Adding tile to your home or business decor can elevate a room or any space by adding a touch of elegance and durability. And tiles can be added to virtually any surface, whether it be a floor, a wall, a counter, a table or a backsplash in the kitchen.
There are many high-quality, natural and man-made materials on the market as well as options for the more budget-conscious. A happy medium usually includes ceramic tiles which combine quality with economy.
But many people hear about ceramic tiles as often as porcelain tiles. For the uninitiated, both sound similar. Some merchants use the term interchangeably and may bandy labels to give a product an air of superior quality. But what’s the true difference between ceramic tile and porcelain tile? And if there is a difference, which is better for your tiling project?
Ceramic By Any Other Name
First off, let’s establish the fact that porcelain is in fact one type of ceramic. Ceramic is a term applied to any kind of clay and mineral mixture which is hardened through firing (heated in an oven). To protect the tile, a glaze or coating is added to the surface to repel water and make it easier to clean.
There is the broader, universal term ceramic applied to all ceramic material tiles (including porcelain), but then there’s the narrower definition for those kinds of ceramic tiles (for example, terracotta) that are distinctively not porcelain. Confused? Think of your fingers as ceramic and your thumb as porcelain. Just as your thumb is technically a finger, you will call it ‘thumb’ for clarity’s sake.
Go to most merchants who sell porcelain tiles and you’ll notice a premium price over its ceramic peers. Part of this is due to porcelain’s historical Italian provenance, a marketer’s dream.
But porcelain does have certain characteristics that justify its higher price. Porcelain tends to be less porous than regular ceramic and absorbs less water, making it more resistant to spills and tracked outdoor elements like snow and rain. Also, porcelain tends to be more homogenous in that its coloration goes all the way through as opposed to regular ceramics which may have layers of different colours. If there is scratching or removal of surface material, it may be more apparent with a ceramic tile.
And because porcelain is fired at a higher temperature, often with quartz and feldspar, it is harder and therefore slightly more durable than ceramic.
A caveat: both ceramic and porcelain are best suited for indoors. (For outdoor solutions, consider natural stone or concrete.)
Which To Buy
To be honest, both ceramic and porcelain are for the most part aesthetically similar and lend a luxurious look to any room. Porcelain does have an edge over ceramic with certain characteristics which explains its premium cost.
But with a good glaze, proper installation and care, ceramic can be a more economical solution.
In the end, it really does come down to budget and aesthetics. Not all styles are available in both porcelain and ceramic, and it may behoove a homeowner or designer to choose the style that goes best with the space where it will be installed, whether ceramic or porcelain.
So long as it fits within your budget, a good-looking, high-quality tile, no matter the material, will be the right choice.