Designing and remodeling your home can be an exciting and rewarding creative pursuit. With all the decisions required about specific products, we are grateful for the family of ceramic tile options with benefits that far exceed nonceramic materials.
Different types of ceramic tile collectively make up what is commonly known as the “ceramic tile family”— porcelain tile, quarry tile, pressed floor tile, wall tile, and mosaic tile. Each of these tile subsets share all the benefits of ceramic tile and each is produced slightly differently, which may consequently have additional advantages that lend themselves to specific applications.
Porcelain tile is a type of ceramic tile defined as having a water absorption of 0.5% or less. Additionally, gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs are the largest tiles in the ceramic tile family, measuring as wide as five feet and as long as fifteen feet.
While porcelain tile is part of the ceramic tile family, in this article and most literature, it is referred to separately from ceramic tile.
Beautiful and durable design versatility is yours with the choice of “ceramic tile” (nonporcelain ceramic tile surfaces, such as quarry tile, pressed floor tile, and wall tile) or “porcelain tile,” referring to porcelain tile surfaces.
1. Healthy & Hygienic: A Material That Puts You at Ease
Health and hygiene are top of mind for everyone these days. Ceramic and porcelain tile’s health benefits are nothing new. Homeowners have long enjoyed the ceramic tile family of products as a material that promotes a healthy home.
For example, ceramic and porcelain tile do not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) — materials that can pose health concerns. Ceramic and porcelain tile are also hypoallergenic (i.e. don’t cause an allergic reaction), and allergens in the environment (such as dirt, dust mites, pollen, mold spores, pet dander, and allergens from insects) can’t penetrate the nonporous surface.
Together, these characteristics contribute to healthy indoor air quality.
In addition to being free of the above harmful elements, ceramic and porcelain tile promote hygiene — a hygiene superhero, if you will. The entire ceramic tile family of products have bacteria resistance, which make them inhospitable to the growth of bacteria, and options have antimicrobial properties that can suppress and even destroy harmful microorganisms, such as fungi, mold, viruses, and bacteria.
[Download the White Paper: Porcelain and Ceramic Tile: The Healthy & Hygienic Choice]
2. Low-Maintenance: Stress-Free Care
Of course you want a material that looks good — but not if that means constant care and maintenance. Ceramic and porcelain tile surfaces make life easier for you with inherent resistance to all of the following:
- Water: All ceramic tile types are water resistant and porcelain has a water absorption of 0.5% or less. When properly installed, ceramic and porcelain tile become part of a waterproof installation system.
- Stains: Ceramic and porcelain tile are stain-resistant. Simmering spaghetti sauce in the kitchen, spilled drinks in the dining room, and muddy pawprints in the mudroom stand no chance against ceramic and porcelain tile.
- Dirt: Unlike some other flooring materials, such as carpet, ceramic and porcelain tile have hard and impervious surfaces where dirt and allergens can’t hide or become trapped. Dirt and dust will simply settle on the surface where you can easily sweep or wipe them away.
- Fading: Flooring materials, such as some types of hardwood and vinyl products, can fade from exposure to the sun. Because color is baked directly into tile, it won’t ever fade — rain or shine.
- Scratches: Scratches, chips, dents, dings, scuffs, and scrapes — this kind of damage is extremely unlikely with porcelain and ceramic tile. In addition to the obvious benefit here, you won’t have to worry about the dirt that can build up in these crevices that may occur on other nonceramic surfaces.
- Pro tip: Through-body tile is the same color throughout the tile, so in the unlikely event that a scratch or chip does occur, it will be extremely difficult to notice.
One bonus maintenance task you won’t have to worry about with ceramic and porcelain tile: replacing it. Installations last as long as the buildings they’re installed in (and sometimes longer — just take a look at some of these historical tile applications). Ceramic and porcelain tile’s longevity means that removing and replacing damaged materials often won’t be a concern.
[Related: Low-Maintenance Benefits of Porcelain Tile]
3. Easy to Clean: Saving You Time and Energy
Cleaning can sometimes be a double-edged sword: An unclean home may add to your anxiety, and yet high-maintenance cleaning tasks cause stress as well. Of course, everything requires cleaning once in a while, so the trick is to find a material that’s as easy to clean as possible.
You already know about ceramic and porcelain tile’s bacteria resistance and antimicrobial properties and that it resists stains, so you might have surmised that tile is also easy to clean. Ceramic and porcelain are inorganic and “inert.” However, soap, body oils, and other residue can build up on tile and grout providing organic “food” for mold and mildew to grow and should be cleaned regularly. A regular light cleaning is as simple as following this three-step process:
- Sweep or wipe away crumbs, dust, and any other debris.
- Wipe or mop with clean, clear water.
- Dry thoroughly by air-drying or using a microfiber cloth.
That’s right — no harsh chemicals or on-your-hands-and-knees scrubbing.
For deep cleaning and extra-tough messes, use a cleaner specifically made for tile and grout or look for a neutral or slightly alkaline cleaner such as Mr. Clean or Spic and Span, and—if needed—a little elbow grease with a nylon or plastic scrubber.
Pro tip: When you need a cleaner or disinfectant, use a pH neutral cleaner. For sanitizing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adding one cup of household bleach to five gallons of water, which is also safe for regular use on ceramic and porcelain tile surfaces. Prolonged use of cleaners that are highly alkaline (products with a high pH like undiluted household bleach) or highly acidic (products with a low pH like vinegar) may break down some grout sealers, which help prevent soap scum, oils, and dirt from penetrating into the grout.
