Porcelain or stoneware: here are all the differences and advantages

Is stoneware or porcelain better? This is one of the questions which most frequently comes up with those looking to design (or redesign) a tiled floor or wall. There are many elements to take into consideration: the technical characteristics, the durability, the ease of cleaning and care, the toughness, the esthetic possibilities…  

The question of porcelain vs stoneware plays out over different and complementary factors. In this article, we will analyze the differences between the two materials, take a look at the advantages and disadvantages and the most practical uses, and answer some of the most common questions: is porcelain lighter than stoneware? Is porcelain stronger than stoneware? And what is better, porcelain or stoneware?

Starting out with the theory and composition of the two materials, we will also take a look at some examples of collections of porcelain stoneware tiles which highlight the design and aesthetic advantages, and drop ceramics into our every-day environments.
Let’s start out with the basics: the difference between porcelain and stoneware.

What is the difference between stoneware and porcelain?

Porcelain or stoneware, that is the question.
To answer it, we need to start out with the basics: what is porcelain, and what is stoneware.

They are two ceramic products, composed of a base of clay and a mixture of inert materials, fired at high temperatures. To simplify, we can define porcelain as being the most refined and advanced material in the world of ceramics, due both to its more refined composition and its production process which makes it a very tough and minimally porous material, as well as its extensive and wonderful decorative tradition (think about precious Chinese porcelain or the refinement of French dinner services).
Porcelain stoneware is a more recent composition which offers greater technical and material performance. It is obtained from a mixture of fine, dense clay and other inert substances fired at high temperatures and pressed through a process of synthesis. This specific production process makes stoneware tough, impermeable and long-lasting.

Another key characteristic to bear in mind is stoneware’s chameleonic ability. Thanks to the most advanced ceramic technology and careful observation of materials, porcelain stoneware is able to replicate the esthetic properties of some of the most popular materials traditionally used for wall and floor coverings: wood, concrete, metal and marble. All this while retaining the excellent technical performance of the base material.
In order to get a more concrete idea of how stoneware is able to combine esthetic appeal, technical performance and surface protection, you only need look at the Elegance Pro by Ergon tiles. This range gives form to elegance, inspired by the texture of sandstone. A stone reproduced in its most authentic appeal, a harmonious solidity with a strong architectural vocation. The Elegance Pro range stands out for its meticulous esthetic offering, its technical performance and hygiene characteristics. The tiles are indeed made from anti-bacterial porcelain stoneware, thanks to Shield: the innovative technology used in the production process which is able to reduce bacterial growth on ceramic surfaces by up to 99.9% – a guarantee of reliable, long-lasting protection.

The collection features a refined palette of seven nuances, ranging from White to Anthracite, available in four different finishes. An expansion of the design potential of stone in order to satisfy contemporary design tastes.

Stoneware vs porcelain durability: which is the best?

When choosing the most suitable covering for floors and other home surfaces, you need a material which combines technical performance and esthetics, but is also able to retain its qualities over time without deteriorating. As regards the durability of porcelain and stoneware, the former provides a greater guarantee of strength, thanks to the cutting-edge production process. The technical performance of porcelain stoneware – its impermeability, impact resistance, and resistance to heat and chemicals – remains unchanged over time. A good porcelain stoneware tile can indeed effectively stand up to the erosive action of the elements, heavy foot traffic, and other stresses, with impacts and scratches causing it no problems. Porcelain tiles, on the other hand, despite being a hard-paste ceramic material, are rather fragile and prone to breakage. For this reason, it is today used mainly in wall tiles and those with a decorative function, while porcelain stoneware is the most suitable material for flooring, even outdoors, as it is not subject to damage or deterioration. Stoneware is a versatile, convenient material, which is as solid as concrete.
Speaking of concrete, the esthetic and design possibilities of the tiles is enhanced with the industrial-look porcelain stoneware in the Re-Play Concrete by Provenza series. This collection draws its inspiration from industrial architecture to explore the thousand different souls of concrete. Concrete-effect tiles rich in color, contrasts, and expressive possibilities. Creativity is the key ingredient in Provenza’s range for covering spaces in a refined, essential manner, contemporary taste with a touch of eclecticism. There are six color variations in the collection, from lighter tones through to the intensity of Verdigris and Anthracite. The Cassaforma finish adds a dynamic, three-dimensional look, a new color to the design strength of concrete.

Is porcelain or stoneware better?

Porcelain or stoneware? Let’s do a quick reckoning. On the one hand we have porcelain, with its centuries of tradition and artistic bent, this is a material which still has lots to offer today, particularly as regards the decorative arts (and surfaces). On the other hand, one of the disadvantages of porcelain is its greater propensity to cracking and crazing, above all when laid on less linear surfaces. The tactile sensation provided by porcelain is also less comfortable when compared to stoneware: it is cold to the touch and slippery when wet.
Porcelain stoneware is undoubtedly easier to care for, and offers better technical performance than ceramics in terms of resistance to impacts, the elements, chemicals and thermal shocks. Porcelain stoneware surfaces are easy to clean and disinfect, impermeable, soft and pleasing to the touch. One disadvantage could be the greater weight of stoneware compared to porcelain – although the range of thicknesses of tiles on the market allows the load to be reduced. Another factor to consider is the expressive potential of stoneware, which incorporates innumerable possible covering and cladding types, with esthetic choices sufficient to satisfy the most refined tastes. From concrete to wood, stone to metal, right through to marble-effect porcelain stoneware.

Tele di Marmo Onyx by Emilceramica is maybe the clearest example of the creative potential of porcelain stoneware. This collection opens up new horizons onto the most noble material, with timeless charm, in an exploration of the veining of some of the world’s most popular marbles, reproduced in five iconic and vibrant colors. And thus, porcelain stoneware coverings become works of art: the richness of the nuances, the interplay of the vein patterns, the three-dimensional nature. A tile which combines the theatrical nature of marble with the peerless performance of porcelain stoneware.

24 August 2022


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