Not all porcelain tile is the same. Understanding the different porcelain tile available, and how the manufacturing process impacts the tile’s durability is crucial in choosing the right tile for the right project.
Advances in technology have made it possible to digitally print, using ink jet machines, anything one can imagine onto porcelain tile. Reclaimed wood images, fabrics, and rare stones can now be faithfully reproduced. However, glazes must be applied over all ink jet printed tile to protect the image. All ink jet porcelain tile is a glazed tile. Because these glazes are protecting, essentially what is a photograph, there will be a repeat within the pattern. Glazed tiles are not full body porcelains, which is a common misconception.
Unglazed porcelain tiles are the only full body porcelain tiles available. Full body porcelain means the entire tile is composed of natural clays. Full body is not the same as through color. Full body tiles may use different colored clays. During the firing process sintering occurs making the tile one. This is not dissimilar to the way nature makes stone from sediment.
The design of the tile is created by refining natural clays mixed with natural pigments. Full body, unglazed porcelain tiles have higher slip resistance, higher abrasion resistance, and higher impact resistance than glazed porcelain tile. These characteristics are essential in choosing the right tile for heavy traffic commercial spaces. Surfaces made of pressed pigments are easy to clean and won’t wear down over time when compared to tiles with glazes.
Glazed vs unglazed porcelain tiles: a matter of form and function
Choosing the right tile for a project is all about balancing form and function. Aesthetics are important, but equally important are slip resistance, abrasion resistance and maintenance. If you’re looking for a high slip resistant surface for use in wet areas such bathrooms, pool surrounds, and shower areas - unglazed tiles are the preferred choice.
Unglazed tiles are also more scratch resistant, making them ideal for areas prone to heavy foot traffic, as well as outdoor applications, train stations, airports lobbies, and retail stores. Glazed porcelain tiles if used in these spaces will show wear patterns over time.
Commercial vs residential use
Understanding the different tiles available, and how the manufacturing process impacts the tile’s durability, is crucial in choosing the right tile for the right project. Advances in technology have made it possible to digitally print anything you can imagine onto porcelain tiles using ink jet machines. Reclaimed wood images, fabrics, and rare stones can now be faithfully reproduced. However, glazes must be applied over all ink jet printed tiles to protect the image.
Whether you choose glazed or unglazed porcelain tiles, it’s important to realize each variety has its own unique qualities. Commercial areas, such as stores and offices, are better off with hard and dense unglazed tiles, while residential projects, where color plays an important role, will benefit more from glazed porcelain.
Full body porcelain vs non-full body porcelain tiles
Whether you choose glazed or unglazed porcelain tiles, it’s important to realize each type has its own unique qualities. Not all porcelain is the same just as not all spaces are the same. Commercial areas exposed to heavy traffic, such as stores and offices have different needs then residential spaces with very light traffic. Knowing the difference will help ensure each project is beautiful for years to come.
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Mosa Magazine provides news and inspiration for designing with tile; the articles are not intended as technical documents.