There are several different types of man-made tiles. Below I have included information on the two most common types – ceramic and porcelain. These are actually the same product but, due to different manufacturing methods, have different properties which make them suitable for specific applications.
Ceramic tile is tile made of clay which is shaped and fired in a kiln. After the clay and minerals are refined, they are ready to be shaped. The most common method for ceramic is the dust press. An almost dry mixture of clays, talc, and other ingredients are pressed into a mold at extremely high pressures. The newly formed tiles are then fired in a kiln to harden the material. After firing, they are further treated in one of two ways:
Unglazed – the pigment or natural color is there during firing and is part of the tile itself. Unglazed tile needs to be sealed for stain resistance.
Glazed – color is added to the tile after firing. The glasslike surface is bonded to the tile. Glazed tile offers more color choices than unglazed. Glazing allows brighter colors to be used and adds stain resistance. Ceramic is ideal for almost every application
Ceramic tile is probably the most versatile of tile surfaces since the glaze and look of the tile is mostly man-made. Ceramic is available in an almost infinite range of colors, patterns and styles.
Porcelain tile is a ceramic tile that is generally made by the dust pressed method from a composition which results in a tile that is dense, impervious, fine grained and smooth, with a sharply formed face. Like ceramic tile, porcelain is also available in a larger variety of colors, patterns, and textures.
Characterized by its dense body which renders it very moisture resistant, porcelain tile is often used in bathrooms where high moisture levels are a matter of course, and is the most recommended variety of ceramic tile for these types of areas. In addition to its attractive look and durability, porcelain tile can be used as either flooring tile or wall tile. Varieties of porcelain tile are available in glazed and non-glazed styles much like other types of ceramic tile, the glazed tile being a little bit easier to keep clean, and unglazed tiles offering a slip resistant quality that may make them more suitable for use in certain areas.