How to choose ceramic and porcelain floor tiles

Ceramic and porcelain floor tiles are a popular, hardwearing and affordable choice for kitchens, bathrooms and hallways. Here's how to choose the best ceramic and porcelain tiles for your tiling project

Mosaic flooring in a hallway
(Image credit: Original Style)

Ceramic and porcelain tile floors are a practical flooring solution for bathrooms and kitchens due to the tiles’ water-resistant properties. These floor tiles are also a viable choice for hallways, conservatories, bedrooms and living areas – some can even be used in the garden.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles aren't just practical; they're also one of the least expensive flooring options. Hardwearing, fully compatible with underfloor heating, and easy to clean, they are a great choice for families with young children and pets.

How much do ceramic or porcelain tiles cost?

Most ceramic and porcelain tiles cost from £30 to around £80 per m². Particularly decorative examples can be found for over £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 your budget.

Patterned tiles in a turquoise bathroom with free standing bath

(Image credit: Claybrook Studio)

Porcelain vs ceramic – what's the difference?

Porcelain is sometimes referred to as ceramic because the materials are very similar, which can be confusing. 

While they may look almost identical and are both made using natural clay, the main difference is that they are produced using a slightly different manufacturing process. Porcelain has finely ground sand added, so it is denser and less porous than ceramic. Porcelain is also hardwearing and suited for areas of heavy traffic, such as hallways and kitchens, and both indoor and outdoor use. Ceramic is softer and better suited to interior, low traffic areas.

Mezzo tiles in a bedroom

(Image credit: Original Style )

What is a PEI rating?

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

Kitchen floor tiles by Topps Tiles

(Image credit: Topps Tiles)

Can you lay ceramic or porcelain tiles yourself?

While it is possible for a competent DIYer to tile a wall, 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.

Delabole Slate Effect Tiles

Delabole Slate Effect Tiles from Walls and Floors. £19.95 per m²

(Image credit: Walls and Floors)

Where can you lay ceramic or porcelain tiles?

Ceramic or porcelain floor tiles can be laid anywhere inside, 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 underfoot, the tiles' hardness means that anything dropped on the floor, such as glass and tableware, is easily broken and ceramic tiles in particular can be susceptible to cracking if a heavy object is dropped on them.

Anais Hexagon Porcelain Tiles

Anais White Hexagon Porcelain Tiles from Walls and Floors. £33.95 per m²

(Image credit: Walls and Floors)

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.

Ruska Chiffon Limestone Effect Tiles

Ruska Chiffon Limestone Effect Porcelain Tiles from Walls and Floors. £19.95 per m²

(Image credit: Walls and Floors)

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 Checkatrade and Rated People.

Tile Mountain, Sorrento floor tiles, £12.99 per m²

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Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

In 2018 Anna moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space and joined as Staff Writer. She has a longterm interest in space-making and the evolution of interior style. She can also be found looking for the latest innovations in sustainable homewares or buying yet more bedding.