Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile: Installation Cost, Pros & Cons

When choosing tile for a home renovation project, homeowners often confront the decision between porcelain and ceramic tiles. Both materials have their merits and drawbacks, making it essential to understand their characteristics before making a choice.

Porcelain tiles, derived from a refined clay mixture and fired at high temperatures, boast durability and water resistance. Ceramic tiles, on the other hand, offer affordability and ease of installation. In this article, the comparison between porcelain and ceramic tiles will be explored in depth to help guide informed decision-making.

Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile: Key Differences


Porcelain and ceramic tiles are both made from clay and other natural materials. However, the composition of these materials differs. Porcelain tiles are made using a finer, denser clay, which is fired at higher temperatures than ceramic tiles. This results in a more durable and less porous surface.

Ceramic tiles, on the other hand, are made from coarser clay and fired at lower temperatures. This leads to a less dense and slightly more porous final product.

Water Absorption

Due to the denser composition and higher firing temperatures of porcelain tiles, they have a lower water absorption rate. According to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), porcelain tiles have a water absorption rate less than or equal to 0.5%, making them suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications.

In contrast, ceramic tiles have a water absorption rate higher than 0.5%, which makes them more suitable for indoor use, especially in areas with low moisture exposure.


One major difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles is their durability. Porcelain tiles are known for being more durable and resistant to wear and tear, thanks to their denser composition.

Ceramic tiles, while still a robust option, are more prone to chipping and general wear over time, especially in high-traffic areas. Consequently, they may not be the ideal choice for areas where durability is crucial.

FactorPorcelain TileCeramic Tile
CompositionFiner, denser clayCoarser clay
Water AbsorptionLess than or equal to 0.5%Higher than 0.5%
DurabilityMore durableLess durable

Pros and Cons of Porcelain Tiles

Advantages of Porcelain Tiles

Porcelain tiles are known for their durability and low maintenance, making them a popular choice for various applications. They are highly resistant to wear and tear, so they can withstand heavy foot traffic over an extended period. Additionally, their low water absorption rate of less than 0.5% makes them suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications.

Porcelain tiles come in a wide range of designs and styles, simulating the appearance of natural materials such as wood, stone, and even fabric, providing a versatile aesthetic appeal. Furthermore, they are available in various sizes and shapes, offering ample design flexibility.

Thanks to their dense composition and low porosity, porcelain tiles are highly resistant to stains and dirt. This makes them an excellent choice for settings prone to spills and moisture, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Easy cleaning and low upkeep requirements make them a favored option among homeowners.

Disadvantages of Porcelain Tiles

Despite their numerous advantages, porcelain tiles do have some drawbacks worth considering. They are known for being more expensive than ceramic tiles due to their higher production costs and quality. Homeowners working with a tight budget may find porcelain too pricey.

Additionally, the installation process can be more challenging compared to ceramic tiles. This is because porcelain’s dense and hard nature requires the use of specialized tools and techniques, such as diamond-tipped cutting blades and wet saws. As a result, professional installation is often recommended, further increasing the overall cost.

Pros and Cons of Ceramic Tiles

Advantages of Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles are a popular choice for various applications due to their versatility and durability. Here are some key advantages:

  • Cost-effective: Ceramic tiles are often more affordable than porcelain tiles, making them a budget-friendly option for many homeowners.
  • Wide range of designs: They are available in a myriad of colors, patterns, and textures, allowing for endless design possibilities.
  • Easy to cut and install: Ceramic tiles are relatively easy to cut and install compared to porcelain tiles, making them an ideal choice for DIY projects.
  • Water-resistant: These tiles are glazed, making them naturally resistant to water and stains, which is beneficial in areas with high moisture content, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Disadvantages of Ceramic Tiles

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to using ceramic tiles. Here are a few key disadvantages:

  • Less durable than porcelain: Ceramic tiles are softer and less dense than porcelain tiles, making them more susceptible to chips and cracks. According to Consumer Reports, porcelain tiles have higher durability compared to ceramic tiles.
  • Not suitable for heavy foot traffic: Due to their relatively lower density, ceramic tiles may not be the best choice for areas with heavy foot traffic or commercial spaces, as they may wear down over time.
  • Less resistant to temperature changes: Ceramic tiles may not perform well in outdoor applications, as they are not as resistant to extreme temperature fluctuations.

Usage Recommendations

When choosing between porcelain and ceramic tile, it’s important to consider the specific application and desired aesthetic. Here, we’ll explore recommendations for interior and exterior usage of both materials.

Interior Applications

Porcelain and ceramic tiles have different attributes which make them suitable for various interior applications. Some factors to consider include:

  • Durability: Porcelain has a higher density and is more durable than ceramic, making it an ideal choice for high-traffic areas such as kitchens and hallways.
  • Water Resistance: Porcelain is less porous than ceramic, offering increased resistance to water and stains. This makes it a suitable option for bathrooms and laundry rooms.
  • Design Options: Both materials come in a wide variety of designs and colors, allowing for customization based on personal preferences. Ceramic tiles, however, are generally more affordable and provide a wider range of design options.

