In our mission to help you navigate the big wide world of outdoor living, we have been focusing this month on swimming pool tile. What is it? How is pool tile used? And what are the differences between the three main types of swimming pool tile—glass, stone, and the focus of this article, ceramic or porcelain swimming pool tile.
The most common of all three types of pool tile, ceramic pool tiles are popular for a good reason. Affordable, reliable, and easy to install, they’ve been a go to for builders and homeowners for decades. Still, when deciding between ceramic pool tile or another material, knowing more about each of your options is always your best bet.
What is ceramic swimming pool tile?
Ceramic is a material that has been used in pools for as long as they’ve been produced. The ceramic tiles that pool contractors utilize begin as familiar clay. This clay is then fired in a kiln at extremely high temperatures until it changes permeability, becoming waterproofed. Most ceramic pool tiles are also considered porcelain. This means they are a ceramic that has been fired at even higher temperatures until the color of the ceramic has become resistant to sun and chemical exposure.
In the world of ceramics, not all ceramic is porcelain, but all porcelain is a form of ceramic. If you can wrap your head around that puzzle, then you will be able to distinguish which materials are pool grade, and which should not be used in the building process. In the firing process, texture can be added to make them more functional for underfoot settings, such as your pool floor, or pool steps.
Pros of Ceramic Pool Tile
A material like ceramic pool tiles doesn’t become so popular and enduring for no reason. From variety, to durability, and practicality, ceramic pool tiles have a lot going for them.
While they don’t quite stand up to the indefinite lifespan of well cared for glass tiles, porcelain pool tiles can stand the test of time for most homeowners. As a material, ceramic tiles are fired in a way that makes them stain and scratch resistant. They do well in the sun, and their patterns and colors will hold up for years on end.
Still, unlike glass, ceramic or porcelain is porous in comparison. In other words, they are more permeable. This means that staining can happen over time, if they are not cared for correctly. Additionally, porcelain is subject to cracking and chipping, and the finish of these tiles can wear with time.
One of the biggest draws to ceramic pool tile is in the feel of the material themselves. Porcelain has almost a soft quality when laid, and feels great underfoot. This makes for a more comfortable swimming experience. Even when seated on stairs, homeowners will be able to note the elevated comfort of smooth, ceramic tile.
Furthering this point, porcelain will absorb heat significantly less than natural stone. On hot, sunny days, this can enhance the comfort of your pool. Even dark ceramic tiles will hold less heat than a slab of natural stone coping.
Perhaps porcelain pool tile’s biggest draw is it’s affordability. Despite the increasing popularity of glass tile, many consumers still opt for ceramic due to its competitive pricing. Whereas luxury glass tile can cost as much as $75-$100 per square foot after factoring in labor, ceramic pool tiles are typically far less expensive, reaching $50 per square foot at the high end of the market.
If you’re a family on a budget, then cutting costs without sacrificing overall quality is a huge victory. Great ceramic tile allows you to do just that in your next pool installation or renovation.
Another draw of ceramic tile is it’s versatile design and application options. Ceramic comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns, and is typically a bit less finicky to install when compared to glass.
Porcelain pool tile can be used in a wide variety of ways, from coping, to waterline tile, to textured application around the pool. A great designer will know how to help you get the most out of your tiling design.
Cons of Ceramic Pool Tile
While ceramic pool tile remains incredibly popular, it has lost some steam in the last few years as glass pool tile becomes more popular. This is because, for all it’s up sides, there are simply a few unavoidable cons to porcelain pool tile.
There are plenty of beautiful ceramic pool tiles on the market. However, it’s hard to deny that more expensive materials like natural stone and glass often look better. We wouldn’t go so far as to say that porcelain pool tile “looks cheap”. But we also acknowledge that other materials give a more elevated look.
For those after a luxury pool experience in their own backyard, ceramic pool tile is not the first choice in most circumstances.
Expensive To Customize
Normally, ceramic pool tile is very affordable. Countless companies will sell you prefabricated tiles at a competitive rate. However, if you’re interested in getting more custom tile work done in your space, the cost will begin to rise considerably.
From production to installation, laying individual ceramic pool tiles can become a laborious task. And the more time and effort something takes to create, the more expensive it will be. Thus, ceramic’s unlimited versatility comes with a price tag.
Fade Over Time
As a rule of thumb, ceramic tile’s durability should last you a long time. Still, when compared to glass tiles, porcelain pool tiles will fade or crack with time. While you may not run into problems in your time using the pool, it’s very likely that the next owner’s of your home will live to see the day when the ceramic isn’t quite what it used to be.
Repair Work Often Needed
Porcelain ceramics are more brittle than ceramic tiles fired at a lower temperature. This means that as time goes on, they may crack, split, chip, break, or fade. If your tile is stained by chemical build up or a spill, cleaning this will get more challenging over time.
For this reason, repair work on ceramic pool tiles is often needed eventually. The more replacements and repairs your pool’s finish incurs, the higher the cost over time will become. And if laid poorly, you may find the margin of money you saved on initial material shrinking with time.
Ceramic/Porcelain Swimming Pool Tile—Functional, Affordable, Outperformed Long Term
For homeowners looking to finish or remodel a new pool, choosing the right material is incredibly important. From function to aesthetic sensibility, pool tile determines a lot about your space and how enjoyable it is to use.
Ceramic pool tile has been one of the most commonly used materials since commercial and residential pool building began. Porcelain pool tiles are versible, affordable, and accessible for most homeowners. But they aren’t the perfect fit for everyone.
Whether you’re looking for something more luxurious, something more long wearing, or can’t find a ceramic tile that makes sense for you, knowing your options is key to making the right decision.