2022 Ceramic vs Porcelain Tile

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Knowing the difference of a porcelain vs ceramic tile isn’t always straightforward. Many customers use the two terms interchangeably while stores often point out the specific nature of each tile type.

If you want to tile your home, it’s worth knowing what sets ceramic and porcelain tiles apart, from some essential traits to pricing differences.

If you are ready to install new tile, contact your local flooring pros for FREE ESTIMATES!

Porcelain Vs Ceramic Tile – What Is It?

The primary source of confusion between porcelain and ceramic tiles is in the names.

Both types of tiles fall into the same broad category which is usually simply called ceramics.

In this regard, porcelain tiles can be considered ceramic, but the same doesn’t apply the other way around.

A ceramic tile is defined by the following traits: it’s rigid, made of earthen materials (most often natural clay), and thermally processed for hardening.

Porcelain tiles have been classified as ceramic because they exhibit all those traits. However, the modern industry has redefined how porcelain tiles are made. In particular, any tile needs to meet several clear specifications to be called porcelain.

The strict criteria effectively placed porcelain tiles in a category of their own. From the manufacturing point, this meant a more refined production process than a standard ceramic tile.

And from the customer’s standpoint, choosing a porcelain tile meant a considerable difference in price.

Cost of Porcelain Tile vs Ceramic Tile

A porcelain tile will, in principle, cost more than a ceramic tile.

The difference between ceramic and porcelain tiles will be most pronounced at the lower end, where a porcelain tile can cost up to 70% more than a ceramic tile.

Note that the pricing will even out as it gets higher though – both the porcelain tile and the ceramic tile can reach a maximum price of about $31.

The reason for these varying costs is relatively straightforward.

Tile Quality

Since porcelain production adheres to strict specifications, low-end tiles will be of much higher quality than the corresponding ceramic tiles.

At this base line, a square foot of porcelain tiles will cost $2.10, while the lowest price for ceramic tiles will be approximately $0.51.

As you move onto more expensive options, a ceramic tile at the upper end of the price range will be comparative in quality to a porcelain tile.

Installation Complexity

The mentioned prices are for tiles alone, without installation expenses. These costs will also vary greatly between ceramic tile and porcelain tiles.

On average, ceramic tile installation will cost about $8 with the lowest labor prices starting at $3.90.

Porcelain tiles will be much pricier to install. At the lowest, you could find porcelain tile installation for $7.50, but the average cost per square foot will be more around the $12.70 mark.

Several factors play a role in pricing, both for ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles.

You can estimate the final cost better if you understand what goes into the price.

Did you know? Ceramic tiles have been in use for a very long time. The first tiles we know of date back almost 4,000 years.

This type of flooring was very popular in ancient Egypt and Rome. From those the early days until now, ceramic tiles were always considered a standard due to their aesthetic appeal as well as longevity.

Surprisingly, the makeup of ceramic tiles didn’t change too much in the millennia between the ancient and modern world. This means that the tiles you have installed might be nearly identical to those found in a Roman bath.

Factors That Impact Tile Installation Cost

Having a porcelain or ceramic tile installed will differ in cost depending on the following factors:

  • Whether you’re installing them indoors or outdoors
  • Materials
  • Complete cost of labor
  • Type of tile
  • Type of project
  • Additional factors

Ceramic Tiles Pricing

To reiterate, the base material cost for a ceramic tile can range from $0.51 all the way up to $31 per square foot.

Particular expenses will be different from one case to another.

Location

Ceramic tiles for indoor and outdoor installation are built differently. An outdoor ceramic tile needs additional reinforcement to protect it from weather exposure and other harmful influences. This will, of course, make outdoor ceramic tiles more expensive.

A square foot of indoor ceramic tiles will cost anywhere from $0.51 to $16, while the price for the outdoor variant will usually be double that.

However, the outdoor ceramic tile also needs grout, underlayment, and other installation components. These will represent a total expense of about $7.50 per square foot.

Additional Labor

Similarly, the labor cost will include more than laying down the tiles. Other expenses will vary based on the state of the surface.

On average, additional installation costs per square foot can be:

  • Removing the old flooring: $2.30
  • Preparing the surface (subfloor leveling and cleaning): $3
  • Potential subfloor repairs: $52.50
  • Subfloor replacement: $15

Naturally, you won’t need all of these at the same time. For instance, if you’re replacing the subfloor, any additional work on it won’t be necessary.

Leveling and repairs are often the biggest factors driving differences in pricing, since these jobs may vary from relatively small to quite extensive.

Installation

Installation costs will also differ by project, i.e., whether you want the tiles installed on the floor, wall, or as a backsplash.

The lowest installation prices we mentioned earlier refer to floor installation, which can cost between $3.90 and $11. This expense can be increased in case of necessary subfloor jobs.

If the tiles are installed on walls, which is commonplace for showers, the project will cost around $23 per square foot. This will include any surface preparations and all of the necessary materials.

