Monday, September 18, 2017

Ceramic vs. Porcelain: What's The Difference?

When I am designing a bathroom or kitchen for a client, I naturally specify tile as a finish material and clients often speak about ceramic or porcelain tiles. Many people use those words interchangeably but the truth is there is a difference.

For this transitional guest bathroom, I used Strands porcelain tiles by Emser in a vertical orientation
for the shower walls and a Crossville Cotto Americana stone-look porcelain tile in black for the floor.

Ceramic is a name for any material that is made from either white or red clay, then fired in a kiln and glazed. Porcelain tiles fall under the ceramic category but are generally more dense, harder, and most important, impervious to water. Therefore, all porcelain tiles are ceramic but ceramic tiles are not necessarily porcelain.

Although it may look like aged, patinated metal panels, these shower walls
are actually covered in a grey shimmery field tile by Porcelanosa.

Because of its water-resistant nature, porcelain tiles are used in wet areas like bathrooms and areas that are prone to liquid spills like kitchens. And tile applications in outdoor areas certainly need the extra protection of porcelain tiles considering the constant exposure to the elements. In fact, to be called a porcelain tile, the body must not absorb more than 0.5% of moisture. This makes porcelain tiles virtually impervious to water. And what makes porcelain such a durable, hard material is that the clay is compressed and compacted under tremendous pressure and then fired at a higher temperature than ceramic (between 1,200 and 1,400 Celsius, or 2,100 to 2,500 Fahrenheit).

This modern master bathroom features shower walls clad entirely in a very large format
porcelain tile which replicates the look of a light Calacatta Gold marble, giving the room
the elegant feel which comes from natural stone without the porosity or tiresome upkeep.

The strength of porcelain tiles also make it a good choice for kitchens--I tell clients if they drop a plate or glass, the chances of denting a wood floor or cracking a ceramic floor is greater than if they have a porcelain material. Porcelain is naturally tougher, more scratch resistant, more durable, and more resistant to stains. And if you choose what is called a through-colored porcelain tile--a tile whose body matches the color of the glaze on top--any small chips or nicks will be unnoticeable!

Happy designing!

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