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Ceramic versus porcelain: Understanding the differences between tiles

While ceramic tiles are made through a kiln, porcelain tiles are fired at a level that drives out water and crystallizes some of the materials' molecules - a process known as vitrification.

Purchasing tiles for your home is a huge step to take, regardless of whether you’re building from scratch or renovating your existing home. They will most likely take up large, open spaces and need to be suitable for the application that you have in mind.

A common question about tiles is: What is the difference between ceramic and porcelain? Much like varying natural stones, tiles can have different characteristics which can make them more or less suitable for certain applications.

Ceramic tiles

Ceramic tiles are red in color and created in much the same way as pottery – by being cooked in heat. These materials are fired in a kiln, and gain their color through an applied glaze which simply rests on the surface of the tile without penetrating deeper.

They tend to be less durable than their porcelain counterparts, and are often suited for use on walls and other areas where the risk of being exposed to too much pressure or agitation is minimized.

One negative aspect of these tiles is that the color can be chipped away, exposing the earthy red undertones of the clay. This can be almost impossible to fix without relaying another tile, hence why their application on floors and external use is ill-advised.

Porcelain tiles

The difference between ceramic and porcelain tiles effectively comes down to their durability and water absorption rates. While ceramic tiles are made through a kiln, porcelain tiles are fired at a level that drives out water and crystallizes some of the materials’ molecules – a process known as vitrification.

One of the benefits of this is that the tile itself becomes more durable with less water absorption. Porcelain tiles are characterized as having a water absorption rate of less than 0.5 per cent, regardless of whether they are glazed or unglazed.

This makes them suitable for external application, as well as for use on high-traffic internal areas.

However, keep in mind that a low water absorption rate isn’t the same as invulnerability, so using a high-quality impregnating sealer such as STAIN-PROOF Original can help keep your tiles protected from stains and structural damage.

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