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Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile - Which Clay Tile is Best for your Floors or Walls?

When it comes to picking the best tile material for a new project or renovation, we get a lot of questions like, “is porcelain ceramic?” and “what’s the difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles?” There are some fundamental similarities and differences between porcelain and ceramic tile. But as far as which one is better? Well, that depends on where you want to install it and what you’re looking for!

Today, we’ll chisel through the basic similarities and differences between porcelain and ceramic residential or commercial remodeling project!

Although traditionally made with a cement base and ground minerals, this Stormy Sky Terrazzo Hex Tile is made of porcelain

Although traditionally made with a cement base and ground minerals, this Stormy Sky Terrazzo Hex Tile is made of porcelain - just one of the many versatile design options this material has to offer!

The Differences Between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile

Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile: How They’re Made

Porcelain tile is made from fine, dense clay that’s been dried and pressed into shape under pressure. It is then typically fired twice, removing any moisture from the tile and making it impervious to water.

Exposed Brick Wall with Porcelain Tiles

Enjoy unique textures and neutral colors with the Brick Brooklyn Natural Porcelain Tile

Ceramic tile is also created from clay, but it is typically less dense than porcelain tiles and fired at lower temperatures. The combination of clay type and firing temperature leave ceramic tiles more porous and not as strong as its porcelain counterpart. 

Get the look of handmade tiles in dozens of rich and vibrant colors like this La Riviera Blue Reef Ceramic Subway Tile with a colorful glazed finish

Get the look of handmade tiles in dozens of rich and vibrant colors like this La Riviera Blue Reef Ceramic Subway Tile with a colorful glazed finish

Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile: Durability

Can you guess which tile material is more durable, porcelain or ceramic?
If you guessed porcelain, you’re correct!

Thanks to the dense clay and high firing temperatures, porcelain tile is the most durable of the two tiles, and therefore best suited for high-traffic residential and commercial settings. Because porcelain is less porous, it's also resistant to water, moisture, scratches, staining, and has the unique ability to resist frost, making it a great outdoor tile option for locations like decks, swimming pools, or submerged areas.

Take your interior design style out for some fresh air with a porcelain tile approved for outdoor use, like Tile Club’s Tribeca Aqua Porcelain Tile!

Take your interior design style out for some fresh air with a porcelain tile approved for outdoor use, like Tile Club’s Tribeca Aqua Porcelain Tile!

Pro Tip: Before choosing a porcelain tile, be sure it’s been approved for the Area of Use you intend to install it in, which can be found in the description of any tile featured at Tile Club. You can also contact our team to verify the approved install locations!

Vancouver Natural Wood Look Tile for your deck floor, steam room, outdoor shower, or commercial patio space!

Get the tile flooring you need in the textures and looks you want with a tile approved for outdoor use, like this Vancouver Natural Wood Look Tile! It’s so durable, you can confidently install it throughout your space, whether it be your deck floor, steam room, outdoor shower, or commercial patio space!

With a modern take on traditional Japanese art, this Kasai Fumo Kintsugi Rectified Porcelain Tile is an excellent way to incorporate contemporary style into durable materials designed for high traffic residential or commercial settings.

With a modern take on traditional Japanese art, this Kasai Fumo Kintsugi Rectified Porcelain Tile is an excellent way to incorporate contemporary style into durable materials designed for high traffic residential or commercial settings.

While ceramic tile is still a strong, durable option acceptable for use in mudrooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and entryways, it is best reserved for indoor settings, shining as bathroom or kitchen backsplash tile and stunning tile fireplace surrounds

Unlike porcelain, ceramic floor tiles tend to be less common since it is not as dense and does not undergo a second firing. Although ceramic tiles may be more delicate, they can add an absolutely stunning wall design, whether you choose ceramic subway tile, mosaic patterns, or zellige-style tiles!

Decor Sospiro Ocean Ceramic Tile for a stunning bathroom vanity backsplash, for instance!

