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Porcelain and Limestone - A Comparison

Materials vary when it comes to hard surfaces. Whether you are a consumer or a stone professional, one thing that you realize when you begin looking at materials is that the range of material is wide. Since this is the case, it is practical to consider how materials compare with one another. In this article we will look at two materials used for hard surfaces; porcelain and limestone. As we do, we will discuss how these materials share some similarities as well as some differences.

Properties of Limestone

Before we get into comparing limestone with porcelain, let's establish the basic properties of limestone. Then, we will be better prepared to make our comparisons.

If we could only choose one word to describe limestone, that word would be diverse. Limestone is not the material for someone looking for a material that is consistent. Limestone slabs are a natural material, and like many natural materials, the properties of limestone vary.

Variable Porosity

One area of variance in the properties of limestone is the porosity. All natural stone is porous to one degree or another. And the density of each slab of limestone will not be exactly like all the others. This becomes important when determining how often to treat a limestone surface with products that must be absorbed by the stone. One example of a surface treatment that porosity would affect is stone sealer. Cartridge adhesives for gluing limestone though, would not be affected as much because of their thickness.

Hardness Varies Somewhat

In addition to the variable porosity of limestone, the hardness of the material is not always the same either. Limestone is a genreally a "softer" stone, relatively speaking. But even from one stone to the next, one can find a bit of deviation. Most limestone ranges somewhere between 3 and 4 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. So, not a lot of vatiance, but there is some.

Color Variations

Again, natural stone excels at being unique. In fact, that is one of the big reasons that buyers choose it. Limestone usually is a light color and is often times a creamy, light brown, or off white hue. However, there are other colors of limestone in existence. Additionally, natural stone dyes like Tepox Q from Tenax4You.com are also available for either accenting or changing the color of a stone.

Varying Properties Means Diverse Applications and Usage

What all of the variance in the properties of limestone translates to is this: limestone can be used in a variety of ways. That is not to say that some uses of the material will require less maintenance than others. For example, using limestone as a countertop can be and is done. But, it will require more care than other materials used for the same purpose. On the other hand, limestone is a very appropriate material for outdoor pool decking. You can read more about natural limestone and how it is used to get more information.

Porcelain's Characteristics

Porcelian also has some specific traits that characterize it. Let's consider some of these before we get into looking at these materials in a comparative way.

If we could only use one word to describe porcelain material we would choose consistent. WHy would we use the word consistent to describe porcelain? Simply put, it is because you know what to expect from it. Porcelain is a man made material. That means many of its characteristics are controlled to one degree or another. So consistency can be built into the process of manufacturing porcelain.

Consistently Hard

One property of porcelain that is reliable is its hardness. Porcelain registers at 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. The material's hard nature makes it very versatile. Porcelain has been use for many years as flooring, wall panels, and as a tiling surface. more recently it is even being used as a material for kitchen countertops.

Non Absorbent

Another quality of porcelain is that it does not have a porous surface. And this is an inherent trait in the material that makes it "porcelain" and not ceramic. Because porcelain is non-porous, liquids stay on the surface and can be easily cleaned up. It also means that the surface is durable in the way of stain resistance.

Color Consistency

Color is an important part of a design project. Thus, many people choose to use a material that has consistent color. Porcelain is such a material. For example, when you choose a porcelain material for a design project in the showroom, you can trust that the porcelain you get at the location is consistent with the one you selected. This reduces the stress level.

Comparing Porcelain vs Limestone

Now that we have looked at the qualities of each of these materials a bit, we can compare them side-by-side. The following table makes a brief and easy to read comparison of limestone vs porcelain.

Property Limestone Porcelain Effects
Color Consistency Low High Highly consistent color translates into the following pros and cons:
  • Pro: when you select the material at the showroom, you can be confident that the material that is actually in the project is going to be the same color.
  • Pro: if you need to repair or replace part of the material, it is relatively easy to match.
  • Con: the color of the material is not
Material Type Natural Stone Man Made Material The type of material is subjective to a degree so some may find it to be a pro and others may consider it to be con.
Hardness 3 to 4 On Mohs Scale 7 On Mohs Scale Very hard materials offer some benefits and drawbacks. The following list compares the pros and cons of each of these materials:
  • Pro: Porcelain being a harder material, is more resistant to scratching. This is beneficial in areas where scratches would dull the surface. An example would be a floor or wall that had a polished finish.
  • Con: The harder the material is, the more brittle it can be. Porcelain surfaces require a specific kind of blade for cutting that reduces chipping. Also, handling a panel of porcelain requires additional care on top of the care that is needed to handle limestone panels. The size of the panels makes difference too.
Maintenance Clean with pH neutral cleaner; Periodical sealing needed. Multiple cleaners can be used; Needs no sealing. All natural stone surfaces will absorb liquids and porcelain does not. This means that when a colored liquid is spilled on a limestone surface, it can develop a stain. Stain removers that penetrate the pores and draw the stain out are needed. In the case of limestone, it also can be susceptible to a discoloration known as etching.

Comparing the Materials

The main differences between these materials stem from their composition. Limestone is made up largely of calcium carbonate. Porcelain on the other hand is a sintered material composed of various raw materials but does not have a large amount of calcium carbonate (if it even has any). The calcium carbonate is what makes limestone a relatively "soft" stone.

Since the porcelain is harder and resistant to scratching, it is often used for flooring and wall panels. Its hardness though makes it less desirable to some for specific applications. For example, areas in which the flooring gets wet or is subject to condensation can becaome slippery. There are ways to reduce the risk, but some consumers like to get the benefits without having to pay extra for them.

Limestone on the other hand, is not as susceptible to becoming slippery. Why? Its porosity makes it absorbant so water doesn't stand on the surface. since the stone absorbs the liquid, the surface retains its traction and isn't as likely to be slipped on.


In the end, there are going to be factors that contribute to the decision you make regarding the materials in a design project. Knowing the strong points and the weaknesses of each kind of material will take you a long way in choosing the right materials for whatever the job calls for.

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