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Understanding the Differences between Denver Porcelain Tile and Ceramic Tile


Often when people think of porcelain, they think of ceramic and vice versa. And while there are similarities between the two materials—enough to call them close cousins—there are also distinct differences. To begin with, porcelain is fired at a higher temperature than ceramic, resulting in a product that is stronger and longer-lasting. But there are other things to consider than just durability. If you’re mulling over the choice between porcelain tile vs. ceramic tile for your indoor or outdoor home renovation project, learn more about the characteristics of both, so you can make an informed decision:

Porcelain has a higher water absorption rate. During the manufacturing process, both porcelain and ceramic are fired and then weighed, after which they’re boiled for several hours and then allowed to sit in water for another 24 hours. At the end of this process, both materials are weighed again. Porcelain will weigh less than half of one percent more after the water absorption test—call it a 0.5% or less water absorption rate—while the water absorption rate of ceramic will be higher. 

Porcelain is more durable for use outdoors. Because of porcelain’s lower water absorption rate, it’s a better tile choice to use outdoors. Think of it this way: living in a cold climate in the winter, as we do here in Denver, makes ceramic far more susceptible to cracking during a freeze because it naturally absorbs more water. Porcelain is also denser than ceramic and less porous, all of which make it harder and more impervious to outdoor moisture than ceramic. 

Porcelain holds up to wear and tear. There are two reasons for this. First, the color in a ceramic tile doesn’t extend all the way through its thickness, which means that if you chip the tile, it becomes very noticeable. But porcelain is different: the color extends all the way through the tile—referred to as through-body composition—so a chip is much less noticeable. The second reason is that porcelain tile usually receives a PEI rating (an industry rating for hardness and durability) of 5, which means it can be used for both residential and heavy commercial foot traffic, whereas ceramic’s PEI rating is usually lower.

Ceramic is softer and easier to cut. Ceramic does have an advantage over porcelain in that it’s a softer material, making it easier for DIY homeowners to cut it by hand using either a wet tile saw or a snap tile cutter. If you are planning a DIY project with porcelain, you may need to consider getting the help of an experienced tile-setter to cut it properly.

Ceramic works for walls and ceilings; porcelain does well on the floor. For reasons of hardness and durability that we’ve already discussed, porcelain tile is a great choice for flooring. But ceramic is no slouch when it comes to using it for walls, ceilings, or other special installations. And when protected with a high-quality glaze, ceramic’s durability does improve.

If you’re ready to choose porcelain tile in Denver for your home project, consider Natural Stone Sales. We have an extensive selection of high-quality products to suit your taste and needs. Stop by our showroom today, or call us at 303-777-7485.