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Porcelain vs Natural Stone

11 Mar 2022

Porcelain vs Natural Stone

Being a relatively thin material, porcelain is renowned to be hardwearing and suitable for internal and external applications. Porcelain slabs are now popular and used for bathroom and kitchen counter tops, window sills etc. Porcelain is mainly made up of sand, clay and different feldspar minerals. As it contains some natural substances, porcelain is regarded and marketed as a sustainable product. Now with better high-quality techniques in printing you can emulate the beauty and the veining of natural materials such as marble. However, its manufacturing process actually creates a much larger environmental footprint in comparison to that of natural stone, as you will see in the details provided below.

The main ingredients of porcelain are clay, feldspar and certain other raw materials, which are extracted from earth. These, of course, are transported to porcelain factories, where they are  sorted and stored for processing. However, in addition to these natural materials, colourings (inks) and glazes are required into the end-product. But these materials are chemicals and they are mixed with the main natural ingredients under extreme heat, which is needed to fire and glaze the materials to achieve the final product.

On the other hand, natural stone only requires quarrying, fabricating, finishing and of course transport. Unlike porcelain, there are no additional chemicals or materials necessary to process natural stone raw materials; the Earth’s role in the process is enough. This means natural stone tiles are what they say they are; durable, recyclable and most importantly a wide range of natural appearance. Like porcelain tiles, natural stone can also be used internally and externally without having any Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) meaning that it does not emit and disperse any harmful gases.

It has been demonstrated that porcelain has the highest Global Warming Potential (GWP) among most building materials. The high GWP is generated due to the large amounts of water and energy consumed in the manufacturing process. The greater the GWP, the more gases warm up the Earth.

Stone is a perfect choice due its characteristics and attributes when aiming for a green building rating certificate within the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge (LBC). Additionally, the natural stone industry has been working tirelessly over the years to improve each area of the production process to use less water and energy, and achieve more efficient transportation and manage the rehabilitation of quarry sites.