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Tile Rating System: How Does It Work?

What does the tile rating system mean?

The tile rating system relates to the finish on the tile. Some of the most common tile finishes are vodka. The tile rating system determines how strong the tile is & how long a tiles finish will last. The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) created a testing system to rate the strength of glaze applied to tile against scratches & wear. The (PEI) Rating system uses numbers starting at 1 & up to 5 for rating the different “strengths” of a tiles glaze. A tile rating of 1 (one) is the least scratch & wear resistant; A tile rating of 5 (five) is the most resistant to tile scratches & tile wear.

How is the tile rating determined? What is the rating test process for tile?

Most tile manufacturers will send its finished tile products to the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) for testing the glaze. Some manufacturers test the glaze strength in-house if they have the proper equipment the tile factory. Tiles undergo testing on a special machine comprised of a carbide wheel applied to the surface of the tile. To apply pressure evenly during testing, they add weights to the top of the carbide wheel. The carbide wheel turns over the tile in a circular motion. The rating for tile is found by how many revolutions the tile glaze can withstand until penetration. To receive the highest possible PEI rating of 5 (five), a tile needs to endure 10,000+ revolutions on the testing machine. We hope this PEI rating guide will help you make your best decisions when budgeting for your tile projects goals & budget.

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) Rating Guide

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) is THE standard for measuring the resilience & durability of wall & floor covering tile for residential & commercial use. PEI has been around since 1930 & represents the highest standard in quality controls for most of the tile industry.

PEI Tile Rating 1 (One) – Very Light Traffic

Tiles with the low PEI rating of 1 (one) are useful for low-cost indoor wall applications, light use interior purposes like bathroom & kitchen countertops. While the Porcelain Enamel Institute claims the tile rating of 1 can be used for “very light traffic residential bathroom floors”, K&S does NOT recommend this. Our years of experience in the tile business tell us that the most common issues with tiles. Cracking, scratching or fading is often the result of using cheap tiles for the wrong applications.

K&S Wholesale Tile recommends using tiles rated 3 (three) or higher for ANY tile floors. Tiles rated at 1 (one) are NOT for areas that get heavy or constant foot traffic. Tiles with this rating are actually of a design for NO foot traffic at all. They ARE designed for walls & other areas where people will NOT be walking on. This is why the cost for tile with a low rating can be significantly less. You can skimp on the tile costs for the walls & counters, but you will likely regret skimping on the floor tiles!

PEI Tile Rating 2 (Two) – Light Traffic

The PEI Tile Rating 2 (Two) identifies that a tile is for use on interior tile wall & interior counter-top applications.  While the Porcelain Enamel Institute claims the tile rating of 1 can be used for “light traffic residential interior tile floors”, K&S does NOT recommend this. Years of experience working in the tile business has taught us many things. Common issues with tiles cracking, scratching or fading are a result of using cheap tiles for the wrong applications. K&S Wholesale Tile recommends using tiles rated 3 (three) or higher for ANY tile floors. Tile with a rating of 2 (two) is NOT designed for areas like kitchens, stairs, foyers & entry ways or any areas with heavy foot traffic or places that need to support a lot of weight (especially if the weight is uneven – e.g. a very heavy desk, heavy duty storage racks, etc.).

The tile rating of 2 (two) is ideally for wall use. If you REALLY want to chance it & save a few bucks it may be alright in areas with little to no foot traffic like spare bathrooms, also. But again, K&S does not recommend any tile rating less than a 3 (three) for any tile floors. You may end up paying more money over time fixing tile with a low rating. Low rated tiles often break, warp, scratch or discolor much faster than tile with a high rating. If you are trying to save money, come by our store & we can make you a terrific deal with some of our beautiful close-out specials that we have in stock. We truly don’t want you to regret buying tile that doesn’t work for your application. No Excuses!

