Porcelain and Ceramic – Two Sides of the Same Coin

It’s not usual for buyers to think porcelain tile and ceramic tile can be used interchangeably. However, though they are both made from clay, they are distinctly different products with different usage. Both are ideal for a countless number of installations, but it’s important to understand the characteristics of each. Both tiles are created in essentially the same way (with baked clay), but the major difference is the clay in porcelain is more refined and is fired at a higher temperature, making this tile denser and more durable than ceramic.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic is manufactured with white, brown or red porous clay that is in a less refined “raw” state. Ceramic tile is only baked “on top” and protected with a glaze so chipping or damage will be easily noticed. In general, ceramic tile is more likely to absorb liquid, therefore the tile may be suited for indoor areas that won’t have direct contact with water like interior walls, mosaic wall art or backsplashes. It’s also important to note that ceramic may weaken or crack in extremely hot or cold weather situations.

Benefits of ceramic include:

  • Almost unlimited colors and patterns
  • Newer trends include ceramic plank tile that mimics real wood or stone
  • Less expensive than porcelain tile
  • Ideal for interior use and unlimited design possibilities
  • Can be used on walls, floors and countertops
  • Easy to clean
  • Now available with antimicrobial surfaces and slip resistant surfaces


Porcelain Tile

Conversely, the porcelain clay is almost always white, more refined and purer, and uses significantly more minerals (like kaolin and feldspar) which ultimately gives it higher density and durability. Porcelain is also baked all the way through so the color and pattern are part of the tile itself, making it more appealing in heavy use areas where it may be chipped.

Benefits of porcelain include:

  • Less absorbent and will have superior performance in high traffic areas
  • Naturally more stain resistant
  • Can easily withstand outdoor use and weather changes. (Keep in mind that some porcelain is manufactured specifically for outdoor use so always specify your usage with our sales team.)
  • Can be used on both interior and exterior walls and floors, as well as countertops.
  • Almost unlimited choice of colors and can be manufactured to mimic natural stone or wood
  • Long life
  • Low maintenance

Note: During manufacturing, both tiles go through a water test. Depending on how much water is absorbed (usually over a 24-hour period), the tile is weighed and based on density and absorption, the tile is classified as porcelain. From there, porcelain is given a “class” rating from 0 to 5 to determine its hardness. The higher the rating, the more durable the tile. From an installation perspective, tile installers may find ceramic easier to cut as it is inherently thinner and less dense, nonetheless both types require professional expertise.

Ask your Continental Flooring representative about available ceramic and porcelain products. We can offer materials only or complete installation services.  GSA Buyers may wish to register online to view GSA pricing. This feature allows buyers quick, up-to-date access to 17 different GSA contracted manufacturers. Please feel free to call us for product advice, free samples, assistance in specifications, or to place an order. One call does it all!