Every Porcelain Tile Body Type, Explained!
Porcelain tiles are composed of fine porcelain clays that are produced at very high temperatures. Depending on slight variations in production methods, different porcelain tiles are produced to fit different kinds of applications and designs.
Difference Between Glazed vs Unglazed Porcelain Tiles
In general, porcelain tiles can be categorized into 2 groups: glazed and unglazed. When porcelain tiles are produced, they are typically composed of different raw materials including clay and feldspar that, when fired, form the body from top to bottom. What emerges is a tile with the look of natural stone without any surface glazes, hence the name “unglazed porcelain tiles”. In the past, this limited the design to more natural looks on their surface, but in recent years, newer technologies have enabled the printing of intricate designs on the surface of unglazed porcelain tiles.
When porcelain tiles are decorated with colours or designs, such as white marble or wood, a surface glaze is often applied before firing – hence they are called “glazed porcelain tiles”. As only the top layer is required to be decorated, these tiles can save on cost when it comes to the underlying body, which makes them more affordable and appealing to buyers.
Under these 2 groups of porcelain tiles come all the different tile bodies that we know: homogeneous body, full-coloured body, double-loaded body, and off-white body respectively. Read on to learn more about each of these porcelain tile bodies.
Learn more about the differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles.
Homogeneous Body Tiles
Homogeneous body tiles, also known as full-body tiles or through-body tiles, are tiles where the surface design and colour run through the cross-section thickness of the tile body. Homogeneous body tile is ideal for applications in medium to heavy foot traffic areas of residential areas such as kitchens, corridors, terraces, countertops, and bathroom floors. Heavy foot traffic areas in commercial, public, and industrial areas, such as commercial stores, shops, public walkways, schools, airports, public transport platforms etc, where high durability and high wear-resistance are required will benefit from homogeneous body tiles.
Homogeneous tiles are one of the most durable flooring types, even when compared to other ceramic and porcelain tiles – they generally rate 7 or 8 on the Mohs scale (a rating of material hardness), making them two times harder than natural granite. Another benefit of homogeneous tiles is their consistency: as they share the same material composition throughout the whole tile, their technical performance, including durability, water absorption, and density, are all extremely consistent, in addition to their colour.
Full Premium Coloured Porcelain Tiles
Full premium coloured porcelain tiles (also sometimes called speckled or coloured body porcelain tiles) refer to porcelain tiles where the surface colour of the tile is closely matched by the entire cross-section thickness of the tile body, which consists of matching colour materials. Fine speckled colour mixture or colour pigments are added to the tile mixture to ensure that the body of the tile will match the colour of the surface. For speckled body porcelain tiles, the speckled colour mixture also matches the design of the tile surface, as it is in the case of terrazzo tiles such as Terra-Arte by Niro Granite or Felice by Portino.
Both full-coloured and speckled body porcelain tiles offer beauty and durability. The extra step taken during the manufacturing process to carefully match the surface of the tile ensures that even in the rare scenario if the hard surface chips, it would not be noticeable as the colour of the underlying body closely resembles the colour of the glaze. This makes full premium coloured porcelain tiles suitable for areas with medium to heavy foot traffic, such as residential kitchens, countertops, backsplashes, or even corridors and light commercial areas, such as offices, reception areas, and interior walls.
Double Loaded Porcelain Tiles
Double loaded (or double layer) porcelain tiles consist of 2 distinct layers in the tile body – the surface design comprising the top 3mm of the tile, and the base layer comprising a generic porcelain body that is often in a different colour from the surface. The two layers are fused together with extreme pressure and heat to form a single solid tile, where the top layer prevents surface damage from exposing the base layer, thus providing premium designs and durability at bargain prices.
In this way, double-loaded porcelain tiles offer the best of both worlds to the buyer, as most superficial scratches would not expose a differently coloured layer, yet the price is lower compared to a fully homogeneous tile. This makes double-loaded porcelain tiles highly suitable for large areas that receive moderate to high foot traffic, such as lobbies, shopping malls, public transport waiting areas, or even bridges.
Off-White Body Porcelain Tiles
Off-White body porcelain tiles refer to porcelain tiles where the surface design and colour exist only on the surface of the tile, whereas the entire cross-section thickness of the tile body consists of off-white colour materials. Sometimes called glazed porcelain tiles, an off-white body porcelain tile can produce unique and beautiful designs that are protected by a layer of glaze that ensures its durability through abrasion resistance – a performance that can be measured using the PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) rating.
Though off-white body porcelain tiles are every bit as tough as other body porcelain tile body types, they are most suitable to be installed in areas that anticipate light to moderate foot traffic, where people typically walk in normal footwear, and where they are susceptible to just a small amount of abrasive dirt. For example, residential areas such as halls, kitchens, bedrooms, corridors, balconies, terraces, backsplashes, countertops, and bathroom floors can use off-white body porcelain tiles. They are also suitable to be used in light commercial areas, such as office interior walls and reception areas, but not in high-traffic areas such as commercial entryways.