We consistently hear the same two questions in our showroom. The first one is how porcelain and ceramic are different. While they are both considered ceramics, they behave differently in various installations. The second question is about stone tile, and whether it can be used on floors (it can).
Porcelain is made from a non-porous clay called Kaolin combined with sand and glass. That makes it heavier, denser, and suitable for floors in busy rooms like the kitchen. It is always waterproof, whether or not it's glazed, and is also known as a "through body" tile. That means the color is baked all the way through, so if there is a chip, you don’t see white space. It can also be used outdoors and won’t crack in freeze-thaw conditions (it gets pretty chilly in California’s Central Valley).
From a design point of view, the large format porcelain tile answers the current trend toward bigger and bigger pieces, sometimes going as large as 25 X 25. When you walk into our tile store
in Clovis, CA, you’ll also see a wide variety of colors, patterns, and designs. Porcelain can be made to look like anything, from wood to stone, fabric, and leather. They can also be used on walls and tub/shower surrounds.
Ceramic tiles, the 4 X 4 highly designed squares are thinner, but tough, and only waterproof when they’re glazed. These are best used indoors on low to medium floors and are seen on backsplashes, walls, tub/shower surrounds, and art. Other ceramics include mosaics, those tiny decorated pieces that are often used for floor decoration, and terracottas, which are ultra-strong but do need regular sealing. Subway tiles are now available in all colors, shapes, and sizes and can be used on floors, as long as it is in a low traffic room.