Technically all tile is Ceramic, made of a mixture of clays and other natural materials, then kiln-fired. Typically there are two types of Ceramic tile used in building materials – Porcelain and Non-Porcelain. Non-Porcelain tile is frequently referred to as Ceramic tile by the industry, so we will also use the term Ceramic tile when referring to Non-Porcelain tile.
So what makes Porcelain different?
Porcelain Tile is composed of fine porcelain clays and fired at much higher temperatures than ceramic tile, making porcelain more dense, less porous, and much harder than ceramic.
Porcelain tile is less prone to moisture and stain absorption than ceramic tile and thus is better suited for both indoor and outdoor installations. When used outdoors, we recommend the tile be frost proof and unglazed for floor use. Make sure the absorption rate is 0.5% or less. Unglazed means the color goes all the way through from top to bottom, so scratches or dings are less obvious and it has better slip-resistance.
Glazed porcelain tile helps seal the microscopic pores making them easier to maintain than unglazed tiles. Porcelain that has been made to resemble stone is often a better choice than a natural tile because Porcelain is less porous and less prone to cracking.
Being less porous also means that Porcelain tile is harder to cut due to its density and hardness.
Ceramic Tile has a white body coloration underneath the glazed, colored top layer.
It can be used for both wall and floor tile, but is best suited for very light to moderate traffic since it is a softer tile than Porcelain. It also has a relatively high water absorption rating which makes it less frost resistant and not suitable for outdoor use.
Because of its softness, ceramic is more prone to wear and chipping than Porcelain, but is much easier to cut.