Porcelain vs. Ceramic: Which Tile is the Best for Your Home?

superior-construction-mt-juliet-tn-porcelain-vs-ceramic-bathroom-with-glass-shower-door-and-bench-tiled

A couple weeks ago, we talked about the soft elements in your home (fabrics), so I thought I’d go in a whole different direction this week… tile. Beautiful, functional tile.

Have y’all ever tried to pick out tile by yourself? If so, you probably walked in on thousands of options and no end in sight. (This is exactly why we only present our clients with a couple of options to choose from — we sift through the noise to find the best for you.)

Naturally, the conversation of materials always comes up when we talk to clients about tile. Porcelain or ceramic? Which should go where in your home? How do we help you make that choice? 

Today, I’m breaking each of these materials down into some simple pros, cons, and best practices. If you have a home project that might include tile in the future, this is one you’ll want to bookmark…

superior-construction-mt-juliet-tn-porcelain-vs-ceramic-hexogon-tile-in-shower-floor
Can you guess… Porcelain or ceramic?

Porcelain Tile: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Denser than ceramic, which means higher durability
  • Greater longevity makes these higher-cost tiles a better long-term investment
  • Completely water-resistant, so water damage is virtually nonexistent 
  • Very easy to clean
  • Huge range of styles and can mimic the look of wood or other natural stones (like marble) flawlessly

Finishes:

  • Glazed: More stain-resistance
  • Unglazed: Higher slip resistance (for wet areas), abrasion resistance (against daily traffic), and impact resistance (if you accidentally drop something heavy)

Cons:

  • Denseness makes cutting difficult, so porcelain tiles do require hiring a professional
  • Cost up to 60% more than ceramic tiles, due to higher quality

Best For: 

  • Flooring in wet areas like bathrooms, showers, and kitchens
  • Easy maintenance makes them perfect for high-traffic areas, like mudrooms or entryways
  • Preserving your long-term investment
superior-construction-mt-juliet-tn-porcelain-vs-ceramic-master-bedroom-with-porcelain-floor-in-soft-wood-pattern

The tiles in the Scruggs Master Bathroom are… you guessed it, porcelain. We chose this soft wood pattern to keep the space soothing and cohesive with the rest of our home.

Ceramic Tile: Pros & Cons

Pros: 

  • More affordable than porcelain tile
  • Stay cooler in the summer (making them perfect for the South)
  • Large range of styles and more texture options, for an added design element
  • Feel softer on your bare feet than porcelain tiles
  • Easier to cut, so better for homeowners laying tile on their own

Cons:

  • Softer and less durable than porcelain tile
  • Stay cooler in the winter (but you can also install radiant heating to keep those toes warm)
  • Chips may show the material underneath

Finishes:

  • Glazed: Only a top coat, so any chips will show through to the color of the material below, which may make it look worn faster
  • Unglazed and Sealed: Coarse feel to it; not really recommended. 

Best For:

  • Low-traffic areas where they will last longer, such as: backsplashes in kitchens, laundry rooms, wets bars, and butler’s pantries
  • Budget projects
superior-construction-mt-juliet-tn-porcelain-vs-ceramic-kitchen-backsplash-with-white-ceramic-tile

The Pebble Point kitchen backsplash is a great place to use ceramic tile. It doesn’t take heavy foot traffic, and it can easily be wiped clean after a meal. Function and beauty are what it’s all about.

What’s the SC&D Approach to Selecting Tile?

We like to use tile in myriad places: 

  • backsplashes in the kitchen and all the way to the ceiling if possible
  • backsplashes in wet bars and butler’s pantries
  • tile on walls in bathrooms
  • tile on shower floors.

Where don’t we like to use tile? 

Although it looks nice, I personally am getting away from tile on shower walls. We have not remodeled a bathroom in the last 10 years where there hasn’t been some type of mold behind the shower wall we pulled out. YUCK. 

Unless a tile shower has been installed with a Schluter system (which makes it waterproof), there will be mold. Tile is porous and so is grout. Not to mention the nasty mold that you get in all the grout lines. 

All that to say, experience has taught me that a smooth quartz or a cultured marble wall is better for a shower long-term. It also looks beautiful and timeless.

superior-construction-mt-juliet-tn-porcelain-vs-ceramic-smooth-quartz-tile-work-on-shower-walls

Here’s an example of large-scale smooth quartz tile at work on the walls, which are easy to squeegee or wipe down. The shower floor is made up of porcelain tiles with ceramic and marble for the niche.

Selecting the style of your tile (color, layout, pattern, etc.) is a BIG topic that I’ll save for another day. If y’all want some inspiration in the meantime, I recommend browsing through our design portfolio. There are plenty of kitchens and bathrooms that use tile to beautiful effect… if I do say so myself. 😉 

Any other questions about tile? Another material you have questions about? Just ask below! 

Xoxo,
E

2 replies to “Porcelain vs. Ceramic: Which Tile is the Best for Your Home?

  • so if you don’t recommend tile for shower walls, what do you recommend for shower walls? do you recommend tile for the wall around an alcove tub, if it’s not a shower?

  • hi Pam-
    it’s not that we don’t use tile on shower walls, we do when our clients really want it. But like said above, I prefer a solid slab of material. One that is not porous, such as quartz or cultured marble.
    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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