Ceramic tile is a favorite of designers and homeowners alike. It’s versatility, beauty and durability make it a winner for many applications around the house. Confusion often comes into play, however, when the topic of porcelain tile comes up. What is porcelain tile, and is it a good choice for your home?
The simple answer is that porcelain tile is ceramic tile—it’s just made of a more highly refined and purified clay. Because of that fact, porcelain tile is denser and stronger than regular ceramic tile. Another difference between the two tiles is that ceramic tile is made from red, brown or white clay, while most porcelain tile is constructed from only white clay.
The higher density of porcelain tile also means it has a lower water absorption rate than ceramic tile, so it is more resistant to stains, frost and cracking. Additionally, full-body porcelain tile carries its color and pattern through the thickness of the entire tile, making it very durable. The Porcelain Enamel Institute uses the PEI scale to rate the hardness of tile.
- Class 1: No foot traffic. Tile is for walls and other no-traffic areas.
- Class 2: Light foot traffic like bathrooms and also walls.
- Class 3: Light to moderate foot traffic, countertops, walls.
- Class 4: Moderate to heavy foot traffic. All residential applications and some commercial use.
- Class 5: Heavy to extra heavy foot traffic. Suitable for all residential, commercial and institutional uses.
So what does all this technical detail mean for the consumer? Well, check the PEI rating on the tile you are interested in, but generally, porcelain tile is not only beautiful, but it is also a stronger tile and does well for floors. It can often be used for outside areas such as patios and pools because of its resistance to frost and cracking. Porcelain tiles are available in matte, unglazed or highly polished finishes.
A final note to keep in mind when choosing tile is that usually the tiles that have a higher PEI number are often more expensive than those lower on the scale. A visit to a home remodeling showroom should give you some ideas of your options, design possibilities and pricing.
Choosing between porcelain and regular ceramic tile doesn’t have to be confusing. Both types offer oodles of options for home use. Your local general contractor can help you narrow down your choices and install a tile that will fit both your creative tastes and your lifestyle.