The Tile Files – Porcelain
Friday 25 October 2013, Written by Tags: A to Z
One of the most popular materials for manufacturing tiles; porcelain boasts a range of benefits that has resulted in a well-earned place as one of the most practical forms of tile used in the home. But why is this?
To start with, porcelain is an exceptionally hard wearing material and many can withstand use in exterior settings as well as inside homes. Whilst both ceramic and porcelain tiles are made from clay, the clay used to make porcelain is purified and more refined. When fired in the kiln, the temperature is much higher and the pressure greater, resulting in a tough, non-porous material. As such, porcelain won’t be affected by elements such as water and frost and is available with exceptionally high slip ratings, offering excellent safety benefits. In fact, porcelain is so hard wearing that it is the most commonly used tile in commercial applications as it can easily cope with heavy loads and constant use.
Unlike some materials, such as stone, the appearance of porcelain tiles won’t alter as they age so they could be a good choice if you want consistency. There are many different types of porcelain, including ‘glazed’, ‘double loaded’ and ‘through bodied’ varieties. Glazed porcelain is, as its name suggests, glazed on the surface to give the appropriate colour or finish. This means that the colour does not permeate through the body of the tile so it’s worth taking this into account if your design might result in one of the tile edges being exposed, such as at the top of a splashback. There are ways around this such as creating a ‘bullnose’ finish, and your supplier will be able to advise you.
Another benefit of porcelain is the finishes and effects that are now available thanks to HD printing technology. Ink jet printing means a range of styles can now be applied to the surface of the tile to achieve some truly amazing effects. From wood planks to realistic bamboo (shown top) and even animal print, this technology has now become so good that it can be difficult to distinguish tiles from the real thing. Why would you want porcelain wood effect tiles instead of real wood? The reasons are numerous – porcelain is much harder wearing in the face of pets with claws, high heeled shoes and water spills and will not scratch, mark or warp. These technological developments mean that porcelain can now accurately replicate the grain, colour and charming imperfections of natural stone, giving the same look and feel with none of the maintenance requirements – no doubt a highly appealing thought for busy homeowners throughout the land.