Ceramic or Porcelain – The Differences

Porcelain And Ceramic Tiles – What’s the difference?

The makeup of Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles is what makes them so different.

Ceramic tiles are made using different natural red, brown, and white clays that are baked at high temperatures to reduce water content. The patterned glaze is then applied.

Porcelain tiles are typically produced the same way, but only using white clay. Finely-ground sand and feldspar are also added to the clay mixture and then fired at higher temperatures than ceramic tiles. The result is a harder, much more dense tile, which is less porous.

The permeability of the tile is what ultimately dictates whether the tile is classified as ceramic or porcelain.

All tiles are then subject to a water absorption test to determine how porous they are. Tiles are weighed and then submerged in water for some time. The tiles that weigh 0.5% more after being put in water, are classified as ceramic. Those that are denser and weigh less than 0.5% more are classed as porcelain.

The distinction between porcelain and ceramic tile is made after the manufacturing process.

There are then two different types of porcelain tile – through-body porcelain tiles and glazed porcelain tiles.

Through-body tiles (also known as full-body or homogeneous) do not have glaze on them and are the same color and design throughout. Glazed tiles have a painted glaze on top which gives the tile its pattern and color.

So how do you decide between glazed and through-body tiles? In high-traffic areas, such as hallways, through-body tiles may well be a better option. Chips and dents in glazed tiles are more noticeable as the color underneath shows through. With full-body tiles, chips are less noticeable as it’s the same color all the way through.

While porcelain tiles are harder and much denser, this also makes them more difficult to cut and shape. Ceramic tiles can be cut easily by hand using a wet tile saw or snap tile cutter. Porcelain tiles require more experience to get a clean, accurate cut.

Should You Choose Porcelain Or Ceramic Tiles?

For most applications, either ceramic or porcelain tiles should be fine. There are certain instances in which one is more suitable than the other.


Porcelain tiles are harder than ceramic tiles and can therefore better withstand the abuse of higher foot traffic and scratches, so these are good choices for entranceways, hallways, and utility rooms. Ceramic tiles are slightly more likely to chip, which exposes the different color tiles under the glaze.

If you have kids or pets in the home, then porcelain tiles will be better at standing up to wear and tear, particularly if you use through-body tiles.

Ceramic will be fine for wall tiles in these areas, however.


As mentioned above, porcelain tiles absorb less water than ceramic and are more suited to areas with higher levels of moisture. The obvious example is the bathroom, where there is a higher chance of water on the floor and in the air but you might also want to consider porcelain floor tiles in the kitchen in case of spills Low absorption rates also means that porcelain tiles are less prone to staining.


If you want to use tile outdoors on a balcony or patio, then you should be using porcelain tiles. Because they are less porous, porcelain tiles will hold up better in rain This is also incredibly important in cold weather because if the moisture freezes it will expand, which could cause the tile to crack.

PEI Rating

A great way of quickly identifying which tiles are right for your home is to go by the Porcelain Enamel Institute rating (PEI rating), which is as follows:

PEI 0 – No foot traffic (wall tiles)

PEI 1 – Very light traffic (rooms with infrequent use, e.g. bathroom)

PEI 2 – Light traffic (e.g. bathroom and bedroom)

PEI 3 – Light to moderate traffic (should be suitable for most domestic floors)

PEI 4 – Moderate to heavy traffic (fine for domestic floors and some commercial applications)

PEI 5 – Heavy traffic (all domestic/commercial uses with heavy footfall)

Typically ceramic tiles will have a PEI rating over between 3 and 4, while porcelain will usually be harder, with a PEI rating between 3 and 5.

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