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Physical properties of porcelain tile

Updated February 21, 2017

Porcelain tile has been a popular building material for many years. Although porcelain china may be considered delicate by some collectors, porcelain tile is durable and strong. Its attributes have made it one of the top choices of builders, homeowners and designers looking for a versatile material for use in kitchen backsplashes, countertops, floors and bathroom tub and shower stalls. The physical properties of porcelain set it apart from other types of ceramic tile.

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Porcelain tile is made from a special type of clay with specific properties that give porcelain its strength and fine texture. According to MileHiCeramics.com, the clay typically used to make porcelain is smooth and can be moulded or thrown on a potter's wheel for large pieces as well as thin, delicate pieces. The clay goes through a 15 per cent shrinkage rate as it dries. Porcelain clay typically oxidises to a white shade, or it becomes translucent when it is fired.


Porcelain tile is known for its strength and durability when it is used in building projects and home design applications. Its strength is due in part to the qualities of the porcelain clay and in part to the firing process for porcelain tile. Porcelain is typically fired at high temperatures that exceed the firing temperatures for other types of ceramic tiles. The firing process vitrifies the tile, so it becomes hard like glass. The firing process also makes the tile more dense, so it is stronger and does not show wear and tear as easily as other ceramic tile can.


Porcelain tile is naturally resistant to moisture, which makes it the obvious choice for applications on kitchen counters, shower walls, bathroom floors or swimming pool areas. According to TileUsa.com, the porcelain clays used to make porcelain tiles are typically more dense to begin with, and they have a water absorption of 0.5 per cent or less, while non-porcelain tiles have water absorption greater than 0.5 per cent. The firing process further hardens the porcelain and increases the density level, so porcelain is a strong, solid surface that does not absorb water and remains almost impervious to stains. Glazed porcelain tiles may offer even greater water resistance, because the glaze fills in microscopic holes that might exist in the surface to improve the non-porous qualities of porcelain.

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About the Author

Sara Melone is a mother of three and a graduate of UNH. With prior careers in insurance and finance, photography, as well as certifications in fitness and nutrition, Melone draws directly from past experience and varying interests. She contributes with equal passion to birth journals, investment blogs, and self-help websites.

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