Porcelain tiles and what makes them so good…

Whether you are looking at re-doing your kitchen floors or re-designing your shower room, you may already know that porcelain is a popular option. But what are porcelain tiles? How are they made and why are they so popular?

What is the difference between a porcelain tile and a ceramic tile?

Porcelain tiles are often confused with ceramic tiles. Ceramic tiles are made with red, brown and white clay, they are much softer and less dense than porcelain tiles. Porcelain is a type of ceramic made with white clay, sand and feldspar (a rock mineral that forms as colourless or pale crystals). It is fired at a higher temperature than ceramic, making it harder and more dense. However, the main difference between a ceramic tile and a porcelain tile is how much water they absorb. In order for a tile to be called porcelain it must be ‘fully vitrified (converted into glass or a glass like substance) with a water absorption of 0.5% or less’

Why are porcelain tiles so popular?

Porcelain can be used in many different settings, not just your home. The versatility of porcelain tiles means that they can be used in commercial environments such as shops, offices, bars and restaurants. The variety of finishes and huge range of sizes available allows you to completely customise the look, feel and atmosphere of a space.

Another great feature of porcelain is that it is a brilliant heat conductor, meaning it is the perfect floor covering to use with underfloor heating. They are so good at conducting heat that underfloor heating can often be used as the sole source of heating.

How are porcelain tiles made?

A very specific form of clay, finely-ground sand and feldspar are mixed together to form the base mixture of porcelain tiles. This mixture is then pressed and compacted into moulds and fired at incredibly high temperatures, making it vitrify. This process of vitrifying the tiles bonds the mixture together and gives them important properties such as extreme resistance to wear and tear, resistance to stains and chemicals, as well as making the tiles extremely hard and dense; it also reduces water absorption. Each porcelain tile is then printed with a high definition design using inkjet printing machinery. This allows manufacturers to print porcelains that mimic natural stones like marble and sandstone, as well as realistic wood and metal prints. Using this printing technique also makes it possible for manufacturers to come up with their own unique designs, not found in nature.

The environmental advantages of porcelain are also worth noting. Recycled content, such as waste glass from TV screens and bottles, is used to make most porcelain tiles. Porcelain contains extremely low levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) compared to other flooring options such as laminate and carpet. VOCs can be harmful to your health. Another great environmental advantage of porcelain is that it can be made to perfectly replicate rare and precious trees and stones without ever using any of these natural materials.

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