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Ceramic Tile Flooring

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Humans have been using ceramics for tens of thousands of years, at first for figurines, and later for pottery and tiles. Today, ceramic tile remains one of the best flooring materials on the market due to its unique blend of beauty, durability, and color choice.

Types of Ceramic Tile

The main ingredient in ceramic is typically clay, to which is added water and other earthen materials such as sand and quartz. This mixture is then kiln-fired to produce the hard, durable final product.

Not all ceramic is the same, however. Tiles can primarily be differentiated by whether they are pure ceramic or porcelain and furthermore by whether they are glazed or unglazed.

Glazed vs. Unglazed Ceramic

Glazed ceramic tiles are made almost identically to unglazed ones except for one difference: after they have been fired, a layer of liquid glass is applied. The glaze, which is applied in a single or double coat and can have a matte, high-gloss, or slip-resistant finish, makes tiles more resistant to stains and scratches. Glazed tiles are also available in more brilliant colors.

Unglazed ceramic tile, also known as quarry tile, takes its color from the stone used to make it, resulting in a more earth-toned appearance. Although unglazed tiles must be sealed in order to gain the anti-staining properties of glazed tiles, they are naturally more slip-resistant than glazed tiles and also cost less.

Ceramic vs. Porcelain

It is helpful to think of porcelain as a higher-end ceramic, as porcelain is denser, more durable, and more water resistant. These attributes make porcelain appropriate for both indoor and outdoor use. Ceramic tile, on the other hand, is limited to indoor use.

Another major difference between ceramic and porcelain is coloration. Porcelain tiles are full-body, meaning they have color baked all the way through. Ceramic tiles, however, only have a top layer of color. When they chip, you can see a different-colored material underneath.

So why would you use ceramic instead of porcelain? Ceramic is less brittle, making it easier to cut and install for the do-it-yourselfer. It also costs less than porcelain.

Ceramic Flooring Tile Costs

The actual cost of ceramic tile depends on a number of factors, including the type and amount purchased, local labor and material costs, the complexity of the installation, and more.

  • Unglazed ceramic tile starts at $1 to $3 per square foot and might cost as much as $4 to $8 per square foot. In a 12 x 12 room, that's a total material cost of around $150 to $1,150. Bear in mind that you get what you pay for, and bargain-priced materials may be of poor quality.
  • Glazed ceramic tiles have an even broader price range, starting at $1 to $5 per square foot and costing up to $20 or more per square foot ($150 to $2,900 for a 12 x 12 room).
  • Porcelain tiles typically cost $4 to $12 per square foot, but can cost up to $20 to $25 per square foot (for a 12 x 12 room, that works out to roughly $600 to $3,600).
  • Ceramic and porcelain tile installation costs start at $4 to $10 per square foot, but could easily double for custom work and unusual room designs.

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