What is the Difference between Vitrified Paving and Porcelain Paving?
It is little wonder that buyers are confused and often ask what is the difference between vitrified paving and porcelain paving? The confusion arises because porcelain paving is also vitrified, so both can be described as vitrified paving and that is why you will sometimes see tiles described as vitrified porcelain tiles. To clear up the confusion, it might be helpful to explain the vitrification process and then highlight the difference in production between porcelain paving and other vitrified paving. By doing so, we should then be in a position to explain exactly what is the difference between vitrified paving and porcelain paving.
Vitrified tiles are made using a combination of clay, feldspar, silica and quartz which is hydraulically pressed at a high-pressure load and then baked at extremely high temperatures. Vitrification occurs when the baking temperature is between 1200°C and 1550°C and, as the name vitrification suggests, gives the finished product a glass type quality. The advantages vitrified tiles offer, compared to normal ceramic tiles, is that the process of vitrification produces an incredibly strong tile that has high mechanical strength and very low porosity of 0.5% or less. This makes it frost resistant, less likely to crack, resistant to staining and highly resistant to scratching and other abrasions. The high temperature of the vitrification process turns all the ingredients into a molten liquid state which, as it cools, solidifies into an extraordinarily hard material and creates tiles with a consistent pattern and texture. Whilst vitrified paving is normally more expensive than everyday ceramic tiles, the hard-wearing qualities make it the perfect choice for areas of heavy footfall, particularly public spaces both indoors and outdoors.
Apart from cost, the only other disadvantages of vitrified paving, compared to ordinary ceramics, is that the low level of porosity of vitrified tiles makes them heavy and more difficult to handle and install. Also, they need handling with care to ensure the tile edges do not get chipped or cracked. However, this still doesn’t answer the question, so let’s consider the differences in the production of porcelain paving compared to other vitrified paving.
As was highlighted earlier in the article, strictly speaking, porcelain tiles can be classified as a vitrified tile because they are also produced by baking at extremely high temperatures which makes the ingredients molten and ‘glassy’ when cooled. However, porcelain paving is not usually baked at as high a temperature as other vitrified paving and is generally baked up to a maximum of 1300°C.
In common with other vitrified tiles, porcelain tiles have a very low porosity level of 0.5% and the incredibly low water absorption of porcelain tiles gives them resistance to frost which prevents cold weather damage to the tile. This is why they became a popular paving choice for outdoor areas, performing better than ceramics which are too porous to be effective.
Porcelain paving is made using a powder pressed method that not only makes the tile dense with a low porosity but means the tile is consistent in colour throughout. This offers the significant advantage that in the event a tile is chipped, the chip is not obviously visible.
Porcelain paving is strong and rugged and can be used indoors and outdoors in medium foot traffic areas but is less well suited to high foot traffic areas which are better served by the alternative, more recently developed vitrified paving.
In summary, the answer to the question, what is the difference between vitrified paving and porcelain paving is that both go through a vitrification process that makes them strong, hard-wearing and with low-porosity but the porcelain paving is not as strong or hard-wearing as the newly developed vitrified paving.
The porcelain paving is a more traditional product which was developed because tiles were needed which had a lower porosity than standard ceramic tiles and which could be used outdoors in areas where frosts occur. More recently, hydraulic pressing, altered ingredients and higher baking temperatures have enabled the production of the new range of vitrified tiles which perform better in high footfall outdoor areas compared to the more traditional porcelain tiles, but lack some of the natural charms of porcelain paving.
The recent massive growth in popularity of tiled and paved surfaces is due to tiles having an attractive appearance, being minimum maintenance, long-lasting and easy to clean. The technological advances in the manufacturing process of tiles and paving means that buyers shouldn’t be concentrating so much on what is the difference between vitrified paving and porcelain paving but would be better off mainly considering the use to which the floor area is going to be put when the paving is laid.
Leaving aside purely aesthetic considerations of appearance and the surrounding decor, the choice of ceramic paving, porcelain paving or vitrified paving depends very much on whether the paving is intended for indoors or outdoors use and whether the paving will be in a low, medium or high footfall area. Other issues to consider are how resistant the paving needs to be against scratching, chips and other damage, plus the intended lifespan of the paving.