Buying Guide: Tile Types Explained

Shopping around for tiles can seem a little daunting for first time buyers. Here, we hope to shed some light on what some of the technical jargon means, so that you can be informed on the best tiles for your project.

Of course, our team will be more than happy to go through any of our tiles with you, if you need any further guidance. You’ll find contact details at the bottom of this post, but for now, let’s get started on some of the basics!

What’s the difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles?

Porcelain and ceramic tiles are similarly made from clay and then baked or fired in a kiln at high temperatures. Porcelain tiles however, are fired at a much higher temperature, making them more dense, less porous, and less prone to moisture and stain abrasion, than ceramic tiles.

Ceramic tiles are certainly still a very common choice though for residential use, as they are easy to install and clean. Ceramic tiles also are available in many styles and are a great option when on a budget. Particularly with the latest technology in digital printing, ceramic tiles have been given a new lease of life in terms of designs and larger sizes now being available, while still allowing for easy installation.

It’s important to point out however, that glazed ceramic tiles are for indoor use only, and predominantly are wall tiles as they cannot withstand heavy impact and can chip more easily than porcelain.

Porcelain tiles are available for application on walls and floors. Generally, they provide good anti-slip properties and so can be used indoors and outdoors (provided they have sufficient slip resistance).

Do I need glazed or unglazed tiles?

Unglazed tiles, also referred to as ‘full bodied’, are generally used in domestic and commercial areas due to their high quality and durability. They can often be seen in high traffic areas, such as restaurants and bars.

With a much higher level of slip resistance than glazed porcelain tiles, they also make a perfect choice for tiling wet rooms and bathroom floors.

Unglazed, or full bodied, porcelain tiles compose of natural clays, where the colours or patterns run all the way through the tile, top to bottom. This also means that it is easier to disguise any chips which may occur in the tile over its lifetime.

Glazed porcelain is essentially a porcelain body (also known as ‘biscuit’), with a layer of liquid glass glaze fired onto the clay base. With many designs available, including stunning replicas of natural material such as wood and marble, glazed porcelain tiles also come with gloss, matt or semi-polished options.

Another term you may come across is ‘colour bodied‘, which is where coloured stains from the glazed surface of the tile continue through the body. This technique also helps to reduce the visibility of any chips, however if a pattern is applied to the surface of the tile, this will not be seen throughout the body.

What does it mean when a tile has rectified edges?

Tiles with rectified edges have been cut or ground down to near exact measurements with a straight edge, giving a more uniformed and clean look. Rectified edges are ideal for large format tiles, which allow for minimal grout lines, resulting in a more seamless look.

Alternatively, ‘pressed’ tiles retain their more natural edges, which in turn gives slightly wider grout lines.

What are vitrified tiles?

Vitrified tiles are made using slightly different materials than standard ceramic and porcelain tiles, and then heated at a higher temperature.

This process of vitrification causes the ingredients melt into a liquid state, and as they cool, the mixture solidifies to form an extremely strong tile. They also absorb very little water and are usually long lasting, with abrasion and stain resistance.

Vitrified tiles are ideal for outdoor use, such as gardens, patios, driveways and public areas, due to its ability to also withstand traffic, without wear. Outdoor tiles also have a high anti-slip rating, of R11, meaning you’ll be safe in wet weather.

What are mosaic tiles?

Mosaic tiles consist of small pieces, usually made of ceramic, glass or natural stone, often attached to a mesh backing, making it easier and far less time consuming to fix.

Mosaics are popular in bathrooms and for sink splash backs. They are a great way to create a feature in the bathroom, by creating a band around the room, or to nicely finish of a half tiled wall.

They are versatile and flexible, and are often therefore used for tiling swimming pools to fix around the curves and slopes of the pool, allowing for soft edges.

Should I consider glass tiles?

The colours of glass tiles can be particular striking, and can be available as mosaic or metro brick styles. Extra care should be taken when fixing glass tiles as to not scratch them when grouting, and it is recommended that they are not used in high traffic areas. Kitchen or bathroom splash backs would be a perfect place for glass tiles.

Whilst porcelain and ceramic tiles need little in the form of maintenance and cleaning, we do offer a variety of specialist cleaning products, including grout and surface cleaners.

For further enquiries, do not hesitate to get in touch by giving us a call on 0115 9777890, or email us at You can also visit one of our showrooms to view many of our beautiful tiles.

emc tiles indoor outdoor living porcelain floor

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