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Choosing ceramic or porcelain tiles

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01 Nov 2012

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are some of the most cost-effective, durable and practical floor coverings around and they are, by far, the most common kinds of tiles available on the market.

Porcelain tiles are a popular choice for homeowners because of their varity and durability.

What makes these tiles different from the others is that they are an environmentally-friendly choice of flooring, as the manufacturing processes don't require harmful chemicals, explains Jasmin Kraneveldt, from leading sanitaryware and tile supplier, Bathroom Bizarre

"Their exceptionally long lifespan ensures that they boast a small carbon footprint when compared to other flooring options, such as solid wood and carpeting for example.”

She says consumers are often unaware of what kind of tile they are buying, and will make their choice based solely on what the tile looks like, or its price.

However, this is not always wise, as some tiles are better suited to specific applications and styles. She says it is easier to make a decision once you understand the benefits and disadvantages of the type of tile you have chosen.

Ceramic tiles

“Ceramic tiles are by far the most common tile currently on the market,” she says. They are the most affordable type of tile on the market and available in a limitless range of colours and textures, some of which closely replicate expensive materials, including natural stone such as marble and travertine and even wood. They don’t require sealing or special maintenance, and they are softer than porcelain tiles, making them easier to cut and therefore, less troublesome and less expensive to install.

Ceramic tiles are only hard enough to use as a wall covering, and are popular because of their affordibility.

Although some ceramic tiles are only hard enough to use as a wall covering, there are numerous ceramic tiles available that can be used for wall and floor applications. However, they are generally not hard enough for commercial installations. The fact that the tile has a high porosity rate makes ceramic tiles less frost-resistant than other options.

One of the drawbacks to ceramic tiles is that they are not cut after production, but rather formed before firing. When the ceramic tiles come out of the oven, they shrink, which leads to size variation in each batch. This means that in any batch of ceramic tiles, there will be slight differences in the size of each tile – as such, when you are laying these tiles, to account for the size variants, you need to use bigger spaces for the grouting.

Porcelain tiles

Porcelain tiles are all cut to size after the production process is complete. This ensures that in any batch of porcelain tiles created, each tile boasts exactly the same measurements as the others.

“The beauty of standardised sizes is that when you are laying porcelain tiles, you can employ a minimal grouting line, measuring anywhere between 2mm and 3mm in width, for a truly streamlined and contemporary aesthetic,” says Kraneveldt.

She says there are different types of porcelain tiles on the market, including glazed, polished, full-bodied and double loaded porcelain tiles:

Polished porcelain tiles

Porcelain tiles come in a variety of designs and colours, as well as a high sheen polish.

These tiles undergo a rigorous polishing process, after firing using soluble salts. This results in a surface that is smoothed to a strikingly high-gloss sheen. The polishing process also gives them a notable level of slip-resistance for a high-gloss tile.

However, the polishing process cuts through the porcelain clay particles, exposing their inner core. It is the inner core that may accept staining in some cases. Therefore, it is essential that these tiles are sealed with a special sealer so the exposed pores are filled, making them impervious to any stains. Also, with regards to colour, polished porcelain tiles have a limited colour palette, as they are made entirely of clay.

Glazed porcelain tiles

These are porcelain tiles that havea glaze that has been fired to create an incredibly hardwearing surface. These tiles can be mechanically polished for a mirror-like finish, or semi-polished, which creates the sheen of a polished tile, but with a more effective non-slip texture for indoor-outdoor applications.

Glazed procelain tiles have a surface that is scratch- and stain-resistant, and incredibly durable.

The glaze creates an exceptionally dense and non-porous surface that doesn’t require any further sealing. The surface is both scratch- and stain-resistant, and incredibly durable. These tiles are easy to keep clean, and are generally resistant to frost.

The glaze allows various printed patterns to be applied to the tile, which increases the variety of colour and texture. Glazed porcelain tiles are also available with Nano technology, giving them a non-slip quality, added durability and auto-clean and anti-bacterial qualities.

Glazed porcelain tiles cost more than their ceramic counterparts. They are also much harder, making them difficult to cut and install.

Full-bodied porcelain tiles

Full-bodied porcelain tiles have colour or patterns that run through the tile from back to front and because it is not just printed on the surface, any chance of chipping won’t be noticeable. Like all porcelain tiles, they are very durable and are available in a variety of colours. They have great non-slip qualities and are frost-resistant, making them ideal for external applications.

Since they are unglazed and unpolished, these tiles need to be sealed, and since they are hard and difficult to cut, they are more expensive to install.

Double-loaded polished porcelain tiles

Full-bodied tiles can have a different face or body applied – this is known as being double-loaded. This means that the top half of the tile varies in design and texture to the bottom half of the tile. This technique increases the colour and texture variations of these tiles. The double-loaded tiles are baked for longer and pressed harder, and therefore have a high level of durability.

However, like polished porcelain tiles, these tiles need to be sealed to avoid any staining.

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