Although many natural rock tiles such as granite, limestone and slate are generally thought to be the most hard wearing and durable available, porcelain tiles can actually be around 30% stronger. Indeed, whereas granite and limestone tiles are prone to scratching (but are otherwise resistant to heavier impacts), porcelain tiles generally suffer less scratches, chips and breaks. This is obviously a desirable feature of porcelain tiles that many consumers know very little about, although a chat with an experienced sales assistant will often draw attention to the matter. In fact, the benefits of choosing certain porcelain tiles over natural rock tiles are surprisingly numerous.
As mentioned above, many customers make the mistake of thinking that hard rock tiles such as marble and granite are the most durable available. Customers also tend to believe that solid rock provides the most value for money, despite the fact that tiles comprising limestone, marble, granite and slate are usually among the most expensive on the market. Indeed, artificially made products such as ceramic, glass and porcelain tiles are thought to be of a weaker composition, which would explain their markedly reduced cost (in many cases, at least). However, the real reason why porcelain tiles, which are manufactured using readily available materials such as clay, are relatively cheaper is that they are easier to source than hard rock tiles, which are cut directly from granite, marble, etc.
Furthermore, porcelain tiles are not generally considered to be luxury items as the aforementioned natural rocks, especially limestone and marble, are thought to have a natural beauty that is far superior to man-made products. Of course, it is true that the appearance and feel of granite, limestone or slate underfoot can be an exquisite experience – however, porcelain tiles typically perform just as well if not better than such materials whilst providing a range of styles, patterns and colours that can be maintained throughout the entire installation. Indeed, one of the main criticisms of natural rock floor and wall tiles is that they are not able to maintain a uniform look throughout, which is due to the fact that naturally forming colours and patterns do not conform to any specific design or symmetry. On the other hand, man-made porcelain tiles can achieve a precise look throughout the entire installation, which is especially important where large surfaces are tiled.
Thus, it would be fairly pointless to describe all the different types and styles of porcelain tile available – there are simply too many to list. Nevertheless, porcelain tiles will invariably feature a matt or gloss finish and include a range of colour schemes from black to cream and beige to grey. Porcelain tiles are also suitable for use on floors and walls in any room of the home, especially bathrooms, kitchens, conservatories and hallways. In fact, although glazed or notably smooth porcelain tiles are not well-suited for use on bathroom floors as they may sometimes constitute a slip hazard, other types of porcelain tile are excellent for use in kitchens and bathrooms, especially on the walls. Indeed, porcelain is incredibly easy to maintain and keep clean, which is an important quality in rooms that demand high standards of hygiene. Generally speaking, porcelain tiles do not scratch easily, so more abrasive cleaning equipment can be used on them.
Furthermore, natural rock or stone tiles – especially marble – require sealing and, in some cases, waxing in order to be properly and effectively installed. Indeed, marble is more porous than other natural rock materials, so tiles made from the stone must be properly sealed or the wall or floor underneath may be exposed to moisture, which can cause a number of unpleasant and damaging problems such as rot, damp, mildew and mould. In contrast, porcelain tiles are fully resistant to water and do not require sealing or waxing as stone tiles do. In fact, porcelain tiles are incredibly easy to install, which is why there is usually little need to call in the services of a professional tiler – a prospect that is simply unthinkable for the majority of customers who buy large granite or limestone tiles and do not know quite what to do with them.
Nevertheless, porcelain tiles must be installed with the same level of expertise as any other type of tile in order to ensure that the job is done properly. However, the preparation work involved in fitting natural rock or stone tiles is simply not necessary where porcelain tiles are concerned. Indeed, although floors and walls must still be made level, even and completely clean (dust and dirt can compromise the adhesive bonding between the tiles and the subfloor or wall), there is usually no need for time-consuming sealing, waxing or laying of PVC membranes. Put simply, porcelain tiles can be secured to walls and floors with relative ease when compared to other types of tile.
As stated above, porcelain tiles are ideal for use in the kitchen or bathroom. Tiles that can be easily and effectively cleaned with very little effort are important, especially where grease and food stains would otherwise be sprayed and flicked on to the kitchen walls, which would be decidedly unhygienic. Furthermore, there is little risk of porcelain tiles being scratched or damaged by normal everyday wear and tear. Indeed, a granite floor is an excellent addition to any home but, unfortunately, the odd scratch will appear every so often. Likewise, slate tiles can crack if the subfloor is not properly supported. However, porcelain floor tiles are excellent for use in high traffic areas of the home, such as hallways and kitchens, as they will not easily scratch or scuff. This allows the homeowner to enjoy his or her flooring without the worry of looking for and trying to prevent scratches.
Moreover, porcelain tiles are resistant to most chemicals (at least those that are likely to be used domestically) and bacteria, which make them ideal for flooring in kitchens and bathrooms. However, porcelain tiles can give the appearance of having been scratched if they suffer from aluminium burns, which are most typically caused by the dragging of heavy wooden or steel chairs across the tiles. Whilst aluminium burns are not actually scratches per se, they do have the same effect visually although they can be easily removed by a combination of wire wool and a specialist cleaning acid.