Porcelain tiles are essentially ceramic tiles, but with a lower absorbency. To be considered a porcelain tile it must have an absorption of less than 0.5%. Porcelain tile is fired at a higher temperature than a ceramic tile and therefore has a higher break strength. There are many different kinds of porcelain, all of which meet this basic definition but each of which has its own unique characteristics.
- Glazed Porcelain
Glazed porcelain is the most common type of porcelain tile. It starts out with an uncolored body on which glaze is applied during the firing process. As the tile is fired and the glaze melts onto the body forming a durable top layer which can look like whatever the tile designer wants to create. The glazing process can cause the tile’s texture to be as rough as sandpaper or as smooth as glass.
- Through-Body Porcelain
A through-body porcelain has pigments through out the entire body so the color goes all the way through. Therefore, there is no glaze applied. On a through-body porcelain the bottom of the tile essentially looks the same as the top. Through-body porcelains are extremely durable, but lack the ability to have the decorative beauty of a glazed porcelain.
Ceramic tile begins as clay and is formed into a material known as bisque. The bisque is shaped into tiles and then is fired in a kiln. As a rule, the higher the temperature, the stronger the tile will be. Ceramic tiles come in many different variations. The most common type of ceramic tile is glazed. The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) has developed a rating system for ceramic tile that gauges abrasion levels and rates different tiles for wear resistance. The PEI classifies each tile surface into one of five categories: class 1, class 2, class 3, class 4, and class 5+, with class 1 being rated for “no foot traffic,” and class 5+ being rated for “extra heavy traffic.” As a rule of thumb most residential floors need to be at least a class 3. A commercial application should be at least a class 4 and many times a class 5. The majority of the tiles we carry are a class 4 or higher.
Natural stone products, such as travertine, granite and slate are quarried from the earth. Depending on the stone, they range from moderately soft to extremely hard, and most require sealing. One of the benefits of natural stone is that its beauty and design are inherently natural; because it is not made from a human process, every design and pattern within natural stone is unique.
Travertine is created when mineral rich water evaporates over many years and the minerals are deposited in layers. Travertine has voids and holes, so the floor tiles are usually filled with a resin filer. Sometimes the holes are left unfilled and later filled with grout during the installation. Travertine is suitable for most areas when properly sealed. Prices can range dramatically based on the quality of the stone. Typically, the more filled holes a tile has the less expensive it will be.
Slate is a stone comprised of sheet like layers. It usually has extreme color range and varying thicknesses that give it an uneven rustic look. Over time some layers may continue to flake even after installation. Because of the bold colors found in slate the appearance can be drastically changed by using different kinds of sealers. A color enhancing sealer will accentuate the natural colors present in the tile. A gloss sealer can give the slate a wet look.
Granite is an extremely hard dense stone that is resistant to scratches. It is ideal for countertops and food preparation areas. Granite usually comes with a polished finish.