Is Porcelain or Ceramic Tile Better for Showers?

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Is Porcelain or Ceramic Tile Better for Showers?

When I perform a shower remodel in Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Irvine, San Clemente, and other South Orange County California communities, many clients ask “Is Porcelain or Ceramic Tile Better for Showers?” The answer is porcelain tile.

Glazed porcelain tile is the best for a shower.  This includes all bathroom flooring, showers, tubs, walls, and backsplash areas.  Consider this:

  • IIs Porcelain or Ceramic Tile Better for Showers?t’s waterproof
  • Very stylish
  • Extremely durable
  • Highly resistant to cracking and breakage caused by physical impacts
  • Exceedingly stain resistant
  • Super low maintenance
  • Lifespan measured in decades
  • Relatively inexpensive.

A lot of porcelain tile today has the look and feel of stones and travertines.  Porcelain tile comes in an array of colors, styles, sizes, and textures.

What Makes Porcelain Tile Better than Ceramic Tile for Showers?

One of the greatest features of porcelain tile is its water absorption rate. Porcelain tile is made from a finer clay and fired at higher temperatures than standard ceramic tile.  This means that porcelain tile will absorb less water than other types of ceramic tile. Porcelain tile is part of the general ceramic tile family with one notable difference: its water absorption rate. The Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) and The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) certifies types of tile as “porcelain” if these tiles have a water absorption rate of 0.5-percent or less.  See below for the ratings.

  • Is Porcelain or Ceramic Tile Better for Showers?Non-vitreous (Low density) – Tile with water absorption of more than 7.0 percent.
  • Semi-vitreous (Medium density) – Tile with water absorption of more than 3.0 percent, but not more than 7.0 percent.
  • Vitreous (High Density) – Tile with water absorption of more than 0.5 percent, but not more than 3.0 percent.
  • Impervious (Extremely dense) – Tile with water absorption of 0.5 percent or less.  This is Porcelain tile.

The water absorption rate is really important in wet areas such as bathrooms, showers, laundry rooms, kitchens, outside areas, and where there is a high-water table or where the soil consists of clay, sand, or can liquefy.

What Should I Know When Shopping For Porcelain Tile?

Porcelain costs a bit more than ceramic . . . for good reason – it will last, and it withstands moisture!  Water damage is perhaps, the worst thing for a house and can cause serious and expensive damage to the house and illness to the occupants.

Is Porcelain or Ceramic Tile Better for Showers?Be very careful when shopping at big box retailers, stores that offer amazing deals and low pricing, stores along tile alley/tile row in Anaheim, and anything on clearance or on special.  I’ve seen far too many folks bamboozled at these types of locations.

VERY IMPORTANT:  There are currently no regulations that require these products to be labeled as “porcelain” based on specific characteristics. However, the PTCA and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has a certification process that is voluntary.  With that, the retailers have the freedom of describing the tiles they offer any way they like.  As for buyers, this makes it a little difficult to decide which tile to purchase and the characteristics it has.  Hire a Contractor (like DAD’s!) who knows tile to help you make smart choices.  When you purchase bad, incorrect, or mislabeled tile, you can destroy your beautiful new shower before it’s even started.

Installing Porcelain Tile

This next part is really important.  So, please follow along carefully.  The porcelain tile itself is part one of a six-part installation equation.  When installing tile in the shower, you must pay attention to:

  1. The substrate:
    1. Shower Remodel DAD's ConstructionCement floor:
      1. The cement floor must be free of potholes.  It must be clean of all adhesives, mold, mildew, grout and moisture.
      2. Replace the drain. The drain must be correct for your type of shower.
      3. The dam and pan must be framed correctly. Is the wall framing correct with no structural damage?
    2. Wood Floor:
      1. Is the wood floor solid (no squeaks or bounce)?  Any damaged boards will need replacing.
      2. Is the wood floor clean of all adhesives, mold, mildew, grout and moisture?
      3. Is the drain installed properly?  Moreover, the drain must be correct for your type of shower.  If the drain needs repair, this too will need to be done.
      4. Is the dam and pan framed correctly? Is the wall framing correct with no structural damage?
  2. The underlayment – All shower pans and dams must have a properly applied hot mop. After drying, it is inspected by the Building Inspector for leaks, if it leaks, and the shower is completely tiled, you’ll need to tear the whole shower out and start over to fix the leak!

The Foundation, Tile, Grout, and Installation Process is really important.

  1. Foundation – The pan, dam, and walls must be properly floated with cement. This is similar to the stucco on the outside of your house.  However, the cement mixture for a shower is a special custom blend of premium plaster sand, Portland cement, and lime.  Failure to use cement will likely result in your shower leaking, uneven tiles, crooked walls, improperly installed shower enclosure, and a level pan, dam, seat, and shampoo recess.  You do not want the pan, dam, seat or shampoo recesses level!  For more information on remodeling a shower, see DAD’s article How Do You Remodel A Shower?
  2. The tile – If the box does not say porcelain tile (make sure it arrives direct from the supply house boxed), don’t accept it.
  3. The grout – If the tile is porcelain but the grout is not high early strength, ANSI certified and exceeds A118.6 or A118.7 standards, you’re wasting your money. Why?  The porcelain tile may be waterproof, but your grout will not be!
  4. The installation processes – Tile installation requires professional experience. Do it wrong and you can easily experience cracking tile, loose tiles, grout coming out, pooling of water, water draining the wrong way (damaging the shower and your house), and costly water damage to your house.  Common problems associated with incorrectly installed showers are water damage and serious mold, insect, and toxic airborne pathogens that can make you and your family very ill or worse.  Installing a tile shower incorrectly can be very dangerous for both you and your house.

Always Hire a Reliable and Dependable Contractor to Remodel your Shower

Design Build Bathroom Remodel | Best Local Contractor DAD's ConstructionAlways work with a trustworthy contractor like DAD’s Construction.  We are experts in bathroom remodeling who can manage projects in an efficient manner.  DAD’s Construction will do everything to minimize the possibility of change orders.  Our team will make sure we have all the necessary information to prepare a proposal that meets your requirements.  Rest assured that we will provide you with a detailed, by line-item contract.  We will make sure that the contents of this agreement are properly and clearly communicated to you.  If you have questions or need updates regarding your project, we will always answer your inquiries.

How Can I Receive More Information on Remodeling my Home?

If you would like more information on enjoying the best bathroom, kitchen, and interior remodeling experience in Orange County, call Dan at (949) 380-0177 or at for a free in home consultation.  DAD’s serves all of South Orange County California.  This includes Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch, Portola Hills, Ladera Ranch, Irvine, San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza, Dove Canyon, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Newport Beach, and Aliso Viejo.

DAD's Construction Shower Remodel

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Daniel A. Derkum is the owner of DAD’s Construction, a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation contractor,  © DAD’s Home Services & Construction, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.