May 20, 2021 | Updated: June 17, 2021

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Ceramic tiles vs. Porcelain tiles: the why, how and where?

Browsing through pages of interior design magazines or online images, the proliferation of pristine, decorative surfaces catches the eye.

Chances are they are either ceramic or porcelain; but what’s the difference? Where is one recommended over the other? How should they be maintained?

If you are interested in finding out the difference between ceramic tiles VS porcelain tiles, we’ve put together a simple but definitive guide to clear up all your doubts.

When we conjure up a mental image of the décor that best represents bygone eras then chances are we think of materials that helped shape these interiors. The Victorians and their penchant for wood; the Art Deco fascination with chrome and glass; the 1950s delight in brightly coloured laminates.

Nowadays we think about ceramic or porcelain as the materials that are shaping and sculpting 21st Century interiors. Not just for flooring but wall cladding, decorative pieces and elements of furniture. As a material. fired clay expresses our concern with sustainable building materials and our attraction to contemporary finishes that provide opportunities hitherto unimaginable.

Marmol Carrara Blanco 45X120 (Available online & in-store)

Carrara Blanco Brillo 59.5X59 (Available online & in-store)


The scope of this article

This article considers ceramic and porcelain as building products and decorative cladding and flooring materials. Clearly both porcelain and ceramic have other uses, such as crafting decorative objects and utensils, it’s their construction properties however that interest us here. Although the very properties that make them so astonishingly versatile and ethereal for one use also inform the other.

Porcelain vs. ceramics: the differences

To all intents and purposes, porcelain and ceramic are the same material with different manufacturing processes that nevertheless make one or the other more appropriate. The root of the word ceramic comes from the ancient Greek word for fired clay, today that still describes both materials. If water is added to clay it becomes plastic and malleable, apply really high temperatures and the clay becomes hardened. The differences between the various types of ceramic and porcelain are a function of the types of clay and additives used in their manufacture, the pressure under which they are moulded together with what heat they are fired and whether they are glazed or not. In terms of performance, a ceramic material with water absorption of less than 0.5% is classified as porcelain.


To understand just how resistant ceramic is as a material, bear in mind that the undercarriage of the space shuttle was clad in ceramics to help it withstand its descent to earth through the atmosphere.

Areas where porcelain and ceramics are best suited

Perhaps the best and easiest way to explore the differences between porcelain and ceramic is to look at their applications in construction. Both materials have indoor and outdoor uses and can roughly be organised into flooring and wall cladding headings.


Image White 40X80  (Available online & in-store)

Image White 44.3X44.3  (Available online & in-store)


Differences between Ceramic & Porcelain

  •  Frost resistance: Porcelain has water absorption of less than 0.5% which makes it appropriate for use outdoors (water does not penetrate and therefore steps and cladding materials are not in danger of damage from freezing water)
  • Composition: Source of the clay and its properties together with the additives that provide the specific qualities of ceramic and porcelain
  • Manufacture: the preparation and firing of the tiles at different temperatures
  • Performance: durability which among other things is a function of porosity and water absorption
  • Looks: colour, pattern and finish (glazed, unglazed or matt)



Porcelain floor tiles VS Ceramic floor tiles


Porcelain floor tiles

It makes sense that a flooring material is more resistant than a wall cladding material. In that sense, porcelain is the Rolls Royce of flooring because its composition, its manufacture and its finish are specifically suited to keeping floors dry, wearing well and being easy to maintain. These qualities make porcelain a material equally suited to outdoor use as well as indoor use. However, there are some issues with porcelain that should be taken into consideration before opting for a porcelain floor.


Trend-setting porcelain 





In summary here are the pros and cons regarding porcelain floor tiles:

The pros of porcelain floor tiles
  • Wear & tear: Porcelain is an extremely hard material and as such is very durable.
  • Extremely low porosity: this is a function of the composition and manufacture, especially the extreme temperatures (up to 1,200 °C) in the firing process.
  • Water absorption: for flooring and for exterior uses this is critical, porcelain tiles have less than .1% water absorption thanks to the source clay and additives.
  • No-hassle maintenance: porcelain is easy to clean and has no special maintenance requirements, spills can simply be wiped off.
  • Interior design magazine looks: with recent technological advances made in inkjet printing, there is literally no limit to the possibilities of recreating marble, cement, wood and other effects.
  • Inside and outside: porcelain floor tiles with a non-slip finish are highly recommended for outdoor use on terraces or steps.



Butan Acero 45X120 (Available in-store

Butan Acero 120X120 (Available in-store


The cons of porcelain floor tiles 
  • Budget: porcelain is more expensive than ceramic floor tiles but will last longer and is less liable to wear and tear.
  • Handle with care: typically floor tiles are 12mm in thickness min., porcelain is also heavier and slightly more brittle than ceramic, is of greater weight and so handling must be considered.
  • Grouting: the joints of porcelain tiles are its Achilles heel and will need to be sealed. Modern cutting techniques however reduce the bevelled edge on porcelain tiles so joints, and hence grouting can be minimised.

The difference between technical porcelain floor tiles and enamel porcelain floor tiles is the addition of a finish layer.

This glaze layer allows for any number of decorative effects to be applied to the tile. Both are made with special clay and other additives pressed and fired at similar temperatures. Both are homogeneous meaning that even with wear the same material is presented throughout the thickness of the tile.

Ceramic floors 

In the generic sense, ceramic flooring is either glazed or unglazed; unglazed ceramic floor tiles include terracotta. A popular glazed ceramic flooring option is stoneware which is manufactured from a mixture of carbonates free clays. The tiles have low water absorption with high-quality glaze finishes that help ensure durability, resistance and non-slip properties.

