What is the Difference Between Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles?

Renovators and DIYers are often confused; what’s the difference between ceramic and porcelain tiles? Is it just a marketing scam, or is there something more to it? If you’re looking at remodeling your bathroom, Tim Hmelar and his team at The Kitchen and Bath Company of Palo Alto would love to help you with their expertise. For now, I’ll get started by getting more confusing. Porcelain technically is a ceramic tile, but not all ceramics are porcelain.

There are some important differences between porcelain and non-porcelain ceramics. First let’s look at the different manufacturing processes.

How Tiles are Made

Ceramic tiles are generally made from a red or white clay, sometimes mixed with other things. They are then fired in a kiln at between 1200 and 1400 degrees Celsius and then coated with a durable glaze. Porcelain tiles are generally made through a dust-press process using porcelain clays. They have a higher feldspar content and are fired at a higher temperature for longer.

The Certification Process

To protect consumers from fraud and dodgy tile manufacturers, the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency was set up. Porcelain is defined as having an absorption rate of less than 0.5% according to the American Society for Testing and Materials. To test this, a tile is weighed, then boiled for five hours and left to sit in water for another full day. The tile is then weighed again, and is only considered porcelain if it weighs less than 0.5% more than previously.

To get officially certified, manufacturers must send in five samples to the testing agency, pay a fee and renew the certification every three years. If a company does this, they can use ‘Certified Porcelain Tile’ in their branding.

The Advantages of Porcelain

Fine porcelain is stronger, more durable, denser and more impervious to water. This makes them more suitable for floor tiling that gets heavy traffic or for outdoor use in inclement weather. However, it is still recommended that you use tiles specifically made for outdoor use. Because of porcelain’s dense body, when it is chipped, it is the same color all the way through and can barely be noticed. Chips in ceramic tiles are more noticeable, because the color is often different underneath the glaze.

The Disadvantages of Porcelain

One of the main disadvantages of porcelain is that it is more expensive. Because it is harder, it is also more difficult to cut as well as more likely to break during the process.