Porcelain Tile Countertops

There are three different types of tiles-

  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Quarry

Ceramic tiles are made from pressed clays with a matte finish or a glaze of metallic oxides and ceramic stains. Porcelain tiles are pressed from the dust of porcelain clay. Porcelain mosaic tiles are fired at a higher temperature, which makes them thicker.

Their color also goes all the way through the tile, rather than just covering the surface. As the color and the pattern goes all the way through the tile, they are extremely durable, and impervious to wear and tear.

Tile counter tops are not only durable, but also offer the most variety in terms of color and pattern. Porcelain tile countertops are heat resistant which makes them an ideal kitchen choice. They are not however scratch proof and they can be damaged in the kitchen. Whilst tile is decorative there are some maintenance issues that make it them more suitable for the bathroom than the kitchen countertop.

Care should be taken to choose the correct tile for the purpose; there is more at stake when choosing a tile than its style and color. This is because not all porcelain tiles absorb the same amount of water. Non vitreous tiles absorb water and they are not suitable for areas around showers and sink countertops.

Semi vitreous tiles have a low rate for water absorption which makes them a good choice for areas that will be splashed. High density glazed porcelain tiles absorb no water, so they can be used for shower areas as well as a countertop.

If water seeps behind the tile it rots the surface that it sits on. If you are unsure whether or not to seal a porcelain tile, it can be test by water. If the tile absorbs water it will darken when water is added and needs to be sealed.

Another contentious area is grout maintenance on porcelain countertops. There are two types of grout which is a type of mortar used to fix the joints of porcelain tiles. If the grout darkens with water it may be better to seal it.
In general grouts made from cement are better sealed. Alternatively you can use a specialty grout such as epoxy.

Everyday cleaning
can be problematical on porcelain tile countertops in the kitchen. This is not because the porcelain is the problem it is the grout. Acidic cleaners will erode the grout in the joint, and is more problematic with sand grout.

Sanded grout is more normally applied to floors than countertops, as the addition of sand adds strength and it is used for joints wider than 1/16 of an inch. Non sand grout has a latex additive which adds to its strength and is a better choice for the installation of porcelain tile countertops. A pH balanced cleaner may be used or a soft bristled brush such as child's toothbrush can be used to loosen debris.

Another possibility to minimize grout problems on kitchen countertops is to use a colored grout. Grout gets stained easily between a porcelain countertop, but the use of a colored grout means that it is less noticeable.

Sealing the grout makes it more water resistant and it stops mildew from developing. Its main function is keeping the dirt down. If the grout needs sealing it is best to do after a couple of weeks, as it works best when the grout has had a chance to set. It can be sealed with a silicone or water based sealer.

With porcelain tile, you'll want to go slow when cutting because they can easily break and chip. And to get perfect diagonal cuts, be sure to use a speed square and go even go slower than before because of the sharp edges that can be brittle.

See Also:

Picking the Right Size Tile
How to Clean Grout