Porcelain Tile vs. Ceramic Tile Comparison Guide

When it comes to choosing tile for your home, two of the most popular options are porcelain and ceramic tile. But what exactly is the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile? And how do you decide which is the best option for your project? This guide provides a detailed comparison of porcelain vs. ceramic tile to help you make the right choice.

What is Porcelain Tile?

Porcelain tile is a type of ceramic tile that is made from finer clay particles than regular ceramic tile. The clay used for porcelain tile is extremely dense and is fired at very high temperatures (around 2,300°F). This intense heating process makes porcelain tile incredibly strong, durable, and water-resistant.

Here are some of the key characteristics of porcelain tile:

  • Dense and impervious – The density of the clay means porcelain tile is waterproof and stain-resistant. Liquids cannot penetrate the surface.
  • Durable and scratch-resistant – Porcelain rates a 5 on the Mohs hardness scale. The dense composition makes it very resistant to scratches, chips, and wear.
  • Low porosity – The very low porosity of porcelain tile inhibits staining, absorption of liquids and makes it more frost resistant.
  • Variety of looks – Porcelain can mimic stone, concrete, marble and other materials very convincingly. The print technology allows for very realistic natural-looking designs.
  • Resists moisture – The lack of porosity makes porcelain an excellent option for wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens. It does not easily absorb moisture.

In summary, porcelain tile is an incredibly durable, water-resistant, and versatile ceramic tile option. Its strength and resistance to moisture, stains and scratches make it a popular choice for floors, walls, countertops, and other applications.

What is Ceramic Tile?

Ceramic tile encompasses all types of tile that are made from clay that has been permanently hardened by high firing temperatures. The clay is shaped, decorated, and then kiln-fired at high heats ranging from around 1000°F to over 2000°F.

There are various types of ceramic tile distinguished by their manufacturing process:

  • Glazed ceramic – The surface is coated with liquid glaze then fired to fuse it to the tile body. Glaze makes the tile impervious to moisture.
  • Unglazed ceramic – No glaze is applied so the tile has a more natural, porous composition. Needs sealing.
  • Monocottura ceramic – Tiles are shaped and fired in a single manufacturing process. More porous.
  • Ceramic mosaic – Small tiles mounted in a grid to create mosaic designs. Can be glazed or unglazed.

The main differences between ceramic and porcelain tile are porosity and durability. Porcelain tile is denser, whereas ceramic tile tends to be more porous unless it has a durable glazed surface. Overall porcelain rates higher on strength, imperviousness and resistance to scratching.

Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile Comparison

Now that we’ve looked at porcelain and ceramic tile separately, let’s directly compare the two types across some key factors:

Composition and Manufacturing

  • Porcelain – Made from extremely finely pulverized clay fired at very high temperatures. The clay particles fuse together during firing. Very low porosity.
  • Ceramic – Made from all types of clay and ceramic materials. Fired at lower temperatures than porcelain. Glazing increases imperviousness. Porosity varies.
  • Winner: Porcelain – The composition and manufacturing of porcelain tile makes it inherently stronger and more impervious than ceramic.

Density and Porosity

  • Porcelain – Extremely dense and non-porous. Has water absorption rates of less than 0.5%. Resists moisture penetration. Frost resistant.
  • Ceramic – More porous and permeable than porcelain. Unglazed tile can have water absorption greater than 3%. Glazing reduces permeability.
  • Winner: Porcelain – The higher density and lower porosity rates of porcelain provide better resistance to moisture and staining.

Durability and Hardness

  • Porcelain – Very durable and scratch-resistant. Rates 5-7 on the Mohs hardness scale. Withstands heavy usage.
  • Ceramic – Durability varies. Glazed ceramic rates 5-6, while unglazed is prone to scratching at 3-4 hardness. Not as durable as porcelain overall.
  • Winner: Porcelain – The extreme durability and scratch-resistance of porcelain edges out ceramic tile.


  • Porcelain – Can convincingly mimic stone, wood, marble and other materials very realistically. Available in matte to shiny.
  • Ceramic – Broad color and design options from simple to ornate styles. Glazing creates glossy or matte looks. Can resemble stone and metals.
  • Winner: Draw – Both porcelain and ceramic offer tremendous variety in colors, patterns, textures and styles. Porcelain edges out ceramic in realism.


  • Porcelain – Recommended for floors, countertops, busy areas, wet rooms like bathrooms. Outdoor use. High foot traffic.
  • Ceramic – Most household uses including floors, walls, counters, backsplashes. Best for low-moisture indoor environments.
  • Winner: Porcelain – Porcelain is more versatile as it can be used in virtually any residential or commercial application indoors and out.


  • Porcelain – Usually costs more than ceramic tile due to durability and high manufacturing standards. Prices range from $2-$35 per square foot.
  • Ceramic – Comparatively very affordable, with prices from $0.50 to $15 per square foot. Great value option.
  • Winner: Ceramic – Ceramic tile wins out as the budget-friendly option. Porcelain pricing can be 2-3 times higher.

As you can see, porcelain tile wins out over ceramic in most performance categories while ceramic provides greater affordability. Let’s look further into the pros and cons of each.

