Let’s Talk Tile

Which is better Ceramic or Porcelain Tile flooring?

I hear comments very often like this: “I only want Porcelain Tile” So I in turn ask: Why?
Let’s start the discussion. It is a passionate one for flooring experts I know, everyone has an opinion.

Keep in mind, when you comment on my opinion, that’s what it is, my opinion.

I personally have a Glazed Ceramic tile and a Glazed Porcelain Tile in my personal home, so some of my opinions come from actual life. So, I start my opinion with this comment: “In a normal family home, it does not matter whether your tile is ceramic or porcelain based, go with the color and style that suits you and your Interior Design, budget, and space in general, but base your selection on a few criteria.”

Porcelain is less porous, it is more dense, in most cases more scratch resistant, but ceramic will hold up in a normal family home. I have found over the last 25 years of flooring sales that Installation is critical, get a knowledgeable tile installer, if you don’t know one, call your local ProSource Wholesale Floorcoverings Store and they will guide you to some excellent people in the trade.

In my home I have a ceramic tile in my upstairs. My house is on a hill and I repaired some cracks above my door at the same time I set my Ceramic Tile. Years later, the cracks are back above the doors but my tile is fine, obviously my floor has moved. Downstairs on a concrete slab, I have a Glazed Porcelain Tile. I was moving a Freezer and one of the feet caught on ever so slight corner and my porcelain chipped. So, again installation was some of the reason this happened.

Tile can be used in many different patterns

Tile can be used in many different patterns

Let’s take a look at how I know if a Tile is suitable for my application. You will hear these terms about rating tiles, from knowledgeable Sales people: PEI Rating, MOHS scale, Dynamic Coefficient of Friction, Breaking Strength, these all matter depending on your application. All of these ratings should be readily available from the Store your shopping at, if they don’t understand or can’t get you that information — LEAVE Immediately and find a Professional Tile Installer that can guide you to the proper Store.

Tile is a great product for the floors and the walls.

Tile is a great product for the floors and the walls.

Tile Performance Ratings

All tile products are tested and rated based on a variety of factors so that you are sure to find the right product to meet your needs. Here are key ratings for your reference.

  • Abrasion (Wear) Resistance: This is the degree to which a tile’s surface (often a glaze) will withstand the wear of foot traffic, measured in PEI ratings. These ratings range from very low (Class 0 = wall use only) to higher wear ratings such as Class IV for heavy traffic (suitable for all residential and most commercial applications).
  • Breaking Strength: The strength of porcelain comes from unique clays, fired at extreme temperatures, which produce a harder, denser tile for unmatched durability and performance. Breaking strength is assessed by how much weight is needed to cause breakage. Porcelain tile surpasses the industry standard of 250 lbs.
  • Mohs: This is a scale of hardness ranging from 1 (talc) to 10 (diamond) used to determine a material’s scratch resistance. Porcelain tile often has a rating of 7, 8 or 9, while other, less scratch resistant non-porcelain tiles are rated at 5 or 6. In the Moh’s scale, each rating is 10 times harder than the previous number. For a point of reference, natural granite is usually 6 or 7.
  • Water Absorption: Water absorption is conveyed as the percentage of water absorbed by the body of the tile. Porcelain tile is ideal for wet-area applications such as tub surrounds, showers and any area where water may be present because it is impervious to water with a rating of 0.5% absorption or less. Notably, the more impervious the tile, the more frost resistant, meaning it can be used outdoors. Be sure to check product specifications for details and recommendations for use.
  • Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (DCOF): Dynamic Coefficient of Friction is the latest, most reliable measure for indicating slip potential on a tile’s surface. Porcelain tile must have a DCOF of 0.42 for “level interior floors expected to be walked upon when wet” (as stated on the Tile Council of North America website). This new measure replaces the COF of 0.6 reference that was formerly the standard for the industry.
  • Shade Variation: The color and details of porcelain tile may vary from piece to piece and from run to run. While manufacturers often have proprietary methods for conveying the anticipated variation for tile products, most use terms such as “low shade variation” for very little color or design change from tile to tile and “high shade variation” to denote dramatic differences from tile to tile. It’s important to be aware of shade variation prior to installation to avoid surprises. Likewise, it’s recommended to work from multiple boxes of tile to achieve a favorable mix.
  • Through-body: This refers to the presence of color throughout the thickness of a tile. Some tile only has color on the top surface glaze; others have partial through-body color.
Large Body Tile in an Off Set Brick Pattern

Large Body Tile in an Off Set Brick Pattern

Here is a video showing the manufacturing process for tile. The process is the same for Ceramic or Porcelain but the temperature at which they are fired is hotter for a porcelain, closing more of the pores of the clay, thus making a more dense and less porous tile.

One of the problems encountered from Flooring Sales People that are not trained or experienced is that they tell Consumers that porcelain is the same color all the way through. This is simply not correct. In order for a tile to be the same color all the way through, it needs to be a through body porcelain tile.

Through Body Porcelain tiles are extremely hard and impermeable, which makes the tiles highly resistant to moisture, staining and wear. In producing this type of porcelain tile, a color pigment is mixed with the clay body powder, giving the finished tile a consistent color throughout the body of the tile. This type of tile withstands temperature extremes, and may be used in exterior applications, including pool linings.

Through Body Porcelain Tile

Through Body Porcelain Tile

Quick Tips

  • Darker grout colors are easier to keep clean than lighter ones
  • Small grout joints (1/4-inch) have a more contemporary feel and are easier to keep clean. A larger grout joint (1/2-inch) feels more rustic.
  • Choose the right size tile for each application. Large rooms will benefit from bigger tiles, such as 16 x16 inches, 18 x18 inches or even 20 x 20 inches. Smaller spaces, such as bathrooms, will look best in tiles 12×12-inches in size or smaller.
  • Ask your local flooring dealer for advice on coordinating different types of tile and mixing tile with other flooring materials.
  • Use a reputable installer to ensure the look and longevity of your tile installation.

Benefits Of A Tile Floor

  • Hard-wearing
  • Hygienic and easy to clean
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Won’t stain
  • Never needs waxing or sealing
  • Never needs refinishing
  • Comes in many shapes, styles and colors for every decor

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3 Comments

Filed under Kitchen, Tile

3 responses to “Let’s Talk Tile

  1. steve williams

    As far a which is better, It’s relative to the the eye. As long as the specs are up to the application, use what makes the statement you want. A good tile job is a work of art limited only to the imagination. I may have a home owner who likes the smooth, rich look of porcelain as a deco band in a shower that’s mostly a Phoenix beige ceramic tile. You shouldn’t limit yourself to another persons opinion. In todays competitive market, you can find good quality across the board. Focus on making it your own.

    • Best Flooring Choices

      I agree Steve. Both are excellent products in a normal residential application. I always advise my clients to choose the color and style they like and forget about what temperature it was fired at. Sometimes we can get too technical for the average home owner, we should be their trusted adviser and we will let them know if the product is not applicable for their use.

  2. Super article. You are so right about the importance of the installer(along w/ prep work). That often has biggest impact on how the tile looks and lasts. And, yes, many mistakenly assume all porcelains are throughbodies.

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