Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile For Shower


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 Difference between Ceramic tiles vs porcelain tile

One of the more common mistakes in choosing tiles is thinking that porcelain and ceramic are the same or interchangeable. However, these two virtually identical types of tiles have some distinct differences that you should know about. You should consider what each type of tile offers as it can affect the results of your bathroom tile installation. Depending on how you will utilize the available floor space in your bathroom, one of the other might be more suitable for the task at hand. 

The primary difference between ceramic tile and porcelain tile and is the production process.  Both ceramic and porcelain are made using a clay mixture in a kiln, but porcelain tile uses a more refined clay and porcelain is fired in the kiln at higher temperatures making it more durable than ceramic tile.

Major Differences Between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile

While quite tricky to distinguish from the other, telltale signs will help you differentiate a porcelain tile from a ceramic one. Based on visuals, such as which one has a glazed surface is not always a surefire way to determine the type of tile on display. Both porcelain and ceramic tile can incorporate surface glazing, so we can’t use that aspect to differentiate between the two. 

What is a Porcelain Tile?

6"x6" porcelain floor tiles
Image Credit: PJM (talk) (Uploads) via Creative Commons

Both types of tile are a mixture of natural elements and refined clay processed using kiln-fired at extremely high temperatures. Because of the clay foundation of porcelain, it is considered to be a sub-category of ceramic. The main difference between porcelain and ceramic lies in the durability that each type offers. Porcelain comes from a more refined mixture and is fired at a higher temperature, making it more durable.

Porcelain tiles are more rigid than their ceramic counterpart and are available in both glazed and unglazed versions. Additionally, a glazed porcelain tile has the paint or color mixed into the entire tile instead of only being on the surface. This glazing method gives porcelain tiles a longer-lasting color that is resistant to fading and resilient to chipping. 

Advantages of Porcelain Tiles

Here are some reasons to choose porcelain tiles. 

  • Excellent Water Resistance

Due to how the porcelain tile is created, this tile is less porous and denser than ceramic tiles. Porcelain tile’s high water resistance makes them the go-to tiles for areas constantly exposed to moisture (e.g., bathrooms).  

If you are installing tiles in your bathroom, porcelain tiles are the most common and among the most available options available. 

  • Excellent Stain Resistance

Besides holding their own against moisture and water incredibly well, porcelain tiles are also known to be highly resistant to stains. The reason for porcelain’s high stain resistance is due to its highly dense construction. Stains appear when liquid seeps into the surface, this is not the case with porcelain’s non-porous surface as liquid simply cannot penetrate it. 

This aspect is another reason why porcelain is a fantastic choice for bathrooms, as you won’t need to clean the floor as much compared to other kinds of tile. 

  • Excellent DurabilityLight blue modern bathroom interior with glass door shower

Another reason why you should choose porcelain tiles is their durability. Due to its dense structure and high temperature used during manufacturing, porcelain tiles are also quite tough and can take a considerable amount of wear and tear. Because of porcelain tile’s higher durability, it is best suited for areas with high traffic and installing a porcelain tile in the bathroom is a good option.

Porcelain tile’s durability also allows it to support the weight of large fixtures like heavy tubs or vanities. Overall, porcelain tiles are pretty reliable in regards to their long-lasting and durable qualities.

  • Excellent Longevity

Speaking of porcelain’s toughness, this also translates to its longevity or life span. Once installed properly, porcelain tiles are quite difficult to crack and are even resistant to scratches and chipping once installed properly. Therefore, compared to ceramic, porcelain tiles provide a significantly higher longevity. 

  • Low Maintenance

Porcelain tiles are also known for being low maintenance. Cleaning is pretty straightforward with a simple wash and wipe. Also, make sure to clean up the grout to maximize the lifespan of your porcelain tiles. Additionally, even if the porcelain tiles suffer from some cracks, it won’t be as noticeable since this type of tile features a uniform color from the surface to its core. 

Disadvantages of Porcelain Tiles

Of course, porcelain tiles are not exactly a slam dunk of positives as it does have a couple of downsides as well. 

  • Costly Installation Process

Floor tiles close-up, large square tiles made of porcelain tiles, highly skilled work

You should expect the installation to be more expensive due to the cost of quality porcelain tile. Porcelain tiles can be more time-consuming to install due to their more rigid structure. It is one of the more expensive tiles to install on top of being a more expensive alternative to ceramic tiles

  • Heavier Weight

Another drawback of porcelain tiles is connected to one of their strengths – their durability. Since porcelain tiles have a higher density, it is also considerably heavier than ceramic. Depending on whether your bathroom has adequate floor beams will decide whether it is compatible with porcelain tiles. Also, the significant weight of porcelain tiles means that it isn’t ideal for wall tiling

  • It Requires Grouting

Yes, porcelain tiles are easy to maintain on their own, but you also need to consider grout cleaning and maintenance. Grout is essential for tiles as it will help enhance the water resistance of the bathroom floor and wall. Unlike porcelain tiles, though, grout needs regular cleaning and maintenance as well as reapplication after a while.

What is a Ceramic Tile?

Tile, marble squares of different shapes and sizes

Similar to the porcelain tile, ceramic tiles are clay-based and made using the kiln-fire method. The main difference here is that ceramic is exposed to lower temperatures compared to porcelain. Due to being exposed to lower temperatures during construction, ceramic tiles tend to be softer and lighter. This type of tile is also more affordable than porcelain. 

