Tile Material and Tile Finish Guide

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Tile Materials and Tile Finish Overview

So you’ve decided to use wall and floor tiles in your house - great choice! Whether that is because of the spectacular looks, huge range of colours, shapes and styles or the durability and functionality that only tiles deliver, you won’t be disappointed.

But what does tile material mean? What is the difference between tile finishes? How do you know what tile material is needed for your project?

There are a lot of tile materials out there and specific tile finishes for different purposes and Volare Tile + Flooring is here to help you understand and make the best flooring decision.

outdoor tiles next to pool

Types of Tile Material

Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles are made of clay which are moulded into the desired shape and then baked in a kiln at extremely high temperatures. After this process they are naturally durable and extremely strong making them ideal for the family home.

Ceramic tiles come in many different shapes and sizes, are easy to install and are quite affordable compared to the tile types.

Another reason ceramic tiles are so popular is that they come in glazed and unglazed varieties, both having their distinct advantages (keep scrolling to find out). A colourful glazed ceramic tile can be used to create stunning statement pieces in a room, such as a stunning kitchen splashback.

Porcelain Tiles

Porcelain tiles are constructed from clay and sand then shaped and blasted in the kiln at higher temperatures than ceramic tiles. As a result they achieve a higher PEI Rating meaning they are harder, denser and more suitable to be used as floor tiles.

In addition to their strength, porcelain tiles are extremely popular amongst renovators and architects because they can emulate the appearance of natural materials, such as concrete, natural stone or wood look, giving the decorator the ability to achieve stunning results while still retaining the distinct advantages of tiles.

Glazed Tiles

A glazed tile is when a standard tile, like a ceramic or porcelain tile, has a fine, glass-like layer applied to the tile material creating an excellent waterproofing quality as the glaze bonds to the surface creating a strong outer shell and attractive sheen quality.

It’s this glaze which adds colour or patterns to the tile which is ideal for kitchens and wet areas as they are attractive, smooth, stain-resistant and easy to clean.

Unglazed Tiles

Unglazed tiles are standard tiles that are ready to use upon coming out of the kiln without the need of further processing - which may include glazing or having prints applied to them.

While glazed tiles feature a glossy finish to keep out moisture, unglazed tiles are very dense giving them similar properties with the added visual benefits of natural finishes - A popular unglazed tile is the recognisable terracotta tile.

Unglazed tiles typically have rougher surfaces to achieve higher slip test ratings making them ideal for outdoor use though they may require some sealant.

Mosaic Tiles

Mosaics are small pieces of tiles assorted in linear or interchanging patterns which can be used to inject eye-catching elements into an otherwise plain wall, or, to create stunning features in your house, kitchen splashback or bathroom.

Mosaic tiles generally come in all sorts of tile materials including ceramic, porcelain, glazed and unglazed varieties.

Volare Tiles + Flooring supplied mosaic tiles in mesh sheets which can be laid easier and quicker than a single piece at a time.

Polished Porcelain

As mentioned above, unglazed porcelain tiles are ready to be used out of the kiln with no further processing - but they can be polished!

Polished porcelain tiles have a top surface polish to create a reflective and highly glossy appearance which are typically suited for indoor floors and walls though generally not recommended for wet areas, such as bathrooms or laundries.

A benefit of polished porcelain tiles are they look great, easy to clean and look super slick when used on the floor.

Types of Tile Finishes


Ideal for walls, floors and splashback features, gloss finished tiles showcase a shiny surface ideal for brightening up spaces. They are easy to clean and highly water and stain resistant making them great for inside. It is not recommended using a gloss tile for outdoor flooring.


Matt finishes absorb light rather than reflect it, so unlike the gloss finish, your matt tiles will not have a sheen quality thus creating a rustic and traditional look. Matt finished tiles are very popular throughout the house, living areas, hallways and entryways as they have a high slip rating.


Grit finished tiles feature a significant slip resistance as they are highly granular, like sandpaper, making them the ideal choice for outdoor areas.


A lappato finish fits nicely between a matt and polished tile as they are polished for a shorter time which gives them in a softer finish. Lappato tiles can often be referred to as semi-polished. Instead of the full reflection a polished tile provides, the lappato will deliver an enjoyable reflection.

Bonus Section: PEI Ratings (or PE Ratings) Explained

The Porcelain Enamel Institute rating (PEI rating or PE rating) is a standardised method of ranking tiles on their capacity to resist abrasion based upon their hardness and durability. By glancing at the tile PEI Rating you will quickly identify whether or not a tile is suitable for a particular purpose.

Tile PEI Ratings are graded from 0-5 depending on the hardness of the tile:

  • PEI 0 - No foot traffic (wall tiles)
  • PEI 1 - Very light traffic and soft footwear
  • PEI 2 - Light traffic with normal footwear
  • PEI 3 - Light to moderate traffic and suitable for most domestic floors
  • PEI 4 - Moderate to heavy traffic suitable for domestic floors and some commercial uses
  • PEI 5 - Heavy traffic suitable for all domestic and commercial uses with heavy footfall

Most ceramic floor tiles are graded between 3 and 4.
Porcelain tiles tend to have a rating between 3 and 5.

laying floor tiles

Free Online Design Consult

Speak to a Volare flooring and interior design expert for free via video to discuss your project and to be guided through tile and flooring ranges you may be interested in.

Book your free online design consultation here.

Volare Tiles + Flooring Showrooms

Volare Tiles + Flooring are committed to supplying Australians with top quality, attractive, modern and cost effective wall and floor tiles.

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