What the heck is the PEI rating and other frequent tile questions

Whether it is ceramic or porcelain tile options emphasize the importance of flooring performance in the home. Flooring needs to stand up against the traffic of children rushing out the door every morning. It needs to stand up against every spill from a recipe being prepared. It needs to be tough against the paws of the family dog.

Creating a space that stands up to every day life can be a challenge, but when armed with enough information about the features of flooring options, the right call can be made. As a result, it’s easier to choose a tile that offers the performance and style that fits your design.

Breaking down tile

Knowing what the acronyms PEI and COF stand for is not necessarily common knowledge, and few may understand what rectified tile means.

However, choosing the right tile means learning more about how the options break down.

4 Key ceramic and porcelain tile FAQs

What is the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating?

Founded in 1930, PEI is an organization of volunteers who actively support the porcelain enamel industry in North America. This includes the actual enamelers, as well as companies who provide raw materials, equipment, and technology. They have been responsible for establishing consumer guidelines for glazed tile purchasing (e.g., wear rating). This helps consumers select the right tile for the right surface.

Their rating applies for both ceramic and porcelain tile, but due to the innate hardness of porcelain, the rating generally means more when considering ceramic tile.

Their scale is set from zero to five, with five offering the most durability for the most significant amounts of traffic. The breakdown is as follows:

•  0: Unsuitable for floors, but made for a distinct look for countertops and walls.
•  1: Very light traffic and suitable for walls, countertops, and areas of the floor where those less than 30 pounds will not be trafficking. Generally, it cannot withstand jumping.
  2: Light traffic and suitable for countertops and walls, as well as flooring in rooms that do not garner major traffic, such as home libraries and sitting rooms.
•  3: Moderate traffic and suitable for all residential use, but not commercial applications.
  4: Moderate to heavy traffic and suitable for all residential and light commercial use, such as restaurants and lobbies.
•  5: Heavy traffic and suitable for all residential use, as well as heavy commercial use, such as airports.

What is the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile?

They are both made of clay and fired in a kiln, but they are distinctly different after one is treated. While every porcelain is ceramic, not every ceramic is porcelain.
Porcelain is fired at a hotter temperature and made from a more refined clay, making the products that are crafted from the material denser and more durable. This makes porcelain tile ideal for higher trafficked areas.

Porcelain also is more likely to chip, and when it does, it will be the same color throughout unless it is glazed.

As a result of its durability, porcelain likely is going to be more expensive, but it also has a higher water resistance, making it an ideal choice for rooms with humidity or moisture, such as laundry rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Ceramic tile features an aesthetic painted or printed onto its surface, which can reveal a different color or texture when chipped. Ceramic tends to offer a lower price point than porcelain and is easier to cut.

Ceramic tile also more easily absorbs water, which can cause it to warp over time. This makes its usage more ideal for light to moderate trafficked areas.

Why do I need to know about shade, caliber, rectified, soluble salt, and water absorption levels?

While these elements  may not be necessary for casual conversation while hosting a dinner party, it is important to  understand the following terms before making a tile decision:

  Shade: The coloration and reflectivity of the tile.
•  Caliber: The specific size and facial dimension of the tile.
  Rectified: Rectified tiles are mechanically finished on all sides, in order to achieve uniformity and precision, for exactness of size and ease of installation.
  Soluble salt: Surface treatment applied to specific porcelain tile.
  Water absorption levels: A level of liquid engagement that can determine porcelain recognition. To be recognized as porcelain, a tile has to be impervious with less than a 0.5 percent level of water absorption.

Generally speaking, what should be considered when selecting ceramic or porcelain tile?

There are a variety of factors that should come into play in the decision to select ceramic or porcelain tile in a given space. These include:

  Choices of style and colors
  Durability
  Depth of color and pattern
  Temperature factor within the room
  Ease of cleaning and maintenance
  Resistance to water damage, bacteria, and odors

Creating the ideal space requires understanding its uses and the people who will occupy the room. Without accounting for the traffic patterns, an informed decision cannot be made for the type of tile to use. From there, you will be able to do the necessary research, in order to choose the type, style, color, pattern, and cut right for your project.

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