4. Safe: Protecting Your Family
Because ceramic and porcelain tile are nonflammable, they won’t burn, produce smoke, or emit toxic fumes if exposed to fire, and can even reduce the spread of flames to potentially help maintain a clear exit path in the event of a fire. This benefit means the entire ceramic tile family is well-suited to kitchen applications as well as areas around fireplaces and firepits.
Slip-resistant options are ideal for flooring in any moisture-rich area, such as the kitchen, shower, and pool deck. Check the manufacturer’s product literature or consult a professional on whether the option you are considering is appropriate for your project.
5. Stylistically Versatile: Your Dream Style
Advanced tile manufacturing techniques make it possible to create ceramic and porcelain tile in any color, pattern, shape, texture, or style. But don’t take our word for it — explore the resources below for some of the many design possibilities:
- Tile colors: Multicolor porcelain, neutral-colored porcelain, and any specific color you can think of — visit our Pinterest boards and Design Gallery for inspiration
- Tile patterns: Floral, geometric, and Art Deco
- Tile shapes: Triangle tile, fish scale tile, diamond tile, hexagon tile, and more
- Tile natural looks: Natural stone, wood, concrete, terra cotta, terrazzo, and metal looks
You’ll find ceramic and porcelain options in both tiny tiles that make up creative mosaics as well as gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs as large as 15 feet long — and everything in between. While tile mosaics are often creative combinations of colors, shapes, and dazzling finishes, extra-large gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs create a minimalist look with the ability to have fewer grout lines.
6. Functionally Versatile: Not Just for Kitchens and Bathrooms
You might think of ceramic and porcelain tile as typical choices for showers or kitchen flooring, but the ceramic tile family of products is far more versatile. In fact, you’ll find an option to use ceramic and porcelain tile just about anywhere inside and outside your home.
To see what we mean, all you have to do is think of a specific durability advantage and consider ceramic and porcelain for that application. For example:
- Water resistance: Backsplashes, countertops, showers, general kitchen and bathroom applications, pools, facades, rooftop terraces, and other outdoor spaces
- Scratch resistance: Kitchen counters and general flooring applications
- Stain resistance: Kitchen applications, mudrooms, and outdoor spaces
- Fade resistance: Outdoor spaces and indoor living spaces near windows
- Freeze-thaw resistance: Walk-in freezers and outdoor spaces in any climate
- Fire resistance: Kitchen applications and fireplaces
- Slip resistance: Kitchen, bathroom, shower, and outdoor flooring
- Bacteria resistance & antimicrobial properties: Everywhere (!), but especially kitchen and bathroom applications or other moisture-prone applications, as well as furniture applications
- High breaking strength: any area with heavy appliances and high traffic, outdoor spaces, and furniture applications
Of course, any of these benefits could be beneficial in any possible application. The ultimate value of ceramic and porcelain tile is the peace of mind you have with your choice, wherever it is used.
And, you needn’t limit yourself to traditional applications: Custom applications of all kinds can benefit from ceramic and porcelain tile. Create a table, desk, shelving, and even planters with a durable, easy to maintain, and custom look.
Keep in mind that while different sizes of ceramic and porcelain tile may lend themselves to certain aesthetics, they can also have specific functional benefits.
For example, gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs are beneficial for countertops because fewer grout lines create a solid aesthetic. Tile mosaics, on the other hand (with many grout lines), can be a creative option for traction on shower flooring, and pavers, which tend to be thicker, are typically used for pathways and patios (for their hardiness) and raised flooring (for easy access to utilities and wiring).
7. Sustainable: Choose Ceramic and Porcelain for the Environment
Consumers are increasingly using their purchasing power to help the environment or to at least make sure they are not harming the planet. Any material that meets your aesthetic desires but can’t be sustainably manufactured, used, and recycled is no longer a smart choice.
The entire ceramic tile family of products have environmentally-friendly benefits that span a complete life cycle:
- Naturally occurring raw materials: The materials used to produce ceramic tile and porcelain tile are naturally occurring and are generally sourced within 500 miles of manufacturing facilities, significantly reducing the emissions and energy associated with long-distance shipping.
- Energy efficiency: The inherent thermal mass of ceramic and porcelain tile, reduces peak heating and cooling to help lower energy costs, and even creates the possibility of natural conditioning for more stable and comfortable indoor environments.
- Durability: All ceramic and porcelain tile installations can last as long as the buildings they’re installed in. This longevity means that the material doesn’t need to be replaced as often as many other surface coverings and therefore contributes less to total greenhouse gases from manufacturing. Plus, ceramic and porcelain tile surfaces have a lower life cycle cost than nonceramic flooring materials.
- Recycling: A wide variety of pre- and post-consumer recycled content is available, and responsibly recovered manufacturing waste (such as water, dust, unfired scrap, and powder) are reused in tile manufacturing to minimize waste.
- Salvageability: Ceramic and porcelain tile options are some of the few types of surface coverings that can be salvaged in major renovations and reused for other purposes.
- Clean disposal: Unlike some nonceramic surface materials, ceramic and porcelain tile doesn’t leach caustic liquids and cannot decompose, enabling it to be used for clean fill at the end of its life cycle. Ceramic and porcelain tile can also be ground up and repurposed for other projects, such as asphalt and paving applications.
It’s no wonder that ceramic tile and porcelain tile has the lowest carbon footprint of any flooring material in North America. When you buy a product from the ceramic tile family, you can feel good about making a minimal impact on the environment.
8. All-Around Value: A Homeowner’s Best Friend
The best materials are those that meet all of our needs and then some.
Although that doesn’t happen often, it’s undeniably the case with ceramic and porcelain tile surfaces: Health and hygiene benefits, low-maintenance care and cleaning, safety, versatile style and functionality, and sustainability combine to give you a product with all-around added value. What an easy choice!
Explore our Pinterest boards for design inspiration. Then get designing!