Know the difference before you buy

Types of Ceramic Tile

Used for centuries to decorate homes, beautiful ceramic tile now offers consumers more options in color, texture and pattern than just about any other floor covering material. New manufacturing techniques have made today’s ceramic tile designs virtually indistinguishable from natural marbles, travertines, slates and other stone flooring products. Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are both great choices for bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, sun rooms and great rooms due to their incredible durability and natural resistance to stains and moisture.
At Nielsen Bros Flooring, we offer Mohawk ceramic tile. Let your imagination and unique personal decorating tastes run free with all the latest tile fashion trends, including decorative insets and borders.
Before you shop tile with us, know the difference between these common types of decorative tile.

​Wall Tile

Typically not as durable as tile designed specifically for flooring, most wall tile is glazed with a semi-gloss or matte surface. Glazed surface tile has low slip resistance, tending to become slippery when wet. Therefore, it is far better suited to walls or countertops than to floors.

​Glazed Ceramic Tile

Glazed ceramic tile is made from simple clay and water. Various clays are mined, then ground and blended to a fine powder, and finally pressed together to form the tile itself. The pressed clay tile body is then dried to reduce its moisture content. Next, the tile surface is coated with a colored glaze, or liquid glass, that is permanently fused to the tile when it is fired in a kiln at approximately 2000° Fahrenheit. This process forms the finished tile that is then ready for application in your home.

​Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile is constructed from a blend of fine-grain clays and other minerals that produce a very dense body. For this reason, porcelain tile is highly resistant to moisture, wear and stains. These features allow porcelain tile to withstand years of heavy foot traffic in both interior and exterior applications, all while maintaining its color and beauty.

Tile Rating Systems​

To determine the overall performance and durability of a glazed ceramic tile's surface, standardized industry tests and classifications exist to rate a tile’s specific resistance to common damage such as scratching, breaking, abrasion, moisture, etc. Details of a few of these tests are below.

​Scratch Hardness

Most tiles are rated for their hardness or scratch-resistance using the Mohs Test, which rates tile from 1 (the softest rating) to 10 (the hardest). Look for tile with a rating of 5 or more for your home.

​Wear Rating

Tiles tiles are rated using the P.E.I. (Porcelain Enamel Institute) scale to ensure that they are suitable for certain applications. The tiles are evaluated for wear resistance on a scale from 1 (the lowest rating) to 5 (the highest).

  • PEI 1: Light Traffic – best for residential bathrooms or other areas with light traffic where shoes are not frequently used
  • PEI 2: Medium Traffic – best for residential interior spaces that are not entryways, kitchens, stairs or any area where tiles would typically be damaged by gravel or sand
  • PEI 3: Medium-heavy Traffic – best for any residential interior space and lightly-used commercial spaces (not including commercial entryways)
  • PEI 4: Heavy Traffic – suitable for all residential interior spaces and most commercial ones, including for shopping malls and public areas
  • PEI 5: Heavy-plus Traffic – suitable for all residential and commercial areas where heavy-duty wearability is a necessity

​Water Absorption

A ceramic tile can also be classified by its water absorption rate, which indicates the density of its body. Tiles suitable for exterior application need to have a very low water absorption rate, especially in climates subject to seasonal freezing and thawing cycles. These are typically porcelain-body tiles with a moisture absorption rating of less than .5 %.


Just like natural clay, clay tiles vary in shading. This adds to the beauty and design potential of each product. When choosing a tile for your design, it’s best to view several of the same tile product side-by-side so you can see up close the sorts of variation that occur.