What's the REAL difference between porcelain and ceramic tile?

Many people have heard the terms Ceramic tile and Porcelain Tile throughout their life and home renovating experiences, but they don’t know the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile. Some think they know the difference, but do they really? Strictly based on prices, it seems that porcelain is of a much higher quality, but is that the case? We are here to determine just that, among other things, in this blog today.
First of all, you’ve got the tricky situation that you used to hear when talking about fingers when you were young. All thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs. All Porcelain Tiles are Ceramic, but not all Ceramic Tiles are Porcelain.

the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile

Porcelain Tile

Difference between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile Manufacturing

The one of the main difference in the manufacturing of ceramic tile and porcelain tile are in the clays that are used. Ceramic tiles are usually made with brown, white or red clays. Refined and purified white clay is what will make up your porcelain tiles. The clays used in porcelain tile tends to have fewer impurities than clays used in ceramic tiles. This does more than just making it more visually appealing. This will create a stronger, denser and more durable tile. Ceramic tile is baked in a kiln to remove most of the moisture. Porcelain tile is also baked, but it’s baked at a much higher temperature and is left to dry  longer, meaning that there is virtually no moisture left in the tile. This leaves you with a harder and more durable tile.

Difference between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile Appearance

Obviously due to the different kinds of clays that are used in the manufacturing process, the appearance is going to be different as well. Ceramic usually reflects the terra cotta color of it’s clay, or can also be white. Porcelain tile is almost always going to be white, grey or cream/tan. Ceramic tile is sometimes glazed and occasionally has different patterns on it as a result. Porcelain tile is almost always left unglazed. Chips can be much more noticeable in ceramic tile than they are in porcelain. This is because porcelain tile is the same color all the way through. If a ceramic tile has been glazed, the chip will reveal a different color internally. This is a big benefit for many people when choosing porcelain over ceramic.

Difference between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile Durability

Ceramic tile is not as strong as porcelain tile due to the manufacturing process. This means that it cannot be expected to hold up nearly as well. You typically don’t want to put ceramic tile anywhere that is a high traffic area or that will be exposed to a lot of wear and tear. Ceramic flooring in an entryway, for example, would be a bad idea. Not only will it much more easily chip or crack if you drop something on it, but those imperfections are going to be pretty noticeable. Porcelain tile is denser and less porous than ceramic tile and doesn’t show its imperfections easily. Because porcelain tile is baked at a higher temperature, as well as the extended drying process time, porcelain tile is much more water resistant than its ceramic counterpart.

the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile

Ceramic Tile

Difference between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile Uses

Porcelain and ceramic tile is never recommended for outdoor installation. While porcelain is more water resistant than ceramic, you still don’t want them exposed to that level of damage from the elements. Because of the water resistance issue, porcelain is a better choice for flooring in bathrooms or on shower walls, but ceramic could be used as well. Backsplash can be used with both, as water is not a huge issue. Porcelain would be a better flooring choice for most areas that get a high amount of traffic due to their increased durability. You can use either for wall covering, ceiling covering or countertops.

Difference between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile Installation

The consensus is that ceramic tile is easier to install than porcelain tile. Porcelain tile is harder than ceramic tile, so it is harder to cut, especially when the cuts are not a straight line. Porcelain can also require special tools to install. If you are a DIY tile installer or a novice tile worker, I would say choose ceramic over porcelain.

Ceramic tile backsplash

Ceramic tile backsplash

Difference between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile Costs

Porcelain generally costs more than ceramic tile. At the same time, porcelain is more durable and longer lasting, so it may be the cheaper of the two over the life of the installation. Porcelain is also less porous, making it easier to clean and less likely to stain. Stained ceramic may require replacement due to the difficulty of removing stains from porous tiles.

I hope this has helped you decide between porcelain and ceramic tile for your next tile project!

Builders Surplus is a full service renovation company with locations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Newport, Kentucky, which also serves Cincinnati, Ohio. We are the leading provider of Ledge Stone, wall tile and backsplash tile in Louisville, Newport, and Cincinnati. We specialize in interior design, kitchen design, bathroom remodel, building materials, and home improvement. Interior Design and measurements come as a free service to our clients. We sell building materials ranging in every price point, from unfinished kitchen cabinets to top of the line Wellborn cabinets. In addition to interior design, we also offer installation services. If you have any questions or would like to set up a free design consultation with one of our interior designers, we would encourage you to do so. We love sharing our knowledge with clients & potential home renovators. We write about interior design, home decor, decorating ideas, and home improvement. We hope you’ll check back in for our next article! Happy Renovation!

Written By: Allie Bloyd