Porcelain & Ceramic Tiles

Dark walnut porcelain tiles for floors
Popular now: long shapes, abstract linear patterns, and cool neutrals. These durable and beautiful porcelain tiles hit all the right notes!

When most people think of ceramic tiles, they think of those plain shiny square tiles in grandma's bathroom. But porcelain and ceramic tiles are so much more than that; they represent a broad spectrum of color, texture, size, pattern, and styles!

Ceramic and porcelain products are clay products that are fired at different temperatures, glazed or not glazed, for different levels of durability and density. The resulting products are beautiful, durable tiles that can match any style and fit any space.

What's the difference between porcelain and ceramic?

Brown and blue shower with beige floors.
This walk in shower has ceramic walls and porcelain floors.

Porcelain and ceramic are made from the same basic clay material, but porcelains are fired at a higher temperature than ceramics, and as such become denser.

When tiles are tested for density, they are submerged in water for a period of time. Less porous materials (like porcelain, ceramic, glass, etc.) absorb less water (and fewer stains!) than other materials, such as natural stone. Porcelains are just harder, denser and slightly less-porous ceramics.


Learn more about the differences between porcelain and ceramic tiles in our blog.

Where can I use ceramic tiles?

White, cream, and black bathroom tile with hexagons, subway tile, and beadboard.
This series of thick, artisan-style ceramic tiles are perfect for walls and low-traffic floors.

Ceramics are limited in the areas they can be used. They're great for any wall application such as a shower or a backsplash (see below for notes on when apply a sealer to ceramics). 


Most ceramics are fine for bathroom countertops, but are not recommended for kitchen counters where heavy pots and hot pans can cause breakage.


Floor-grade ceramics are designed for use in low-traffic areas such as bathroom floors, but they could easily chip or crack in entryways or on kitchen floors.


Ceramics are recommended for interior spaces only, with only a few exceptions: decorative ceramics have been used successfully on covered outside walls where they are protected from the elements. Ask us about specific materials you like and where you want to use them, and we'll tell you what precautions to take to protect your tile.

Where can I use porcelain tiles?

Bathroom with tile floors and walls
This bathroom is covered floor to ceiling in an easy to clean porcelain.

Anywhere! Porcelain tiles are among the most durable materials you can choose for floors, countertops, or walls.


Porcelains are especially desirable in areas where you want the look of a different material, but need a low maintenance installation. Many wood-looking porcelains are installed in high-traffic family rooms, hallways, and kitchens where real wood would be difficult to maintain.


However, in exterior spaces such as patios or outside kitchens, we recommend avoiding lower-end porcelains in favor of higher-quality, commercial-grade porcelains for extra density and less brittleness. These tiles will better resist the freeze/thaw of Pacific Northwest winters.

Why choose porcelain for my installation?

A porcelain floor that looks like slate tiles.
These porcelain tiles have the look of wood, but without the maintenance!

Porcelain is the most durable tile material you can use in your project. These tiles work great in wet areas, such as showers, and hold up beautifully in outside spaces. The vast majority of man-made products never have to be sealed, and cleaning them is very easy: almost any household cleaner can be used on porcelain and ceramic tiles.


They won't swell or warp with exposure to heat and water like wood floors. They're easier to clean than carpet and are harder to scratch than wood, laminate, or linoleum. They won't hold on to allergens like carpet does and don't contain VOCs like some carpet, wood, or vinyl products. 

Both porcelains and ceramics come in a wide variety of colors, textures, and patterns. Advances in porcelain production technology have led to High-Definition porcelain tiles that convincingly look and feel like natural stone, wood flooring, and even fabrics like linen and leather. Instead of an easily-scratched wood floor or a slate that needs sealing, consider installing a highly durable porcelain look-a-like.

In a 2019 survey of homeowners working on bathroom remodels, over half wanted to use porcelain or ceramic tiles for their floors and walls. The combined durability and easy-to-clean nature of these tiles help create the ideal relaxing environment; 68% of homeowners said cleanliness is a must for a stress-free room.


You can find the full article on Houzz by clicking here.

Do I need to seal porcelain or ceramic tiles?

