Porcelain is the most durable and popular choice in tile. It is fired at a high temperature which makes it extremely durable. It comes in a wide array of rich colors and can even be made to look remarkably like natural stone. Porcelain is denser than ceramic giving it a lower absorption rate. Because it doesn’t absorb water very easily, it’s a great choice for outdoor tile projects like patios or pool decks because it is frost resistant. The extra density also means that porcelain less likely to chip. If you want the most durable tile, choose porcelain.
Many people think that all porcelain is “through body” porcelain which means that it is the same color all the way through the tile. This is a benefit in case the tile is chipped it won’t show up like a different color. Be careful when choosing porcelain and never assume it is “through body” because only a small percentage of porcelain tiles are true “through body” tiles. The majority of porcelain tiles are glazed porcelain and when chipped, the porcelain shows. “Through body” porcelain isn’t available in as many colors and usually costs more.
Porcelain tiles are glazed to provide a protective coating and a shine. All glazed tiles have a PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) rating which tells you how resistant the surface is to scratching and chipping. This helps to determine the correct tile for specific projects. The lower the rating, the more susceptible to scratching the tile is. A tile with a rating of 1 can be used on walls but is not recommended for floors. A rating of 2 is good for most light traffic residential areas. A tile with a PEI of 3 is good for all residential applications. A PEI of 4 is used in commercial applications and 5 is heavy duty for commercial applications like malls, airports, subways, etc. that get a lot of traffic almost every day.