Most types of tiles that are made from clay or a mixture of clay and other materials and then kiln-fired, are considered to be a part of the larger classification called “Ceramic Tiles”. These tiles can be split into two groups, porcelain tiles and non-porcelain tiles. These non-porcelain tiles are frequently referred to as ceramic tiles by themselves, separate from porcelain tiles – confusing!
What Makes Porcelain Unique
Non-porcelain ceramic tiles are generally made from red or white clay fired in a kiln. They are almost always finished with a durable glaze, which carries the color and pattern. These tiles are used in both wall and floor applications. Non-porcelain ceramic tiles are usually suitable for very light to moderate traffic and generally have a relatively high water absorption rating making them less frost resistant and they are more prone to wear and chipping than porcelain tiles. Porcelain tile is more scratch resistant than ceramic tile. Also, porcelain tile is fired at higher temperatures than ceramic, resulting in superior durability and stain resistance.
Porcelain unglazed tile is generally made by the dust pressed method from porcelain clays which result in a tile that is dense, impervious, fine grained and smooth, with a sharply formed face. Porcelain tiles usually have a much lower water absorption rate (less than 0.5%) than non-porcelain ceramic tiles making them frost resistant. Full body porcelain tiles carry the color and pattern through the entire thickness of the tile making them virtually impervious to wear and are suitable for any application from residential to the highest traffic commercial or industrial applications. Because porcelain tile is fire-hardened and quite hard, it can be cleaned at pressures up to 1,450 PSI if the grout is in good condition.
Porcelain unglazed tiles are similar to glazed tile, except that their surface is not coated. Full-body porcelain unglazed tiles do not show wear because their color extends throughout the tile, making them ideal for commercial applications.
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What is PEI and Why is it Important
PEI classes range from 0 to 5. The Porcelain Enamel Institute rating scale is not a measurement of quality. It is a scale that clearly indicates the areas of use each manufacturer recommends and has designed their tile to fit. A PEI 2 tile has been designed for areas where very low traffic and soiling is anticipated. In most cases the aesthetic detailing of these tiles is of prime consideration. You will often find high gloss levels, vibrant colorations and metallic elements in this group of tile. Conversely, a PEI 5 tile has been designed for abusive extra heavy foot traffic:
- PEI Class 0 – No Foot Traffic: Wall tile only and should not be used on floors
- PEI Class 1 – Very light traffic: Very low foot traffic, bare or stocking feet only. (Master bath, spa bathroom).
- PEI Class 2 – Light Traffic: Slipper or soft-soled shoes. Second level main bathroom areas, bedrooms.
- PEI Class 3 – Light to Moderate Traffic: Any residential area with the possible exception of some entries and kitchens if extremely heavy or abrasive traffic is anticipated.
- PEI Class 4 – Moderate to Heavy Traffic: High foot traffic, areas where abrasive or outside dirt could be tracked. Residential entry, kitchen, balcony, and countertop.
- PEI Class 5 – Heavy Traffic: Ceramic tile suggested for residential, commercial and institutional floor subjected to heavy traffic.
How to Keep Your Porcelain Floor Looking Great
Keeping ceramic, porcelain tile & grout free of dust and dry, sandy soil will minimize scratches, wear patterns and grout soiling that can develop from everyday use and traffic.
Use walk-off mats to trap abrasive soil before it gets into the house or building.
- Sweep, dust or vacuum surfaces regularly to remove loose soil and dust.
- Clean the tile & grout using warm water and a clean nonabrasive cloth sponge or mop.
- Use a neutral cleaner such as Stone & Tile Cleaner or Revitalizer that is specially formulated for ceramic, porcelain tile & grout to help remove soils that sweeping, dusting, vacuuming or damp mopping leave behind.
- For extremely soiled tile, clean with KlenzAll heavy duty alkaline cleaner and degreaser.
- Do not use ordinary household cleaners, as you may degrade the sealer that was applied to the grout to protect against stains.
Sealing Ceramic and Porcelain Tile & Grout
Glazed tiles are coated with a liquid glass, which is then baked into the surface of the clay. The glaze provides an unlimited array of colors and designs as well as protects the tile from staining. A glazed tile is already stain proof, so there is no purpose to putting on a sealer. However, the grout joint between the tiles is usually very porous and generally made of a cement-based material. Therefore, grout joints typically will need to be sealed and maintained properly to prevent stains and discoloration. Impregnating sealers such as All-Purpose Grout Sealer go into the grout joint and protect against water and oil-based stains. Most industry professionals recognize that grout is best protected with a fluorochemical-based sealer, such as Impregnator Pro or All-Purpose Grout Sealer. If the grout joint is epoxy, a sealer is not necessary.
Unglazed porcelain tile should be protected with a penetrating sealer, such as Sta-Clene, Bullet Proof or Impregnator Pro, including the grout lines. The penetrating sealer is an invisible, stain-resistant shield that is absorbed into the surface.
Cementitious grout must be sealed to prevent or minimize staining. Leaving these surfaces unsealed may greatly hinder the ability to completely remove stains in the future. Allow new installations to cure for 72 hours prior to applying the sealer.