The Differences Between Porcelain and Ceramic Floor Tiles

Options for Selecting Porcelain or Ceramic Tiles for Your Kitchen Flooring

Whether you’re working on a full-scale kitchen renovation or want to update or upgrade the kitchen flooring, porcelain tiles and ceramic tiles are among the choices. If you love your kitchen cabinets, countertops and the layout, but you want to transform the room’s look, new flooring is a great way to do this.

Both porcelain and ceramic tiles are clay-based and are durable, easy to clean, and offer a range of styles to beautify your kitchen. Choosing the right tile for a project is all about balancing form and function. Aesthetics are important, but equally important are slip resistance, abrasion resistance and maintenance, and where the tile will be installed. If cost is a factor for your kitchen upgrade, bear in mind that porcelain tiles are more expensive than ceramic, and installation may cost a bit more because cutting them requires a lot of skill and the right tools.

So, which is right for your home?

Porcelain tile pros and cons

Porcelain is a more refined option, meaning the clay used in its composition is more refined than the clay in ceramic tiles. Other natural elements are included in the manufacture of the tiles, which may be left “au naturel” after being fired in the kiln, or transformed to resemble other materials (often stone, wood or concrete).

However, don’t let that term “refined” throw you off; compared to ceramic, porcelain tiles are more durable, tougher and less porous. They come in glazed or unglazed styles. Unglazed porcelain tiles are also called full-bodied and their color runs through the entire thickness of each piece.

The unglazed tiles are more long-lasting and less apt to chip or scratch than their glazed counterparts, where the glaze sits on top. They are also impervious to water damage (so you can worry less about spilling that pot of water on the floor). However, glazed porcelain tile is more widely used and available because of its many design options.

Because of these attributes, porcelain tiles make a great choice in high-traffic areas or where water is present (including bathrooms and laundry rooms). They are easy to clean and require very little in the way of special attention. Using a vinegar-water solution or proper floor cleaning product as needed will keep your floor well-maintained.

For glazed tiles, use a mop; unglazed or textured floor tiles should be cleaned with a soft-bristle brush. Avoid using bleach, ammonia, abrasives, oil-based products, or waxes on porcelain tiles.

Ceramic tile pros and cons

Because ceramic tiles are kiln-fired at a lower temperature than porcelain tiles, they are not as dense, and are softer and more porous. The clay used to make ceramic is also less refined, which makes this more affordable as a product and its installation, but it is also a less durable option.

Ceramic tiles are glazed and offer many custom colors, faux finishes and patterns, making them a beautiful choice for backsplashes and decorative touches in the kitchen. However, they have a higher absorption rate, so they are more pervious in terms of stains and spills; therefore, spills need to be wiped up promptly and clay tiles are not ideal for high-moisture areas. If the glaze chips or cracks, the clay beneath it will show through. Therefore, ceramic flooring is best for areas with low or moderate foot traffic.

Ceramic flooring requires more frequent deep cleaning than porcelain tiles. Weekly mopping with a mild dish detergent mixed with hot water, followed by thoroughly drying the floor is all it needs.

Fast facts about glazed and unglazed tiles

Our flooring specialist at Affordable Granite & Cabinetry offers this general information:

  • Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles allow for a wider range of styles and colors.
  • Modern tile designs include perfect replicas of everything from Carrara marble to aged wood planks at a fraction of the cost of the real thing.
  • Although glazed tiles are typically smoother than unglazed, they can still have some texture and are not always high sheen, making them suitable for a wide variety of projects.
  • The glaze is applied during a second firing process that covers the tiles in a protective coating of non-porous liquid glass.
    • This coating makes the tiles somewhat slick, but is what enables them to be printed with designs and colors using inkjet technology.
    • It also makes them more resistant to staining and bacterial growth.
  • Glazed tiles are preferable for applications such as kitchen backsplashes, where the tile’s smooth, non-porous finish makes clean up a breeze.
  • For a high slip-resistant surface  in wet areas such bathrooms, pool surrounds and shower areas, unglazed tiles are the preferred choice.

FYI: Flooring installation isn’t DIY!

You may think that replacing your flooring is easy, given how the professionals make it look on home improvement TV shows. However, accurate measurement, precision tile-cutting and installation are best left to our pros at Affordable Granite & Cabinetry. Plus, porcelain tiles require special tools and expertise to cut. When you’re ready to shop for luxury tile flooring for your home, come to our Fishkill showroom for a look and consultation. Call us at 845-284-9853 to schedule an appointment.