Natural Stone vs. Porcelain: Your guide to choosing tiles

12 December 2017

Natural stone and porcelain are considered two of the most popular tiles to use indoors and out. For centuries, natural stone has proven to be a durable and visually appealing material. Porcelain on the other hand is a relatively new material in comparison that’s manufactured to resemble the characteristics of natural stone.

While they may look similar, there are some key differences between natural stone and porcelain. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the two materials will help you choose the right tile for your project.

Natural stone vs. Porcelain: Aesthetics

As a natural, quarried material stone displays an unrivalled finish with an incredible amount of variation. From slate, bluestone and granite to marble, limestone, sandstone and travertine; there’s a wide range of stone you can choose from. Depending on the type of stone you opt for, the natural textures and colour tones will differ with no two stone tiles unlike. When laid, this variation will provide a luxurious, ageless beauty and a unique look.

Porcelain tiles are man-made from ultra-fine clay that has been fired at very high temperatures. This controlled manufacturing process results in tiles that are extremely durable and ensures consistency. While porcelain tiles are designed to mimic the look of natural stone, the uniformity is a distinguishable difference.

Natural stone vs. Porcelain: Cost and Installation

Natural stone is considered a more desirable product to porcelain and is, therefore, more expensive (on average, stone is 15% more). The difference in cost is greatly due to the price of quarrying and cutting the stone, as well as transportation. Like most high-quality products in limited supply, you pay a premium for natural stone.

Natural stone is also more expensive to install. This is because the natural irregularities and texture of the stone’s surface requires a thicker and stronger adhesive. Additional labour may also be required to apply a sealant to the stone, adding to the costs.

The installation of porcelain tiles can also be a challenge for those inexperienced at tiling as it can be more difficult for strong adhesives to bond to porcelain than stone. And while porcelain tile is easier to cut with the majority of cuts only requiring a manual ‘score-and-snap’ tile cutter, trimming the tile will remove the factory edge. The tiler will need to ensure this is concealed against a wall or by joining it to another surface, otherwise, the cut edge will be left exposed.

Natural stone vs. Porcelain: Moisture Resistance

One of the advantages of a manufactured material is that it can be designed to solve the shortcomings of a natural product. Porcelain is more resistant to moisture than natural stone due to its lack of pores, which is why it’s often used in wet areas such as bathrooms. However, it’s this characteristic that makes it challenging to bond the tile to the substrate.

Natural stone, on the other hand, tends to be more porous. The imperfections in the stone’s surface such as the tiny holes and fissures make it more sensitive to moisture infiltration and susceptible to stains. However, protecting it with a quality penetrating sealer will help overcome this issue and improve its durability long term.

Natural stone vs. Porcelain: Maintenance 

Porcelain has been manufactured to require little upkeep and the glazed surface means you don’t need to stain the material, just the grout. The maintenance of stone will typically depend on the type of stone you choose. For example, travertine or granite is much more durable than a marble. The finish of the stone will also impact the maintenance. An unpolished tile will require a little more maintenance than a polished, honed stone.


In the right application, both porcelain and natural stone can be effective. When installed correctly, both products are durable and have a long-life span, yet offer different aesthetics and price points. You can liken this to leather vs. leatherette or vinyl. If you’re looking for a natural look with irregular variations in colour tones and textures, it’s hard to go past the real thing.


Information provided courtesy of luxury outdoor specialist Eco Outdoor.


Eco Outdoor specialises in the supply of innovative and unique exterior surface treatments for residential and commercial projects. When it comes to external surface treatments, we’re committed to leading the market with innovative, natural and considered design solutions.


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