Porcelain tile is glasslike due to the high temperatures, silica and white clay used during the manufacturing process. Ceramic tiles are considerably less dense; they are made of clay, fired at less-extreme temperatures and have a heavy glaze surface or none at all. There are several disadvantages related to porcelain tile.
Due to their density, porcelain tiles are extremely difficult to cut and are much heavier than ceramic tile. Like a glass pane, broken pieces of porcelain tile literally shatter, creating sharp, jagged edges. Ceramic tile on the other hand is easy to cut and does not shatter. In many cases you cannot cut porcelain tile with a dry tile cutter, rather the homeowner must rent or acquire a costly wet tile saw to perform the job.
In contrast to ceramic tile, porcelain has an impervious, glasslike dense body that keeps the tile's ambient surface temperature very cool. Porcelain does not retain heat well; homeowners in cold areas need to keep this fact in mind. Ceramic tile retains heat far better than porcelain because of its clay-body structure. One of the only ways a homeowner can get around the cool ambient temperature of porcelain tile is to install radiant heating under the tile and this is a very costly addition to a project.
The benefits of the density of porcelain tile also has a downside -- the tile may shatter like glass if a heavy object drops on it. While ceramic tile may crack under these conditions, the material has a much greater chance of absorbing an impact. Porcelain tiles are also much more difficult to repair than ceramic.
In many cases a homeowner cannot do a simple repair, for a small crack or chip, on the surface of porcelain tile. Rather, he must remove the entire piece and replace it with a new one. This downside of porcelain versus ceramic is twofold: the homeowner must purchase and store more material for repair than he otherwise would with ceramic and repairing porcelain tile is far more costly and time consuming than ceramic tile.
The manufacturing process of porcelain tile is very specific and far more stringent than that of ceramic. Because of this there are considerably more design, size and colour options available with ceramic tile. The extreme-temperature manufacturing process for porcelain tile negates the possibility of a multitude of glaze, shape, texture and colouring that ceramic tiles offer. Also, the vast majority of "deco" or decorative tile are not made of porcelain.
Though prices have come down in recent years, at time of publication, porcelain tile was more costly than ceramic tile for the do-it-yourselfer. Due to the extreme temperatures and several expensive materials required, manufacturing costs are higher for porcelain than they are for ceramic. The simple clay-and-glaze components behind the manufacturing of ceramic tile require less labour and capital than ceramic tile. For instance, clay tiles are created and fired in kilns by non-professionals whereas the stringent requirements placed upon porcelain tile production negate this.
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