Porcelain vs. Mexican Tiles
Mexican tile is supposedly a popular souvenir for American tourists. I’ve never been to Mexico, and don’t plan on visiting any time soon, so I shopped for Mexican tile on the internet. I spent a day ogling gorgeous tiles at Color y Tradicion and Tierra y Fuego. I found fantastic patterns (such as the tile at left) and considered interspersing patterned tiles with blue field tiles on my countertop. My mind was set on Mexican tiles until I visited our local tile mecca: Mees Distributors.
I am kicking myself for wasting time at Louisville or Florida Tiles. Not only does Mees have a great selection, they also have a friendly and knowledgeable sales force. Unlike the other stores I visited, I was offered help within five minutes of entering the store. I accepted and told the saleswoman that I was looking for blue tile for a countertop. She recommended porcelain tile because it is more durable. She showed me a porcelain tile in a blue I really like and sent me home with a brochure.
Besides the color requirement, I want a tile durable enough to take countertop use without scratching or breaking. According to the Ceramic Tile Floor website, a tile intended for countertop use should have a Porcelain Enamel Institute classification of 4. (Tile used on a wall can have a PEI classification as low as 0 or 1.) While I can’t find a PEI for Mexican (terracotta) tiles, the general consensus seems to be that Mexican tiles are softer than porcelain and therefore more easily scratched. I don’t know the PEI for the porcelain tile I was shown at Mees, but I should be able to find it in the brochure.
Now, I have a dilemma: Mexican or porcelain tiles? The Mexican tile is cheaper and comes in exciting patterns. However, it is probably more prone to damage. The porcelain tile is expensive and plain, but more durable. The porcelain trim is very expensive ($22.50 for 8 inches). I’m considering a compromise. I could do the backsplash in Mexican tile and the countertop in porcelain. I am undecided on the counter trim; I may use wood.
The finished kitchen will have a blue and white theme: white cabinets, blue hardware, white beadboard wainscotting, blue tile. I may paint trompe l’oeil Mexican tiles along the top of the walls (where the sunflowers are now). A blue and white color scheme is sharp, but a little boring, so I’m painting the walls bright orange. I am going for a clean, bright, but a little exotic, theme.
With that in mind, what do you think of porcelain vs. Mexican tiles?