Thanks to the many shapes, sizes, and textures ceramic tile can take on, you can create a space that truly speaks to who you are. Just take this Decor Sospiro Smoke Ceramic Tile for a stunning bathroom vanity backsplash, for instance!

This crisp and clean La Riviera Blanc Ceramic Tile adds simplicity and charm for a rustic and minimalist shower wall and niche thanks to the unique surface and creamy white glaze.

This crisp and clean La Riviera Blanc Ceramic Tile adds simplicity and charm for a rustic and minimalist shower wall and niche thanks to the unique surface and clean white glaze.

With hues of blue and breathtaking textures, ceramic tiles like this Lavanda Blue Ceramic Tile can certainly add warmth and charm to kitchen and bathroom backsplashes.

With hues of blue and breathtaking textures, ceramic tiles like this Lavanda Blue Ceramic Tile can certainly add warmth and charm to kitchen and bathroom backsplashes. These tiles have an intentional variation in the glaze.

Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile: Style

Recent tile innovations have left consumers with the opportunity to shop for wall and floor tiles in a variety of new and exciting looks, patterns, designs, textures, and shapes! Both porcelain and ceramic tiles come in a wide range of styles, but you’ll be amazed by the versatility of porcelain designs!

Although this may look like a hardwood floor, it’s actually Tile Club’s wood-look porcelain tile, Vancouver Miel, suitable for indoor and outdoor use in both residential and commercial settings!

Although this may look like a hardwood floor, it’s actually Tile Club’s wood-look porcelain tile, Vancouver Miel, suitable for indoor and outdoor use in both residential and commercial settings!

You can replace high-maintenance wood flooring with a gorgeous wood-look tile to maintain a room’s aesthetic with a material better equipped to handle daily wear and tear (and don’t forget, easier to clean!). Unlike hardwood floors or decks, porcelain tiles with a wood grain design don’t need to be refinished, stained, or waxed to maintain their appearance. All you need to do is sweep and mop!

These versatile designs can create a rustic whitewashed shiplap design, create a lightweight and stylish terrazzo look, a metallic 3D pattern, and more!

Both porcelain and ceramic tiles can also take on the appearance of natural stone wall and floor materials like marble tile for more cost-friendly design options when compared to the real thing. Although we’ll never pass up the natural beauty of marble, there are times when you want to mimic that elegance AND take advantage of the strength and durability of manmade tiles. Marbled porcelain tiles, like our Emporio Calacatta Gold look tiles, or our Varana porcelain tiles that echo limestone floors, can make a scratch-resistant wall and floor covering for $6 - $7 per square foot!

Recent tile innovations have made it possible for porcelain tile like this Emporio Matte Calacatta Marble look tile to look as close to real marble as possible, all at a budget-friendly cost!

Recent tile innovations have made it possible for porcelain tile like this Emporio Matte Calacatta Marble look tile to look just like the real thing, all at a budget-friendly cost!

Want to spruce up your powder room or guest shower, or kitchen backsplash with a stunning ceramic tile? This Chateau Blue Sprig Ceramic Tile is ready to make some magic happen!

Want to spruce up your powder room or guest shower, or kitchen backsplash with a stunning ceramic tile? This Chateau Blue Sprig Ceramic Tile is ready to make some magic happen!

 

Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile: Cost

Now you might be wondering about the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile pricing and which is more affordable. At their most basic, both ceramic and porcelain tiles are incredibly cost effective and budget-friendly! With technogical advances that have eased the production process, these days even premium designer porcelain tiles can cost just a few dollars per square foot, allowing you to cover an entire floor, deck, wall, or shower well within your budget.

Rustic Wood Look Shiplap Wall Covering that's actually Budget-Friendly Tiles made of Porcelain

For instance,Tile Club’s Vancouver Natural Wood Look Porcelain Tile is an affordable porcelain tile option, costing $4.41/sq ft compared to $7.50/sq ft for artisanal zellige ceramic tile. To further illustrate the variations in pricing between the two tile, more intricate tile designs like the Kasai Carta Kintsugi 10x60” Rectified Porcelain Tile cost upwards of $28.10/sq.ft compared to $36/sq.ft. for the Chateau White Square Ceramic Mosaic Tile. It all depends on what tile you’re looking at!

