tile floor | toscano tile and marbleThere are three basic styles or types of tile: ceramic tile, porcelain tile and glass tile, with ceramic tile being a generic term for both ceramic and porcelain tile. Ceramic tile is made primarily of clay mixed with various minerals and water. This mixture is baked in a kiln to solidify the tile. Unglazed ceramics are porous, so the top is usually sealed with a glaze, which gives the tile its final color, design and texture. Properly installed ceramic tile will provide the user with extremely durable, easy to maintain, permanent flooring for all intent and purpose.

Porcelain tile has a primary ingredient of extremely fine sand that is processed under pressure at a high temperature, producing a high density, glass-like, material. This porcelain material possesses a naturally low absorption rate of water at less than 0.5%.

Both ceramic and porcelain tile are basically fire proof, do not emit toxic fumes, do not support allergens, absorb odors or harbor bacteria. Ceramic and porcelain are available for floor, wall and decorative spaces in an almost unending variety of
colors, patterns and textures. While glass tile is not ideal for flooring, it makes a great accent to any space and is often selected for backsplashes.

Is one tile better as a floor tile?

When choosing tile for your home or business, a porcelain tile or a glazed ceramic tile with a wear rating of IV or V (4 or 5) will provide a hard, scratch and wear-resistant, long lasting floor that requires little maintenance. In commercial use, porcelain tile works well because of its hardness.

Can ceramic tile be used outdoors?

Yes; however, it is best to use a frost-proof unglazed porcelain tile in an unheated area. Special thin set mortar and/or additives also need to be applied, due to the freeze-thaw climate of the Greater Philadelphia area.

Do ceramic or porcelain tiles need to be sealed?

Glazed ceramic tiles are already protected from stains by a glaze, but if the tile is located in a space that is prone to moisture, (e.g. bathroom floor, tub or shower surround, kitchen counter) it is best to seal the grout to provide further protection. Use a penetrating sealer on any unglazed tiles and grout. All natural stone must be sealed before the grouting process can begin.

What do the various tile ratings mean?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) developed one of the first tile rating systems, which tests for permeability to water and consists of four ratings:

  • Non-vitreous – tile with water absorption of more than 7.0%
  • Semi-vitreous – absorption of more than 3.0% but not more than 7.0%
  • Vitreous –absorption of more than 3.0% but not more than 0.5%
  • Impervious – absorption of 0.5% or less

Porcelain Enamel Institute Class Ratings

PEI class ratings are not for tile quality. The class rating indicates the manufacturer’s recommendation of use for which the tile has been designed.

A PEI 2 tile is designed to be used in low traffic areas where there is a low chance of staining (e.g.: walls, backsplashes, or floor areas exposed to bare or stocking feet).

These tiles are primarily designed for aesthetics, using color, high gloss finish and vibrant design on the tile.

A PEI 5 tile (the highest rating) is constructed for heavy duty foot traffic, with the mission of achieving abrasion resistance.

  • PEI Class 0 – no foot traffic, best for wall tile.
  • PEI Class 1 – very low foot traffic, bare or stocking feet only (e.g.: master bathroom, or spa bath)
  • PEI Class 2 – light foot traffic, slippers or soft soled shoes (e.g.: second floor bathrooms and bedrooms)
  • PEI Class 3 – light to moderate foot traffic, ideal for general residential use (except for main entrances or kitchens subject to heavy use, or regular exposure to dirt and sand)
  • PEI Class 4 – moderate to heavy foot traffic, ideal for high foot traffic or areas subject to outside dirt/grit track in (e.g.: residential entry, kitchen floor and counter tops).
  • PEI Class 5 – heavy foot traffic and commercial floors (e.g.: residential, commercial and institutional floors)

Homogeneous Porcelain Tile

This was the basis for the breakthrough technology that developed the porcelain class of ceramic tile. Homogeneous porcelain tile is often referred to as, “through and through tile,” because the surface color matches the actual body color, which makes all characteristics including color and density, appear consistent throughout the body of the tile.