In summary here are the pros and cons regarding porcelain floor tiles:

The pros of ceramic floor tiles
  • Good value for money: stoneware floor tiles make a construction or decoration budget stretch with numerous design choices in terms of dimensions, patterns etc.
  • Low porosity: the low porosity of ceramic combined with the different glaze treatments for flooring make stoneware a very resistant, hardwearing and safe option.
  • Easy to maintain: with water absorption of between 0.5% and 3% stoneware tile flooring is easy to keep clean and offers a high non-slip rating.
  • Versatile: ceramic tiles are suitable for any room in the home, kitchens, entrances, halls and bathrooms.
  • Good looks: the finish can be matt or glazed, with multiple options that can be combined with different colour grouting and tile dimensions.
The cons of ceramic floor tiles 
  • Can look cold: depending on the time of year and the specific design stoneware flooring can look a little cold.
  • Wear and tear & cleaning: scratches on stoneware floor tiles tend to be more visible and spills must be cleaned immediately to avoid possible staining.
  • Installation: stoneware floor tiles should be installed by a professional. They are heavy and specialist equipment is necessary to cut properly. But once down they will last a lifetime.


Prada Acero 120X120 (Available online & in-store

Prada Acero 45X120 (Available online & in-store


Porcelain wall tiles vs. ceramic wall tiles


Porcelain wall tiles

Visually impacting wall finishes are available to us now with porcelain tiles that were simply not possible just a decade ago. The printing of marble, cement, metal or timber effects onto decorative wall tiles is indistinguishable visually from the real thing. But porcelain also offers all the technical benefits of a material that is durable, easy to clean and with practically zero water absorption. These very same properties make porcelain tiles a very popular choice for outdoors, wall cladding systems that look really stylish.

Here below is a brief summary of the pros and cons regarding porcelain wall tiles:

 The pros of porcelain wall tiles
  • Visual impact: there is only one word for the aesthetic possibilities of porcelain wall tiles, that word is stunning. It’s all down to the physical characteristics of the tile, thickness, dimensions and printed or serigraph design.
  • Indestructible: the durability and resistance of porcelain is second to none. It resists scratching, chipping and general wear. This is down to a more refined clay used in its manufacture and being fired at higher temperatures than ceramic.
  • Simple cleaning: because it is so resistant and its water absorption is so low looking after porcelain wall tiles is simply a matter of running a damp cloth over them as part of a routine clean.
  • Water absorption: because of their low water absorption porcelain tiles are appropriate for cladding building exteriors as well as use in garden landscaping.
The cons of porcelain wall tiles
  • Cost: premium quality comes at a price. However, remember that, as investments go, porcelain will last and last and last.
  • Weight: even though typically wall tiles needn’t be any greater than 9mm in thickness porcelain is heavier than ceramic and you may need to carry out a calculation for hanging porcelain tiles on certain support walls.
  • Installation: it is highly recommended to use a professional for porcelain wall tiles for the very reasons that make it so attractive to use: namely its dimensions, weight and difficulty in cutting to size.



Cubik Urban Caliza Nature 33.3X59.2 (Available in-store

Urban Caliza Nature 33.3X59.2 (Available in-store

Urban Caliza Nature 59.6X59.6 (Available in-store


Ceramic wall tiles

The single fired wall tile has a higher water absorption than porcelain, over 10% in fact. Ceramic wall tiles are only appropriate for use indoors, but can be used for bathrooms and kitchen splash backs. They are highly resistant to natural and chemical agents, scratches and daily wear and tear, making them a suitable choice for even the most demanding home owner.


High-performance ceramic

Wall tiles




In summary here are the pros and cons regarding ceramic wall tiles:

The pros of ceramic wall tiles
  • The sheer choice: because they are so popular and have such a long tradition the choice of ceramic wall tiles is dizzying. But you will find one that suits the décor you want to create. The range of dimensions and types of tile tends to be wider than for porcelain wall tiles.
  • Good value for money: there is a ceramic wall tile to suit any budget, from the smallest to the unlimited. As a wall finish if looked after properly ceramic tile is likely to outlast the house.
  • Keeping clean: maintenance is simple, no special cleaning products are required to keep wall tiles looking pristine. Tip: household white vinegar mixed with water in equal parts removes grease and disinfects.
The cons of ceramic wall tiles
  • Ceramic is a brittle material: although durable ceramic wall tiles are brittle and can crack or chip. The risks can be mitigated however in the way they are used, i.e. avoiding walls that are subject to hazards.
  • Not great for outdoors: because of the high water absorption ceramic isn’t ideal for outdoor wall cladding (porcelain tile is better).
  • Grouting: unlike other wall cladding materials grouting is much more visible with ceramic tiles adding to the overall aesthetic. It’s important to choose an anti-bacterial grout for bathrooms and kitchens.   

FAQs regarding porcelain tiles vs. ceramic tiles

Although similar there are significant differences between ceramic and porcelain which include the source clay and its specific composition, other additives, the pressure used to mould the tiles, the firing process and finishes (glazed, unglazed or matt).

For practical reasons already outlined porcelain tiles are a superior choice for flooring. This is because of their durability, low porosity and water absorption, and overall strength. When it comes to wall tiles neither one nor the other can be said to be superior but each do have different properties that will help decide which is more appropriate.

For porcelain tile flooring sweeping then warm water and a mop is sufficient as part of the normal cleaning regime combined with a mild detergent in warm water every couple of weeks. Wall tiles only need to be wiped clean, stains however should be removed with a soft bristle brush.

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