How to Choose Between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile

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Installing tile in your home can be an expensive project, with installation and material costs ranging from a little over $1,000 for a small room up to $10,000 for larger areas. The type of tile you use can also play a part in determining the final cost.
Ceramic tile is a cost-effective option versus more expensive stone tile. When opting for ceramic tile, you need to keep in mind that the tiles comes in two basic types, porcelain and non-porcelain, with each having its own advantages and disadvantages. Porcelain is essentially a specialized type of ceramic.
If you decide to install ceramic tile, you need to determine whether you want to use porcelain or non-porcelain ceramic. To do that, you need to have a better understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of both types.

How to Tell the Difference Between Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

While basically made the same way, regular ceramic and porcelain tiles have some key differences.
Porcelain Tile
  • Denser: The high temperatures at which porcelain tiles are made make them denser. This makes them suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications, though the hardness of the tile makes it more difficult to cut and harder to work with if you are doing the job.
  • More durable: Porcelain tile usually has a Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating of five, which means the tiles are good for use in high-traffic areas of your home. This makes porcelain tile great for flooring.
  • Lower absorption rate: The hard nature of porcelain tile means it has a very low absorption rate, making it almost impervious to water and water damage.
  • Costs more: Porcelain tile tends to be pricier than regular ceramic tile, costing over 50% more on average.
Ceramic Tile
  • Softer: While similar in makeup to specialized porcelain tiles, ceramic tiles are made at a lower temperature in the kiln when firing. This makes ceramic tiles less dense than equivalent porcelain tiles. The softer nature of a ceramic tile makes it easier to cut.
  • Less durable: Ceramic tiles usually have a PEI rating of less than five, with some only having a rating of one, meaning you should restrict the use of these types of tiles to walls. Don’t install them on floors, where they’d be worn down by foot traffic.
  • Higher absorption rate: The softer nature of a ceramic tile means that it tends to absorb liquids that spill on its surface. This results in the need for more frequent cleaning, especially if the tiles are regularly exposed to moisture.
  • Costs less: Due to its less durable nature, ceramic tile tends to cost less than porcelain tile. The difference in price between ceramic and porcelain tile is around 62%.

Porcelain vs. Ceramic: Which Is Best for Each Room?

Now that you know some of the advantages and disadvantages of ceramic and porcelain tile, you need to know which areas in your home are best suited to each type of tile.
Porcelain tile: The highly durable nature of porcelain tile means it works well in a large variety of areas in your home. Anywhere you expect to have a lot of moisture or foot traffic is a great place to install porcelain tile.
  • Outdoor areas: Porcelain tiles are great for use in outdoor areas that might see a lot of rain or other moisture, such as a patio, walkway, or around your pool.
  • Bathrooms and showers: Porcelain tile works well on bathroom and shower floors. Their ability to resist water means you don’t need to worry about compromising the integrity of the tile.
Ceramic tile: Ceramic tile, for the most part, is best used as wall tile in many areas, though varieties with a higher PEI rating can also work as floor tiles.
  • Interior wall applications: Ceramic tile works best on walls in the kitchen, bathroom, and showers of your home.
  • Low-traffic areas: Ceramic tile can also function as flooring in areas with low foot traffic, such as a seldom-used guest bathroom.
  • Countertops, walls, and floors: Higher PEI-rated (three or higher) ceramic tiles can also be used for countertops and areas within your home that see a normal amount of use and foot traffic.
Using ceramic or porcelain tile can really update the look of your home. It is important to know the advantages and disadvantages of both so that you can make a better decision when buying. While porcelain tile tends to cost more than ceramic, its durable and water-resistant nature make it the perfect choice for most areas in your home.

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