Types of Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile has been used for centuries and offers consumers more options in color, texture, pattern and overall beauty than most other floor covering materials. With today’s new manufacturing techniques, ceramic tile designs are virtually indistinguishable from natural marbles, travertines, slates and other stone products. Glazed ceramic tile and porcelain tile are great choices for bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, sun rooms and great rooms thanks to their durability and resistance to water and staining.

With this wealth of options, you can let your imagination go free and express your unique and personal decorating tastes. But with all latest tile fashion trends in colors, sizes and designs including decorative insets and borders available at your fingertips at Kelly’s Carpet Omaha, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with some common tile terms, rating methods, and important differences before you go shopping.

Wall Ceramic Tile

Wall ceramic tiles are normally less durable than tile designed specifically for flooring. Most wall ceramic tile is glazed with a semi-gloss or matte surface. The glazed surface has a very low slip-resistance and becomes slippery when wet. Therefore, glazed wall tile is much more suited for wall or countertop applications rather than floors.

ColorBody™ Porcelain Tile

ColorBody™ Porcelain Tile is the densest of all tile types available on the market today. It has a through-color body and is defined by its <0.5% water absorption. These tiles can withstand the heaviest foot traffic and are well-suitable for both indoor or outdoor applications.


Like natural stones themselves, specific tiles of each individual product will vary in shading. This adds to the beauty and design of the finished tile project. When choosing a tile it’s best to view 2-3 tiles together to visually determine the overall appearance of the tile.

Tile Rating Methods

To determine the overall performance and durability of the glazed surface of ceramic tile, there are standardized industry tests and classifications which rate a tile type’s specific resistance to scratching, breaking, abrasion, moisture, etc…

Scratch Hardness
Most tiles are rated for hardness or scratch resistance using the MOHS Test and rating system. The MOHS test will rate a tile type from 1 (softest) to 10 (hardest). Ceramic tile with a value of 5 or more is suitable for most residential floor tile applications. Tile with a value of 7 or higher is normally acceptable for most commercial applications or heavy traffic areas.

Wear Rating
To help select suitable tiles for specific applications tiles are rated the P.E.I. (Porcelain Enamel Institute) scale. The tiles are evaluated for wear resistance on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).

  • PEI 1: Light Traffic – recommended for residential bathrooms or other areas with light traffic and where shoes are not frequently used.
  • PEI 2: Medium Traffic – recommended for residential interiors, except entryways, kitchens, stairs or any area where tiles may come into contact with gravel or sand.
  • PEI 3: Medium-heavy Traffic – recommended for all residential interiors and light commercial applications. Not recommended for commercial entryway.
  • PEI 4: Heavy Traffic – suitable for all residential interiors and most commercial applications, including shopping malls and public areas.
  • PEI 5: Heavy-plus Traffic – all residential and commercial areas where heavy-duty wearability is needed.

Water Absorption
Ceramic tile are also classified by their water absorption rate which reflects the density of the body of the tile. There is a direct relationship between the water absorption rate and the suitability of the various types of tile for interior or exterior applications. Tiles suitable for exterior applications must have a very low water absorption rate, especially in climates subject to freezing and thawing cycles. These are typically porcelain body tiles that have a moisture absorption rating of less than .5 %.