One of the most frequently asked questions when remodelling is: what is the difference between porcelain tile and ceramic?
Beyond the style you intend to give your environment, you should know that ceramics and porcelain are similar products but with different characteristics. Knowing this will help you make a better decision when designing.
That is why, in this post, we will tell you about the differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles that you need to consider and that will serve as a guide to buying the most appropriate option according to the needs of your space.
The first difference between porcelain and ceramic is born from the moment of its manufacture. Although both products are made of clay, the manufacturing process makes them different.
Traditional pottery is made with red clay, a type of mass made up of clay minerals such as alkaline earth, iron and magnesium, which make this clay resistant, porous and plastic.
The clay used to manufacture porcelain tile has a whitish or greyish colour due to its refinement and mixing with other materials, such as quartz and silica, giving it more hardness.
In addition, both products are fired at different temperatures, making them more or less compact materials and giving them benefits of greater or lesser water absorption and hardness.
Porcelain pieces are subjected to a much higher level of compaction than that of ceramics, with firing temperatures exceeding 1,300 °C, compared to ceramics that do not exceed 1,000 °C. This results in the final piece of porcelain tile being more compact and vitrified than ceramic.
Type of Resistance
Ceramics is a product that withstands the constant traffic of people, slight temperature changes and, especially, the climatic conditions of outdoor environments.
If traditional ceramics are already solid and durable, porcelain tiles are even more so! However, due to its manufacture, porcelain tile can better withstand wear and tear due to general use, blows from falling sharp or heavy objects, scratches, sudden temperature changes and chemical agents’ action.
Thanks to these characteristics of porcelain tile, it is often used as cladding in demanding environments such as outdoor spaces (terraces or patios), rooms with high traffic (corridors or the living room ), garages or commercial premises and offices.
Remember that more excellent resistance implies a longer useful life, which is why porcelain tile is the most durable ceramic product.
Water Absorption Level
Another difference between porcelain and ceramic is in their level of water absorption. Since porcelain pieces are more compact and fired at higher temperatures, their porosity is lower than that of ceramics.
Due to its low porosity, the water absorption level of porcelain tile is usually around 0 to 0.5%, while ceramic is between 6 and 10%.
This is why porcelain tile is recommended as a coating for humid environments, for example, the bathroom and the kitchen, as it is a practically waterproof product.
For its part, ceramics are recommended for spaces such as the living room, the dining room or the bedrooms.
When discussing the differences between ceramic and porcelain, we must mention the sizes available in the market. First, ceramic pieces do not usually exceed 50 x 50 cm since they are thinner, so making them larger would make them more fragile and brittle.
On the other hand, it is common to find large format porcelain pieces, from 60 x 60 cm onwards, because the pieces are thicker, more compact and stronger, so it is possible to manufacture them in larger sizes, even 160 x 320 cm!
Another difference between porcelain and ceramic is in the finishing of the edges. One of the characteristics of ceramics is its more rounded edges, while those of porcelain tile is usually straight or rectified. This is something you should consider, as it affects the final appearance of the installation.
You will see by having more rounded edges, and the tile installation joints are more noticeable since they can vary between 3 to 5 mm. On the other hand, those porcelain tiles are between 1 and 3 mm, favouring a more uniform and continuous appearance on the surface.
Designs and Finishes
Our sixth difference between porcelain and ceramic is the designs and finishes. It is common to find that most ceramic pieces come with a layer of glaze, which can be matte or glossy.
For its part, porcelain tiles can come with or without enamel, offering a greater variety of finishes that range from glossy enamel (widely used to create a luxury style) to satin and natural or matte.
Now, thanks to digital printing techniques, it is also possible to find porcelain tiles that imitate the designs of natural materials such as stone, marble or wood.
If we analyze your installation, the size of the pieces will play an essential role in establishing the difference between porcelain and ceramic since if they are similar, the type of installation will not differ too much.
However, as porcelain tile also accepts large formats, this becomes a variable to be considered; a more significant part represents a heavier part, so the installation becomes more complex.
For this, special tools and glues will be necessary, which are factors that can increase the cost of labour.
In addition, it must be considered that the surface where a large-format porcelain tile is installed must be uniform. While in the case of more miniature ceramics, these can be better adapted to bases that are not so even.
At this point, you can already guess that a big difference between porcelain and ceramic is in its price, with porcelain being more expensive than ceramic.
However, since we have reviewed the advantages of porcelain tile, this has a very factual basis! Since both its manufacturing process and materials make it one of the most resistant, durable and best-ageing products on the market.
So, now that you know the differences between porcelain tile and ceramic, it will be easier to choose your ideal coating.
If you want an economical and quality option, ceramics is your choice. But if the budget is not a problem and you want to install a coating that better resists wear and humidity, our recommendation is porcelain tile.