Choosing between tile materials can be a huge decision, but we’re here to help! In today’s blog post, we’ll go over porcelain, ceramic, glass, and natural stone tile and discuss all of their pros and cons so that you can make a more educated purchase.
Porcelain is a widespread choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and a variety of other tile applications. You’ll often see it used for flooring, accent walls, and backsplashes. It’s durable enough for both private residences and commercial spaces, like shopping malls and airports.
Technically a subtype of ceramic tile, porcelain tile is made from clay with very fine particles. It’s then fired in a kiln at a high temperature under high pressure, creating a dense final product with a hard, glazed surface. Porcelain tile is often considered a higher-quality version of ceramic tile.
Unlimited color and design options: Porcelain tile comes in a vast range of colors, patterns, and designs. Plus, it can easily imitate natural stone like travertine, marble, and slate, along with other materials like wood, metal, and cork. You can get the look you want with all the benefits of porcelain, and there are porcelain tile options to fit in with any interior design aesthetic.
Available in any size: Porcelain tiles range from very small to extremely large. You can create tiny, detailed mosaics or purchase huge slabs of large-format tile to cover large areas with very few grout lines. Of course, there are plenty of size options in between, as well.
Versatile: This tile material is highly versatile because it can be used anywhere: indoors, outdoors, at home, in public, on walls, and on floors. There aren’t many limitations on what you can do with porcelain!
Can be used outdoors: Because porcelain is nonporous, it’s highly water-resistant, making it an excellent choice for outdoor use. It doesn’t absorb water, which helps it withstand freeze/thaw cycles without damage. (Read up on the best materials for outdoor spaces here.)
Stain-resistant: Thanks to its density, staining agents have a tough time penetrating the surface of porcelain tile.
Low-maintenance: Unlike natural stone, porcelain tile doesn’t require frequent sealing or other forms of upkeep. Generally, all you need to do to keep porcelain looking brand-new is to use your preferred cleaning products as needed.
Simple to repair: If one of your porcelain tiles cracks, you can replace it individually without having to redo the entire tiled area. We always recommend purchasing at least 10% more tile than you need for a project, which will ensure you have a few extras in case you need to replace one or two tiles over the years.
Highly durable: Because of the heat and pressure porcelain is subjected to during production, it’s incredibly resilient and long-lasting, and it doesn’t chip or crack easily.
Challenging installation: We’ve talked about porcelain’s density as an advantage, but it can also be a bit of a drawback during installation because it makes porcelain challenging to cut, especially for DIYers. Cutting through porcelain properly will require a wet saw with a porcelain diamond blade.
Can require precise preparation: If you opt for large-format porcelain tiles, you’ll need to ensure that the substrate underneath them is completely flat. (You should always do this, but it’s particularly important for large tiles.) If the substrate is uneven, your tile is much more likely to crack.
Needs a specific setting material: Since porcelain is nonporous, it requires a special setting material that can adhere to its surface. Many DIYers purchase the wrong type of adhesive, so this is something to be aware of if you choose porcelain.
Less affordable than ceramic: It may not come as a surprise that porcelain, often considered a higher-quality version of ceramic, tends to sit at a higher price point.
Cold and hard underfoot: Porcelain tile can be cold and hard underfoot. Radiant heating and rugs can make a difference if you’re set on porcelain but want the flooring to be more comfortable to walk on.
Ceramic is very similar to porcelain, from its popularity to the way it’s produced. It’s made from a mixture of clay, water, and minerals and fired in a kiln. Glazed styles of ceramic tiles are then treated with a liquid glass coating and fired once more to create a hard surface resistant to stains and scratches.
Because porcelain is made from clay that’s purified and more refined than the clay used for ceramic, and because it’s fired at higher temperatures, ceramic is often seen as a slightly less durable version of porcelain.
Ceramic is a fantastic option for backsplashes, bathrooms, kitchens, walls, and floors.
Cost-effective: One of ceramic’s most notable benefits is that it’s highly affordable. In general, it’s the least expensive tile material. Even if you choose to have a professional install it, you’re likely to benefit from lower installation costs than you would incur with other materials.
Water-resistant: Although not quite as water-resistant as porcelain, ceramic is resistant enough to water to be used in bathrooms.
Easy to repair: Like porcelain, you can replace individual ceramic tiles as needed.
DIY-friendly: Ceramic is easier to cut than porcelain, making it more suitable for DIY installation. If there comes a time when you’d like to replace your ceramic tile flooring, you can also remove the tiles yourself.
Low-maintenance: This type of tile doesn’t require much upkeep; just clean it regularly with your chosen cleaning products.
Plenty of variety: Ceramic is available in many colors and patterns and can imitate the look of other materials, like wood and various types of natural stone.
Long-lasting quality: Even though it’s not as durable as porcelain, ceramic is still quite durable when used for suitable applications, such as those in homes rather than public spaces.
