceramic and porcelain tile, it can be seem even more complicated because these types of tile are so similar: they look the same and are both made from kiln-fired clay. As you make your tile decisions, check out these answers to the top 5 pressing questions you may have about ceramic and porcelain.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are not only decorative, they’re a practical choice for any room.

1. What is the difference between traditional ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles?

Porcelain tile is a specific kind of ceramic tile. It has soared in popularity in recent years, because it’s more dense and durable than standard ceramic tile. It also does a better job of preventing water absorption than ceramic: porcelain generally has a water absorption rate of 0.5% or less, making it impervious to moisture.

While ceramic and porcelain tiles are both fired in a kiln at extremely high temperatures, they’re manufactured a bit differently. Ceramic tiles are generally made from red or white clay and are usually finished with a glaze that holds the color and pattern. Porcelain tiles are generally made from white clay using a dust pressed method. The dust pressed method makes denser, finer grained tiles. Glazed porcelain is also available.

Because porcelain is harder and more wear resistant than standard ceramic tile, these tiles are usually priced a bit higher. You do get your money’s worth with porcelain tile, but ceramic is fine for situations where there isn’t heavy foot traffic.

2. Can ceramic tile be used outdoors?

Historically, ceramic tile wasn’t recommended for outdoor use even though it was a favorite of early civilizations. Some ceramic tile lasted for hundreds of years, but the perception remained that it wasn’t suitable for outdoor settings. Even today, there are better options, and porcelain is the superior choice if you can afford it. Still, ceramic tile can have exterior uses, albeit with certain caveats. You’ll want to use tile that has a low absorption rate and can handle freeze and thaw conditions; this type of information can be found in the product’s features and specifications.

3. What is the difference between glazed and unglazed tiles?

Glazed and unglazed tiles share the same manufacturing process, but glazed tiles include an additional step while firing in the kiln. They’re coated with a layer of liquid glass, which is then baked onto the surface of the clay. Along with providing unlimited color and design options, the glaze protects the tile from stains and moisture. Note that they are more slippery, though. Parts of your home such as the laundry room and kitchen may be better suited for unglazed tiles since they’re likely to get wet.

4. Should you use a sealer on ceramic tile?

Your choice of tile matters in this regard. Glazed tiles already have the protective glass coating, so they’re protected from stains and moisture during the manufacturing process. Unglazed tiles are not, and they’re more porous. You’ll need to employ a sealant for unglazed ceramic tiles and to the porous grout surrounding the glazed tile.

5. Where can you use tiles and why does the PEI rating matter?

PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) ratings indicate the proper usage area for tiles. The system operates on a scale of zero to five, identifying the places where you can safely install tile. A score of zero means that no foot traffic should touch the tile, meaning it’s for wall use only. Class one is for very low foot traffic, which means bathrooms in most houses. Class two is for slightly higher foot traffic, while class three is for moderate traffic areas such as kitchens. Classes four and five mean that the tile is durable enough to survive even the heaviest foot traffic.

(13) Comments

  1. I have a porcelain tile floor in my kitchen.the to Iles look like concrete not sure how to clean them. Any suggestions?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Gail,

      Thank you for getting in touch! You can use a regular broom, vacuum and mop on porcelain tile floor. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  2. I’m looking for a porcelain tile floor that won’t show smears or tread marks from sneakers. The tile I have now shows marks, smears and tread marks. I’m constantly mopping. Is there a finish that is more forgiving?

    Also, can a new porcelain tile floor be installed over another tile floor?

  3. We are thinking of installing porcelain tile on the second floor of our home. How do we prep the floor for installation. Is the weight of the tile an issue for the second floor.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Patricia,

      Thank you for getting in touch! You will need to ensure the subfloor is flat, clean and dry. Also, if it is wood you will need to install either an anti-fracture membrane or a concrete backer board before you can install. The weight of the tile shouldn’t be an issue as long as the frame and structure of the home is stable. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  4. We have hydronic radiant flooring (infloor heated floor). What type of tile is best that can handle to constant heat? We first choose a travertine, but then learned it would crack over time because of the heat underneath. Can you make a suggestion.

    2nd question: we also need a tile that can handle heavy weight-2500lb, we have a personal scissor lift that will be used to change light bulbs and clean windows in room with a 30ft cathedral ceiling. Recommendation please.

    Thank you

  5. I’m starting to realize the challenging process that goes into selecting the perfect tiling for my bathroom. There are so many options and it’s crazy to see how they are laid in bathrooms. This article helped me a ton though and I really hope that I can find tile and lay it in my bathroom like the bathroom shown at the top of the article.

  6. I am looking for a flooring option that resembles concrete to put on my kitchen floor, but I don’t like to see the small grouts . What’s your suggestion?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hello Claudia,

      For tiles with smaller grout lines, look for a porcelain tile which is rectified. That means the edges will be perfectly square and you can install with minimal grout spacing. Please use the filter on the website to select rectified tile under Ceramic and Porcelain tile options and see if there is something that you like aesthetically.


  7. I have this phobia about weight. I have really heavy furniture on the main floor of my ranch home with basement and I want to get rid of the carpet. I thought of replacing it with hardwood, but I’ve seen porcelain and ceramic tiles that look so much like real wood; and tiles would be so much easier to care for (we have dogs). My concern is the difference between the weight of the hardwood and the tiles. Are these tiles meant for installations in all rooms of above ground living areas? Or is my fear of falling through to the basement real?!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Carolyn,

      Thank you for your inquiry! We definitely understand your concerns. Yes, these tiles are meant for applications in all areas of the home, weight should not be an issue. As long as you have the proper subfloor and you are confident in the structure of your home you should be fine! Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  8. The problem with my kitchen floor is when I mop it and it dries it looks like its smeared and you can see the marks on the floor. What do I do to get the smeared look off the floor???

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Ebonee,

      What type of floor do you have? It could be the type of cleaner you are using or the type of finish on the floor. I would just make sure the floor is completely cleaned of any residue after mopping or try a different cleaner. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

Comments are closed.