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Tile School: Ceramic vs. Cement Tile

By Kali |

With so many tiling options, choosing the right tile for you and your project can seem like an overwhelming task. We (of course) are partial to ceramic tile at Fireclay, but we want you to know what sort of material will work best for you, as well as the area you are using it for. Both can be used for many applications, their differences mainly lie in the materials they are made out of. We're sharing a few things you ought to know about these two tiling options on the blog today! 

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Tile Shown: 3x6 in Blue Spruce // Design: Ginny Macdonald // Image: Zeke Ruelas

What they're made of:
This is how these two tiling options can differ the most. We think it is important to know what things are made of, where they come from and the affect materials can have on our environment. 

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Image: Some of the raw materials used to make our ceramic tile. 

Ceramic:
We actually have two different clay bodies at Fireclay Tile (more on that here). Our Recycled Clay Body is made of a mixture of clay, post-consumer glass and porcelain, and granite dust. Our White Clay Body contains no recycled material, but is still made in house from domestically sourced materials.

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Image: Our greenware clay 

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Image: Unglazed Picket tiles (aka Bisque)

Cement:
Generally made with two layers, the first layer (the tile's face) is a mixture of white cement, powdered white marble and natural colorants. Color, brightness and wear resistance (cement tiles generally do not show much wear and tear) depend on the quality of of the first layer. The second, is a mortar made of fine sand and standard portland gray cement. 

Both cement and ceramic tile can go to work commercially: 

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Tile Shown: 2x8 tiles (this color has been discontinued, for a similar look, choose Sand Dune) // Design: Wendy Haworth

The environmental impact of concrete (to which cement is a main component) can have sustainable benefits, but can also have harmful effects. The cement industry is one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. Cement also emits a tremendous amount of CO2 and because a lot of it is made overseas, it leaves quite a large carbon footprint.

What they can be used for:
Both ceramic and cement tiles can be used in an array of applications, from kitchen backsplashes to fireplace surrounds to flooring.

Handpainted Padma tiles bring pattern and movement to this sleek kitchen

Tile Shown: Padma in Black and White Motif // Design: Karen Tsay // Image: David Tsay

Ceramic:
Our Recycled Clay Body can be used in any indoor application, for exteriors (depending on the region) and pools too. Our White Clay Body can also be used in most indoor applications, with the exception of steam showers, but should not be installed in exterior or pool applications. You can read more about our two clay bodies and what they can be used for here

Our Recycled Clay Body tiles installed in a pool: 

6" Triangle tiles outfit the waterline of this desert oasis pool in Joshua Tree.

Tile Shown: 6" Triangles in Milky Way and Sand Dune // Design + Image: Sara Combs and Rich Combs

Our Recycled Clay Body is perfect for flooring, in both residential and commercial spaces. Learn more about floor tile here

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Tile Shown: Hexite in Flagstone, Iron Ore, Magnetite and Tidewater

Ceramic and cement tiles side by side in this colorful hotel lobby: 

Our speciality shape Picket in a braided pattern in Morning Thaw in this colorful hotel lobby.

Tile Shown: Pickets in Morning Thaw // Design: Janice Camp // Image: Andres Garcia Lachner

Cement:
Like ceramic tile, cement can be installed nearly anywhere, but if you live in a damp area or a region that experiences below freezing temperatures, it is better suited for indoors as it can absorb water. 

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Tile Shown: Chaine Homme in White Gloss // Design: Emily Henderson // Image: Tessa Neustadt

You can see from the image below just how well ceramic tile and cement floor tiles can work together: 

Ceramic and cement tiles in perfect harmony in this master bath that features our 2x6 tiles in White Wash in a herringbone pattern.

Tile Shown: 2x6 in White Wash // Design: Becki Owens

What they cost:
Relatively, similar in cost, both ceramic and cement tiles become more expensive per square foot/per piece the more detailed they become (for example, handpainted or patterned tiles).

Ceramic: our tile ranges from $15SF and up.
Cement: From ~$9SF and up.

Handpainted Harvest Tiles in White Motif outfit this kitchen backsplash.

Tile Shown: Handpainted Harvest tiles in White Motif // Design + Image: Kirsten Grove

Do you like any of the feature colors? Order samples online now. Need some help? Simply call, chat, or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.