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What is the Difference Between Ceramic and Porcelain Tile Flooring?

Aesthetically, there isn’t much difference between ceramic and porcelain flooring, especially when the tile is brand new. However, some variances in material and production processes may affect durability and overall looks in the long run.

Ceramic vs. Tile Flooring: Does It Matter?

Outside of natural stone options, tile flooring is typically available in ceramic and porcelain. The reality is that both types fall under the ceramic tile category, so it can be helpful to differentiate between non-porcelain and porcelain ceramic tiles.

At first glance, you may not be able to tell the difference. Depending on the glaze, non-porcelain and porcelain tiles can be finished with solid colors or patterns, and both products are highly versatile, easy to maintain, and durable. However, there are some variances.

Non-Porcelain Ceramic Tiles

Non-porcelain ceramic tiles (what the flooring industry calls ceramic tiles) are made from clay mixed with other natural materials. The mixture is less refined than porcelain mixtures, and ceramic tiles are fired at a lower temperature.

This results in tiles that are:

  • Below the glaze, the tile is either white, tan, or red
    If your tiles chip, you’ll see a completely different finish below. If you look at a sample tile and the top is colored/patterned but the sides are white, tan, or red, the tile is ceramic.
  • Have a more textured finish
    If the tile has a more coarse or textured finish, it’s ceramic. If your ceramic tiles have been finished with a glaze, this can create the appearance of a smooth or more porcelain-like finish. So, flip the tile over; if the unglazed side is coarser or bumpier, it’s probably ceramic. This more textured finish makes them popular for bathroom and kitchen floor applications where slip prevention is a priority.
  • More affordable
    One of the benefits of non-porcelain ceramic tiles is that they are more affordable than their porcelain counterparts. In many cases, the price tag for ceramic tiles is less than porcelain.  So, if you’re a landlord or own vacation rentals, ceramic tiles are a cheaper way to achieve the high-end look of tile flooring without the luxury price tag.
  • More prone to chipping, or breaking
    Because ceramic tiles are more porous due to materials and production techniques, they may not last as long as porcelain. However, they are still extremely durable and easy to care for when compared with other flooring options.

Porcelain Ceramic Tiles

Porcelain tiles are also made from clay, but the products are more refined and very fine-grained. These clays are mixed with minerals and fired at a very high heat. This process means they have very tight pores, which makes them stronger and more durable than non-porcelain ceramic tiles.

  • Consistent color throughout the tile
    High-quality porcelain tiles have the color mixed throughout the clay before firing. So, if the top glaze does chip, it won’t be as noticeable because the colors are true throughout the tile. That said, lower-end versions may not have the pigment mixed throughout. If you look at a porcelain tile sample that’s more affordable than expected, peek at the sides and bottom and the color does not go all the way through.  But with that being said, they now use hi-definition ink jet technology to create the design on the tiles surface that gives the styling much more depth and realistic look.
  • Smoother finish
    Because the pores are much smaller and the production process is more refined, porcelain tiles tend to have a smoother finish. That is apparent on the unfinished sides, too. That said, if you’re installing your tiles in the bathroom, we’ll work with you to find tiles with intentional texture to the finish, making them more slip resistant.
  • Higher price tag
    Porcelain tiles are sometimes more expensive than their non-porcelain ceramic counterparts. However, this is because they take longer to make and are harder to cut and install, requiring special tools. Their denser makeup makes them heavier, so you may need a stronger subfloor if installed over a large surface area. However, porcelain’s stronger attributes mean they’re more durable than non-porcelain tiles and worth it in the long run.
  • The most durable tile option
    Porcelain tiles are the most durable tile option. Their tight pore structure makes them less susceptible to staining or any water infiltration. This also makes them stronger, so you’re less likely to have a tile chip or break. If you plan to stay in your home for years or decades, it’s worth investing in porcelain tile.

Creative Floors Experts Educate Customers About the Best Tile Flooring Options

Visiting one of the Creative Floors Orlando-area showrooms or scheduling an in-home estimate appointment is the best way to learn about the differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles.

Our team of flooring design experts loves educating customers and empowering them with information about the best tile flooring options so they can make the right decisions for their homes. Contact us to schedule a consultation or ask about these and other prospective flooring products.