Pros and Cons of Porcelain Tile


  • Extremely durable and scratch resistant
  • Impervious to moisture, frost and staining
  • Works for floors, walls, countertops, outdoors
  • Realistic stone and wood looks available
  • Resists chips, cracks and wear
  • Easy maintenance
  • Hygienic
  • Versatile design options


  • More expensive than ceramic tile
  • Heavier than ceramic tile
  • Harder to cut than ceramic tile
  • Can be prone to shattering if dropped
  • Low porosity can lead to lipping

Pros and Cons of Ceramic Tile


  • Very affordable compared to porcelain
  • Lighter weight than porcelain
  • Easier to cut than porcelain
  • Wide range of colors, designs and styles
  • Easy to clean
  • Works well for walls, backsplashes, accent areas
  • Softer underfoot than porcelain


  • Prone to cracking and chipping over time
  • Not as scratch or stain resistant as porcelain
  • Requires sealing for wet areas
  • Not suitable for heavy traffic floors
  • Not recommended for outdoor use
  • Glaze can wear over time

Porcelain vs Ceramic: Which is Better for Floors?

When it comes to flooring, porcelain tile is the clear winner over ceramic. Here’s why:

  • Durability – Porcelain is practically indestructible and can withstand decades of heavy foot traffic. Ceramic floors will show wear sooner.
  • Hardness – Porcelain’s density makes it highly scratch-resistant. Ceramic floors prone to surface scratches.
  • Moisture resistance – Porcelain’s waterproof composition is perfect for kitchens, baths, and entryways. Ceramic requires sealing.
  • Foot comfort – Porcelain has some give for more comfortable walking. Ceramic can be hard underfoot.
  • Versatility – Porcelain works for indoor and outdoor floors. Ceramic best for indoor floors only.

Porcelain floor tile resists water, scratches, stains, cracking and wear far better than ceramic floor tile. For high traffic areas, porcelain is the most durable and long-lasting option.

Porcelain vs Ceramic: Which is Better for Walls?

For walls, either ceramic or porcelain tile can make an excellent choice:

  • Porcelain is just as suitable as ceramic for walls as it resists moisture and stains. The extra hardness helps it hold up to knocks and bumps.
  • Ceramic wall tile provides endless design options in colors, shapes, prints at a lower cost than porcelain. Glazing helps it withstand moisture.
  • Ceramic mosaic wall tile provides beautiful decorative accent walls in bathrooms, kitchens, fireplace surrounds.
  • Porcelain tiles can create seamless indoor/outdoor looks as they work for walls both inside and out.

When used in dry wall areas, porcelain offers minimal benefits over ceramic. For shower surrounds and other wet walls, porcelain provides better water resistance. But for most homeowners, ceramic delivers great quality and value on walls.

Porcelain vs Ceramic: Which is Better for Countertops?

Porcelain tile makes a more durable and water-resistant countertop material compared to ceramic:

  • Porcelain’s high density stands up to heavy usage and resists damage from drops and impacts. Ceramic chips more easily.
  • The non-porous porcelain surface won’t stain from spills and is easy to sanitize. Ceramic requires diligent sealing.
  • Porcelain offers heat resistance for placing hot pots and pans on the surface. Ceramic can scorch or crack.
  • Porcelain has higher flexural strength ratings for supporting heavy objects. Ceramic can fracture under excess weight.
  • Porcelain countertops work for indoor and outdoor kitchen areas. Ceramic suggested for indoor use only.

While porcelain tile comes at a higher price, its strength and water-resistance make it worth the investment for long-lasting countertops that withstand years of prep and cooking.

Porcelain Tile vs. Ceramic Tile: Which Should You Choose?

No tile material is inherently better than the other. The decision between porcelain and ceramic depends primarily on the application and your priorities:

For high traffic floors – Porcelain is the best choice for durability and longevity.

For walls and decorative accents – Ceramic provides endless design options at better value.

For budget projects – Ceramic tile gives you more bang for your buck.

For wet areas – Porcelain resists water and moisture better.

For outdoor and indoor tile – Porcelain can be used in any environment.

For rustic looks – Unglazed ceramic provides more natural character.

For minimal maintenance – Porcelain is easier to clean and care for.

By weighing the pros and cons, porcelain and ceramic each have areas where they excel over the other. Keep how and where you want to use the tile front of mind when deciding between porcelain vs. ceramic. And always get tile samples before making a final decision!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some common questions about porcelain and ceramic tile:

Is porcelain tile better than ceramic?

Porcelain is better than ceramic in terms of hardness, durability, strength and resistance to moisture. But ceramic offers greater affordability, design options and lighter weight.

Is porcelain or ceramic tile better for showers?

Porcelain is the best tile for showers as it resists water, stains and mildew growth. Ceramic can work with proper sealing but may need more frequent resealing.

Can you use porcelain tile outside?

Yes, porcelain is a great outdoor tile choice as it withstands weather, temperature fluctuations and UV rays. Check that the tile is rated for outdoor installation.

Is ceramic or porcelain tile cheaper?

Ceramic tile is generally cheaper than porcelain. You can find quality ceramic for $3-7 per square foot while porcelain starts around $7-10 per square foot.

Is porcelain hard to cut?

Cutting porcelain can be more difficult than ceramic due to its density. Use a tile wet saw with a porcelain blade. The material can chip if not cut properly.

Does porcelain tile need to be sealed?

Porcelain does not require sealing as it is non-porous. Sealing it can create a surface film which attracts more dirt. Ceramic often needs sealing.

Can you use porcelain floor tile on walls?

Yes, porcelain floor tile works very well on walls. Match the tile thickness to the wall application. The extra durability helps it hold up to knocks and bumps.


When comparing porcelain tile vs. ceramic tile, porcelain comes out on top for strength, durability, hardness and water resistance. But ceramic tile offers a wide range of style options, colors and designs at a more budget-friendly price point for low-moisture areas.

Ultimately the right tile depends on where it’s being installed and your budget. By understanding the pros and cons of ceramic and porcelain tile, you can determine which is suitable for your specific tiling project. Always look at tile samples before purchasing to get a sense of the true color, design and quality. And consult with a tile expert if you have any questions!