Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile: A 5-Scenario Showdown

Explore where and why one of these popular tile choices makes more sense than the other
Sam Ferris / Houzz Contributor - June 18, 2016

All tile is created equal, right? Not quite. Porcelain and ceramic may belong to the same family, but they’re two slightly different products. One may be more advantageous than the other depending on where you’re installing it. Here we pose five scenarios and explain whether porcelain or ceramic is the better choice.

But before we walk through each scenario, let’s note the key difference between porcelain and ceramic tile. Though they’re manufactured with different types of clay, the Tile Council of North America defines porcelain in terms of water absorption. Specifically, porcelain tiles absorb less than 0.5 percent of water. Ceramic and other non-porcelain tiles absorb more than 0.5 percent water.

Scenario 1: You’re installing tile in a room with high moisture content.

The best pick: Porcelain

Remember, the TCNA defines porcelain as tile that absorbs less than 0.5 percent of moisture. Why doesn’t porcelain absorb much moisture? According to the TCNA, porcelain is naturally dense, which means it’s harder to penetrate. In other words, it’s nearly waterproof. This property makes porcelain a no-brainer for bathroom installations, as well as other areas of your home that are exposed to moisture.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that ceramic is a bad choice for bathrooms. In fact, many homeowners install ceramic in their showers and on their bathroom floors. However, porcelain’s impermeability will ensure you have the best protection against moisture.

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