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Why choose porcelain floor tiles?

Perhaps you’re pondering whether stone, timber or porcelain is the right choice for your floor. It’s true that timber and stone have their own unique characteristics, but our MD Jamie Robb is a huge advocate for porcelain. We found a moment in his busy schedule to ask him why.

Can you tell us a little about porcelain?

Porcelain is a ceramic just like terracotta, and the main difference is that it is fired at a vastly higher temperature. It’s made from natural clay – it just so happens that it’s a very fine white clay, made from a mix of feldspar, kaolin and quartz. These ingredients give porcelain very particular properties: it has almost no porosity, and it is translucent. Lack of porosity means the glaze doesn’t sink in or cause the designs to blur, while the translucency gives designs a visual depth.

Why is porcelain a good choice of material for making tiles specifically?

Porcelain is a highly versatile material allowing multiple options for finishing. You can gently distress the edges by hand to give a tumbled effect, giving the tile a weathered, natural feel. Or you can polish the surface so that it looks more refined and elegant. Sometimes you might want a gently undulating surface to give an authentic look. You can make the surface slightly pitted, like real stone. Or you can make it riven, like a slate, as if it has laminated over time. Even if you don’t consciously notice the details, you like the effect they have. It’s all about the artistry that goes into making the tile.

So, why would one choose porcelain tiles over stone or wood?

First of all, porcelain is extremely easy to maintain and can simply be wiped clean with a cloth – an important factor for many of us. It’s also completely stain resistant, whereas if you drop wine, coffee or grease on stone or timber you’re in trouble – and if you leave the stain more than a few seconds you’ll probably have a mark forever. Porcelain can be used inside and outside – it’s fully frost resistant. It stays exactly the same as the day it goes down on the floor, whereas stone and wood age and change colour over time.

Is porcelain as strong as stone?

Far stronger. You can extrude porcelain or press it, but our porcelain tiles are pressed. And when I say pressed, I mean they’re put under enormous pressure by massive industrial presses – around 200 tons per square inch. The resulting material is hugely strong. This is the opposite of most stone used for flooring, which is typically very porous and soft. Think of limestone or sandstone. It chips and breaks off very easily.

Does the quality of porcelain tiles vary?

Very much so. To make a stone effect tile, real stone is photographed and the image is printed onto porcelain before firing. It’s a complex process and the quality of the camera, the printer, the glazes and the finishing process make an enormous difference. We judge porcelain purely by the quality of the finished product. With cheaper porcelain the effects can be really poor. They may be out of focus, or you can see pixelation, or there are obvious repeats of the pattern. If you’re looking at really good quality porcelain, you won’t see any of that.

How do you select wood and stone effect tiles?

We choose classic wood effects, like oak and beech. We have beautiful slate, limestone of different kinds, Cotswold stone and blue stone effects. Everything we offer has a timeless look. Based on my experience in this industry I know these are the finishes that will have a lasting appeal no matter how trends may come and go.

Which manufacturers do you use?

Our manufacturers are the world leaders in what they do. They’re based in Italy and they’re the pioneers of the techniques used to produce porcelain tiles of this sort. Their R&D is huge. How they do it is a well-kept secret, a bit like how we make our colours and glazes. It’s the attention to detail that makes an unmistakable difference. There’s enormous artistry in a really high quality tile.

Shop porcelain tiles

“Your service is outstanding and everyone is stunned by the result. I could not be more delighted.”

Pat Jones

“Marlborough are a trusted collaborator to design unique tile collections which delight our customers”

Rebecca Malon, Head of Design and Product Development Neptune

“We are delighted with our stunning tiles - the colour and finish have brought our kitchen to life.”

Nicky Sweet

“Over 20 years, our brand has relied on Marlborough for specialist colour and glaze development.”

Colin Roby-Welford, MD of Fired Earth

“Superb! Great design advice on combining styles and colours. Thank you for going the extra mile.”

Emma Todd
Marlborough Made