Currently the natural stone look is very popular for walls and floors, whether you choose real stone or porcelain that looks like stone this article will explain the differences so that you can make the best decision.
Appearance: There have been advancements in porcelain tile printing technology to imitate the genuine stone. The patterns are no longer stamped on with a roller but with high definition ink jet. With stamps there would only be so many stamp patterns before the pattern on the tiles would repeat, with modern methods, no two tiles will be the same.
Below are some examples of porcelain tiles made to look like marble and stone.
As you can see, some porcelain tiles can be made to look very realistic.
Genuine stone patterns and colouring on the other hand can be more varied and unpredictable than porcelain, some areas of marble for example may have a lot of veining and other tiles have barely any, this variation can at times be part of the appeal of natural stone.
As natural stone tiles are quarried not manufactured, each batch of stone tiles will likely look noticeably different from an earlier batch carved from a different location. Batch colours do vary in porcelain also but to a lesser degree. In some cases certain shades of stone can be mined to extinction!
Maintenance: Genuine stone is porous and needs to be sealed on an ongoing basis, especially highly polished stone will readily absorb any liquid spilled onto it. The time between sealing depends on the foot traffic the tile receives and can range from annually to five yearly. Glazed porcelain is non-porous and requires no ongoing maintenance.
Strength: The breaking strength of porcelain is stronger than natural stone. Natural stone will wear over time (which is why it needs ongoing sealing)
Cost: Natural stone is typically more expensive than porcelain. The sealing procedure of natural stone also adds an additional cost to the installation.