Cost of the material
With little exception, other than actual sales or clearance pricing ceramic tile is will be the least expensive of the three tiling material. With porcelain being second followed by natural stone
Porcelain is the hardest of the three materials and is used in areas where strength matters. Such as a claw foot tub that has a highPSI(pounds per square foot) Stone can often be softer, however the composite of ceramic makes it the easiest to chip. Stone is colored through therefore a chipping isn’t as noticeable. Ceramic tiles when chipped will be very noticeable. Porcelain has a-better composition and the color is consistent through the body of the porcelain tile.
Ceramic tile is the least expensive to install as it can be installed with the simplest and least expensive of thinsets. Porcelain takes more care to cut, and requires more expensive thinsets, better tools and much more careful installation due to the nature of the material. Stone is by far the most expensive to install, with additional labor required for cutting with wet saws and sealing of the stone if required every time. Thicker thinsets are used due to the irregularity of the material and the best and most expensive thinsets are required. Some marbles and natural stones will actually curl and warp if the wrong thinset is applied, as well as coloring of the stone can bleed through is the wrong setting materials are used.
Looks or aesthetic Value
Stone has a look of it’s own and just like hardwoods has a look and feel all to its own for each and every piece, it is ageless and timeless. The best porcelain is usually judged by how well it mimics natural stone and can blend in to create a natural stone affect in appearance. Ceramic when it tries to mimic a natural stone usually fails miserably. Ceramic when used to create richer solid colors that are not trying to look like a natural stone material is best for its purpose.
This is an interesting criteria. Looking at stone you could say since it’s a natural product that the variety is endless, however while there are endless variations of colors, veining and such there are definitely a finite amount of varieties of stone, from slate to marble to granite. The variations in the different families of stone, are what makes it so versatile. Porcelain we would consider the work horse of tile with a large amount of variety, but all trying to mimic natural stone. Ceramic while there is a multitude of ‘artsy’ one-off ceramics the selection of ceramic is pretty limited to mimicking the popular colors of the color palette.
Good quality ceramic floor tiles will not wear out easily. Porcelain can be considered as providing the same aesthetics of stone without the problems. Stone’s ability to be trouble free depends a lot upon the end users initial choices, honed will be more trouble free then polished, granite will be more trouble free then a soft marble. The maintenance issues of stone products are relative to the end user’s expectations and understandings of the material and how it will be used.
Stone can range from moisture resistant to moisture sensitive. Ceramic tile tends to have a moisture gain from between 3%-7% of it’s weight. Porcelain by contrast is considered impervious to moisture, meaning it is limited to a moisture gain of no more than 1/2 percent of it’s weight. This impervious nature is one of the factors that make it more expensive to install than ceramic tile, porcelain with hardly any pores and thinsets work by bonding to pores makes porcelain installation a less forgiving process.
Not an often thought of factor and for many not an option. However, a stone floor can easily be reground in place, honed or polished again and look brand new. A through body porcelain can go through this process also. Ceramic has no option.
Ceramic and stone are on opposite ends of this scale. Stone is a natural product and variations in color, texture and appearance are what gives stone it’s natural appeal. If you like stone, you better be a fan of natural variation. Porcelain will straddle this line depending upon the style of porcelain you are looking at. Some porcelain is made on purpose to have a lot of variation and some is made to have more consistency. Ceramic will be the most consistent of all. After all a box of 4 inch white ceramic tile is the pinnacle of consistency.
Stone definitely has the potential for the most problems in this regard. Stone isn’t manufactured in a factory but quarried and resold, which always opens the door to problems of quality when new quarries are being bought from usually from the other side of the world.
Stone if often considered the superior material for outdoor applications, however certain grades of porcelain are just as advantageous if not more. Ceramics are not suitable.
Yes, there are people who choose materials for many reasons and there is nothing wrong with it. Stone has no equal in this department. It is considered the finest material so it leads the pack. Stone is considered a one-of-a-kind material, no two projects will be identical, each will have its own character and be uniquely different, exotic and beautiful, stone will age gracefully and change with time. No matter how close porcelain comes to mimicking stone, it is not ever going to be stone. The fact that people often choose porcelain based on how well it mimics stone should tell you that stone is the material used to judge all others.