Perfect porcelain

The Stone & Ceramic Warehouse’s Chris Grainger discusses the compelling benefits of porcelain floor tiles, from efficiency, cost and maintenance, to the ability to create a precise visual result

Choosing flooring for your new home is a big decision. While many love the look of natural stone saflooring, it can be a big investment, from both a time and financial perspective. Modern advances in technology mean porcelain flooring can now offer all the aesthetic advantages of natural stone without the added headache.

Maintenance & cost

Compared to natural stone floor tiles, porcelain has the advantage of being very easy to maintain, making it a great choice for domestic use. It’s lightweight and doesn’t stain, and prices tend to be lower than the equivalent stone. While ultimately it comes down to personal taste, porcelain can offer all the benefits of stone but without any of the maintenance.

Porcelain tiles are both virtually indestructible and stain proof, as well as being impervious to water, making them an ideal solution for kitchens and bathrooms. They also won’t be damaged by detergents or any of the other chemicals we frequently expose our surfaces to.

Aesthetic appeal

Another huge benefit of porcelain tiles is that they can now be manufactured in a wide range of realistic finishes, including marble, natural limestone, concrete and metallics. This makes it possible to achieve the look you want without the challenges and maintenance issues the real materials can bring.

For smaller, darker rooms, choosing light-coloured porcelain will help to enhance the light in a space, and using a large format tile will create the illusion of space. Recent technological advances have meant porcelain tiles are now available up to a massive 320 cm x 160 cm x 3-6 mm thick, which gives a very impressive finish.

A particularly popular trend at the moment is marble-effect tiles, and using porcelain is a great way to bring this look into your home. Until recently, having a marble bathroom was a pipe dream for the average homeowner. It was a material only to be found in the world’s finest hotels and luxury residences. Now, today’s modern porcelain lookalike tiles are available at around a fifth of the price of natural marble – but how good are they really?

The appearance is perhaps the most important aspect in achieving the marble look, slabs of real marble are digitally scanned. Mineral impurities and unsightly blemishes (which occur in marble) are Photoshopped out and so with the help of modern technology you are left with an almost flawless, ‘natural’ marble pattern – the perfect ‘Statuario Venato’ that clients perceive and desire. As well as creating an exceptional look, this also allows for book- matching and it can be fixed so that the veins appear to run from tile to tile.

Manufacturing & installation process

Another benefit of using porcelain is the process. Installing real marble slabs can be a long and costly process. Initially, the client would take a visit to a marble yard (either in the UK or abroad) to select the exact slabs of marble they desire. The stone mason would then visit the site to take a template of the areas of the bathroom where the marble is to be fixed.

They then return to the factory to cut, polish and trim the marble to match the template using specialist machinery. Finally, a few weeks later a capable team would arrive to deliver the cut marble and fix it into place.

Looking at the modern porcelain option, as we know, digital technology means there is no fear of picking the ‘wrong’ piece, which makes the initial selection process a lot more straightforward. The porcelain tiles weigh a lot less (around a quarter of the weight of natural marble) and at around 3-5 mm thick, they are much easier to handle. This means the actual slabs chosen are delivered direct to site, where the fitter cuts, polishes, trims and installs them. The whole process is lot more efficient, quicker and therefore also cheaper. Many manufacturers also keep their most popular porcelain tiles in stock, so they are available for immediate delivery.

Chris Grainger is managing director at The Stone & Ceramic Warehouse