Know Your Tile Before You Buy

Porcelain? Ceramic? Stone? These terms are bandied about so much when it comes to tile that it might be easy to think they’re interchangeable. They’re all unique, however, and it helps to know the crucial differences before you select one of these types for your space.

Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile

We carry vast selections in each category, and sometimes the pictures on your screen can seem identical. And it’s true, they both start from earthen clays and are kiln-fired into rigid tiles. But the process from Point A to Point B is quite different.

Ceramic tile is fired at lower temperatures, making it more porous and softer than porcelain. This makes it easier to cut during installation, and simpler for homeowners who are looking to install tile themselves. Most ceramic tiles have a glazed surface that can have any number of colors, as you can see in the saturated Nazari tiles. They can also have textured or dimensional surfaces, like our faceted Faces and Prisma collections.

Shown: Nazari Ifrane, Faces H4 Blanco, and Prisma Bronze

For a more linear approach, try Liston Oxford Cognac, which mimics slatted wood, or the undulating lines that swim across the Ona tiles.

Shown: Liston Oxford Cognac and Ona Natural

Porcelain is made with clay that is finer grained and fired for longer and at high temperatures. The result is a durable, non-porous tile that’s impervious to water and excellent for outdoor spaces, kitchens and baths, and high-traffic areas of your home. Because it’s so hard and tough to cut, porcelain is best left to professionals for installation. While all porcelain can stand up to heavy use, we have created a special anti-slip category for several of our collections that is intended specifically for outdoor applications. Notable examples include Soho Acero and the wood-look Ascot Teca.

Shown: Soho Acero and Ascot Teca

Whereas ceramic tiles are glazed with color that is only surface deep, the clay for porcelain tiles is colored before firing—so the finished tile has a uniform color throughout. That means it’s less noticeable should a tile get chipped. Porcelain also has a smoother surface, generally, than ceramic tile–and it’s heat resistant, so large slabs of it can even be used as countertop options for the kitchen or bath. Our X-Tone line offers many options for beautiful counter looks.

Shown: XTONE Aria White Nature

Additionally, porcelain can be transformed after being kiln-fired to resemble many other materials such as stone, wood, concrete, marble, terrazzo – even metal. To see examples of these styles, look to:

Natural Stone

For purists, natural stone tile is the way to go with its inherent varieties of texture and color. Keep in mind that these tiles tend to be heavier and require more labor at installation, so the job tends to be more expensive than ceramic or porcelain options. However, the warmth and beauty of real stone yields a stunning return on the investment.

Our offerings include tiles with uniform color such as our Airslate collection, prominent veining displayed with Kathmandu Pulido and Nairobi Grey Pulido, and highly dimensional and patterned mosaics such as the Globe collection.  Traditionalists will love the polished Virtual Square mosaics in black, grey and white.

Shown: Kathmandu Pulido, Nairobi Grey, and Virtual Square Black

For whatever type of tile you choose, our design consultants are on hand to help, and you can always order free samples to see how certain tiles will look in your space before placing an order. We hope you’ll call or schedule an appointment at your local showroom with any questions regarding your next renovation.