Porcelain vs Ceramic: What is it Actually Made of?

Plumbtile: Eleganza Tiles

One of the first choices you will most likely make when deciding to use tiles, is porcelain or ceramic?  Many people don’t really know the difference between the two.  So, what is in ceramic tile?  The biggest difference between ceramic and porcelain tile starts with their composition, which not only determines a tile’s color and texture, but its density, durability and uses.

What exactly makes ceramic different from porcelain?

Ceramic is made mostly of red or white clay mixed with various minerals and water and is fired in a kiln to solidify. Because ceramic is porous, or more likely to absorb water, the top surface of ceramic tile is usually sealed with a glaze, creating a design layer that determines the tile’s finished color, design and texture.  Ceramic tiles were once made by hand.  Wet clay was fashioned into shape, sometimes with the help of a wooden mold, and then left to dry in the sun or fired in a small brick kiln.


Most types of tiles that are made from clay or a mixture of clay and other materials like Plumbtile: Delos Mosaic Tilesfinely ground sand, and then kiln-fired, are considered to be a part of the larger classification called “Ceramic Tiles”.  These tiles can be split into two groups, porcelain tiles and non-porcelain tiles.  These non-porcelain tiles are frequently referred to as ceramic tiles by themselves, separate from porcelain tiles.  Non-porcelain ‘ceramic’ tiles are usually suitable for very light to moderate traffic and generally have a relatively high water absorption rating making them less frost resistant and they are more prone to wear and chipping than porcelain tiles.

How is ceramic used?

Many people like to use ceramic tiles to make flooring. There are a number of advantages to tile flooring. It tends to be extremely durable, and heating and cooling systems can be installed underneath it to radiate through the floor.  Many people also find tile flooring aesthetically pleasing, and it is easy to clean, especially in situations where drains are installed in the flooring, allowing people to essentially hose it down.

Another common use for ceramic is in roofing.  From from terra-cotta roofing tiles to delicate hand-painted porcelain tiles intended for ornamental backsplashes in kitchens.  You will see a lot of this in warmer climates, such as Florida. Ceramic tiles also come in a range of shapes and sizes, for example, they can be square, octagonal, rectangular, or triangular.  Ceramics aren’t only used in the form of tile.  Actually, ceramics can be molded into just about any shape you’d want, and after heating will remain rigid and durable, which makes them a perfect candidate for just about anything!  We are all familiar with ceramics as an artistic medium and that’s not to mention the many high-tech uses, including semi-conductors, bio-medical implants, spark plugs, and even heat tiles on the Space Shuttles.

Be sure to visit Plumbtile.com for ceramic tiles & much more!