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Porcelain vs Ceramic: When to Use Which Kind of Tile

Both porcelain and ceramic can be great tile choices for your next remodel. But each has its advantages depending on where and how the tile is being used. Here’s a look at when to use porcelain vs ceramic.

subway tile extending to kitchen ceiling

The differences between porcelain vs ceramic tile

The main difference between ceramic vs porcelain is how they are made. Porcelain is produced using higher heat and more refined clay, generally making it more durable than ceramic. It is also denser and less porous than ceramic.

But both have a lot going for them. They come in a multitude of designs, shapes, and sizes. They’re water resistant (though porcelain is more so). And they can be relatively inexpensive. For example, if you like the look of wood on your floors, there are tiles that mimic that style for just a few dollars a square foot.

So when is it better to use one option over the other? Here are a few examples…

If your remodel budget is tight

Best option: Ceramic

On a small scale, the average price difference between porcelain and ceramic is not that big. Generally, porcelain averages around $7 a square foot whereas ceramic runs about $3. But if you’ve got a fair amount of area to cover, that difference can really start to add up. So if you don’t have a large budget, ceramic may be the way to go.

porcelain vs tile: gray ceramic tile backsplash
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Fortunately, just because ceramic is cheaper, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. Ceramic tile comes in a wide range of sizes, patterns, and textures, so chances are you can find options that will work with your space and aesthetic.

The space will have a lot of foot traffic

Best option: Porcelain

Since porcelain is denser than ceramic, it generally will hold up better in areas with heavy traffic. It is also more resistant to gouges and scratches. This makes porcelain a great option for areas such as foyers, open living rooms, and kitchens. For the same reasons, it is also ideal if you have small children who may play with their toys on the floor. In addition, porcelain will better stand up to damage from furniture such as scraping from kitchen chairs.

porcelain vs tile: porcelain floor in open living room area
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Furthermore, some porcelain tiles carry their color throughout rather than just on a top layer. That means damage due to chipping or scraping will end up being less noticeable.

The space will be prone to moisture

Best option: Porcelain

Porcelain absorbs less moisture than ceramic tile due its greater density. So much so that it’s nearly waterproof. For this reason, it’s a much wiser choice for high-moisture areas like bathrooms and kitchens. Ceramic tile can still be a fine option for those spaces, but porcelain will offer the best moisture protection when it comes to things like shower walls, bathroom floors, and kitchen floors, which may be prone to food and other spills.

porcelain vs ceramic: porcelain tile mudroom flooring
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Mudrooms are another high moisture area to consider installing porcelain vs ceramic tiles. Not only will the tile keep water out, the higher durability will prevent scuffs and other marks on the floor as people enter your home with potentially dirty footwear.

You’re doing your own tile work

Best option: Ceramic

The comparatively lower cost of ceramic tile isn’t its only advantage. It is also easier to install. Since it has a fairly soft surface, you can use a simple tile cutter to cut and shape it. On the other hand, porcelain is fired and glazed — and much harder — which can make it more challenging to cleanly cut. Often more specialized tools like an angle grinder, wet tile saw, and/or a tile nipper will need to be used. This means if your project has a lot of angles, odd shapes, or requires a lot of small tile cuts, trying to do that on your own using porcelain can result in a less-than-appealing end result.

You’re tiling an outdoor space like a patio

porcelain patio floor
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Best option: Porcelain

As we mentioned, porcelain is much more water resistant than ceramic. So, if you’re tiling something like a patio space and you live in area with even moderate rainfall, porcelain will likely be the better choice. And rainfall alone isn’t the only factor to consider. In colder areas, ceramic can freeze and as it absorbs moisture, causing it to expand and split. That could require you to replace the tile. In addition, the outdoor space may be prone to more wear and tear in general, making porcelain’s higher durability a big plus.

Are you thinking about a home remodel and aren’t sure where to start? We’d love to discuss your project. Simply schedule a conversation with us!

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