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April 10, 2021

Natural Stone vs. Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

Marble Collection

Natural Stone vs. Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

Have you ever wondered about the differences between natural and man-made tiles? We have, so in this blog we guide you through all the things you need to know about natural vs. man-made tiles so that you can confidently make tile choices that fit your style and your budget!  

 

Natural Stone Tiles are tiles cut from natural stones such as marble, limestone or travertine. The process of making the tile begins with taking a block of stone from a quarry and after the block has been sliced into the desired thickness of tile the surface is then finished to matt, honed, textured, or polished. Interestingly, the pattern that you see on the surface of a natural tile continues throughout the whole thickness of the tile. Because natural stone comes as it is naturally made there is often lots of variation in color and pattern between batches. There is an element of unpredictability and beauty to these types of tiles, which is often what draws people to them. However, it is important to be aware that the sample you look at may vary greatly to the product you end up getting. If you are considering natural stone tiles we would always recommend that you view your order in person before confirmation, just to ensure that you are happy with them.

 

quarry

Unlike Natural Stone tiles Ceramic and Porcelain tiles are made in production runs, using a sort of recipe that ensures a consistency in the quality and finish of the tiles. These man-made tiles have what is known as a ‘batch variation’ from each production run which means there can be very slight changes in the shade or sizing of tiles between batches, however you can feel confident that what you see in a sample will be quite consistent with the end tile even if it is from a different batch. There are also many tiles, such as our Artisan range, which are designed to have high variations in tile patterns and shades. This handmade feel is a feature of some product designs and is important to understand when looking at your samples and making choices about the overall look you are trying to achieve.

 

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One of the key differences in these two types of tiles that you will be likely be concerned with is the price. Natural stone tiles tend to be more expensive for several reasons. Firstly, natural materials are generally more expensive and the availability of the stone will impact the price significantly. Additionally, natural stone tends to be more expensive to install. This is because they are denser tiles which can be harder to cut and means that they sometimes require different equipment to install. On top of that, stone can also have little fissures which can result in more breakages and wastage from the material.

 

Another important thing to know when considering natural tiles is the maintenance needed to care for natural stone tiles. Unlike with porcelain and ceramic tiles, most natural stone, marble, terracotta, or concrete tiles will need to be sealed. The surface of these tiles is naturally porous and they can be easily stained by any liquids or acids, such as red wine, lemon, or cleaning products that might spill on them. This simply doesn’t happen with ceramic or porcelain because the surface itself has almost no porosity meaning potential stains cannot penetrate the surface of the tiles.

 

Marble-Stains

The process of sealing natural stone tiles is done at several stages. Firstly, at the time of installation, before and after grouting. Then thorough cleaning and re-sealing should be repeated over the life of your tiles, the frequency will be depending on how much wear and tear they go through.

 

The composition of the two types of tiles means there are some other technical differences such as the thickness and weight of the tiles. Generally natural stone will be heavier and thicker, but because it is not as dense it may not be as strong as a porcelain tile. If these things are important to you then we would advise learning about the technical characteristics of the specific products you are considering.

Ultimately, when deciding between natural and ceramic or porcelain tiles the things you need to think about are: what you like the look of, your budget, and how much maintenance and care you are happy to invest into looking after your tiles.

 

At TileHaus we predominantly sell ceramic and porcelain tiles for reasons outlined in this blog, and they are by far the most popular type of tiles around the world. But, we also carry some beautiful natural marble and stone mosaics which we haven’t found a comparable alternative for in ceramic or porcelain. As a more cost and maintenance efficient alternative to natural stone tiles we have a large collection of marble and stone look tiles available which you can find on our website under materials here.

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In the past, it was easy to see the difference between natural and man-made tiles based upon the quality and reproduction of the surface design. Today though, the ink-jet and digital printing technologies used in making ceramic and porcelain tiles are very advanced, and even for us tile experts it can be difficult to visually tell if a product is man-made or natural once it is installed.

 

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If you want to learn more about specific natural stones and considerations then please review our knowledge base article here.

 

Even for us tile experts it can be difficult to visually tell if a product is man-made or natural stone once it is installed. But, there are definitely some differences you should be aware of when making your tiling selection.