How to choose ceramic and porcelain floor tiles

Jo Messenger looks at ceramic tiles, inherently popular in kitchens and bathrooms, and now a definitive choice for other spaces too

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With the advent of underfloor heating, ceramic and porcelain floors are steadily growing in popularity. Regarded as a simple, practical solution for rooms such as bathrooms due to the tiles’ water-resistant properties, this type of flooring is now also being seen as a viable choice for bedrooms and living areas.

It is practical as well as one of the least expensive flooring options, plus it’s hardwearing and easy to clean, making it a great choice for families with young children and pets.

How much should I expect to pay?

Most ceramic and porcelain tiles cost from £30 to around £80 per m². Particularly decorative examples can be found for north of £100 per m², but ceramic and porcelain are both low cost and practical options comparted to solid wood and real stone, so you’ll easily be able to find something to fit into your budget.

Surface’s Burlington range, £74 per m²

What is the difference?

Porcelain is sometimes referred to as ceramic as the materials are very similar, which can be confusing. While they may look almost identical, the main variation is that they are produced using a slightly different manufacturing process.

  • Both are made using natural clay.
  • Porcelain has finely ground sand added, so it is denser and less porous than ceramic
  • Porcelain is hardwearing and suited for areas of heavy traffic, such as hallways and kitchens.
  • Ceramic is softer and better suited to interior, low traffic areas.
  • Porcelain is also suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

What is a PEI rating?

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating determines the recommended application of a tile from (1) wall tile only, to (5) heavy foot traffic. Most tiles, including ceramic, will have a PEI rating, so check that your chosen tile is suitable for its intended purpose.

FS Salisbury, £61.68 per m², Topps Tiles Plc

Can I lay a ceramic or porcelain myself?

While it is possible for a competent DIYer to take on this kind of project, if you want a professional finish it’s always best to employ the services of an experienced tile fitter. Always wear heavy-duty gloves, safety goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself from sharp edges and flying fragments.

Removing inwardly opening doors will make the job easier, and bear in mind that tiling may raise the floor level so you might need to plane the bottom of any doors before you rehang them. It is also a good idea to apply a coat of grout sealer to prevent dirt, stains and water from penetrating it and causing it to discolour.

Where can you lay ceramic or porcelain?

Ceramic or porcelain floor tiles can be laid anywhere, and porcelain tiles can even be used outside. It is definitely worth considering installing underfloor heating as tiles can be cold to walk on, so in the case of rooms such as living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms, it will really make a difference.

On the downside, apart from being cold on your toes, its hardness means that anything dropped on a tiled floor, such as glass and tableware, is easily broken and the material itself can be susceptible to cracking if a heavy object is dropped on it.

Craven Dunnill, Materia Mix, £41.40 per m²

Cleaning ceramic and porcelain tiles

Vacuum or sweep a tiled floor regularly to keep it in pristine condition, as dirt, grit and sand will dull a glazed surface. Clean regularly with mild detergent and water using a chamois-style mop rather than a sponge, which can push dirty water into grout lines, making them harder to clean.

If the grout becomes dirty over time, a white pencil eraser is a quick and simple way of cleaning a small area. For larger areas, a paste of baking soda and water can be applied with a clean toothbrush, and for stained white grout, try a 75/25 mix of water and bleach.

Do not use bleach on coloured grout as it will remove the colour, and take care not to get it onto the tiles. Afterwards, rinse with clean water and apply a coat of grout sealer. Refer to the manufacturer’s guide for recommended cleaning products, and if you are using a detergent or mild bleach solution, always test in an inconspicuous area first.

Where can I find a reputable fitter?

The Tile Association is a good place to start, helping you to find a fixer or showroom and even a stockist of a particular tile. Many retailers will either offer a fitting service or can recommend local fitters. Local Tilers and Walls & Floors will have a list of registered tilers in your area. Alternatively, you can post a job, get quotes and hire a tradesperson on sites such as and

Tile Mountain, Sorrento floor tiles, £12.99 per m²