The term ‘Porcelain’ dates back to the 13th century when the Europeans called pottery imported from Asia “Porcellana” because of its gleam like that of the porcellana cowrie shell .The French later changed that to ‘Porcelain’ to describe tiles made from very light white clay.
Kaolin clay blended with minerals such as iron oxide, quartz, silica, alumina, mica and feldspar that tint and strengthen the clay is used to make porcelain tiles. Water is added to produce a “paste” which is then pressure-pressed into a “biscuit”.
The tiles biscuit are then kiln-fired in temperatures of 2000 to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Firing drives out water, fuses the clay particles and hardens the clay, making it more non-porous and resistant to moisture absorption.
In fact, a water absorption test known as ASTM C373 certifies a tile as Porcelain if it gains less than 0.5% weight after being in water for more than 24 hours. Other ceramic tiles have an absorption rate of 1.7% making porcelain tiles ideal for wet areas and outdoor use.There are two types of porcelain tiles, namely glazed and unglazed
Unglazed porcelain is single fired and has no surface coating. The colour and texture runs through the entire body of the tiles.
Glazed ones have a material or mixture applied to the surface, making it a different colour from the body of the tiles.
Manufacturers nowadays market not only the standard 4”by 4” tiles but also huge (5’ by 11’) and really thin ones which absorb almost no water. This means the tiles can be used outdoors in freezing temperature without cracking. Its thinness also allows it to be installed over existing tiles, making re-modelling easy and fast.Advantages of choosing porcelain tile are as follows
Water and stain resistance - due to its low water absorption qualities, normal stains are precluded. Cleaning and maintenance is quick and easy, needing only household cleaners and a damp mop, thus making usage in wet areas such as kitchen, bathroom, balconies, countertops, laundry and utility areas ideal.
Durability-- the process of baking the tiles longer and at higher temperatures allows more of the silica in the clay to liquefy then cool, making it extremely hard, impervious and long lasting.
Hardness - Porcelain tiles tend to be denser because the clay used is finer and has more tightly packed grains This tends to make it scratch-proof and not easily cracked even if heavy objects are dropped on it. It is also a good substitute for natural stone
Resistance to wear - The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating to see how well tiles wear, found porcelain to be among the best in wear ratings . Thus it is recommended to be used in heavy commercial and high traffic areas
Porcelain tiles may cost a little more than standard ceramic tiles of similar size and appearance. However, porcelain with its aesthetically more pleasing appearances and also durability will pay off on a floor that lasts longer and looks better in years to come.