Porcelain Tiles vs Ceramic Tiles: Which is better?

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Porcelain and ceramic are hard to differentiate from one another. You can tell these two types of clay tile flooring apart by observing their appearance, rate of water absorption, and ease of installation. Ultimately, the better option between porcelain and ceramic flooring depends on what your flooring needs are.

How to Tell the Difference between Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

It’s hard to visually tell porcelain and ceramic flooring apart. That’s because they’re both made using kiln-fired clay mixtures. However, there are multiple differences between these two types of floor tiles, as detailed below.


The main difference between porcelain and ceramic is color consistency. In ceramic tiles, the surface glazing usually has a different shade from the rest of the cross-section. Meanwhile, for porcelain tiles, the color of the surface glazing usually matches that of the clay body/cross-section.

Even on porcelain tiles with no surface glazing, you’ll still notice color and grain consistency throughout the thickness of the tiles. Therefore, if the surface color and grain pattern noticeably vary from the rest of the tile’s cross-section, you’re most likely looking at ceramic flooring, not porcelain.


Since porcelain is fired to higher temperatures, it’s denser than ceramic. This greater density also makes porcelain less porous. Ceramic tile floors soak up 0.5% more water than porcelain floors.

A drop of water on a ceramic tile surface will be soaked into the ceramic material within a few minutes. Meanwhile, on a porcelain surface, it’ll take longer for the water to seep into the tile. That’s why porcelain is recommended over ceramic for flooring in wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens.

Ease of Installation

Due to its denser construction, porcelain is heavier than ceramic. That’s why ceramic is the better option for upper-story floors. If you must install heavy porcelain tiles on upper floors, have a flooring expert examine whether the floor joists are strong enough to support the weight of the tiles.

Porcelain is also more difficult to cut through compared to ceramic. As such, it takes more elbow grease and time to undertake DIY porcelain installation, vis-à-vis ceramic tile flooring installation.

Porcelain vs. Ceramic

There are some notable differences between porcelain and ceramic tile. The difference in cost, durability, usability, maintenance, fire, and stain resistance that differentiate these types of flooring.

Here is the difference and which is better ?

Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile Cost

Due to its greater durability, the average cost of porcelain flooring is about 40% more than that of ceramic flooring. Porcelain flooring tiles typically retail from $4-$8 per square foot. This is slightly higher than the typical cost of ceramic, which is $3-$7 per square foot.

Meanwhile, installation costs also vary, mainly depending on the weight of the tiles. Other facts that affect installation prices include workability and post-installation requirements.

Porcelain is tougher, heavier, and harder to cut than ceramic. This makes porcelain installation more time-demanding and labor-intensive. Therefore, if you’re hiring a flooring contractor; they’ll charge you more to install porcelain, compared to what they’d charge for ceramic tile floor installation.


Due to its greater density and toughness, porcelain boasts greater durability in comparison to ceramic. It’s for this reason that flooring experts generally consider porcelain to be better than ceramic. You can expect a porcelain floor to last longer than a ceramic floor before needing to be refurbished.

Hard-wearing porcelain is usually the preferred flooring option for commercial establishments. Ceramic floor tiles are less capable of withstanding the high amount of foot traffic in such settings.


Since porcelain is more hard-wearing and less porous, it takes the crown over ceramic in terms of usability. You can install it in wet rooms like bathrooms, in external spaces like decks, and in high-traffic commercial spaces.

Ceramic tile flooring, on the other hand, isn’t suitable for wet spaces. This is especially true for non-vitreous and semi-vitreous ceramic, which can absorb up to 7% water.

It’s also not as tough as porcelain, making it unsuitable for outdoor spaces. It’s likely to suffer damage due to the elements, including water damage and cracking when it’s too cold.

Ceramic tiles also aren’t tough enough to withstand the high amounts of foot traffic in commercial buildings. Take note though, that ceramic tiles with high PEI ratings of 4 or 5 are tough and fairly abrasion-proof, making them suitable for installation in high-traffic commercial areas.

Also, ceramic tile remains the better option over ceramic in certain instances. For example, if your floor joists aren’t strong enough to adequately support the weight of heavy porcelain flooring, you should go for ceramic tiling, which is considerably lighter.

Maintenance Requirements

In terms of ease of maintenance, there’s no clear winner, as both ceramic and porcelain are fairly easy to maintain. You’ll need to worry most about the grout lines for both types of flooring. Cementitious grout used to fill in the spaces between flooring tiles is prone to cracking and stain absorption.

Therefore, the major maintenance necessity for both porcelain and ceramic floors is sealing and resealing the grout. Meanwhile, you can easily clean both surfaces by sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming. Glazed porcelain and ceramic surfaces are a bit harder to mop though.

Stain Resistance

Ceramic tile, especially unglazed ceramic, is more prone to liquid staining compared to porcelain flooring. Ceramic, which is the more porous of the two flooring materials, will more readily absorb liquid stains. For optimal waterproofing and stain resistance, we recommend investing in glazed ceramic tiles or glazed porcelain tiles.

Porcelain flooring, while impervious, can still develop liquid stains along the grout lines. Water intrusion into the grout may also result in mold and mildew growth. This is cause for concern, as mold spores may cause various respiratory illnesses.

Fire Resistance

Both ceramic and porcelain flooring boasts great flame resistance. That’s largely due to the fact that the manufacturing process for both entails high temperatures. With a porcelain or ceramic floor, you’ll be in a better position to contain fire outbreaks, as the fire won’t spread quickly.

Value for Money

Ceramic tile flooring is more affordable than porcelain flooring. However, affordability doesn’t directly translate into value for money. Some flooring pros might even argue that the more expensive porcelain tiling offers better value for money due to its higher durability/lifespan and versatile usability.

Is Porcelain Better Than Ceramic?

Porcelain and ceramic, both being types of clay tile flooring, have many similarities. Both types of tiles are made by kiln-drying a clay mix.

However, the type of clay (clay dust) used to make porcelain is more refined than that used for ceramic (wet clay). This makes porcelain the hardier of the two.

What’s more, porcelain clay is kiln-dried at higher temperatures, making it denser. However, lighter ceramic also has its advantages over porcelain. It’s easier to cut and drill through, while also being safe for use on upper floors.

Porcelain vs Ceramic Tiles, which is better?

Porcelain and ceramic flooring are similar in that they both are flooring products made from kiln-dried clay. However, there are noticeable differences between the two products in terms of appearance, porosity, and ease of installation. Porcelain is considered more valuable than ceramic tile flooring. However, the better choice between the two depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

If you’re looking for versatile, durable, and waterproof clay tile flooring, then porcelain is the way to go. However, if you want affordable, lightweight clay flooring that can be easily installed as a DIY project, ceramic tile flooring is the better option.

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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