Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile

Porcelain and ceramic can be confusing words to the inexperienced. On this page, we’ll compare porcelain vs ceramic tile and explain the unique qualities of each tile type, the pros and cons, and what tile to use.
Master bathroom with porcelain tile flooring, fireplace and globe chandelier All porcelain is ceramic but not all ceramic is porcelain. This is the easiest way to remember the difference between the two words commonly thrown around the interior design world. Porcelain and ceramic tiles are both technically ceramic; they just contain a few different qualities. This is how you differentiate quarry tiles, glass tiles, and natural stone. Additionally, either ceramic or porcelain is not highly recommended to be placed outdoors.

Quicklist: Porcelain Tiles vs Ceramic Tiles

Here is a comparison chart of the key differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles:

Features         Porcelain Tiles Ceramic Tiles
Composition Made of white clay, sand & feldspar Made from white, brown,
or red clay
Durability Dense and extremely durable; less porous
than ceramic tiles
Less dense and durable
than porcelain tiles
Water Resistance Highly water-resistant and stain-resistant Less water-resistant than
porcelain tiles; needs glazing
to be protected from water
Fire Resistance Highly fire-resistant Less fire-resistant than
porcelain tiles
Color Options Fewer color options More color options due to
Cost More expensive than ceramic tiles Less expensive than porcelain
Ease of Cutting Difficult to cut; may require professional
Easy to cut with a wet saw or
snap tile cutter; can be done at home
Maintenance Requires less maintenance and upkeep
over time
Requires more maintenance
and upkeep over time

Difference Between Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

First, we’ll cover the benefits of porcelain tile and then compare them with their differences vs ceramic tiles.

Porcelain Tile

Contemporary bathroom with gray porcelain tile shower

Porcelain comes from the Italian word porcellana, meaning “cowrie shell” or “chinaware”. Fine porcelain, typically expensive, is a white material with a strong, dense body.

The porcelain tile is made of white refined clay, sand, and feldspar. The color goes through the entire tile or can have a glaze over the surface. Unglazed tiles showcase the natural color of the porcelain tile. However, adding glaze to them will give you more color options.

Choose unglazed porcelain tile products for high-traffic areas so signs of chippings, scratches, and wear are almost invisible as the color goes through the piece. 

Porcelain tiles are durable due to their composition and high feldspar content. Additionally, they are much denser than ceramic tiles, making them less porous and higher on the durability scale. That said, they don’t absorb moisture and can last longer.

Additionally, they require less maintenance and upkeep over time and can withstand heavy traffic. All of these reasons make it a popular choice for bathroom designs because these can function well even in other moisture-prone areas. Porcelain tiles are also highly stain-resistant and fireproof, too.

However, it is difficult (but not impossible) to cut porcelain tiles because of their density. This should be a consideration when you’re going to have a do-it-yourself project with porcelain tiles. It’s recommended that you let the professionals handle its installation. 

One of the drawbacks of porcelain tiles is they can be expensive. For regular in-stock porcelain tiles, you are looking at around $4 to $8 per square foot. On the other hand, custom tiles can range from $4 up to $25 per square foot.

The installation runs about an extra $4 to $8 per square foot. Note that custom tiles might need patterns or unusual shapes, which can also incur additional professional installation fees.

Porcelain Tile Rating

The tile industry follows the PEI Rating to identify the ideal location for a particular tile, with ratings ranging from PEI 0 to PEI 5, 0 being the lowest and 5 the highest.

For instance, PEI 0 are in locations with no foot traffic and areas such as wall tiles. Porcelain tiles can occasionally be placed outdoors if it possesses an extremely high PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) Rating. The ratings will range from PEI 0 to PEI 5, 0 being the lowest and 5 the highest. 

Traditional kitchen with wood style porcelain tile floors and two islands




locations with very light traffic bathrooms, or areas without frequent use


locations with light traffic

bathrooms and bedrooms


locations with light to moderate traffic

kitchens and laundry rooms 


locations with moderate to heavy traffic

hallway and commercial applications

V locations with heavy traffic 

any room with heavy traffic and outdoor areas

PEI 1 will be locations with very light traffic such as bathrooms, or areas without frequent use.

