Clinker or Vitrified: Which is the Best Tile for Me?

Tile floors perform differently depending their type. Before installing them in your facility, make sure you've chosen the right tile for your environment.

There are many kinds of tile, all with their own unique properties. Manufacturing processes create stark differences between the glazed ceramic tile you may have in your home and the fully vitrified and red clinker tile made by Argelith.

What is the difference between vitrified and ceramic tiles?

It comes down to composition. Both kinds of tile are made from clay, but vitrified tile also includes elements that melt at high temperatures, much like glass. This makes the finished tile harder, denser, stronger and less porous than purely ceramic tile.


Fully vitrified ceramic tiles contain elements such as quartz and silica that melt at very high temperatures. These minerals are mixed with natural clay and ground to a super-fine powder. When the tiles go through the kiln, the vitrifying elements melt. As the tiles cool, they harden, resulting in a tile that is super hard and super dense.

Pigment is mixed in with the dry ingredients before the tiles bake. This means vitrified tiles are "full-body" tiles - rather than a layer of ceramic topped by a layer of glaze, vitrified tiles are a solid slab with uniform color and density all the way through. In the unlikely event a tile does scratch or chip, the blemish will be less visible and the tile's resistance to moisture and chemicals will be unchanged.

Vitrified tiles are the gold standard for strong, durable flooring. Sometimes specifiers refer to vitrified tile as clinker tile because "clinker" has been generalized to refer to all industrial tile. As you'll see in the section below, though, fully vitrified tile is actually much stronger than clinker, which is only partially vitrified.

Unlike residential ceramic tiles, vitrified porcelain tiles are unglazed, so the color and hardness remains consistent throughout

A baked-on finish seals any microscopic pores in the tile's surface, enhancing stain resistance and making the tile even easier to clean.

With an absorption rate of less than 1/10 of 1%, vitrified tiles are virtually waterproof. When installed with a water-resistant mortar and grout, they make an ideal floor covering for wet environments like car washes and food processing plants.


These brick-look red ceramic tiles are known in some circles as classic German clinker tile. While some people call all vitrified industrial tile "clinker tile," these tiles are the real deal. They can be distinguished from their stronger vitrified cousins by their Old World red color. If specifications call for "light grey clinker tile," the architect is actually looking for the fully vitrified tile described above.

Argelith still mines the clay for its red clinker tiles in its own quarry. Like the fully vitrified tiles, making these partially vitrified tiles involves grinding clay and minerals into a fine powder that is dry pressed into molds before being fired at high temperatures. This results in a very dense, very strong tile, but without the extra hardness and water resistance of vitrification.

With an absorption rate of less than 4%, red clinker tile is stronger and less absorbent than glazed ceramic tile but is not as strong as fully vitrified tile. Argelith's red clinker has an absorption rate around 2%. It is recommended that clinker tile be treated periodically with clinker oil, which fills microscopic spaces in the tile to make it stronger and more resistant to moisture.

Red brick style ceramic is known as the classic German clinker tile. This ceramic tile differs from vitrified tile in its hardness and durability


Residential ceramic tile is typically glazed ceramic. These residential-grade tiles are made of clay mixed with water, coated with a liquid glaze to add color, shine and hardness, and then fired in a kiln. While beautiful, these ceramic tiles are less strong and more absorbent than vitrified tiles. Because they are not moisture or frost resistant they are not appropriate for outdoor use, and though they look great in the home, they do not have the mechanical strength or chemical resistance needed for commercial applications.


Industrial tile is an excellent choice for many, but not all, industrial and commercial facilities. Connect with one of our knowledgeable account managers to learn if tile is the right choice for you.

the difference between vitrified and ceramic tile