Ceramic vs Porcelain Tiles – How To Tell The Differences

Is ‘ceramic vs porcelain’ really have the difference or it is just a game of branding? Some tile shop often try to claim that their product is a porcelain tile so they can get a higher price. By knowing the real differences and it’s both good side, there is no more ambiguous debate will happen.

Are They Really Different?

The answer is ‘yes, they are made different’. The main difference between them is the characteristic of water infiltration. Porcelain tiles are known to be denser and less porous than ceramic tiles. What is so dangerous with water infiltration? When a tile absorb a specific amount of water, it will prone to cracking, especially in a cold weather. This means that porcelain tiles are better for both indoor and outdoor use, while ceramic tiles are fine for indoor.

Meanwhile, ceramic tile is not always bad. There are some good and bad side from each kind of tile. We will explain it in “The Bad Side and Good Side” section later.

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How To Know This is A Real Porcelain Tile

As mentioned above, many tile shop try to claim their product as a porcelain tile. We should understand about how to differentiate between both of them before you get fooled.

Porcelain has 0.5 or less water absorption rate as defined by American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) section C373.

One way to determine if a porcelain tile is truly porcelain is to check the box for the PTCA Certification Mark. Currently, this is the distinctive green and gray logo that reads “Certified Porcelain Tile 0.5% water absorption,” with a diamond-shaped tile forming the “O” of “porcelain.”

Is it that easy? The answer is ‘no’.
In one independent blind test conducted by the TCNA, 1,466 tiles were tested for the water absorption criteria that would qualify those tiles for porcelain status. The conclusion was startling. Close to 23 percent (336 total) of the tiles tested that were labeled as “porcelain” were actually falsely labeled. In other words, they absorbed water over that 0.5 percent benchmark. In some cases, the so-called porcelain tile had an alarming 3 percent absorption rate.

However, the PTCA mark is subject to change. Plus, dishonest tile companies may fraudulently mislabel their boxes. That being the case, the only way to know for certain if that tile is truly porcelain is to check it against the PTCA’s on-going database of tile makers and their series of porcelain tiles. 

The Bad Side And Good Side

As mentioned above, Porcelain has lower infiltration rate which resulted in better strength and durability. It is also a good choice for either indoor or outdoor. However nothing is perfect, so does the porcelain tile. Porcelain tile tend to be more expensive which is indeed worth the quality. It also harder to cut a porcelain tile customizely.

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Meanwhile the ceramic tile comes with ceaper price. It is also a good choice if you want to do a customized cut to your tile. At the end, it is not true that one side is entirely better than the other. It is just about using the right type in the right place.

Characteristic of Porcelain vs Ceramic.
Image via : sebringdesignbuild.com


The best way to explain porcelain and ceramic tile relation is not about “which is better?’. It’s about when to use porcelain or ceramic tile appropriately. When you need a strength and durability in a specific spot, use porcelain tile. When you live in a cold weather which have high moisture content, use porcelain tile. When it is needed many cut to your tile installation work, use ceramic tile. When you have low budget and both of them are your options, choose ceramic tile.

At the end it is a matter of different need.

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