Ceramic vs. Porcelain Tile: What You Need to Know

Any remodel or renovation should come with some fresh new tile, but which material is going to be right for your situation? Well, there are a lot of different factors that go into this, but your best bet is to know the answer to this question: what’s the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile?


Many people hear the ceramic vs. porcelain tile debate and ask: is there really any difference between the two? While they’re pretty similar and are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences you should take into account before starting your next home renovation project. Check out some of the biggest ones below and finally know for sure – ceramic vs. porcelain tile: which is better for your home?.



Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tiles are generally a great deal softer and more porous than porcelain tiles, and a major reason for this is the way in which they’re produced. Ceramic tile is kiln-fired at a significantly lower temperature using a less refined clay. This makes ceramic tile more affordable for the average homeowner, but the way they’re created makes for a much less durable tile when compared with porcelain.


Ceramic tiles are usually made from natural brown, red, or white clay. While they're being heated the water content is reduced, and when they are finished a glaze of the makers choosing can be applied. How much water the tile absorbs is the key test to determine whether a tile is ceramic or porcelain, and this is where the ceramic vs. porcelain tile debate really shows some differences. Each tile is submerged in water for a period of time – this helps determine how porous they are.


After the tiles are soaked, they’re weighed to see if they have put on any wait i.e. if a bunch of water was absorbed. If the tiles weigh 0.5 percent more than it did before the test it gets classified as ceramic, and thus its value is slightly decreased. It’s a strange material because often the distinction can only be made after the manufacturing process is complete – not before.



Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile is made from a more refined clay, as well as other natural elements. It’s subjected to high-heat and transforms into a hard, stone-like tile that homeowners cannot get enough of. While they are very close to ceramic tiles in nature, porcelain is going to be much denser, giving the tile more durability and longevity – at least in theory.


Once completed, these tiles can either be used glazed or un-glazed, depending on individual homeowner’s preference. Un-glazed porcelain tiles are actually going to be a bit stronger and chip resistant. Porcelain tiles are much less porous, giving them an extremely low absorption rate. Well-crafted porcelain tiles are nearly impervious to water damage.


The waterproof element to porcelain tiles makes them a popular choice in the bathroom, while also making them a bit steeper when it comes to price. When we’re talking quality in the ceramic vs. porcelain tile debate, porcelain has a pretty distinct edge.



Pros and Cons of Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile brings a bunch of positives to the table, despite being the more porous tile. Ceramic tile is highly versatile, and, because it doesn’t cost as much as porcelain, it’s a perfect pick if you need large quantities of tile. In addition, it’s also significantly easier to install than porcelain, so you will be saving some money on labor costs, or, if you’re putting these in yourself, precious time.


Why is ceramic tile easier to install than porcelain? Well, for starters it’s much softer, so you can cut the tile with simpler tile cutters – unlike cutting porcelain, which is a much more arduous process. These tiles come in several colors and have a classic look that can be customized into a wide variety of patterns suitable to virtually any taste.


However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to ceramic tile, as it’s substantially less durable than porcelain. If you do have a spill or experience a leakage problem, be sure to clear your ceramic tiles in a hurry, as these things have a high absorption rate. They don’t work too well in the shower or by the pool, so it’s probably best to avoid them in the bathroom or out on the patio where they'll constantly be exposed to moisture.


Also, you will have to spend more time cleaning your tiles because of their high absorption rate, so they will require a bit more care than sturdy porcelain. Ceramic tiles seem to make the most sense in areas that experience lower traffic, as this will help extend the length of their life.



Pros and Cons of Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile is one of the toughest types of tile money can buy, and the durability when compared with ceramic is quite noticeable. Porcelain tiles stand up great to moisture and assorted spills, as they are incredibly stingy against water damage – even after prolonged exposure.


Porcelain is a perfect choice for bathrooms and pool houses, or really any other area of the home that experiences significant moisture. It also has no problem withstanding the pressure from heavy traffic, so it does well as flooring or counters. These tough tiles will work just as well on your patio, and don’t worry if you spill your beer on them because there is little chance of any liquid deeply penetrating this type of tile.


All these characteristics make it sound perfect for your next home renovation project, however, there is one major kicker: the price tag. Depending on your manufacturer, porcelain tile is going to set you back about 60 to 70 percent more on average. Part of this is just the manufacturer simply passing the cost along to you, as porcelain tiles cost significantly more to produce.


Lastly, don’t forget how much harder porcelain is to cut and install than ceramic. In the ceramic vs. porcelain tile challenge, ceramic tile is much easier to work with – this might not be a small detail if you prefer DIY projects, as porcelain is going to take a more experienced hand. Porcelain is just that much denser, so it won’t be easily bested by a wet-tile saw. An experienced tile-setter is most likely required unless you want to run the risk of ruining the tiles you paid a premium for.




It’s tough to declare a real winner when it comes to ceramic vs. porcelain tile, as both materials bring something strong to the table and the deciding factor is going to be what, exactly do you need tile for. If you have a large space that needs tiling and you’re short on cash, then ceramic tile is going to do a great job for you, as it’s very reliable in its own right (assuming you don’t get it wet).


All things being equal, you can’t really beat the elegance and durability that you’re going to get with porcelain tiles. If you want to make a serious investment, these are the better tiles for your home – their versatility ensures that you can put them anywhere and never have to worry about it.



You see, these two tiles aren’t all that different from each other, but there are some key distinctions that you should be aware of the next time you’re in the mood to take on a home improvement project, and, hopefully, now you know what many of those distinctions are. Which is better for your home: ceramic vs. porcelain tiles? The simplest answer is this: it all depends on what you need them to do for you.


Images used with permission, courtesy of www.shutterstock.com

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