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What’s the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile? That’s one of the most common questions we hear from homeowners tackling a bathroom renovation project. And, depending on your needs and budget, either porcelain or ceramic can be a great option for bathrooms. Because both porcelain and ceramic tile are made with clay, they’re technically both ceramic. The biggest differences, however, is that porcelain tile is made with more refined clay, and it’s fired at a higher temperature than ceramic tile. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at both porcelain and ceramic tile to help you make the right decision for your bathroom renovation.

Porcelain Tile for Bathrooms

Porcelain tile is a versatile, affordable and durable option for bathrooms. It has a water absorption rate of 0.5 percent or less, and there are lots of sizes and colors to choose from. No wonder porcelain has become one of the most popular bathroom tile options over the years. But is it right for you? Here are a few factors to consider.

Porcelain Type

Not all porcelain tile is created equally. Unglazed porcelain tiles, also called “through body porcelain,” are the same color and texture inside and out. Glazed porcelain tiles, or “color body porcelain,” are white inside and have a covered in a colored glaze. That means chips and cracks glazed porcelain tiles can reveal the white subsurface, making them more noticeable.

Installation

Porcelain should be installed on smooth, flat subfloor — including a concrete slab, existing tile or cement backer board. It’s a good idea to contact a tile contractor about your particular install needs.

Durability

Porcelain is widely regarded as a durable building material. It generally resists staining, scratches, and bacteria growth. But you’ll want to towel dry standing water.

Comfort

Some find porcelain tile to be cold to the touch. With cold Wisconsin and Illinois winters, you might want to consider installing radiant heat beneath porcelain tile to make porcelain tile floor more comfortable. It’s hard to go wrong with porcelain tile in bathrooms. It’s one of the most affordable, functional and versatile options. Porcelain can easily be incorporated into many different designs because it comes in many different sizes. Porcelain tile can also last for 25 years or more, depending on installation and foot traffic.

Ceramic Tile for Bathrooms

Ceramic tile is not quite as hard as porcelain tile because it’s made from less refined clay and fired at a lower temperature. Ceramic tile is still very durable, however. Because it’s durable, affordable and looks great, ceramic tile continues to be a very popular option for bathrooms.  Here are a few things to think about if you’re considering ceramic tile.

Design Options

Various types of ceramic tile offer options in terms of depth and texture. This adds dimension to bathrooms, but it also makes installation more difficult. It’s a good idea to contact a tile contractor when installing ceramic tile with depth or texture elements.

Affordability

Ceramic is one of the most affordable tile options, costing anywhere from $2 to $40 per square foot.

Maintenance

Cleaning ceramic tile and grout lines is generally very easy. Using a mild detergent and soft cloth will suffice in most instances. But turning to professional grout and tile cleaning and sealing on occasion will keep your ceramic bathroom tile looking and performing like new.

Hardness

Ceramic tile hardness is rated on a scale of 0 to 5; any tile under 2 is suitable for walls, and anything over 3 is suitable for most other residential uses.

Variability

Because ceramic tile is made from thin slabs of fired clay, there can be variability in the color, texture and sizes of different lots.

Both porcelain tile and ceramic tile are great options for bathrooms. Both are affordable, durable and easy to maintain. For many homeowners, the final decision comes down to visual appeal and which tile works best with different bathroom tile design options.  

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