Porcelain versus ceramic tiles: is it a war between two very different types of materials or is it simply a war of words? For consumers, the terms porcelain and ceramic are often used interchangeably as if they were the same thing. And this is understandable since ceramic and porcelain tiles are used for the same applications, are installed in the same way, and have largely the same pros and cons as a material for a floor or wall surface. At the same time, tile sellers often claim a big difference between the two, probably to justify the prestige of porcelain and its higher prices. Is there really a difference between porcelain stoneware and ceramic?
Porcelain stoneware and ceramic tiles are part of the broader category of tiles that can generally be called ceramic, a category that includes all rigid tiles made from natural and heat-hardened terracotta clays. In the modern tile industry, however, porcelain stoneware occupies its own category, assigned there because it meets certain specifications.
Depending on the industry group that decides whether a tile is a porcelain or ceramic, it all comes down to whether the tile can meet a number of highly controlled water absorption criteria. Both ceramic and porcelain tiles often receive surface glazing that makes them difficult to distinguish from each other. To check this, the fired tile is first weighed, then boiled for five hours and left to stand in water for 24 hours. Then it is weighed again
To achieve this density, a special blend of kaolin clay is used, which is finer and purer than most ceramic clays. It generally contains significant levels of the quartz-feldspar mixture. For the consumer, it is generally sufficient to say that porcelain is a dense, fine-grained and smooth tile, more impervious to water than normal ceramic tiles. Porcelain stoneware almost always receives a surface glazing treatment, a layer of liquefied glass material, while some forms of ceramic tiles are left unglazed. As a general rule, porcelain stoneware is more resistant to water than ceramic and is therefore subject to less water infiltration.
The tile defined as ceramic uses a thicker clay with a lower proportion of fine kaolin clay and generally lacks some of the additives used in porcelain clay. Ceramic tiles are baked at lower temperatures, generally no more than 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit. Ceramic tile can be slightly more prone to water infiltration than porcelain tile, although these differences are minimal if the ceramic tile is glazed. The retarding agents, rheology can also be employed in this function.
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