What The Heck Is The PEI Rating...And Other Frequent Tile Questions

You are so excited about the prospect of installing some cool ceramic or porcelain tile in your home. You are giddy with excitement just thinking about the amazing finishes available now, including the faux wood tile options that come “this close” to looking like real hardwood planks.

Tile has indeed come a very long way in recent years, so your enthusiasm is understandable.

Then you begin to try to hone in on which tile floor to choose. Suddenly, your eyes are glazing over as you find out that you need to be concerned about things like PEI and COF, along with caliber, soluble salt, and water absorption levels. And why is “rectified” tile important to me? Yawn.

Well, it’s rather like the preverbal box of chocolates dilemma. You won’t really know what you’re going to get unless you look inside.

When it comes to tile flooring, real beauty is much more than skin deep. Or, in keeping with the box of chocolates analogy, if your taste buds are hankering for that dark chocolate-covered caramel, you don’t want to end up biting into milk chocolate brittle or a nut chew…or that chocolate covered cherry.

4 Key Ceramic And Porcelain Tile FAQs

What is Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) Rating?

  • Brief history: PEI was founded in 1930 to establish consumer guidelines for glazed tile purchasing (e.g., wear rating). The goal is to select the right tile flooring for the right surface.
  • Does it apply for both ceramic and porcelain tile? Yes, but due to the innate hardness of porcelain, the rating generally means more to those considering ceramic tile.
  • The Scale:
    • 0 = unsuitable for floors: sassy looks for your walls and/or countertops
    • 1 = very light traffic: suitable for walls, countertops; for flooring where only non-jumping beings weighing 30 pounds or less may enter
    • 2 = light traffic: for walls and countertops; for flooring in sitting rooms and personal libraries (aka, no major traffic areas)
    • 3 = moderate traffic: all residential use, as in tile away (not for commercial applications)
    • 4 = moderate to heavy traffic: all residential use and light commercial such as lobbies and restaurants; or for homes that host school sports teams
    • 5 = heavy traffic: all residential use plus heavy commercial, like airports; or for your private plane hanger

What’s the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile?

  • “In general, porcelain tile is harder than ceramic and offers greater design flexibility. Although both are made from clay and other naturally occurring materials fired in a kiln, the clay used to make porcelain tile is more refined and purified.” (Source: bhg.com)
  • Ceramic tiles are softer and easier to cut than porcelain, usually suitable for very light to moderate traffic, and have a relatively high water absorption rate.
  • Porcelain tiles generally are dense, impervious, fined grained and smooth. They have a much lower water absorption rate, and are suitable for all residential and commercial/industrial usage.

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

  • Shade = color variations from carton of tiles to another
  • Caliber = shrinkage percentage shifts due to moisture fluctuation from kiln curing, from one carton of tiles to another
  • Rectified = mechanically finished on all sides to achieve uniformity and precision, for exactness of size and ease of installation
  • Soluble salt = surface treatment of some porcelain tiles
  • Water absorption levels = not a porcelain tile with greater than 0.5% absorption (therefore not suitable for outdoor installation)

What should I consider generally in selecting ceramic or porcelain tiles for my flooring?

  • Choices of style and colors
  • Depth of color and pattern
  • Durability
  • Temperature factor (cool to cold feel may require radiant heat source)
  • Ease of installation
  • Ease of cleaning and maintenance
  • Resistance to water damage, bacteria, and odors

Your ProSource showroom can advise you on which type of tile will work best for your home, and you will be far happier with the results. You won’t have to just hope it all just works out, or resort to a method akin to poking a hole in the bottom of those chocolates to find out which is which.

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