How To Tell The Difference Between Ceramic And Porcelain Tile?

How To Tell The Difference Between Ceramic And Porcelain Tile

When it comes to selecting the right type of tile for your home improvement project, the choice between ceramic and porcelain can be a bit perplexing. They have their own set of advantages and qualities, but they also possess some key differences that can greatly impact your decision. Understanding these differences is crucial to making an informed choice. 

Porcelain and ceramic tile difference lies in their composition, water absorption capacity, edges, and price. Ceramic tile is softer, more absorbent, and budget-friendly, while porcelain offers durability, water resistance, and sharper edges at a higher cost. 

In this article, we will guide you through a step-by-step process to help you tell the difference between ceramic and porcelain tiles. So keep reading to make the right decision. 

4 Factors To Tell The Difference Between Ceramic And Porcelain Tiles: A Detail Guide

Differentiating between porcelain and ceramic tile requires to examination of some factors. So before you decide, have a look at the following factors to recognize the key differences. 

Step 1: Examine the Composition

Ceramic Tiles: Ceramic tiles are primarily made from clay mixed with other natural materials, which are then molded and fired at lower temperatures. The surface of ceramic tiles is usually glazed to provide color and texture. The clay used in ceramic tiles is less refined compared to porcelain, giving them a slightly softer and more porous structure.

Porcelain Tiles: Porcelain tiles are composed of more refined clay and other minerals, which are fired at very high temperatures, resulting in a denser and more durable product. The extreme heat and pressure during the manufacturing process make porcelain tiles less porous and more water-resistant compared to ceramic tiles. Due to their density, they are often considered more suitable for high-traffic areas.

Step 2: Assess the Water Absorption Rate

Ceramic Tiles: One of the key differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles lies in their water absorption rate. Ceramic tiles generally have a higher water absorption rate, usually around 4% or higher. This means they are more prone to water damage and may not be ideal for areas exposed to a lot of moisture, like bathrooms or outdoor spaces.

Porcelain Tiles: Porcelain tiles have a lower water absorption rate, typically around 0.5% or less. This characteristic makes them highly resistant to water penetration, making them an excellent choice for areas that are frequently wet, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor patios.

Step 3: Inspect the Tile Edges

Ceramic Tiles: When you examine the edges of ceramic tiles, you might notice that they have a straight-cut, rounded appearance. This is because the clay used in ceramic tiles is less dense, making them easier to cut and shape during manufacturing.

Porcelain Tiles: On the other hand, porcelain tiles tend to have more precise, sharp edges due to their denser composition. The higher density makes them more challenging to cut cleanly, but it also adds to their durability and longevity.

Step 4: Consider the Price Point

Ceramic Tiles: Generally, ceramic tiles are more affordable than porcelain tiles. If you’re on a budget or have a large area to cover, ceramic tiles might be a more cost-effective option.

Porcelain Tiles: Porcelain tiles often come at a higher price point due to their superior durability and water resistance. While they may be pricier, they offer a longer lifespan and better performance in high-traffic areas, potentially saving you money on replacements in the long run.

7 Tips About the Difference Between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile Mortar

When it comes to installing tiles, the choice of mortar can significantly impact the success and longevity of your project. Porcelain and ceramic tiles require different types of mortar due to their distinct characteristics. Here are some essential tips to help you understand the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile mortar and make the right choice for your installation:

1. Composition Matters:

Porcelain tiles are denser and less porous than ceramic tiles. Therefore, they require a mortar with superior bonding properties to ensure a strong adherence. Opt for a thin-set mortar labeled as suitable for porcelain tiles, as it contains additives that enhance its adhesion capabilities.

2. Flexibility for Movement:

Ceramic tiles are more prone to expansion and contraction due to temperature changes, so a mortar with a bit of flexibility is essential to prevent cracking. Look for a standard thin-set mortar or a modified thin-set that accommodates slight movements without compromising the tile’s integrity.

3. Adhesion and Weight:

Porcelain tiles can be heavier than ceramics due to their denser composition. It’s crucial to use a mortar specifically formulated for heavy tiles, as it provides better support and reduces the risk of tiles sagging or sliding over time.

4. Water Resistance:

Both porcelain and ceramic tiles are used in areas prone to moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens. However, porcelain tiles offer superior water resistance. To ensure a waterproof installation, opt for a waterproof or polymer-modified mortar for both types of tiles, providing an added layer of protection against moisture intrusion.

5. Pre-Mixed vs. Dry Mortar:

You’ll find both pre-mixed and dry mortar options. Pre-mixed mortar is convenient but might lack the flexibility and strength needed for larger tiles. Dry mortar, which you mix with water on-site, offers more customization and can be adjusted based on the specific requirements of your project.

6. Trowel Size and Notching:

The trowel size and notching play a significant role in the adhesive coverage and support under the tiles. For porcelain tiles, consider using a larger notched trowel to ensure proper bonding due to their weight. For ceramic tiles, a smaller trowel might suffice.

7. Professional Installation:

While DIY installation is possible, hiring a professional tile installer is recommended, especially for porcelain tiles. The unique characteristics of porcelain require precise mortar application and handling to ensure a successful installation that stands the test of time.

