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Ceramic vs. Porcelain Tiles for Shower: How to Choose

Last Updated on May 22, 2020

Luxury home kitchen

Installing a new tile shower in your home can completely transform your bathroom and how you feel about your house. It’s a big undertaking though, and there are many decisions to be made along the way. One of the most important of these decisions is which tile to use. Not only do you have to choose a color and pattern, but you’ll also have to pick between different types of tiles that are available. Two of the most popular types that are often used in showers are ceramic and porcelain. At first glance, these may be pretty difficult to tell apart. However, some key differences between them may make one preferable over the other for your new shower. Let’s take a look at each of these types of tile and determine how to choose one for your project.

Similarities Between Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

Although there are some differences between these two types of tile, there are also many similarities. For instance, they are both made in the same way from similar materials. Clay is kiln-fired to create them both, but the clay used in porcelain is more refined and fired at a higher temperature. They’re both installed in the same way, so the labor costs shouldn’t change regardless of which one you choose. You’ll also find both of them available in many different sizes, shapes, and patterns, giving you plenty of options to choose from.

Porcelain Tiles

Thanks to the more refined clay used to create porcelain tiles, they are less porous than ceramic tiles, meaning they’re less absorbent. This can be especially beneficial in a shower, where water, hard minerals, and even soap scum can be absorbed and cause staining. Luckily, porcelain is a very stain resistant tile. Moreover, since it doesn’t absorb any of the unwanted residues, cleaning porcelain tiles is a breeze. Porcelain is also denser than ceramic, making it more durable in the long run. It’s less likely to chip, crack, or become damaged in any way, so your investment should be safe for a long time.

Though they have some clear advantages, porcelain tiles also have some drawbacks. Namely, they’re a much more expensive option. Replacing a pre-fab shower or tub with a custom-built tile shower is going to be a pretty costly experience no matter what. Using porcelain tiles will exacerbate the problem and can drastically increase the cost of your project. That said, the added durability may work out to a longer-lasting investment, so the cost difference could even out in the end.

Pros
  • Less porous than ceramic
  • More durable
  • Resists staining
  • Easy to clean
Cons
  • More expensive option

Ceramic Tiles

Despite being less durable than porcelain, ceramic tiles still have some upsides that make them worth considering when it comes to building a new shower. The biggest draw would be the cost. As we mentioned, building a tile shower is not a cheap endeavor. Using ceramic tiles instead of more expensive porcelain can help you to save some money on the total cost of the project. What’s more, ceramic tiles are available in many diverse colors, designs, and patterns. This is because dyes can be added to the clay during the creation process.

Since ceramic tiles are more absorbent, they’re more prone to staining. This can be a real hindrance in a shower where the tile may be exposed to soap scum and limescale buildup. Once absorbed into the tile, cleaning off such stains becomes very difficult, meaning that your shower is going to require more upkeep if it’s tiled in ceramic. Ceramic is also less durable, so you’re more likely to experience broken or cracked tiles over time.

Pros
  • More cost-effective
  • More colors and designs available
Cons
  • Less durable than porcelain
  • More absorbent

Deciding Between Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

We’ve discussed some of the benefits and drawbacks of each of these types of tile, but which one should you choose for your shower? It depends on several factors, such as your budget, how much upkeep you are ok with, and how diverse of a tile selection do you wish to choose from.

If the total cost of your new shower is of utmost concern to you, then ceramic is the way to go since it is more cost-effective. This will allow you to save quite a bit of money, which could then be used for fixtures, better labor, or just be kept in your bank account.

Can’t stand the idea of cleaning the tiles down several times a week? Then you should go with porcelain tiles. They will require much less upkeep since they’re less absorbent, and therefore, less likely to stain and easier to clean.

For those who want the most colorful and diverse selection of tiles to choose from, ceramic has the advantage over porcelain. More colors, patterns, and designs are to be found in ceramic tiles. This means you can really take the design and feel of your shower to a new level, making it completely custom to your particular preferences.

tile building

Photo by jarmoluk on Pixabay

Conclusion

They may seem very similar at first glance, but the differences between porcelain and ceramic tiles need to be considered before you pick one to cover your new shower. Porcelain tiles are more durable and less absorbent, meaning they require less upkeep and they’re easier to clean. Unfortunately, they’re also much more expensive. On the other hand, ceramic tiles are cheaper and can reduce the overall cost of your project. They’re also available in more colors and patterns, giving you more freedom with how your shower ultimately looks when it’s finished.

Though they’re both good choices for tiling a shower, you’re going to have to pick just one, and you’ll be living it with it for quite some time. Hopefully, we’ve made the decision easier for you by providing all the information you need to be well informed on the subject. When you walk into the tile shop now, you’ll be prepared and confident that you’re making the right choice.


Featured image credit: Luxury home kitchen by midascode, Pixabay

About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!