Ceramic and porcelain tiles are long-lasting, affordable and come with a plethora of design options. It’s no wonder they’re popular with homeowners across the country.
While ceramic tiles have long been a mainstay of the industry, porcelain tiles have grown in popularity recently. The two are both durable options for most rooms in the house.
But which is best to use, and for what home project? We’ve laid out the differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles below to help you make a decision.
Let’s take a look.
How are ceramic and porcelain tiles made?
Understanding the difference between how these two types of tile are made can help to explain where they’re best used.
Ceramic tiles are made from just clay and are fired at a lower temperature, making them a bit softer. Because they’re just made from clay, they’re also more porous so they’re not intended for outside use. Ceramic tiles are easy to cut and shape and are one of the most affordable tile options on the market.
Porcelain tiles are made from a mix of white clay and sand, fired at a higher temperature with more pressure. This creates less air bubbles in the tile and makes porcelain stronger than ceramic, ideal for high-traffic areas in the home. This more involved process also makes porcelain tiles more expensive, and these tiles can be more difficult to cut.
Differences between ceramic and porcelain
While these tiles may look similar, there are some notable differences between the two. It’s important to be in the know if you want to choose the right tile for the job.
The firing process of each tile affects how porous they are. Ceramic tiles are more porous as they’re softer and fired at a lower temperature, allowing for more air bubbles. Ceramic tiles are therefore not intended for outside use and great for wall tiles in a bathroom or kitchen.
If you’re looking for a tile that can work in an outdoor setting or bathroom, then porcelain tiles are the best choice. The firing process makes them less porous than ceramic tiles, so they’re good for high-traffic areas in the home, wetrooms and commercial properties with a lot of visitors each day. They also come with an extra layer of coating after they’re fired, giving them even more water resistance.
While both are durable options, porcelain tiles have the edge in this department. As they’re denser with less air bubbles, porcelain is hardier against water moisture and cracking. The extra coating helps to maintain the look of the tile long after installation.
Ceramic tiles can come with a treated finish depending on the cost, but are more likely to have a different colour underneath if it chips. This can make any mistakes or breakages more noticeable. In a room with more moisture in, like a wetroom, ceramic tiles could damage more easily as they’re more porous than a porcelain tile.
The average cost for ceramic tiles per square metre in the UK is between £15-£25, whereas porcelain tiles will set you back on average £25-£50 per square metre.
Ceramic tiles are therefore better for a shoestring budget, though porcelain tiles may be the better long-term option as they’re more durable. Consider the footfall in the areas you want to tile and whether it’s worth investing in a more expensive porcelain tile. If not, a ceramic tile would look just as nice and keep the costs down for your project.
Ceramic tiles are the easier option to install for the budding DIY tilers and professionals alike. These tiles are easier to cut and shape, and as they’re cheaper there’s more room for error.
Because they’re baked at high temperatures, porcelain tiles are more brittle than ceramic tiles. This makes them more difficult to cut and shape. It can be a costly exercise to keep replacing any chipped or broken porcelain tiles during installation.
Whatever the project, both types of tile should have the right underlay and grout to make sure they stay in place and last for years to come.
Which tile should I use?
Ceramic tiles are a great option for walls and low-traffic areas in the home. These types of tiles shouldn’t be used outside because they’re more porous from their lower firing temperature in the kiln; consider porcelain for outdoor projects instead.
Ceramic tiles are good for those looking to take on their own projects in the home as they’re easier to work with. You don’t need a specialist tool, whereas porcelain tiles need a diamond-tipped cutter to work with. There’s also more room for error if a tile breaks during the process as ceramic is cheaper to replace.
Typical use cases for ceramic and porcelain tiles
You’ll often find ceramic and porcelain tiles used throughout a home in different settings, but the differences we’ve outlined above can make all the difference in the aesthetic and longevity of your tiles.
Ceramic tiles are cheap, cheerful and will serve well in a number of different rooms. You can use them for wall and floor tiling in bathrooms, kitchens and hallways, and as wall tiles for commercial properties. They wouldn’t be suitable for outdoor projects and heavy footfall areas in commercial buildings, as they’re more porous and could crack more easily.
Keep to porcelain tiles for any place involving a lot of footfall, like a hallway or entryway, and for outside projects such as a patio or outdoor wall tiling. Porcelain is also great if you’re going for a more premium look and feel.
Both ceramic and porcelain tiles have their best use cases, but really it’s down to your own personal preference and where you plan on tiling in your home or commercial property. Either way, you’ll have a lovely new project completed with your newly installed tiles.
If you’re wanting to take on a tiling project yourself or even enter the trade, we have tiling courses available to help you on your journey and give you the best start in tiling.