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Browsing through pages of interior design magazines or online images, the proliferation of pristine, decorative surfaces catches the eye.

Chances are they are either ceramic or porcelain; but what’s the difference? Where is one recommended over the other? How should they be maintained?

The scope of this article

This article considers ceramic and porcelain as building products and decorative cladding and flooring materials. Clearly both porcelain and ceramic have other uses, such as crafting decorative objects and utensils, it’s their construction properties however that interest us here. Although the very properties that make them so astonishingly versatile and ethereal for one use also inform the other.

If you are interested in finding out the difference between ceramic tiles VS porcelain tiles, we’ve put together a simple but definitive guide to clear up all your doubts.

When we conjure up a mental image of the décor that best represents bygone eras then chances are we think of materials that helped shape these interiors. The Victorians and their penchant for wood; the Art Deco fascination with chrome and glass; the 1950s delight in brightly coloured laminates.

Nowadays we think about ceramic or porcelain as the materials that are shaping and sculpting 21st Century interiors. Not just for flooring but wall cladding, decorative pieces and elements of furniture. As a material. fired clay expresses our concern with sustainable building materials and our attraction to contemporary finishes that provide opportunities hitherto unimaginable.

Porcelain vs. ceramics: the differences

To all intents and purposes, porcelain and ceramic are the same material with different manufacturing processes that nevertheless make one or the other more appropriate. The root of the word ceramic comes from the ancient Greek word for fired clay, today that still describes both materials. If water is added to clay it becomes plastic and malleable, apply really high temperatures and the clay becomes hardened. The differences between the various types of ceramic and porcelain are a function of the types of clay and additives used in their manufacture, the pressure under which they are moulded together with what heat they are fired and whether they are glazed or not. In terms of performance, a ceramic material with water absorption of less than 0.5% is classified as porcelain.

Areas where porcelain and ceramics are best suited

Perhaps the best and easiest way to explore the differences between porcelain and ceramic is to look at their applications in construction. Both materials have indoor and outdoor uses and can roughly be organised into flooring and wall cladding headings.

  • Frost resistance: Porcelain has water absorption of less than 0.5% which makes it appropriate for use outdoors (water does not penetrate and therefore steps and cladding materials are not in danger of damage from freezing water)
  • Composition: Source of the clay and its properties together with the additives that provide the specific qualities of ceramic and porcelain
  • Manufacture: the preparation and firing of the tiles at different temperatures
  • Performance: durability which among other things is a function of porosity and water absorption
  • Looks: colour, pattern and finish (glazed, unglazed or matt)
  • Porcelain floor tiles VS Ceramic floor tiles

    Porcelain floor tiles

    It makes sense that a flooring material is more resistant than a wall cladding material. In that sense, porcelain is the Rolls Royce of flooring because its composition, its manufacture and its finish are specifically suited to keeping floors dry, wearing well and being easy to maintain. These qualities make porcelain a material equally suited to outdoor use as well as indoor use. However, there are some issues with porcelain that should be taken into consideration before opting for a porcelain floor. Call 01254 57567 for more info.
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