The tile industry has different terminologies that can easily confuse consumers, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association. In order to choose the proper tiles for their applications, users need to know how to differentiate between the terms used in the industry, in order to help them obtain the best materials to meet their needs in specific applications.
Producers generally classify tiles into two main groups: porcelain tiles and non-porcelain tiles. Non-porcelain tiles are the same as ceramic tiles, and to understand the difference between ceramic and porcelain tiles, users need to understand the basics of making them. Non-porcelain, or ceramic, tiles are a product of kilned red or white clay; they are often cheaper in cost than porcelain products.
Ceramic products are also easier to cut, compared to their porcelain counterparts. Such tiles have a PEI rating between 0 and 3. Used in a wide array of applications, they are suitable for spaces with low or moderate traffic, and since they have a higher water absorption rating, they do not effectively resist frost, and are more prone to wear and tear compared to porcelain tiles.
Porcelain tiles are a product of compressed porcelain with a better quality than ceramic products. They have a higher density, and are non-permeable and fine-grained. They also have a smooth, sharply formed surface. Since they are impervious, they can resist frost effectively, although they are not fully frost proof.
To enhance their quality, porcelain tiles undergo a glazing process that makes their surfaces stronger and more resistant to wear and tear. Due to their stronger quality, compared to their ceramic counterparts, porcelain products are suitable for both residential and commercial applications. Glazing also makes them stain resistant, and ensures that their surfaces remain smooth and easy to clean. The process of glazing involves coating the tiles with a special glass layer mounted on the surface for additional strength.
In addition to preventing staining, the glazing process allows for the free use of colours on all parts of the tile, instead being used on the top surface only. Since the colour covers all parts of the tile, the ultimate product is harder and more suitable for commercial applications.
Aside from the ceramic and porcelain tile products, there are also natural stone products that many homeowners use for flooring purposes. Such stones include marble, travertine, and slate, among others. Each stone has unique properties that make it different from the others, and buyers should select stones according to areas of application, in addition to individual taste and preference.
By knowing these terminologies, buyers are in a better position to navigate through the tiling market and select what best meets their needs.