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Glazed vs Unglazed Ceramic Tiles

Last Updated Aug 19, 2011 · Written by Rob Schneider

When we think about ceramic tiles, we usually think of the common glazed ceramic tiles that are used in kitchens and bathrooms throughout the world. In fact, while glazed tiles are often referred to simply as 'ceramic tiles', their unglazed counterparts are almost always referred to as 'unglazed ceramic tiles'. What's the difference between the two? How do you choose between glazed vs unglazed ceramic tiles?

Glazing is the only real difference between glazed and unglazed tiles. After the ceramic tiles are fired, a thin coat of liquefied glass is applied over the top surface. The glass is what makes glazed tiles so highly moisture and stain resistant and what gives them their colour. Unglazed ceramic tiles, while not as stain resistant as glazed tiles, are not as slippery. This is one of the reasons why they are a better choice in certain situations.

Uses for Unglazed Ceramic Tiles

A big part of unglazed ceramic tiles' appeal is their natural earth-toned appearance. This is why they are often chosen instead of glazed tiles even for use as kitchen and bathroom tiles, where glazed ceramic tiles are more commonly used. In order to stain and water-proof the tiles, a clear sealant must be applied. Once they are thoroughly sealed, unglazed ceramic tiles are suitable for use anywhere that other types of tiles are used.

Unglazed ceramic tiles are preferable to glazed tiles in many outdoor settings because their rough texture makes them highly slip resistant. With the addition of minerals to the unbaked clay, a variety of colours and tones are available, though they are still limited. One advantage of unglazed ceramic tiles over stone tiles is their uniformity of colour. If you are looking for an earthen-toned floor, paver or decking, they may be ideal.

Uses for Glazed Ceramic Tiles

Glazed ceramic tiles are most suitable for indoor use and can be found in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms everywhere. The glazing process allows them to be created in virtually every colour of the rainbow, giving them almost universal appeal. In the kitchen, they have traditionally been the most commonly used material for splashbacks and no other material has been produced that rivals glazed ceramic tiles in popularity for use in the bathroom.

If glazed ceramic tiles have a rival for kitchen and bathroom flooring, it would be porcelain tiles, which are said to be even tougher and more scratch and chip resistant that ceramic. Ceramic and porcelain glazed tiles are virtually identical in appearance, but porcelain is more expensive.

Glazed vs Unglazed Ceramic Tiles: The Verdict

The "verdict" is really up to you. Glazed and unglazed ceramic tiles each have their advantages and disadvantages, but in both cases, their disadvantages can be overcome. While unglazed tiles are less stain resistant than their "rivals," this disadvantage can be overcome by the application of a good sealant. Glazed ceramic tiles have the disadvantage of being more slippery when wet than unglazed, but this can be largely overcome by purchasing textured surface tiles.

Aesthetically, both glazed and unglazed ceramic tiles have strong appeal. It is mostly a matter of what appeals to you the most. The only way to reach an unbiased verdict is to find a tile supplier near you and take a look at their entire range of glazed and unglazed ceramic tiles. They can fill you in on all the details and ensure that you pick a tile that is both visually appealing and practical.
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