What is the difference between Porcelain and Ceramic tiles?

A familiar question we are asked when speaking to customers is ‘what is the difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles’. Whilst the majority of our range is porcelain, both materials are available out there in the market and it is helpful to understand the difference. There has often been a confusion surrounding the two materials, and so this post very simply covers the few key indicators of the difference, as well as things to consider when choosing stone effect or wood effect tiles.

Dorchester Aged White Stone Effect Porcelain Tiles

How are porcelain and ceramic tiles made?

A porcelain tile is a man-made product that combines kaolin (white) clay, finely ground sand and feldspar. Ceramic tiles are also man-made made of natural red or brown clay. The clay mixture of porcelain is fired to an extremely high temperature (upwards of 1200 c) resulting in a very dense tile – ceramics are fired at a lower temperature which makes them a little less dense than a porcelain.

Water absorption

Porcelain tiles benefit from a low water absorption rate – typically this stands at 0.5% or less. This means they are much more resistant to water and less porous than a ceramic tile where water absorption rates are higher.

Provence Grigio Stone Effect Porcelain Tiles

Colour

One noticeable difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles is the colour of the body itself (underneath the print or glaze). Porcelain is colour-bodied meaning it is very similar to the tone of the print itself, whereas ceramic is usually brown or red in colour. One important thing to note on this is that if you were to ever chip a tile (say with the edge of a cast iron pan) the red colour would show through, whereas a porcelain tile would be much less noticeable.

Difference in suitability

Depending on the room or space you are wanting to tile, may depend on whether one or the other is the best option. Ceramic tiles are only suitable for indoor use and are particularly popular as wall tiles or areas with less footfall. There are many smaller-format tiles that tend to be ceramic, with options of gloss and crackle glazes. Porcelain has a big advantage of being suitable for indoors and outdoors, lending itself well as a floor tile. It is worth noting the ‘R’ rating of a tile (a measurement for slip resistance) – most indoor porcelains tend to be R9 or R10, whereas for external use, we advise an R11 (grip) tile. All our stone effect paving is R11.

Tiverton White Pearl Stone Effect Porcelain Pavers

Cost

When it comes to the difference in cost of both materials, in general, ceramic tends to be cheaper in price, making it a great budget option but still offer a hardwearing tile suitable for indoor residential usage. Porcelain tiles tend to cost slightly more due to their stronger characteristics and differences.

Camborne Natural Oak Ceramic Tiles

FAQ’s

1. Should I choose porcelain or ceramic tiles?

Ultimately, this decision lies with where the tiles are going to be installed. If external, then only a porcelain tile would be suitable. If internal, both ceramic and porcelain can be installed. Porcelain will be a more durable floor tile due to the high temperature it is fired at during the production process. Ceramic tiles are still very hardwearing, although they are slightly more water absorbent and are red bodied. If you are looking for an internal tile on a tighter budget, then ceramic tiles are likely to be the best choice.

2. Can porcelain and ceramic tiles go outside?

Porcelain is suitable for outside (using a tile with the correct ‘R’ rating and installation). Matching indoor, outdoor porcelain tiles are increasingly popular choices with a wide range of tones and styles and their low water absorption. Unfortunately, ceramic tiles are not suitable for external use.

3. Do I need to seal or treat the tiles?

In most cases, porcelain and ceramic tiles do not require sealing and are very easy to maintain. Some porcelains in gloss finishes may need sealing, as well as crackled ceramic tiles – we advise on every product page if a tile requires sealing, and most companies should be able to advise you on this.