Porcelain was invented in China sometime during the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and perfected gradually over the next 300 years. It is made of a particular type of clay called kaolin mixed with petuntse, or fine-ground feldspar (a mineral also called China stone, found in igneous or metamorphic rock) which is found only in China. It is characterized by its durability and translucence.
Porcelain tile is not ceramic tile. It is made from finer clays and fired at higher temperatures. It is denser and harder than ceramic, is easier to clean and more resistant to stains and mold. Its durability makes it suitable for outdoor as well as indoor use, and for electronic components. True porcelain is also to be distinguished from soft paste porcelain (a European imitation using clay and glass) and bone china (mixing ground-up animal bones with kaolin and petuntse for added durability).
Most porcelain made today is white, with colored glazes applied. If the glaze is chipped, the white porcelain will show through. However, it is still possible to get “through body” porcelain, where the color is part of the tile itself. Many people prefer this for floors, especially since it won’t have to be glazed, and therefore has higher traction. However, it is somewhat more expensive, may be harder to clean, and there are fewer color choices.
Ceramic Porcelain Tile Flooring and Ceilings
At first, porcelain was used primarily to make containers. Porcelain floor tiles were initially used for wall decoration and flooring in royal palaces and high-class, wealthy homes, in China and then throughout Europe. It is still the material of choice, especially for high-traffic areas like bathrooms and kitchens, and it is excellent for showers. Because it is frost-resistant, it is perfect for outdoor areas such as patios. It can be made in a myriad of colors, textures and glazes, and is extremely durable as well as easy to clean.
Glazed Porcelain Tile for Decoration
Stamped or painted with attractive patterns, decorative porcelain tile can be added to your kitchen or bathroom walls behind the sink to create a backsplash. Some companies specialize in hand painted tiles which fit together in a mosaic-like effect to create a mural. This is especially effective on bathroom walls or in showers. You can see differently colored tiles arranged to create impressive “floor medallion” or “wall medallion” decorations in older buildings, an idea which is starting to come back.
If you have a unique design in mind or simply want to save money, you can paint or stencil your own tiles using oil-based paint. Several books on how to do this are available. Try your local hardware store or home improvement store. Someone in your area may give classes.
How to Get A Good Deal on Polished Porcelain Tile
Measure the area where you want the tiles to go and figure out how much you are going to need. Decide on the colors you want, based on the predominant colors in the room or area where the tile is supposed to go. You may want to take photographs.
Tile is found at home improvement stores, some hardware stores, and tile outlets. Always deal with locally-owned companies when possible. Choose several tiles that you think might look good, and ask to take samples home with you. Put the samples down in the area you want tiled. Compare it with the room decor or surroundings. Examine it in natural and artificial light.
When you have decided on the kind of tile you want, start doing some comparison shopping. Tile wholesalers are often the best people to deal with. Don’t buy tile online as you need to examine it personally.
How to Install Slate Porcelain Tile Yourself
If you don’t want to spend the money on a contractor, you can install tile yourself. Guides are available at hardware and home improvement stores. Porcelain is extremely hard, and you will need a special cutter. A wet diamond saw is recommended. Use a ceramic adhesive.
If the existing floor is vinyl, you can install the tile right over it. If not, the existing floor will have to be removed. Make sure the subfloor is in good condition, clean and dry. If it is particle board, it will have to be replaced with plywood. If the floor is not smooth or level, you will have to apply leveling compound and wait for it to dry.
Begin by measuring the room, then calculate the number of tiles you will need to fill the floor area. A good idea is to buy ten or fifteen more tiles than your calculations specify.
Find the exact center point of the room by measuring the walls. This is where you will lay your first tile. Put the tiles down in a straight line towards the walls to either side. Be sure to leave a small space between each tile. Do this dry, no adhesive; this is a trial run. Rearrange the tiles to suit your preferences and the fixtures and other items in the room. You may have to do some cutting. When all measuring and cutting is completed and you have the tiles arranged just the way you want them, you may begin spreading the ceramic adhesive. Use a notched trowel for this. Once the tiles are down, it takes about a day for the adhesive to dry; you can then apply grout, and caulk at the joints where the walls and floor come together. Wait about a week before using the room. The first thing you should do is mop with a mild water-vinegar-dish soap solution. Apply grout sealant to keep the grout clean.
How to Clean Porcelain Wall Tile
Often all you need is a little vinegar in hot water to make porcelain look fresh and new. For unglazed, textured floors, use 1 cup of white vinegar per gallon of hot water and a few drops of ordinary dish soap. Apply with a mop or cloth, leave it there for a few minutes, then wipe with clear water and let dry.
There are also special porcelain cleaners. Ask at the place where you buy your tile, or the company that installed it for you. However, you should never use any cleaners that contain colored dyes, ammonia or bleach, as these will stain your grout. Don’t use oil-based detergents such as Murphy’s soap or Pinesol on porcelain, as these leave a residue, and don’t use abrasives. Your discount porcelain tile floor will provide lasting beauty and enjoyment for many years.