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.
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.