PEI Tile Rating 3 (Three) – Moderate Traffic

Tile products with a rating of 3 (three) are intended for use on interior walls, interior counter-top applications, & all non-commercial/residential interior floors. Products with a 3 (three) ratingon the tile PEI rating system should are NOT for commercial use.

Are you carrying heavy loads across the floor? Maybe you need to bring that new rebuilt transmission for your 1970 Dodge Super Bee indoors. You don’t want it rusting before you can get around to dropping under the hood, do you? (Hey, we know. We love American Muscle Cars Too!) Do you rent a property where people move in & out of frequently? (Its hard to find good roommates…) Is this a possibility in your house? You might want to consider a tile with a rating of 4 (four) or 5 (five).

Tiles with a rating of 3 (three) are designed for “light to moderate foot traffic”, counter-tops, walls, & other areas of your home where NORMAL foot traffic happens. Read on for the real “tough stuff tile”.

PEI Tile Rating 4 (Four) – Moderate to Heavy Traffic

Flooring products with a PEI Tile rating system designation of 4 (four) are designed for use in interior wall & interior Counter top applications, residential interior floors & LIGHT commercial applications. 4 (Four) rated tiles would be best installed in places such as a lobby, restaurants & public restrooms. Tile with the PEI Tile Rating of 4 (four) is NOT a product design for “heavy” commercial use. PEI Tile Rating 4 (four) tile is engineered for moderate-to-heavy foot traffic & suitable for ALL residential applications & for certain commercial uses.

PEI Tile Rating 5 (Five) – Heavy Traffic

Tile that manages to achieve the illustrious PEI Tile Rating 5 (Five) is the ultimate tile for interior wall, interior counter top & heavy commercial applications like airports, shopping malls, supermarkets, Post Office lobbies & the like. PEI 5 (five) on the tile rating system is the highest it goes & touts the maximum durability of the 87+ year old Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) ratings testing. It is more than suitable for all residential interior floors & possibly outdoor tiling projects too (depending on the finish).

Tile with PEI Tile Rating 5 (Five) is the BEST choice for industrial applications that require extreme durability. PEI 5 (five) rated tiles have a design for heavy to EXTRA heavy foot traffic while still perfectly suitable for any residential, commercial & institutional walls & floors. It’s considered to be “the best of the best” & could last many lifetimes with proper usage, care & maintenance.

How porous is the tile?

Aside from The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) tile rating system for measuring the amount of wear & tear a tile can withstand, Tile Porosity of the tile is also a critical factor. Porosity, with regards to tile flooring & tile walls, equates to the amount of water & moisture a given tile is able to absorb. Tile Porosity is a critical feature in areas of the home such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, patios & outdoor areas. Rather than a number system, Tile Porosity is gets its rating from 3 designations: Impervious tile, Non-vitreous tile, Vitreous & Semi-Vitreous tile. Allow us to explain:

Impervious Tile

“Impervious Tile” is the LEAST absorbent of all Tile Porosity types. The Impervious Tile type is best for rooms in the house that your tile will often come in contact with water or humidity, such as bathrooms & kitchens. Impervious Tile is “impervious” to water & moisture. Makes sense, right?

Non-Vitreous Tile

“Non-Vitreous Tile” is the MOST absorbent tile. This tile type is for areas of your home where there will be no moisture or humidity. Perhaps a living room or tile bedroom floor, or as an interior wall tile outside of the kitchen or bathroom.

Vitreous & Semi-Vitreous Tile

“Vitreous Tile” & “Semi-Vitreous Tile” fall in the the middle of the Tile Porosity spectrum & are more suitable for all areas of residence.

PEI Tile Rating System, Tile Porosity, cost & quality considerations

Having a higher PEI ratings usually translates to being more expensive. PEI Class 5 (five) tile is going to cost more than PEI Class 1 (one) due to being “double-fired” & able to withstand discoloration, scratching & wearing. Typically, tiles with non-vitreous Tile Porosity cost less due to being less dense than slightly more expensive impervious type.

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