Facts about Porcelain Tile

Jim Williams
Posted in:
Buying Guides

Porcelain is a composite consisting primarily of feldspar (a mineral commonly used as a filler in tiles, paints, and glassmaking) and clay. Porcelain tiles are fired at high temperatures in a kiln. This process drives out much of the moisture and also crystallizes the molecules inside the material, and in turn this makes a much stronger tile. This process is known as “vitrification.” Because of this, porcelain floors are desirable for bathrooms, kitchens, porches, laundry rooms, and high-traffic areas prone to spills and stains.

The “Look”
Finishes, patterns, color variations, and size variation lend to porcelain's appeal. It is easy to find a style that suits your preferences. Tile colors range from bone to black forest, while bright patterned tiles offer an edgy option for your home or business. Tiles can also mimic natural stone, notes HGTV. Newer designs draw inspiration from rich textures like leather, fabric, and even animal prints.

Porcelain tile’s surface finishes are equally as broad, with options ranging from embossed and gloss to matte and textured. And, tile buyers have a host of size options from rectangle and squared, to subway and mosaic tiles.

Porcelain Enamel Institute Rating: A Measure of Durability
A Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating will determine the wear resistance of porcelain. The PEI is a great guide for consumers because clearly indicates the areas of use each manufacturer recommends and has designed their tile to fit.The rating is in groups: Group I is the softest tile (used for crafts and walls) and Group IV is the hardest (high traffic, exterior use).

More Facts About Porcelain Tile

  • Expect 2 to 3 percent of the tile broken to some degree (e.g. chipped edges). Any amount up to 10 percent is still considered acceptable by manufacturers.
  • Remember: glossy finishes can be slippery when wet. For better traction choose a honed finish, notes Better Homes and Gardens.
  • When picking porcelain tile, choose a tile variation with "through body color". Some tiles may have only a ceramic glaze fired over the body; if chipped, the base color is exposed.
  • Keep in mind that without radiant heat underneath, ceramic tile can be cold on your feet.
  • HGTV notes: porcelain tile should be installed on smooth and flat subfloor like a concrete slab, cement-based backer board, underlayment-grade plywood, or even existing tile if it's in good condition.

Like with any other flooring purchase, you are going to want to weigh the pros and cons of porcelain tile. Determining whether porcelain is the right tile for you will depend on your application of the tile, as well as your decorative needs and your overall budget. Once you have identified that porcelain is the right choice for you, shop around, request free samples, and educate yourself on the installation process.