Porcelain Tile vs. Ceramic Tile: Understanding the Differences

By Scott Faulkner In HVAC, Information, Interior Design, Projects No comments

A lot of people use the words “porcelain” and “ceramic” interchangeably, especially when speaking of building materials. But in fact, these two are a bit different.

Generally speaking, porcelain is considered to be higher end and is more expensive as well. Historically porcelain comes from an old Italian manufacture of dishes and tiles that involves the use of cowrie shells. It is also traditionally how fine china is made and is always translucent, white, and has a strong, dense body. But modern tile called porcelain is a different process altogether.

For the most part, when speaking about modern tiling materials, the difference between Porcelain and Ceramic is mostly marketing and certification that manufacturers like to have for sales purposes. There are some differences, however, which we have outlined below:

1. Porcelain has a lower water absorption rate. According to testing results from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), porcelain has a water absorption rate of 0.5 percent. So technically speaking, any ceramic tile that meets these specifications is considered porcelain.

2. Porcelain is certified so it can be called “porcelain.” Because of the markup that porcelain commands, there is a certifying body known as The Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) which certifies a tile as being porcelain or not. At last count, only 28 North American tile companies had received certification as producing authentic porcelain tile.

3. Ceramic is not for exterior use. As ceramic is more porous than porcelain, it should never be used for exterior use. And though porcelain is more impervious, we recommend only using tile expressly designed for exterior use.

4. Porcelain is more durable than ceramic. Porcelain is not only denser but also has a through-body composition, making it more durable and better suited for heavy usage. Porcelain is also often not glazed, so chips aren’t as noticeable.