Backsplashes and countertops are mostly decorative elements with some protective traits. They often involve working with smaller tiles and designing the surface in interesting patterns. Due to increased complexity, such projects will have an average price of $28.50.

Type

Different types of ceramic tiles come at varying prices, too.

A square foot of standard tiles can go for a minimum of $0.51. As mentioned, the outdoor price will be double that – around $1.20.

These tiles are produced under pressure and at higher temperatures.

Depending on the manufacturer and your choice, they may be color-glazed.

Wood-like ceramic tiles are designed to resemble wooden planks. Unsurprisingly, these are more expensive than standard and will have a minimal price of $3.20, both for indoor and outdoor variants.

Rectified tiles are cut with precision to a specific size. These tiles feature carefully shaped edges and can be installed in any area.

The lowest price for rectified tiles is the same as for standard – $0.51 per square foot. But that’s when they’re installed indoors. For outdoor installation, you can expect to pay no less than $5.10.

Finally, glass tiles have a specialized use since they can’t be used effectively for flooring or outdoor installation. Instead, they make excellent countertops, backsplashes, or similar surfaces. Prices for glass tiles usually start at $5.20.

Ceramic Minimal Price per Square Foot Indoors Outdoors
Standard $0.51 $1.20
Wood-Like $3.20 $6.40
Rectified $0.51 $5.10
Glass $5.20 N/A

Pro Tip: Ceramic tiles can be done in many colors. Coloring will play an important role regardless of the surface, but will be absolutely crucial in backsplashes.

If you want to maximize the effect, you should choose the colors carefully.

Darker tones will add an impression of luxury, while white or beige backsplash tiles will be a great addition for neutral elements. However, you shouldn’t shy away from experimenting with bolder colors.

Depending on the rest of the design, you might choose red, blue, or yellow.

In contrast, if you want a minimalist but tasteful look, you could go for plain tiles with contrasting grout.

Porcelain Tiles Pricing

At base value, porcelain tiles will cost between $2.10 and $7 per square foot.

Of course, similar factors will impact the pricing as with ceramic tiles:

  • Indoor or outdoor installation
  • Per square or per hour labor rate
  • Type of porcelain tiles
  • Patterns

Location

The ratio between indoor and outdoor porcelain tiles will be the same as with ceramic: outdoor tiles will cost approximately double.

When additional materials are concerned, you’ll need grout, grout sealer, spacers, and adhesive. In total, these materials can add around $7.50.

Labor

In terms of installation, the usual per-square-foot project will cost $12.70 on average with a $7.50 minimal price.

You might find a contractor who charges by the hour. In that case, an hour of porcelain tile installation will cost $75, while the cost on the lowest end will be around $29.

Type

Porcelain tiles vary by type, primarily in terms of size and finish.

Unglazed porcelain tiles have a plain look, although they can be done in various colors. This is the most inexpensive type with prices starting from $2.10.

It’s worth noting that glazing isn’t necessary for porcelain tiles. Even if they’re only polished or matted, these tiles will prove quite resistant to chipping or scratching.

With glazing, porcelain tiles can gain color, texture, or intricate patterns.

Glazed tiles will be easier to maintain and their color will last longer. These tiles will be a bit pricier at the lower end, starting from $3.20.

However, glazed tiles can be expensive depending on the selected texture and patterns. They can reach over $31 per square foot.

Polished porcelain tiles are made for extra smoothness and shine.

The polishing is done with a diamond grind and can produce smooth and slippery surfaces.

For this reason, polished tiles aren’t the best choice for flooring, but will be great for countertops or similar surfaces. These tiles have an average price of $17.50.

Mosaic tiles are considerably smaller compared to regular porcelain tiles. They often measure 2 square inches or less.

That said, the average price of mosaic porcelain tiles will be about $21. The reason is quite simple: mosaic porcelain tiles need to be cut to size so that they fit the overall design.

Prices for mosaic tiles may vary further, since they can come in unglazed, glazed, and polished variants.

Porcelain Minimal Price per Square Foot By Pattern:  
Standard $9.50
Diagonal $11
Herringbone $11
Subway $11

Pattern

Finally, porcelain tiles can be done in a number of patterns. Depending on the selected pattern, tiles may take plenty of time to design and cut, and they may need to be arranged in a specific fashion. All of which will drive the total expense up.

Since different patterns can affect both the material and installation cost, the best way to express the prices will be per square foot installed.

Standard tile arrangement will start at $9.50, regardless of whether the tiles are arranged horizontally or vertically.

Diagonal arrangement will be a bit pricier since additional care needs to be taken for edge alignment. When it comes to wall or floor edges, each tile contacting the edge will have to be custom-fitted. The price for this tile pattern will be $11.

Herringbone is a widely popular design consisting of alternating diagonal rows of tiles. Generally speaking, this pattern will cost the same as diagonal, but a larger number of tiles will be needed to cover the surface.

