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Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile: Which is Better?

When choosing tiles for your home or project, the debate between porcelain and ceramic tiles is a common one. In this article, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both materials to help you better understand them both and make the right choice for your specific needs.


Ceramic Tile

What is ceramic tile?

Ceramic tile is made from sand, clay and water that is shaped, left to dry and then fired in a kiln at high temperatures. This firing process hardens the tiles and gives them strength and durability. They are also easy to install and easy to clean. These features have made ceramic a popular tile material across the world for centuries.


Advantages of ceramic tile

  • Affordability. Generally, ceramic tiles are priced lower than porcelain tiles, which means ceramic tile offers a wider variety of budget-friendly options.
  • Versatility. Ceramic tile comes in a vast array of shapes, colors and sizes, offering plenty of options for every interior design style.
  • Easier to cut. Ceramic is softer than porcelain, which makes it easier to cut and handle. This can be particularly advantageous for DIY projects, as it makes cutting tiles to fit around corners and other intricate shapes more accessible.


Disadvantages of ceramic tile

  • Softness. Though they are remarkably durable, ceramic tile's looser construction makes them softer and more prone to scratching, chipping, and cracking compared to porcelain.
  • Porosity. Unfinished ceramic, such as quarry tile, is generally more porous, making it less suitable for high-moisture areas and outdoor environments. However, finished ceramic tiles are not porous, which makes them well suited for bathrooms, showers, and other high moisture areas. Consult one of our tile professionals to find the best ceramic tile option to stand up to a wet environment.


Where to use ceramic tile

Ceramic tiles are best used in areas that experience wear. They are ideal for interior walls, backsplashes, and floors that see light to moderate foot traffic where conditions are not excessively wet.


Cost of ceramic tile

Ceramic tile can vary widely depending on the style, size, and quality. While it is certainly possible to find ceramic tile that is more expensive than some porcelain tile, on average ceramic will be less expensive than porcelain. Most ceramic tile options will cost between $5 and $10 per square foot, with some options slightly less and higher end options a bit more.

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Porcelain Tile

What is porcelain tile?

Porcelain tile is made from a more refined version of the same clay mixture used for ceramic tiles that fired at higher temperatures. This process results in a tile that is denser, less porous, and highly durable, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications such as patios, showers, and kitchen backsplashes.


Advantages of porcelain tile

  • Durability. Porcelain tiles are incredibly durable, making them suitable for high traffic areas such as entryways, hallways, and kitchens.
  • Low porosity. Porcelain's low water absorption rate makes it ideal for use in high-moisture environments like bathroom floors and shower surrounds or in outdoor spaces like patios.
  • Versatility. Porcelain tile is available in a wide range of finishes, from matte to high gloss, and can mimic stone, hardwood, and other natural materials.


Disadvantages of porcelain tile

  • Cost. Porcelain tile tends to be priced higher than ceramic tile due to its relatively superior durability and water resistance as well as requiring a more energy-intensive manufacturing process.
  • Installation. Their density and hardness make them more challenging to cut and install. This can potentially increase installation costs and require a higher level of skill and use of specialized tools for DIYers.
  • Specialized adhesive. Porcelain tile's low porosity means that you will need to use a thinset adhesive with a higher latex count. This type of adhesive can be more expensive compared to thinsets that are suitable for use with ceramic tile.


Where to use porcelain tile

Porcelain tiles are durable enough to be used almost anywhere. They are an excellent choice for floors in high-traffic areas, outdoor patios and by the pool. Their moisture resistance also makes them ideal for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms.


Cost of porcelain tile

As with ceramic tile, it is possible to find porcelain tile that is less expensive than ceramic. But porcelain tile is generally at a higher point than ceramic tile. Prices vary based on the tile's design, size, and the quality of the material, but the average range for porcelain tile is $8 to $15 per square foot.


Which Material is Best for You?

Choosing between porcelain and ceramic tiles depends on several factors, including your budget, the environment where the tile will be installed, and your aesthetic preferences. For high-traffic or outdoor areas, porcelain will usually be the better choice because of its durability and moisture resistance. For areas with lighter foot traffic or projects where budget is a concern, ceramic tiles offer a cost-effective and attractive option.

The best way to determine which material is best for your specific project is to visit one of our locations to consult a tile expert. Our staff can help you navigate the specifics of your project to help you find the type of tile that will suit your aesthetic, durability, and budget needs.

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Porcelain vs Ceramic FAQs

  • Is porcelain more heat resistant than ceramic?

    Yes, porcelain is generally considered more heat resistant than ceramic. Both porcelain and ceramic tiles are fired in a kiln at high temperatures, but porcelain tiles are made from a more refined clay and are fired at even higher temperatures than ceramic tiles. This process results in a denser and harder tile. This density and hardness imbue porcelain tiles with a much higher heat tolerance compared to ceramic tiles.

  • What is more expensive, ceramic or porcelain tile?

    Not all porcelain tiles are more expensive than ceramic tiles, and not all ceramic tiles are less durable than porcelain tiles. Cost is only one factor, and it may or may not be the most helpful in determining which material is the best choice.

    If you are considering similar tiles in ceramic and porcelain, it is more likely that the porcelain tiles will be at a higher price point.

    As a category, porcelain tiles are more water resistant, durable and lower maintenance, especially in high traffic areas. Durability is an important consideration when trying to decide between porcelain vs ceramic floor tile, as ceramic tile is comparatively more prone to scratches. This can contribute to a higher cost, but the superior durability for high traffic areas may be worth the trade off.

  • Does porcelain break more easily than ceramic?

    No, porcelain is actually generally less likely to break than ceramic. Their high density and low porosity mean they are not as susceptible to breaking, chipping or cracking when compared to ceramic.

    Ceramic tile is also more porous on one or both sides, which means they are less equipped to handle freeze/thaw cycles if they are exposed to moisture. When water penetrates the tile, over time, the continuous freezing and thawing can cause the tile to crack or pull away from the substrate. The low porosity of porcelain means weather-related breakage is much less likely.

    However, not even porcelain tiles are indestructible. When a porcelain tile is subjected to a sharp impact or is not properly installed over a supportive substrate, it can crack or chip. Proper installation of both porcelain and ceramic tiles is key to ensuring they are as durable as possible.