Generally speaking, the more intricate and detailed the design, the more expensive the tile per square foot.

Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile: Maintenance & Upkeep

Tile is already one of the easiest flooring and wall options to maintain; easily able to stand up to mud, water, debris, pet claws (and accidents), and heavy foot traffic far better than traditional wood floors or carpets.

As a reminder, always check the area of use for the tile you’re interested in to make sure it’s suitable for the location you’d like it installed! 

Both porcelain and ceramic tiles are easy to maintain and long-lasting when they’re installed correctly. While porcelain and (glazed) ceramic tiles don’t require sealing for the tile material, the  grout joins should be regularly sealed to maintain their appearance and reduce permeability. 

Although you may not need to seal porcelain and ceramic tiles, regularly seal your grout

When it comes to protecting your grout and tile, it matters what tile and grout sealers you use!

Now, about that grout. Among the common grout myths, the one that makes us cringe the most is that tile grout lasts forever on its own. 

No matter which tile you choose, the grout lines between each piece should always be sealed to prevent staining, dirt build-up, mold, and bacteria. The only exception to this rule is epoxy grout, which features built-in stain and chemical resistance ideal for wet or high traffic areas.

We love how this Esagona Intarcio Silver Wood Look Porcelain Tile mimics the look of natural wood grain on this floor, and we think you will, too!

Trying to choose between porcelain vs. ceramic floor tile? We love how this Esagona Intarcio Silver Wood Look Porcelain Tile mimics the look of natural wood grain on this floor, and we think you will, too!

Next up: chips and cracks. If porcelain tile is to chip or crack, these imperfections are usually less noticeable since the tile surface is generally the same color as the clay below the surface. If ceramic tile chips or cracks, the colored clay (typically red, brown, or white) tends to be more noticeable, especially if the ceramic tile surface is glazed to add color and shine.

Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile: Installation

BEFORE: Bathroom Remodel on HGTV

AFTER: This black and white bathroom remodel on HGTV used Tile Club's Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

When HGTV’s Rock the Block needed durable, captivating bathroom tiles during their renovation, they came to us! Pictured here are Tile Club’s Mallorca Black Ceramic Subway Tile walls and Spiga Olson Blanco Wood-Look Chevron Porcelain Tile.

The installation process for porcelain and ceramic tiles won’t vary depending on the material, but on the type of the tile. If you’re installing a large format ceramic or porcelain tile, typically considered to be over 15” on one side, you’ll want to follow our Installation Guide for large-format tiles to ensure they have the proper mortar and grout joins for the size of the tile.

Similarly, you’ll want to follow the best practices to install mosaic tiles, regardless of whether it’s a porcelain or ceramic mosaic design. These sheets are made up of smaller pieces on a flexible backing, making it easy to install a decorative pattern.

Tile Setter Installing Large Format Porcelain Tile Floor

Since the type of tile and location of the installation will have the most impact on the installation process, we always recommend consulting your tile setter, installer, or contractor to make sure you’re following the best practices for the type of wear your tile will see once it's installed.

The primary install difference between porcelain and ceramic will come down to how they’re cut. Due to the dense material, porcelain can be a tougher cut than ceramic. With the right tools for cutting tile, though, such as a wet saw and diamond blade, porcelain is an easy material to cut to fit!

Bathroom Makover with a Mix of Wood Look Porcelain and Zellige Subway Tiles

Trying to choose between ceramic vs. porcelain tiles for shower? Why not do both! Just look at the end result of this Spiga Olson Gris Wood Look Chevron Porcelain Tile shower floor and wall install!

Regardless of where you find yourself on the debate of porcelain vs. ceramic tile, Tile Club has an incredible selection of stunning tile by material, color, shape, and project to help bring your redesign visions to life. Shop Tile Club today and start dreaming up your next renovation project!

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