Finally, the subway pattern is like a standard one, except every tile row is slightly offset. This pattern also won’t be more expensive than diagonal or herringbone.

Porcelain Minimal Price per Square Foot By Type: Indoors Outdoors
Unglazed $2.10 $4.20
Glazed $3.20 $6.40
Polished $17.50 N/A
Mosaic $21 $42

Did you know? The subway pattern gets its name from the first time this type of tiling was used. The New York subway station was the first to receive tiles in offset rows in 1904. After that, the same style was used for other stations that began to emerge worldwide.

The initial term doesn’t refer only to the pattern. Subway tiles had the distinctive offset, but were also white and quite reflective. In addition, they had slightly beveled edges.

Today, the pattern remained as the most important element of the style. That’s why, when we talk about the subway style, we’re referring to rectangular tiles in offset rows.

In-Depth Comparison Of Porcelain Tile Vs Ceramic Tile

With pricing out of the way, we can pay attention to how a porcelain tile and ceramic tile compares to one another.

Here are the relevant factors to consider:

  • Appearance
  • Water and heat resistance
  • Care and cleaning
  • Durability and maintenance
  • Installation
  • Lifespan

Appearance

Traditionally, ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles were pretty similar in appearance.

Both porcelain tiles and ceramic tiles could be glazed, in which case noticing the difference between a ceramic and porcelain tile would be nearly impossible.

However, porcelain tiles recently had a significant improvement in design.

In particular, porcelain tiles can be made in various natural patterns such as wood, marble, or stone. Ceramic tiles don’t have this option and will most often come in solid colors.

Water and Heat Resistance

Ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles have similar resistances to heat. Yet, porcelain is superior in terms of water resistance.

Porcelain tiles are heavier and denser than ceramic tiles, making them nearly waterproof. Ceramic tiles can suffer plenty of damage due to moisture if unglazed.

Glazed ceramic tiles are comparable to porcelain tiles in terms of water resistance.

Maintenance and Cleaning

When it comes to maintenance, the two tile types are quite similar.

Both porcelain tiles and ceramic tiles will require only mild regular cleaning. The grout joints will need to be sealed on occasion to secure them against mildew and staining, which will apply both to both types of tiles.

Durability

A ceramic tile is made of less dense clay than porcelain tile, making it easier to chip, break, or crack. Furthermore, a ceramic tile will have a different color inside and on the surface, which means any damage is more visible.

In contrast, a porcelain tile is made of denser, less porous clay. This material gives it better water resistance and makes the tile harder.

Even when chipped, porcelain tiles will maintain the same color, so the damage is unnoticeable.

Installation

The greatest difference between a ceramic and porcelain tile in terms of installation is that the porcelain tile requires professional installation in all cases.

Porcelain tiles must be cut precisely using a wet saw.

Ceramic tiles are much easier to install even in a DIY project.

Lifespan

As the harder type, porcelain tiles can endure more heavy use and will resist wear and tear for longer. Still, ceramic tiles will have a relatively similar lifespan.

In theory, ceramic tiles are more susceptible to damage, but they can resist more structural shifts due to their softer build.

Pro Tip: Proper maintenance is the best way to prolong the lifespan of your floor tiles. For best results, eliminate all possible dirt.

Door mats can be an excellent way to prevent extra dirt from getting in, while regular vacuuming, mopping, or sweeping will keep the floor cleaner and less likely to stain.

Spills should be cleaned immediately to prevent stains from forming. If staining still occurs, it can be cleaned with a water and bleach mixture.

Porcelain Tile Pros And Cons

Pros

  • Variety of styles, colors, and patterns
  • Highly resistant to heat and water
  • Durable
  • Easy to maintain

Cons

  • More expensive than ceramic tiles
  • May crack if building construction shifts

Ceramic Tile Flooring Pros And Cons

Pros

  • Universal design
  • Heat-resistant
  • Uncomplicated maintenance
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Unglazed tiles may be susceptible to water damage
  • May chip or crack
  • Limited style selection

Top Brands For Porcelain Or Ceramic Tile

There are many brands of ceramic and porcelain tiles.

Here are some of the top brands with the most extensive offers:

  • AmericanTile
  • Marrazzi
  • American Olean
  • Daltile

Which Is Better, Porcelain Or Ceramic Tile?

Overall, porcelain tiles are better in terms of design and durability.

Ceramic tiles are by no means a subpar solution, but may fall behind porcelain in some regards.

That said, ceramic is a good choice on a limited budget.

Is Porcelain Tile More Expensive Than Ceramic Tile?

In most cases, porcelain will be more expensive. The price difference between a ceramic and porcelain tile stems from greater costs of manufacturing and more complex installation.

Which Cracks Easier – Porcelain Or Ceramic Tile?

Ceramic tiles will crack more easily under impact.

In contrast, porcelain tiles are more rigid and might crack in case of building construction shifting.


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