Exterior Applications

For exterior use, the choice between porcelain and ceramic tiles depends on factors such as climate, desired look, and budget. Consider the following points when making a decision:

  • Frost Resistance: Porcelain tiles are more frost-resistant than ceramic tiles, making them a better choice for outdoor applications in colder climates.
  • Slip Resistance: Both materials offer varying degrees of slip resistance; it is important to select a tile with the appropriate level of non-slip properties for the intended location, such as on a patio, walkway, or pool area.
  • Maintenance: Porcelain tiles generally require less maintenance and are more resistant to wear and tear compared to ceramic tiles, reducing the need for regular upkeep and replacement.

In summary, selecting the appropriate tile material depends on the intended use, desired aesthetic, and budget. Considering factors such as durability, water resistance, and design options for interior applications, as well as frost resistance, slip resistance, and maintenance for exterior applications, can help guide the decision-making process.

Price Comparison

Porcelain and ceramic tiles differ in price, mainly due to their manufacturing process and quality. In general, porcelain tiles are known to be more expensive than ceramic tiles, but the cost can vary depending on various factors such as material, size, and design.

Typically, the cost of ceramic tiles ranges from $1 to $5 per square foot. These budget-friendly prices are due to the simpler manufacturing process and lower density compared to porcelain. They are especially suitable for individuals looking to save on costs, without compromising on style or functionality.

On the other hand, porcelain tiles are slightly more expensive, usually costing between $3 to $10 per square foot. This is because their production involves higher temperatures and greater pressure, leading to a denser, more durable tile that requires less maintenance. They are a worthy investment for those seeking long-lasting and high-quality flooring or wall solutions.

Here is a table highlighting the price range of both materials:

Tile TypePrice (Per Square Foot)
Ceramic Tile$1 – $5
Porcelain Tile$3 – $10

It’s important to note that these prices are for the tiles themselves and do not include installation costs. The labor costs for installation can vary depending on factors such as location and project size. Additionally, when comparing prices, look for special offers or deals from reputable manufacturers or retailers to get the best value for your money.

Installation and Maintenance

In this section, we will compare the installation process and maintenance requirements for porcelain and ceramic tiles.

Porcelain Tile Installation

Porcelain tiles are denser and less porous than ceramic tiles, making them slightly more challenging to install. Cutting porcelain tiles requires a wet saw with a diamond blade, and specialized tools are needed for drilling holes.

When installing porcelain tiles, it’s crucial to use a suitable adhesive, usually a polymer-modified thinset mortar. Additionally, it’s essential to prepare the surface properly, ensuring it’s clean, dry, and level.

Ceramic Tile Installation

Ceramic tile installation is generally more manageable due to the material’s softer and more porous nature. Most ceramic tiles can be cut using a manual tile cutter, which is typically faster and more accessible than a wet saw. The surface preparation and adhesive requirements for ceramic tiles are similar to those for porcelain tiles.

Despite the differences in cutting tools, both porcelain and ceramic tiles should be installed with proper spacing and leveling for a professional-looking result.

Maintenance and Repair

Both porcelain and ceramic tiles are relatively low-maintenance, requiring regular sweeping or vacuuming to remove dirt and debris. For more thorough cleaning, a mild detergent and a soft sponge or mop can be used. It’s important to avoid using abrasive cleaners or steel wool on glazed tiles, as they can scratch and damage the surface.

In terms of repair, ceramic and porcelain tiles are highly durable, and any damage is usually confined to a single tile. Replacing a damaged tile requires carefully removing the old tile, cleaning the area, applying fresh adhesive, and setting a new tile in place.

Although both types of tiles are fairly resistant to stains, porcelain tiles are more impervious to moisture and stains due to their lower porosity. This makes them an ideal choice for high-moisture areas or places where frequent spills might occur.


In this article, we have examined the differences between porcelain and ceramic tile, highlighting their properties, applications, and various factors that may influence your choice. Ultimately, the decision will be based on your personal preferences, specific requirements, and budget constraints.

Porcelain tiles, being denser and less porous, offer greater durability and lower water absorption rates. They are suitable for both indoor and outdoor installations, as well as high-traffic areas. On the other hand, ceramic tiles are more affordable and easier to cut and install, making them an attractive option for DIY enthusiasts and budget-conscious individuals.

Both materials have a wide variety of designs, colors, and patterns available, allowing for the creation of unique looks in various settings. As for maintenance, both types require minimal efforts, with regular sweeping and damp mopping being sufficient to retain their appearance.

When considering environmental factors, porcelain tiles generally have a lower environmental impact due to their longer lifespan and reduced need for replacement. However, ceramic tiles are also an eco-friendly option as they can be produced with recycled materials.

To aid in the decision-making process, we recommend referring to authoritative sources such as the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for further guidance on industry standards and best practices. Additionally, consulting with a professional installer or tile expert can provide valuable insights tailored to your specific needs and preferences.

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