Tile flooring comes in different types, styles, and materials such as ceramic, porcelain, glass, cement, marble, mosaic, granite, limestone, travertine, quarry, metal, resin, etc. Porcelain and ceramic are the most popular among those tiles. Both tiles are made from clay and then hardened in a kiln at a specific high temperature. Because of that reason, it's not easy to distinguish the two.
How are they made?
Porcelain tiles are ceramic tiles but not the other way around.
The ceramic tile manufacturing process includes mining, blending and mixing, pressing, glazing (optional), and firing.
Natural red, brown, or white clay is used to make ceramic tiles. While porcelain tiles are made from a kaolin clay mixture - purer and finer clay compared to most ceramic clay. The kaolin clay mixture is the blend of the mineral kaolinite, water, and other elements. These elements are secret ingredients that are varied according to different manufacturers.
The clay mixture is formed, pressed, or extruded into a specific shape that can be square or rectangular. To remove water from it and make it harder, they baked the formed tile or the green tile in the kiln at a high temperature. Porcelain tiles are fired at a much higher temperature than ceramic tiles. This process decides the density and the hardness of the tiles. The higher the temperature is, the denser the tiles are.
Both porcelain and ceramic tiles can be glazed or unglazed products. What is the glazing process? The glaze is an enamel or glass coating that covers the surface of the tile. It can be glossy or matte, translucent or opaque, smooth or even textured. In ceramics, gloss and matte glaze is more common. The gloss glaze has a shiny look. Meanwhile, the matte glaze is a little bit dull and not as sheeny as the former. With glazed tile, the glazing process is normally applied right after the water is removed from the tile. On the other hand, unglazed tiles will go straight to the kiln after they are shaped into the desired form.
The firing process can be done twice for porcelain and ceramic. The tile that is fired once after applying the glaze is the monocoturra tile or single-fired. The other is biocuttura or double-fired tile. This one is first fired when it is dried green tiles. The second firing, so-called glaze firing, happens after the glazing process is done.
How do they look?
Due to the differences in choosing raw materials and the temperature in the kiln, porcelain tile is denser than ceramic tile. You must have noticed that the porcelain tile is heavier than the ceramic tile when picking up the two tiles with the same shape and size. Plus, there is another way that can help you distinguish the two tiles without holding them up. And that is looking at their back body since porcelain typically has a white back body while ceramic has a red one.
Porcelain and ceramic tiles can have a similar appearance on their surface. However, we can still point out the difference by looking at the more common tile on the market: glazed porcelain and ceramic tile. The glaze helps add a more natural look-a-like to whatever the tiles can imitate. At this point, the porcelain tile does a better job than its cousin as it can mimic a tremendous look of nature while simulating wood grains or natural stone is not typical with basic ceramic tile.
Where should they be applied?
It's not likely to say porcelain is much better than ceramic until tiling them in specific areas. Understanding this can help you optimize all the advantages of the two tiles.
According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), a dense product like porcelain tile absorbs water at a rate of less than 0.5 percent. For that reason, it can do wonders in areas exposed to moisture, namely the bathroom, the kitchen, the basement, and the laundry room. Nevertheless, this is not the same as the idea that ceramic isn't a good choice for those rooms.
How about the high foot traffic areas? Ceramic and porcelain tiles outperform other flooring choices when it comes to tiling a high-traffic area like a lobby or entryway. Things can be a little bit different for ceramics when tiling in this kind of area since porcelain is the most hardwearing. As a result, it's highly recommended in these areas.
Which one is right for your budget?
Ceramic tiles are likely to be the most cost-effective option if you're on a limited budget. Nonetheless, it doesn't mean that the product has poor quality. On the other hand, ceramic can be an excellent choice for standard bathrooms with various styles available. Porcelain tile costs more to produce than ceramic tile, resulting in higher retail pricing. Although both of them are fired clay, porcelain, better yet, is made of refined clay and fired in the kiln at a much higher temperature. Glazed porcelain tiles, in particular, can imitate the elegance of natural stones like granite, limestone, and slate, and metals like aluminum and brass which not many ceramic tiles can.