Blue decorative ceramic tile with a crackle glaze
This decorative ceramic tile has a crackle glaze. If it is installed in a shower or on a backsplash, it should be sealed.

Most porcelain tiles never need to be sealed. We recommend using a penetrating sealer on polished porcelain to fill in the micropores that are opened during the polishing process. Some unglazed porcelains are susceptible to staining; ask your tile retailer whether our not your particular tile needs sealing.  


Seal your ceramic tiles if:

  • You are grouting with a contrasting grout color (example: white tiles with black grout). Seal before grouting or the grout could sink into the tiny micropores of the glaze and leave stains and streaks.
  • The tiles have a crackle glaze. The cracks could harbor water or bacteria if not sealed, and grout could discolor the glaze if you don't seal before grouting.

How do you clean porcelain and ceramic tiles?

Bottle of Miracle Tile & Stone Cleaner
For everyday cleaning, we recommend Miracle Tile & Stone Cleaner.

One of the best aspects of porcelain and ceramic tiles is the fact that they are so easy to clean!


Porcelains have very low porosity and are very durable; you can use any household cleaner on them. Some ceramics are more delicate: if you have a ceramic with a crackled glaze or a hand-crafted appearance, check with the manufacturer to see if there are cleaning limitations. Most ceramics, however, can be cleaned with any home cleaners.


If you are at all worried about damaging your tile, stone, or grout with a cleaning product, we recommend the Miracle line of tile cleaners. These cleaners are specifically designed to protect tile and stone products while effectively degreasing, killing germs, and removing dirt.


Your main concern with porcelain or ceramic installations is the clean-ability of the grout. Visit our Tile and Grout maintenance pages for more details.

How much do porcelain or ceramic tiles cost?

Man-made tiles can cost anywhere from $1 per square foot to over $10 per square foot, depending upon the tile's durability, production quality, and appearance. Learn more in our blog post about the many factors that influence the cost of tile.

Finish Your Edges: Bullnose or Schluter Trim?

Whether you have a shower, fireplace, or countertop, you'll need some way to finish the edges of your installation so you're not looking at the ugly cut or unfinished edges. An edge trim also protects the edge of the tile; a square edge is more prone to chipping. The two most common ways to finish an installation is with bullnose tile or Schluter edge trim.

Click to expand
Click to expand

Bullnose tiles are made of the same material as the field tile, but feature a rounded edge.


Porcelain bullnose are often cut sections of tile where an edge has been rounded and re-glazed, so it's a similar but not exact match to the glaze of the field tile.


Ceramic, single-colored wall bullnose have the same glaze as the surface wrapping the rounded bullnose edge for a solid, continuous color.


For porcelain tiles, bullnose is most often 3-4" tall x the width of one of the field tiles (3x13" bullnose for a 13x13" tile, 4x24" bullnose for a 12x24" tile, etc).


For ceramic wall tiles, they can be the same size as a tile (3x6" bullnose for 3x6" subway tile, 6x6" bullnose for a 6x6" ceramic tile, 2x8", 4x16", etc).

Brown porcelain tiles with a brown metallic glass and stone mosaic on a wall behind a white tub with oil rubbed bronze fixtures.
Bullnose was used to finish this tub surround. Most tile lines do not offer a double-bullnose corner piece, and as such corners must be mitered.
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Click to expand

Schluter trim comes in many colors, shapes and sizes. You can get one that  matches your tile, or your grout, or other hardware and fixtures in the room.


This trim has a mounting leg that sits underneath the tile, and as such the Schluter profile must be installed at the same time as the field tile.


Instead of having a 2", 3", or 4" frame of bullnose at the edge of your tile, you can have a clean Schluter edge. This allows any patterns or accent stripes to go all the way to the edge of your tile. See more examples on our edge trim page.

Create your own bullnose!

Dark charcoal tile with blue painters tape along a polished and rounded edge.
Blue painters tape creates a straight line for a perfectly even edge.

If your tile's clay matches the glaze, you can consider creating your own edge. 


Use a polishing tool to shape the edge (rounded, mitered, flat-polish) and various sandpaper discs to get the sheen you want, and you can create your own custom edges!

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