PEI 2 will be locations with light traffic such as bathrooms and bedrooms.

PEI 3 will be locations with light to moderate traffic which is most home usage.

PEI 4 will be locations with moderate to the heavy traffic which will be suitable for home usage and some commercial applications.

PEI 5 will be locations with heavy traffic which will be any usage in the home, outdoors, or commercial setting.

Typically, ceramic tiles rate around 3 to 4 on the scale while porcelain tiles at 3 to 5 on the scale. ANSI (American National Standards Institute) says that porcelain tile is a “ceramic tile that has a water absorption of 0.5% or less.”[Source:]

Ceramic Tile

The ceramic tile, while less dense and durable than porcelain tile. Choose ceramic if you’re on a budget or planning to do the project yourself.

Bathroom shower with polished ceramic tile

“Ceramic tile adds a unique personality to a space, and is one of the best ways to customize a home with a design element.” – Cowles Creative Publishing, Ceramic Tile Essentials

Ceramic tiles are semi-crystalline and amorphous. They are inorganic in nature. Ceramic tiles will not complete full vitrification, causing them to be porous. If the ceramic glaze is improperly applied, ceramic tiles can absorb water. They are often made from a white, brown, or red clay mixture.

These tiles, while less dense and durable than porcelain tiles, can be a great choice for they have a lower cost. It’s suitable for someone on a budget or planning to do the project themselves. These are the more economic versions of the porcelain tiles. Ceramic tiles are much easier to cut with a wet tile saw, or a simple tile cutter, which can be done at home. 

Glossy white ceramic tile for kitchen backsplash

Ceramic tiles are also known to be less water resistant than porcelain tiles. However, they can be made less susceptible to staining and more resistant to water penetration by glazing them. It adds a protective layer to the tiles. 

Ceramic tiles are also cheaper than porcelain tiles because they are less expensive to manufacture and install. Typically, ceramic tiles will cost about $3 to $7 per square foot.

Similar to porcelain, the prices of ceramic tiles can increase significantly when custom pieces and designs are requested. The installation cost will run about $4 to $8 per square foot but could be higher if the tiles need custom patterns and designs.

Common Features of Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

In this section, we share the common characteristics shared by porcelain and ceramic tiles.

Wood look porcelian tile walk-in shower

Both are waterproof.

Though the ceramic and porcelain tile types have water-resistant qualities, the grout used for sealing will be a more vulnerable substance. The grout used for sealing tiles is a porous substance, therefore, able to take on staining and moisture.

It is important to properly seal and maintain the grout to keep the tile’s beauty and water-resistant quality. If care is not taken, it can potentially cause harm to the tiles or molding of the grout itself.

Both are heavy.

The porcelain and ceramic tile materials are both extremely heavy flooring options. Typically, they are best used in ground-floor applications. The weight also makes the installation of each of the materials a little more expensive due to the added labor costs. For a tile to be installed properly on an upper level, make sure to get an inspection to make sure the building can hold loads of the material.

Which Type of Tile Should I Use?

When it comes to porcelain vs ceramic tiles for a budget-friendly product, choose ceramic tiles. If money and labor cost is no object, porcelain tile is a popular choice for bathroom floor tile and other living spaces like living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens.

Bathroom with beige porcelain tile shower Porcelain works well in heavy traffic areas in the home and even outdoor areas if the proper rating tile is followed. If doing a second-story space with tiling, ceramic is the better way to go, but only in an extremely small space. Inspection needs to be done to ensure the structure can bear the load.

Patterned porcelain floor tiles

Each product offers a variety of different patterns and colors since either product can be cut and glazed. Porcelain has a thorough color so will look better when it is scratched or chipped. If this is going to be a do-it-yourself project, stick to the ceramic tile.

This is because it will be easier to cut and less expensive, so if there are mistakes it is less detrimental. If doing porcelain floors it is highly recommended to leave that to the professionals.

For more related content on tiles, visit our guide on types of floor tiles.

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