12 Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing Your Subfloor for Ceramic and Porcelain Floor Tile Installation

Proper subfloor preparation is the foundation of a successful ceramic and porcelain floor tile installation. Avoiding common mistakes during this crucial stage will save you time, effort, and potential issues down the line. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you steer clear of mistakes and ensure a flawless tile installation:

1. Neglecting Subfloor Inspection:

Failing to thoroughly inspect the subfloor can lead to unforeseen problems. Check for any unevenness, cracks, or moisture issues. Addressing these concerns before tiling prevents future tile cracks or adhesive failures.

2. Insufficient Cleaning:

A clean subfloor is essential for proper tile adhesion. Remove all debris, dirt, and grease. Dust and contaminants can compromise the adhesive’s effectiveness, causing tiles to loosen over time.

3. Ignoring Moisture Levels:

High moisture levels in the subfloor can lead to tiles popping up or adhesive failure. Use a moisture meter to assess moisture content. If levels are high, address the issue before proceeding with the installation.

4. Skipping Leveling:

An uneven subfloor can result in cracked or uneven tiles. Use self-leveling compounds to rectify minor irregularities. For significant leveling needs, consult a professional to ensure a perfectly level surface.

5. Disregarding Underlayment:

Underlayment adds an extra layer of protection and stability. It helps prevent cracks and provides a smooth surface for tile installation. Choose an underlayment suitable for your project and subfloor type.

6. Incorrect Trowel Selection:

The size of the trowel notch affects adhesive coverage. Using the wrong trowel can lead to inadequate adhesion or an uneven tile surface. Refer to manufacturer guidelines to select the appropriate trowel size.

7. Inadequate Adhesive Application:

Uniform adhesive coverage is crucial for preventing tile movement and ensuring a strong bond. Apply adhesive to both the subfloor and the tile back using the correct trowel technique.

8. Improper Tile Spacing:

Neglecting proper tile spacing can result in tiles pushing against each other as they expand with temperature changes. Use tile spacers to maintain consistency and even spacing between tiles.

9. Rushing the Drying Time:

Allow adequate time for the adhesive to dry before grouting. Rushing this step can lead to shifting tiles, uneven grout lines, and compromised bond strength.

10. Not Using the Right Grout:

Select grout suitable for the tile type and spacing. In high-moisture areas, use epoxy or urethane grout for better water resistance and durability.

11. Skipping Sealing:

Seal porous tiles before grouting to prevent staining. After grouting, seal again to protect both the grout and the tiles from moisture and stains.

12. Lack of Patience:

Rushing through the preparation process can result in shoddy workmanship. Take your time, follow proper procedures, and consult professionals if needed.


Are Porcelain Tiles More Durable Than Ceramic Tiles? 

Yes, porcelain tiles are generally more durable due to their density and lower water absorption rate, making them suitable for high-traffic areas and outdoor use.

Are Porcelain Tiles More Expensive Than Ceramic Tiles? 

Porcelain tiles tend to be more expensive due to their manufacturing process and durability. Ceramic tiles are generally more budget-friendly.

Which Tile Is Better For Areas With Moisture, Like Bathrooms? 

Porcelain tiles are a better choice for areas with moisture because of their lower water absorption rate, making them less likely to warp or stain over time.

Do Both Types Of Tiles Offer A Wide Range Of Designs? 

Yes, both porcelain and ceramic tiles come in various designs, colors, and patterns. Advances in technology have expanded the design options for both types.

Can Porcelain And Ceramic Tiles Be Used Interchangeably In Terms Of Installation? 

Yes, porcelain and ceramic tiles can be installed similarly. However, due to the differences in hardness, porcelain tiles might require special cutting tools.

Are Both Types Of Tiles Easy To Clean? 

Yes, both porcelain and ceramic tiles are generally easy to clean. Regular sweeping and occasional mopping are usually sufficient.

Which Type Of Tile Is More Resistant To Stains And Scratches? 

Porcelain tiles are more resistant to stains and scratches due to their denser composition than ceramic tiles. 

Are There Any Environmental Differences Between The Two? 

Both types of tiles are made from natural materials, but the higher firing temperature of porcelain tiles can lead to slightly higher energy consumption during production.

Can You Use Either Tile Type With Underfloor Heating Systems? 

Both porcelain and ceramic tiles can be used with underfloor heating systems, but porcelain tiles’ lower porosity can make them a better choice in this scenario.

Which Tile Type Requires Less Maintenance In The Long Run? 

Porcelain tiles generally require less maintenance due to their durability and resistance to stains, scratches, and moisture.

Do Both Types Fade In Sunlight? 

Ceramic tiles might fade over time when exposed to intense sunlight, while porcelain tiles are more resistant to fading.

Can I Use Either Tile On Walls As Well As Floors? 

Both porcelain and ceramic tiles can be used on walls and floors, but porcelain tiles’ durability makes them suitable for high-traffic floor areas.


In the world of tile selection, being able to tell the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile is crucial. The choice between these two types of tiles depends on your specific needs and preferences. 

Always keep in mind that the right tile choice can greatly enhance the aesthetics and functionality of your space, making it a worthwhile investment in the long run.

Jahidul Alam

Hello dear! This is Jahidul Alam. I am the admin of this Tidy Floor. I have been in the floor cleaning business for the last 20 years. My business is all about ensuring affordable flooring cleaning services for Americans.

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