Marble vs. Porcelain Tiles: Which to Use?

If you are planning to renovate your old bathroom or to build a new one, one of the things that you are going to need to decide is what kind of flooring you want. Not only do you need to decide what kind of floor you want in your bathroom, but you also need to decide what kind of floor you want in your shower.

Two of the most popular materials to consider are marble and porcelain. With that being said, when it comes to marble tiles and porcelain tiles, what are the differences between them, and which one is going to be better for you to use?

Marble vs. Porcelain Tiles

Marble and Porcelain Tiles: The Basics

Before we get into talking about the main differences between marble and porcelain tiles, let’s first take a quick look at exactly what each of these is.

First off, we have marble which is a metamorphic rock that is composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, usually calcite or dolomite. When it comes to geology, the term marble refers to metamorphosed limestone. In stone masonry, though, it can also be used to more broadly encompass unmetamorphosed limestone. Marble is an extremely high quality, good-looking, and expensive natural stone.

On the other hand, we have porcelain, which, unlike marble, is a man-made material. Porcelain is a ceramic material that is made by heating other materials, usually ones such as kaolin, clay, sand, and ground-up glass in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 degrees Celsius. These ingredients mix together, and thanks to all of that heat, solidify into what we know as porcelain, a very hard and durable material.

Marble vs. Porcelain Tiles: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know exactly what both marble and porcelain are, let’s take a closer look at what the main differences between the two are.

1. Materials Cost

One of the major differences between these two types of tile materials is how much they cost. In terms of porcelain tiles, you can expect them to cost anywhere from $5 to $13 per square foot, which is of course quite cost-effective.

On the other hand, marble tiles can easily cost twice that much, if not more, depending on the quality and the retailer you purchase them from. Marble tiles, the really good stuff, can cost you $30 or more per square foot.

2. Installation Cost and Difficulty

Not only do you need to consider the cost of the materials themselves, but also how much it is going to cost you to install the tiles. When it comes to marble tiles, you can expect to spend anywhere from $9 to $24 per square foot installed. On the other hand, porcelain tiles are much cheaper to install coming in at anywhere from $8 to $15 per square foot. As you can tell, porcelain tiles are definitely the more cost-effective option to go with.

What is interesting to note is that although marble tiles are more expensive to install, they’re actually easier to install than porcelain or ceramic tiles. We’re not going to go into too much detail as to why this is the case, but the fact of the matter is that porcelain tiles require very special tools and materials to install, more so than marble tiles.

3. Appearance and Variety

Perhaps the main reason why so many people choose to go with marble tiles for their bathroom floors is that they just look really nice. Marble has a very luxurious and stylish appearance, something that nearly no other material can match. Simply put, when it comes to good-looking bathrooms, marble is one of the best materials that you can go with.

There’s also the fact that marble comes in many different patterns and colors, so you can really match your floor to your décor and style preferences. With all that being said, porcelain tiles do actually also come in a very wide variety of patterns and colors too.

Therefore, when it comes to the differences in appearance and variety between marble tiles and ceramic tiles, we would say that this is a draw. Both of these materials come in many colors and patterns, but with that said, most people definitely agree that marble always looks better.

4. Overall Durability

What needs to be said here is that porcelain is one of the most durable materials available for flooring. Porcelain is very hard, solid, and thick, and it doesn’t absorb moisture either. It is also very impact-resistant, although that said if you drop a cinder block onto a porcelain tile, it’s still going to break.

Porcelain tiles are also very scratch-resistant. One of the only things to be concerned about here is that the grout in between the tiles can get stained and damaged.

On the other hand, we have marble, which as you might assume, is fairly durable because it is stone, but surprisingly enough it’s not actually as durable as porcelain. Marble tile will stand up to regular wear if you regularly maintain and seal it, but with that being said it is easily scratched, and it is easily broken if something relatively heavy is dropped on it. If you are looking for long-lasting durability, then it is porcelain that you need to go with.

5. Moisture Resistance

Although marble is stone, it’s actually not very resistant to moisture at all. Marble is quite porous and has many small holes in it which can absorb moisture, thus causing damage over the long run. Marble needs to be regularly sealed every 6 to 12 months in order to maintain even some moisture resistance.

The bottom line is that marble tiles are not recommended for any area that is constantly going to be wet. Therefore, if you’re going to use marble tiles for your bathroom, you better be a clean person and always clean up your water spills. Porcelain is much less susceptible to water damage, but do remember that you will need to seal the grout because the grout can develop mold if it is constantly moist.

6. Use with Radiant Floor Heating

One interesting thing to note here is that marble has a very high level of thermal conductivity, which means that it is an excellent choice to go with when you have radiant floor heating underneath. Yes, porcelain tiles do also have decent thermal heat conductivity, but not nearly as good as marble.

7. Cleaning and Maintenance

Porcelain does not stain easily, it does not scratch easily, and it is very easy to clean overall, not to mention the fact that it rarely needs to be sealed. The grout will need to be sealed every so often, but that is about it.

On the other hand, marble is very easy to scratch, so you need to be careful when cleaning it, and moreover, due to the fact that it is porous, it needs to be sealed every 6 to 12 months in order to provide it with resistance to moisture.

8. Home Resale Value

If properly installed and well maintained, marble tile flooring will increase the resale value of a home, whereas porcelain generally will not.

Which of the Two Should You Use in Your Shower and Elsewhere?

Generally speaking, if you are going for ease of maintenance, cost-effectiveness, water resistance, and durability, then it is porcelain that you want to go with. With all of that being said, the simple fact of the matter is that marble just looks way better, prettier, more unique, and far more stylish.

What it really all comes down to is function versus appearance. Let’s just say that marble is probably not the best choice for a shower, mainly due to its limited moisture resistance.

Summary

At the end of the day, the number one factor that you need to consider here is what you want. If you like the look of marble and you’re willing to deal with all of its shortcomings, then go for it. It’s all up to you!