When people think of porcelain, what might come to mind are the fragile teacups our families always saved "for company." Our parents and grandparents worried that the delicate porcelain would shatter if handled roughly. They were right, of course. So, you might need to ask a physicist to explain why porcelain tiles don't shatter as teacups would.
Porcelain floor tiles can crack or break. However, they can be strong and durable if laid properly—even standing up to dropped objects. In this article, we'll explain why, when it comes to flooring options, porcelain tiles have excellent benefits, including durability and lack of toxicity.
What Makes Porcelain (and Ceramic) Tiles Durable?
Porcelain always contains a very fine clay called kaolin—which is finer than that used in ceramic tile. Kaolin, which is decomposed granite, is so dense and the firing process (vitrification) so hot that porcelain is even harder than granite. Porcelain is never made from pure kaolin, but it always contains some amount of it. When added to a naturally occurring type of clay, kaolin allows that clay to be fired in extreme heat (1900 to 2300° F). The heat melts the clay, making it glass-like. Still, even porcelain's innate hardness will not prevent it from cracking if laid directly on subfloor made of wood or another pliable material. And when porcelain cracks or comes loose, it can expose potential toxins in the grout or adhesive. Also, porcelain's glass-like quality comes from silica (the sand from which glass is produced) in the fired clay. Installers should wear protective filter masks when working where silica (glass) particles might be released into the air.
If the Porcelain Tiles Themselves Aren't Toxic...
Porcelain tiles are safe if they aren't broken or ground in a way that makes them friable or powder-like. They should be adequately supported, sealed, and anchored, though. And they should be handled using the recommended precautions when discarded or recycled. Once fired and hardened, porcelain is a safe and non-toxic flooring material. There are no harmful chemicals, and porcelain does not emit any VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Just be sure that the grout and adhesive your installers use are also non-toxic and free of VOCs. Porcelain tiles have a very low water absorption rate, making them a lot more resistant to moisture than ceramic tiles. They are also easy to clean. Thus, they are a popular choice for bathroom flooring.
Natural Is Not Always 100% Safe
Like clay, porcelain tiles ultimately come from nature. And any natural flooring material (slate, granite, wood, etc.) has its associated risks. Wood uses stains and varnishes, and many stone surfaces use sealants. Most surfaces need to adhere in some way. Any of these substances is safer than synthetic carpeting, vinyl tile, or anything made using a synthetic resin. It's always wise to take precautions when assembling or installing something, even when it comes straight from the natural environment. So, make your flooring choices carefully and with information to support your decisions when you select your flooring or other remodelling materials from us. At Caledon Tile Bath & Kitchen Centre, our staff have the knowledge and experience to help with the choices you make for your home.