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Home » Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile: What’s the Difference?

Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile: What’s the Difference?

Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile: What’s the Difference?

Are you curious of the difference between Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles?  Many Oregon City homeowners are.  Below we explain some of the primary differences between Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles.

Ceramic tile is a sort of generic term for tiles which are relatively thin in relation to their facial area, they are made from a mixture of clays and other natural materials, and the tiles are strong, hard, easy to clean , and incombustible.  The clays that are used are shaped or pressed, glazes may or may not be applied and they are fired at high temperatures in kilns.  Glazes can vary between glossy or matte finishes.  The glazes make the surface of the tiles very non porous.  The style and design of the tiles can be expressed in the shape, color and texture of the tiles.  Ceramic tiles can be made with either a white or red body clay.  Tiles which have a body or bisque which is most similar to the color of the glaze are less vulnerable to showing long term wear from incidental chips that could occur over long term use.

Some ceramic tile are just suitable for wall applications and others are suitable for wall or floor applications depending on the density and durability of the tiles.  Most tiles will be marketed as either floor or wall tiles in most ceramic tile stores.  While most ceramic tiles are suitable for showers, bathroom floors, countertops, backsplashes, entries, kitchen floors and entries, they are primarily recommended for interior applications.  This is because most true ceramic tiles are not frost proof and can crack under exterior conditions especially in Northern climates.

Porcelain tile.  According to the American National Standard Specifications(ANSI A137.1) for Ceramic tile, Porcelain tiles are defined for having the specific properties of being dense, smooth, and impervious to water with an absorption rate of .5 percent or less.  A porcelain tile in effect is a more dense more water resistant version of ceramic tile.  The water resistance of the tiles is not limited merely to the surface of the tiles.  Remember, the surface of a glazed ceramic tile is very non porous.  With porcelain tiles, both the surface and the body of the tiles are extremely moisture resistant due to the tiles being more dense.  This density makes the tiles stronger so the tiles can be used not only on walls and counters but also in the most demanding high traffic floor applications including commercial applications.  The superior moisture resistance also makes true porcelain tiles frost proof, making them suitable for both indoor and outdoor installations.  

Many customers will ask, “doesn’t porcelain tile mean the color goes all the way through the tile?”  While with ‘color body’ and ‘through body’ porcelain tiles the bisque or body of the tiles is very similar or identical to the surface, this is not what defines a tile as being porcelain.  The porcelain definition lies with the specific density and water resistance of the tiles falling at .5 percent or less.

What is color body porcelain tile?     A color body porcelain tile is a porcelain tile that has a body or bisque of the tile which is very similar in color to the surface of the tiles, but not identical.  Typically, the glaze of the tile contains details that were applied through a type of silk screening or ink jet applied process.  This is how the manufacturers apply the detailed color and textures to surface of the tiles which is in the glaze of the tiles.  While a color body tile will have the same basic color as the glaze in the body of the tile, the body of the tile does not have the details in color and texture that have been applied to the surface.  Color Body Porcelain tiles are by far the most popular category of tile because this allows the tile manufacturer the ability to create amazing designs on the surface of the tiles not possible with through body porcelain, and yet the body of the tiles are the same basic color, minimizing the appearance of wear over time if a tile were to chip.

What is through body porcelain tile?  Through body porcelain tiles are porcelain tiles where the color and texture of the surface of the tiles extends through the body of the tiles.   These tiles are great for the very highest of commercial traffic like airports, shopping malls, and post offices because they really show little to no wear over time because the body of the tiles are identical to the surface.  The drawback to through body porcelain tiles is that they typically have very limited textures and lack details in design which in contrast are easily applied in the glazes of typical glazed porcelain and color body porcelain tiles.

Tile customers will ask, “Well, since through body porcelain is more durable shouldn’t I get the best for my home?”  “Shouldn’t I buy a through body porcelain tile?”   The reality in regard to durability, is that buying a through body porcelain tile for a residence or even moderate commercial application, is like buying a Ferrari and driving it 5 miles an hour.  A through body porcelain tile has more durability than you will ever need in a home or even in light to moderate commercial use, and it’s not worth giving up the superior designs and textures available in glazed and color body porcelain tiles for durability you will never use.

Hopefully, now you understand not only the difference of Porcelain tile vs. Ceramic tile, but you understand the difference indoor and outdoor tile, and the difference between color body porcelain and through body porcelain tile.  Do you still have questions?  Talk to one of our professionals at Portland Flooring & Carpet of Oregon City by calling (503)451-5353.