Porcelain or Ceramic: Which Tile Type Is Right for You?
Discover the similarities and key differences between porcelain and ceramic tiles so that you pick the right one for your next project. Once you've come to a decision, read on for how to keep your chosen material looking like new for years to come.
When considering a tile refresh for any floor, wall, or countertop, keep porcelain and ceramic tiles top of mind for their classic look and clean-lined appearance. Homeowners love their durability and versatility, as well as the wide variety of style options available. Despite all of their similarities, though, a handful of important differences separate the two types of clay-based tiles, from porousness and absorption to durability and cost. Read on to explore the pros and cons of each to help you choose the best fit for your home. Whichever way you lean—porcelain versus ceramic tile—we can equip you with the maintenance advice to keep each looking good as new.
Porcelain tile is made of refined clay and other natural elements. After being kiln-fired, the tiles are either left in their natural state or transformed to look like stone, wood, concrete, or other materials. The clay-based construction makes porcelain tile a subtype of ceramic tiles; however, porcelain tile has a hardier construction and greater durability than non-porcelain ceramic tile varieties. Homeowners can choose either glazed and unglazed porcelain tiles. Unglazed, or full-bodied, tiles have color running through the entire thickness (as opposed to a glaze placed on the top), making them longer lasting and more resistant to chipping.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Porcelain Tile
Known as the most durable type of tile on the market, porcelain is harder, denser, tougher, and less porous than ceramic tile. It also has a very low absorption rate, meaning it’s virtually impervious to water damage, even after prolonged exposure. This characteristic makes it an ideal choice for bathrooms, laundry rooms, patios, and other moisture-prone areas. Since porcelain tile can withstand heavy traffic over long periods of time, it works well as a flooring and countertop material.
Despite its durability and versatility, porcelain has two major drawbacks: price and ease of cutting. On average, porcelain tile costs at least 60 percent more than its ceramic competitors. Also, due to its density and hardness, homeowners typically require a wet saw with a diamond blade to cut cleanly through the material. Professional installation is preferred for a flawless finish with undamaged tiles. If you’re looking to take on a budget-friendly DIY installation project, ceramic tile might be the smarter choice.
Porcelain Tile Upkeep and Maintenance
In general, porcelain is very forgiving when it comes to spills and scratches; it’s hard to damage and relatively simple to keep clean. Sweep and vacuum porcelain tile once or twice per week, depending on how much traffic it experiences. Once a month, use a vinegar-and-water solution or tile-friendly commercial cleanser to banish dirt and day-to-day build-up. If you have glazed tile, use a mop. If you have unglazed or textured tile, rely on scrub with a soft-bristle brush instead. Take care to avoid using oil-based products, waxes, abrasive scrubbers, and anything containing bleach or ammonia. Follow up with a hot water rinse, and dry thoroughly with a towel or microfiber cloth. For step-by-step guidance, consult our tutorial for cleaning porcelain tile, which breaks down the routine for glazed, unglazed, and even textured tiles.
Ceramic tiles are kiln-fired at a lower temperature than porcelain tiles, making them less dense, softer, and more porous. The clay used in its composition is also less refined, making it a more affordable, albeit less durable, option. Many homeowners opt to install ceramic tiles as flooring, especially in warm climates, where the natural coolness of the tile becomes a welcome perk in the summer months.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile is a versatile and affordable option for those in the market for large quantities of tile. Not only does it cost significantly less than porcelain, it’s also easier to install. Thanks to its relatively soft surface, homeowners can cut ceramic tile with a simple tile cutter—a piece of cake when you consider the far more involved process of cutting porcelain tile. What’s more, ceramic tiles have an attractive clean-lined appearance, and the durable glazed finish can be customized in a variety of colors and patterns.
Ceramic tile is not as durable as porcelain, and homeowners must clear away spills quickly due to its relatively high absorption rate. It’s best to avoid using ceramic tile in areas often exposed to moisture, such as the shower and patio. Also, due in part to its tendency to absorb moisture, ceramic tile requires weekly deep-cleaning, as opposed to monthly. The coolness of the tile might feel nice in the summer, but it can also be uncomfortably cold during the winter. Ceramic tiles are coated with a glaze, and if the tile cracks or chips, the clay material underneath the glaze will show through. Homeowners should consider using ceramic tiles in areas with low or moderate foot traffic.
Ceramic Tile Upkeep and Maintenance
With a bit of discipline, it’s easy to keep ceramic floors looking great for years on end. Once per week, sweep or vacuum your ceramic tile to clear the way for easier mopping. Then, using a mild dish detergent mixed with hot water, work your way from one end of the tile to the other with a string mop. Finally, dry the entire area swiftly and thoroughly with a towel or microfiber cloth. For a deeper dive into howto keeping these tiles sparkling, check out this guide for cleaning ceramic tile.