Want the Timeless Look of Porcelain Tiles? Here Are the Pros and Cons

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated January 4, 2022
A bathroom with white porcelain tiles and plants
Photo: Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Porcelain is a scratch-resistant and durable material. 

  • It’s also more water-resistant than ceramic.

  • Porcelain tile costs $3–$10 per square foot.

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After thousands of years of use, porcelain tile still makes the cut in the design world. This highly durable, stain-resistant, and waterproof standout of the ceramic world is a top pick for bathroom tiles, kitchen countertops, decorative backsplashes, and even outdoor patio tiles. And yet, as a slightly pricier and harder-to-handle material, make sure you know its pros and cons before heading to the tile store and picking out your favorite.

What Is Porcelain?

The art of making porcelain stems back to the Shang Dynasty in China, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Modern porcelain manufacturers use a similar process to the original. They heat a very fine clay-like material in a kiln at high temperatures of around 2,250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Today, you'll find porcelain in your favorite dishware and pottery, but it's also making a comeback in bathroom tile trends in 2022. Since porcelain is a manufactured material, you can find factories worldwide, including in the U.S., unlike some natural stones like Carrara marble.

If you're falling in love with the thought of new porcelain tiles in or outside your home, take a look at the perks and downsides.

The Pros of Porcelain Tiles

The pros of porcelain tiles far outweigh the cons, continuously topping the charts for one of the most popular home renovation materials for both look and quality.

1. Highly Durable

The top factor you want in a high-traffic area is tile durability. Due to its incredibly fine makeup and high cooking temperature, porcelain resists chips and scratches incredibly well. Its toughness makes it a great candidate for entranceways, patios, and bathrooms. And if you have a large golden retriever with scratchy claws, you likely won't have to worry about damage when it sprints across the floor.

2. Water-Resistant

Porcelain is far more water-resistant compared to ceramic tile and must meet the strict standards of a 0.5% or lower water-absorption rate. Add porcelain tile to areas prone to standing water like the shower, your kitchen counters, or walkways. Since it's nonporous, you're less likely to have to clean mold and mildew as well.

If you're on the fence between porcelain and the less-expensive ceramic tile, porcelain is best for water-prone areas outdoors.

3. Customizable Colors and Design

While standard white porcelain looks appealing on its own, you can personalize the tile color, pattern, and design to match your desired aesthetic. Porcelain is also a popular option when mimicking natural stone. You can even use this highly durable material to mimic wood floors.

4. Stands Up Against Stains

From water to mold resistance, all this durability means porcelain tile is much easier to clean. Its density means staining liquids can't penetrate the tile and leave permanent marks. When you do have to clean porcelain tile, all you'll need is a gentle soap solution. It's still best to avoid ammonia and bleach to protect its color.

The Cons of Porcelain Tiles

A vintage kitchen with subway tiles
Photo: Kseniya Ovchinnikova / Moment / Getty Images

Porcelain's density and longevity do mean it comes with a few trade-offs. Whether you're planning a DIY project or calling in a top-rated local ceramic tile installer, keep these in mind.

1. More Expensive Than Competitors

Porcelain tile costs $3 to $10 per square foot. This is much higher than the cost of standard ceramic tile, which falls between $0.50 to $7 per square foot. However, its durability means you'll spend less money repairing and replacing tiles, as well as keeping your home's value up.

Tiles at the lower end of the cost range may work for some low-traffic areas, such as a kitchen backsplash. But opt for higher-end porcelain if you use the space often. We'll talk about this more below.

2. Difficult to Cut

Are you hoping to install porcelain tile on your own? Yet again, its density is both a blessing and a curse. You'll need special tile installation tools like a wet tile saw to avoid the porcelain from chipping and shattering when trimmed.

3. Range in Quality

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) sets ratings between one and five for the durability of different types of porcelain. So, you can't just break up an old porcelain plate and turn it into a long-lasting floor tile.

For example, PEI ratings of 0 and 1 are for walls only. Ratings of 2 or 3 are best for light to standard foot traffic, and only 4 and 5 are best for mid- to high-traffic zones in your home. Tiles with higher-quality ratings will likely cost more, so it's important to take this into account when budgeting for your project.

4. Cold on Your Feet

Last but not least, you may have some cold toes in the morning if you tile your bathroom floor with porcelain. Porcelain can get pretty chilly without radiant floor heating underneath it, so consider calling in a local heating contractor if you're opting for this style of flooring.

When you pick porcelain tile for your bathroom, kitchen, or patio, you're tapping into thousands of years of design. Your local tile experts can ensure you choose the right porcelain rating, style, and grouting material for your floors and counters.

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