Porcelain enjoys a solid place in history as the material used for a number of surfaces including flooring and wall cladding. In recent times though there has been an increase in the number of materials used for kitchen countertops in the home and in businesses. In this post, we will take a look at some traditional uses for porcelain. We will briefly discuss porcelain surfaces like flooring and wall cladding. We will also see some information about porcelain countertops.
Porcelain Background Information
Porcelain has a rich history of being used for multiple types of surfaces. For example, this tough material is not a new choice for floor tiles. Some people raise their eyebrows when they learn that that wall cladding in some commercial buildings are panels made of porcelain. A number of manufacturers produce porcelain for all sorts of applications. Some of these include:
- Atlas Concorde
- Elegance Ceramics
Even though these companies all produce porcelain, they still have variations in product lines and even the sizes of panels vary. Yet, all porcelain will have certain traits. So, what are some of the characteristics of porcelain?
Porcelain surfaces are distinctly unique. One of the properties that makes them unique is that they are extremely durable. It is very difficult to scratch a porcelain tile. This is because of the way the materials is made. Porcelain is also non-porous. The finish is smooth and the surface has no pores.
Another property of this amazing material is that porcelain is very thin. Thus, covering the surface of an area can be done without adding much weight relatively speaking. These characteristics stem from the way porcelain is made.
How Porcelain Is Made
Engineers produce porcelain using a process known as “sintering”. The sintering process is a technical process about which we will not delve into here. But a short version of the process could be explained this way.
Sintering involves exposing raw materials to a tremendous amount of heat and pressure. In fact some companies even use electricity in the sintering process. Although sintering does occur at various temperatures depending on the material that goes through the process, porcelain is sintered using heat. Wikipedia makes the following statement on its page about sintering:
An example of sintering can be observed when ice cubes in a glass of water adhere to each other, which is driven by the temperature difference between the water and the ice. Examples of pressure-driven sintering are the compacting of snowfall to a glacier, or the forming of a hard snowball by pressing loose snow together.
So the sintering process causes particles of one material to transform into another material altogether. So it is with porcelain. It starts out as powder particles of raw materials (each manufacturer has a recipe) and is transformed into the material that we know as porcelain. As we mentioned before, this is a simplified explanation of the process, but you no doubt get the idea.
Advantages of Porcelain
The characteristics previously mentioned make porcelain a material that offers advantages. One of these is its hard surface. Porcelain resists scratches by various objects because of its hardness. Porcelain holds up very well even when used as a floor tile. It will scuff, and even break if something hard enough and heavy enough is dropped on it, but scratches are another story.
Fabricators use specificly designed diamond blades to cut porcelain. Workers use special blades designed to cut hard and brittle material. Many porcelain blades have a continuous rim. This reduces the amount of impact on the porcelain. As a general rule, the smaller the lots are on the edge of the blade, the smoother the cut will be. And a continuous rim blade has zero slots.
Disadvantages of Porcelain
Porcelain surfaces are not without drawbacks. We have already alluded to one disadvantage of porcelain. It is hard and brittle. Fabricators carefully protect the integrity of the project by handling the material carefully. In the case of a porcelain countertop, moving it from one location to another takes skill and caution; not to mention the correct material handling equipment.
Porcelain can be more expensive than other materials when it comes to flooring.
Countertops of Porcelain
One of the newer uses for porcelain is kitchen countertops. The durability of the material makes it an appealing choice for countertop surfaces. Homeowners clean it with just about any cleaner. Porcelain is also non-porous so it does not stain easily. There are a number of companies offering porcelain countertops as a product.
In closing, porcelain has enjoyed many years of success as a surface for flooring, wall cladding, and even building facades. As it makes it move in the countertop industry, it will be interesting to see how it fairs. One thing is for certain, working with it will take the right equipment and bit of skill and know how.