Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile: Which Is Best for Your Home?

Nick P. Cellucci
Written by Nick P. Cellucci
Updated April 21, 2022
An elegant man selecting bathroom tiles for his home
Photo: mladenbalinovac / E+ / Getty Images

Learn the subtle differences between porcelain and ceramic tile so you can choose the best one for your home

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Popular for floors, walls, showers, and backsplashes throughout the home, tile offers a practical surface and visual variety. Two common types of tile you’ll encounter while shopping are porcelain and ceramic, terms that often get used interchangeably. These tiles are actually distinct, despite being hard to tell apart. We break down the differences for you in this guide.

What Is Porcelain?

Porcelain tile actually falls under the general category of ceramics, which includes all heat-hardened tiles made from natural clay. Porcelain is distinguished from other ceramic tiles because of the finer clays used to create it. It’s also fired and baked under higher temperatures and pressure.

What Is Ceramic?

In contrast to porcelain tile, ceramic tile is made of coarser clays with fewer additives. It’s also fired at lower temperatures, typically no more than 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it’s softer than porcelain, you’ll find this versatile material in finishes that range from simple to very ornate.

Porcelain Tile Pros and Cons

Before you buy porcelain tile, here are some benefits and drawbacks to consider.

Pros of Porcelain Tile

  • Higher durability: Porcelain tile is denser than other ceramics and less prone to wear and tear, making it great for both indoor and outdoor use.

  • Water resistance: Porcelain tile is nearly impervious to water. To be classified as porcelain, a tile must have a water absorption rate of 0.5% or lower, defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

  • Through-body composition: The color of a porcelain tile doesn’t just sit on the surface. Chip a piece off, and you’ll see the color continuing all the way through. This makes damage less visible if it does occur, and makes porcelain better suited for rooms that get a lot of heavy foot traffic or kitchens where things may get dropped frequently.

Cons of Porcelain Tile

  • Difficult to cut: The strength of porcelain tile is also its biggest drawback. Because it’s so strong, it requires special tools to cut. It’s too challenging for inexperienced homeowners to use in DIY projects, making professional installation necessary.

  • Higher cost: Finer materials, specific manufacturing techniques, rigorous testing, and certification requirements all make porcelain more expensive to produce. This leads to a higher upfront retail cost—though the added durability offers savings over time. Prices start at $2 to $3 per square foot, with high-end tile as much as $35 per square foot.

Ceramic Tile Pros and Cons

Close-up of a man’s hands applying ceramic tiles on a wall
Photo: Group4 Studio / E+ / Getty Images

Just like porcelain, ceramic also has its perks and setbacks.

Pros of Ceramic Tile

  • Easier to cut: Ceramic tile is much better suited to DIY projects than porcelain.

  • Lower cost: The materials and processes used in ceramic tile manufacturing make it less expensive to produce. Some ceramics cost as low as $0.50 per square foot, although high-end handmade tiles can get up to around $40 per square foot.

Cons of Ceramic Tile

  • Water absorption: Ceramic tile is more porous than porcelain, and should not be used outdoors.

  • Lower durability: Avoid using ceramic tile in high-traffic areas. It is better suited to application on walls and in decorative backsplashes.

Comparing Porcelain Tile vs. Ceramic Tile​

Ceramic and porcelain tile are both used for the same applications on floors, walls, showers, and backsplashes. They are also installed the same way and are often glazed, making them difficult to tell apart just by looking. We’ll explain the subtle differences below and note which material has the upper hand across various categories.


Ceramic and porcelain tiles are often confused with one another due to their similar appearance. Both are often coated with glaze, which can make them indistinguishable. However, as you shop for tile, you may notice porcelain products that mimic the look of other materials such as natural stone or wood grain. These offer the look of wood without the risk of water damage.

Most visually appealing: Tie


In the pros and cons section, we explained that porcelain tile requires a more complex and expensive manufacturing process. These costs get passed on to the consumer at retail. The lowest prices you’ll see for porcelain hover around $2 per square foot, compared to just $0.50 per square foot for ceramics. Designer prices in both categories get as high as $35 to $40.

Best price: Ceramic

Ease of Installation​

Ceramic and porcelain tile are installed by adhering them to an underlayment of cement. Once tiles are set, the joints between them are filled with grout, which is sealed against moisture after drying. Because porcelain is so dense and hard, tiles are more difficult to cut and may require expensive tools. Ceramic tiles are easy to cut and better for DIY homeowners.

Easiest to install: Ceramic

Cleaning and Maintenance​

Both porcelain and ceramic tile are very easy to clean with a damp mop and mild soap. You’ll also need to periodically re-seal the cement-like grout that fills the joints in between both types of tile.

Easiest maintenance: Tie

Damage Resistance

In addition to floors and walls, both ceramic and porcelain tile can be used as countertops thanks to their high heat resistance. Porcelain tile has the added benefit of being more impervious to water, making it the better choice for outdoor installations.

In addition, if ceramic tile chips, you’ll see a different color underneath the top glaze. This makes chips much more visible when they occur, in contrast with porcelain tile, which features a solid color throughout the body of the tile.

Best damage resistance: Porcelain


Both ceramic and porcelain tile are very durable building materials as long as you provide the proper care. Porcelain tile is harder and generally wears better. However, even though it’s technically softer, ceramic tile can last as long as 100 years if the seal is maintained. 

Longest lifespan: Tie

How to Tell the Difference Between Porcelain and Ceramic

Though ceramic and porcelain are very similar—and might even look the same to the untrained eye—there are subtle differences between the two materials. Here are some ways you can identify porcelain versus ceramic:

  • Look at the sides of the tile. While the top can be any color, a ceramic tile’s sides are always white, tan, or red. 

  • Examine the glaze. Porcelain isn’t always glazed, while ceramic always is. 

  • Feel the grain. Porcelain tiles are smoother than ceramic tiles. 

  • Research the prices. Typically, ceramic will be less expensive than porcelain. 

Which Type of Tile Is Best?​

Interior of a tiled floor bathroom with a freestanding bathtub
Photo: KristianSeptimiusKrogh / E+ / Getty Images

As you can see, porcelain and ceramic tile are roughly even across many categories. The best choice for your project may come down to the visuals you want rather than the material. In general, porcelain is the better choice for homeowners who value durability and strength. Ceramics are ideal for homeowners who want a more affordable option that’s easier to install.

If you’re still not sure, talk to an expert tile installer in your area. They may be able to advise you based on your specific project and needs.

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