Trying to figure out the difference between certain types of floor tiles can be a little confusing for those who have not dealt with them much before. You will see or hear tiles referred to either as ceramic tiles or porcelain tiles and be wondering what the difference is and what type of tile will best suit your particular needs. Before buying a floor tile you should first understand what makes a ceramic tile different to a porcelain tile.
Tiles that are classified as ceramic tiles are made from predominantly clay and are kiln-fired. Of these tiles you can break them down further into what are referred to as porcelain and non-porcelain tiles.
Porcelain tiles are made from a dust pressed method using porcelain clays giving you a tile that is fine grained and particularly dense. This type of tile will have a sharply formed face and will have a smooth surface. The qualities of porcelain tiles are that they will have a much lower water absorption rate than a non-porcelain tile. Glazed porcelain tiles are hard wearing and resistant to damage making them a suitable tile for outdoors and for applications that involve traffic ranging from light to the heaviest commercial traffic.
Non-porcelain tiles are also the type of tiles that are referred to as ceramic tiles and they are the types of tiles that are finished with a glaze that provides the tiles with their colors and a patterned appearance. You may find non-porcelain tiles available as wall or floor tiles. They are suitable for light to moderate traffic but they have a relatively high water absorption rate and are prone to wear and chipping because they are softer than porcelain tiles. Most non-porcelain tiles are suitable only for indoor use.
You may hear of the term full-body tiles and wonder what this means. It means that the color of the tile has been baked completely through the tile which means that no matter how much the tile wears, the color will still be maintained. A full-body tile might be used instead of a glazed tile in which the color or pattern is applied to the surface of the tile.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles can also be made to look like slate tiles. They are baked to give the rough and beautifully patterned appearance of slate but they have the durability and lower absorption rate that you require from a functioning tile floor.
Ceramic tiles are different in nature to slate tiles and consequently they will be used for different applications. Also, different care requirements will apply.
A natural slate tile floor needs some special maintenance done to it to ensure it lasts for a long time. Slate is a porous material and so the absorption rate is quite high. An option is to seal the slate to give it an appearance that is shiny or matte, it will also reduce the amount of moisture that will be absorbed. Different types of slate will have a different level of density which will also affect its durability and, consequently, the amount of work that should be put into protecting it.