Can’t be used outdoors: Ceramic isn’t dense enough for outdoor use. Although the glazed front of the tile is water-resistant, moisture can be absorbed through the sides and back of the tile. This can lead it to crack during the freeze/thaw cycle.
Not suitable for commercial spaces: Although it does well in residences, ceramic can’t stand up to use in high-impact areas and commercial spaces that experience a lot of foot traffic.
May crack and chip: Lower-quality ceramic options can be prone to chipping and cracking.
Can have color variation: There can be a good amount of color variation from lot to lot. As mentioned previously, it’s wise to buy 10% more tile than you need for a project. Not only does this allow for future repairs, but it also means you can pick and choose the tiles that look best together.
Glass tile is generally made from thin pieces of glass, which are either sold individually or formed into a mosaic on a mesh backing. The glass may have a colored, patterned, or metallic glaze fired onto the back of each tile, or it could have color running through the glass.
You’ll most often see glass tiles used for kitchen and bathroom backsplashes as well as pools, hot tubs, and showers. In some cases, they’re used for flooring as well. They’re a good choice for areas prone to moisture because they’re waterproof, easy to clean, and resistant to mildew and mold.
Because of their higher price, glass tiles are often used as accents. They might form a stripe across a shower wall or highlight a shower niche, for example.
Many colors and varieties: Glass tile comes in numerous colors and mosaic combinations for a wide range of looks. It can create a truly beautiful, show-stopping statement in any space.
Reflectiveness: Glass is highly reflective, so it bounces light around the room, which can expand the space visually. (Learn more about making a room look bigger with tile here.)
Easy to clean and maintain: If you select glossy glass tiles, they’re nearly effortless to clean and maintain. Just wipe them down with a non-abrasive cleaner and a soft cloth.
Completely waterproof: This type of tile works amazingly in bathrooms and pools because it’s 100% waterproof and doesn’t create a suitable environment for mold and mildew to grow.
Durable: Glass is quite durable overall, particularly when used on walls.
Challenging installation: Although it’s possible to install glass tile yourself, it’s often difficult, especially if you haven’t worked with glass previously. Glass tile must be cut very precisely, but perhaps even more importantly, you have to remember that the adhesive can be seen through the transparent tile. Therefore, it’s vital to consider the color of the adhesive and even out any trowel marks during installation.
Expensive: The beauty of glass tile comes at a price. This tile material is generally the most costly, more expensive than ceramic, porcelain, and many types of natural stone.
Can be scratched and cracked: An object dropped onto a glass tile floor may crack the tiles, and glass is also relatively easy to scratch. It may not be ideal for flooring if you have young children who may be likely to drop things, or if you have pets with nails or claws. (Click here to check out our recommendations for pet-friendly flooring.)
Matte finish may look dirty: If you select glass tile with a matte finish, it may hold onto greasy fingerprints and require more frequent cleaning to maintain its flawless appearance.
Natural stone refers to tile quarried directly from the earth, such as sandstone, travertine, slate, limestone, onyx, granite, and marble. This tile material looks gorgeous on walls, floors, and backsplashes. You can even choose to use natural stone tiles in place of a slab as a countertop if you’d like to save some money!
One-of-a-kind beauty: Since natural stone is natural rather than man-made, each piece is unique, and no two tiles are exactly the same.
A timeless classic: Natural stone has long been a top choice for flooring. It’s a truly timeless material that will never go out of style.
Adds value to your home: If you want to increase your home’s resale value and make it more appealing to potential buyers, adding natural stone is a fantastic way to do so.
Sophisticated and elegant: Natural stone creates a luxurious, opulent aesthetic in any space.
Many options: There are so many types of natural stone with varying natural shades, from white and yellow-gold to rich red-orange, brown, gray, and black. Different types of stone also come with various colors of veining.
Shouldn’t be used in steam showers or wood-burning fireplaces: Steam and smoke can stain and discolor natural stone over time, so it’s not recommended to use this material for these applications.
Expensive: Aside from glass, natural stone tends to be the most expensive tile material, although there can be some variance between sellers and types of stone.
High-maintenance: Natural stone requires yearly resealing, and it can stain, etch, and scratch easily. It must be cleaned with pH-neutral cleaners as well.
May develop a patina: Some types of natural stone may develop a patina over time, which isn’t necessarily a drawback, but it’s something to be aware of.
Installation may require expertise: You can DIY your natural stone installation if you prefer, but it’s best for someone with plenty of expertise to complete the project. Not only is it important to know how to install the tile properly, but creating a layout to maximize the beauty of the stone’s unique veining and coloration often takes experience and an artistic eye.
Find Your Perfect Tile at Tilezz.com
Whether you’re leaning toward natural stone, glass, ceramic, or porcelain tile, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for at Tilezz.com! If shopping for tile online makes you nervous, never fear–all of our orders come with fast delivery, insured shipments, and easy returns to help your experience go as smoothly as possible. Peruse our selection here, or visit our blog for more informational posts, design inspiration, and DIY tile projects.