Tile - Porcelain or Ceramic? Manufacturers?

aknallFebruary 16, 2014

I am sooo confused at this point. My GC does not have a preference for our floor or shower tile (he's done other projects for us before and always offers his opinion on materials/alternatives). Because of him, we are now considering a custom CM shower pan instead of a tile shower floor. Basically same price, not as pretty, but DH likes the idea of no leaking. (I can live with this.) I know that porcelain is harder than ceramic tile and is more water resistant, but other than that, I am clueless. This will be for our master bathroom... just DH and me, and we're not in the habit of dropping stuff, so I don't really know if the hardness of the tile is a real factor here. Also, I'm working with a budget, so price is a consideration. My house is not grand, but the MBath is poorly laid out and builder grade (not to mention carpeted) so I don't want to over do it. Are here any tile manufacturers that I should try to avoid? I want to get a creamy travertine look with not too much pattern. I've found a Daltile ceramic that I like, but don't know if I'll regret not looking a little harder for a similar porcelain product. Any bit of help here is greatly appreciated.

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Can't help except to say tile floors don't leak if they're properly installed in the first place.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 12:52PM
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Either ceramic or porcelain will generally be fine. However, I tend to like the fact that porcelain is harder and usually more water impervious. If the tile is properly installed and is of decent quality, you shouldn't be able to damage ceramic or porcelain by dropping stuff on it. Like you, we wanted something simple and light-colored that looked like stone/marble, and found a product in porcelain that was just fine.

Below is a short primer on what to look for in tiles that I found useful when I was first shopping. Although it is from a particular tile supplier, the info is generically applicable.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tile 101

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 1:10PM
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Get a bunch of samples, like most folks do, and then chip them to get a feel for how tough they are. If using square edge tiles, they are much more susceptible to edge chipping unless the grout line is finished VERY flush to the surface of the tile. A tumbled edge or rounded edge is much less susceptible to edge chipping, whether porcelain or ceramic.

I would never use anything but porcelain. Any tile will break if you drop something hard on it. The reason for choosing porcelain is that wears much longer, and it stays cleaner because it is far less absorbent. In my experience, it's not only stays cleaner, but is way easier to clean.

Please do select a non-slip tile. High gloss is downright dangerous in a shower or bathroom. You will regret using a glossy tile (or polished stone) in a bathroom and especially a shower.

I strongly advise you to look at Kerdi (Schluter Systems) for your shower. Your contractor can use the Kerdi material as a liner for both the pan and the shower walls, or he can use their entire system. I use their liner and drain over a regular dry-pack mud pan. I don't really like their Styrofoam pan. Also put the Kerdi liner on the walls, right over wallboard. Yup - regular wallboard! No worries, it is totally, perfectly waterproof if done correctly in exact accordance with Schluter instructions. I've done it before and am just about to put in a new shower using Kerdi... would never build a shower any other way.

I recommend Spectralock epoxy grout (Laticrete) for bathroom and shower. Be sure your installer has used this stuff before. You don't want him learning on your job - trust me on this.... I did an entire house with it (never again, it is expensive and much more work to install). But.... in a shower and bathroom, there is nothing better. You will never have to seal and you will not see mildew or mold. Unlike regular cement based grout, it is not porous. You do still have to clean it of course, but it's a big step up from regular grout.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 1:37PM
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All tile is ceramic, but not all ceramic is porcelean....which is simply fired at a higher temperature than standard ceramic. Having said that, the actual differences are negligable....either will last far longer than you or I will be around. Absorbency is a moot point if, as mentioned above, you use a system like Kerdi. Neither tile will "absorb" much water....however most tile nowdays is considered "porcelean."

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 3:26PM
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Thanks for all your responses. I finally got comfortable with the idea of ceramic and the tile I chose and now my GC is saying that the tillers don't like to work with that manufacturer's tile because of inconsistancies which make it more difficult to lay. So, back to the drawing board. Is Daltile really that problematic?

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Look for "rectified" tile. It's tile that has been cut to exact specifications in the factory. It's uniform in size, which your GC's tile guys should appreciate.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 7:38PM
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" I finally got comfortable with the idea of ceramic and the tile I chose and now my GC is saying that the tillers don't like to work with that manufacturer's tile because of inconsistancies which make it more difficult to lay. So, back to the drawing board. Is Daltile really that problematic?"

Inconsistent tile is only a problem is you are going for large format tile with very small grout lines. For 12" squares and smaller, sure, some tiles are made better than others. But for the most part they can all be installed with minimal issues.

Shower floors are typically 2" squares on mesh. For the most part, any product will do.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 8:44PM
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