Another notable feature of ceramic tile is its ability to maintain cooler temperatures, a welcome respite in tropical locations during summer. However, this feature comes at a price as ceramic is more porous than porcelain tiles. 

Advantages of Ceramic Tiles

Below are the benefits attributed to ceramic tiles.

  • Decent Water Resistance 

Ceramic tiles are also known for their impressive water resistance, which is why it is also a pretty popular option for bathrooms. However, since it is slightly more porous than porcelain, it is recommended to wipe off any moisture from the surface before it manages to seep into the tile to avoid future problems. 

  • Choose Between Glazed and Unglazed Ceramic Tile Options

Ceramic tiles come in two primary types: glazed and unglazed. Unglazed ceramic tiles create a more natural appearance for those who are looking for something more aesthetically unique. Other advantages of unglazed ceramic tiles include a cheaper price tag and decent durability. However, unglazed ceramic is slightly less water-resistant than its glazed counterpart. 

  • Excellent Design Variety

A abstract stairs with ceramic tiles design

You will find dozens upon dozens of ceramic tiles in various designs and colors, from solid to ones with complex patterns. The amount of designs available with ceramic tiles is simply impressive. You can mix and match different color shades and patterns to create a unique floor and wall design exclusive to your bathroom or home.

If full customization of your bathroom floor and shower is something you are looking for, ceramic tiles might just be the perfect fit for your needs. 

  • Affordable

For those who want a budget-friendly tile for their bathroom that still manages to deliver outstanding results, a ceramic tile is an obvious choice over porcelain. Not only is ceramic tile considerably more affordable than alternatives, like, say, porcelain tiles, the installation process is also cheaper. 

What this means is that you can spend some extra cash on other elements that will enhance your bathroom. But, of course, the lower cost of ceramic tiles has its downsides, which we will discuss next.

 Islamic mosaic — ceramic tile tessellations — in Marrakech, Morocco.
Image Credit: Ian Alexander via Creative Commons

Disadvantages of Ceramic Tiles

Now that you understand what ceramic tiles bring let us also go over the shortcomings associated with this type of tile. 

  • The Grout Issue, Again

Similar to porcelain tiles, ceramic will require grouting to improve its overall water resistance capability. Unlike porcelain, though, ceramic is more porous and tends to be more susceptible to stains. What this means is that you are required to clean ceramic tiles regularly as compared to porcelain. 

  • It is Also Quite Heavy

While porcelain tiles take the cake when it comes to which is heavier, ceramic tiles are also quite bulky in their own right. As such, it is recommended to check with an expert to see if your floor can comfortably support the significant additional weight. This part is crucial if you will be installing ceramic tiles on the above floors. 

Still, compared to porcelain tiles, ceramic tiles offer a little more give regarding the additional weight that it brings. 

Porcelain vs Ceramic – Which One Should You Choose?

To help you decide, we have broken down all the crucial factors that you will consider in choosing between porcelain and ceramic tile. Check out our quick guide below to help narrow down your choice.

Best Water Resistance: Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile has a highly dense construction which means it is less porous. Due to the incredibly high water resistance of porcelain, it is often used in bathrooms and outdoors, where it can withstand the natural elements with relative ease. Additionally, porcelain also provides excellent heat resistance, making it a safe choice for warm climate areas. 

Best Durability: Porcelain Tile

Porcelain is made using high temperatures inside the kiln. This method gives porcelain a denser structure which makes it tougher than ceramic tiles by a considerable margin. 

Best Aesthetics: Porcelain Tile

Modern Bathroom interior with marble tiles and mirror

While ceramic offers an equally wide array of colors and design patterns, we will nod to porcelain tiles due to their higher quality design. In addition, you can find porcelain tiles that emulate the appearance of natural stone and even wood, something a ceramic tile won’t be able to deliver. 

Most Cost-Effective: Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tiles are currently the cheapest option available to date. If you are working with a tight budget, you should consider ceramic tiles as it offers decent durability, water resistance, and a broad selection of colors and design. 

Easiest to Maintain: Draw

Cleaning and maintenance is pretty much a draw with porcelain and ceramic tiles. While it is true that porcelain will offer better stain resistance, both will incorporate grout. The need for grout pretty much leaves both on equal footing for this category. 

Easiest to Install: Ceramic Tile

Both porcelain and ceramic tiles follow a similar installation process. However, ceramic is softer than porcelain which makes it far easier to cut. Thus, ceramic wins, but not by a wide margin. 

Highest Longevity: Draw

Both porcelain and ceramic pretty much have the same expected life span, which is about 50+ years. You can even improve this longevity with proper cleaning and maintenance. 

Conclusion

Overall, we recommend you pick porcelain tiles as it offers a more well-rounded quality with excellent durability and water resistance – the latter being an essential factor in the shower. But, of course, this will depend on your budget. Ceramic is still a very worthy alternative with its cheaper cost, decent water resistance, and slip-resistant surface.

Some Additional Reading:

Do Bathroom Tiles Need To Be Sealed?

Can Bathroom Tiles Be Painted? 

Should you Tile behind a Bathroom Sink?