Tips About Polishing Porcelain Tiles

Porcelain Tile Polishing Tips

By Troy Cantini

Porcelain tiles often come from the factory with a polished look to them.  This polished look can be either to a baked on glazed finish or else they were through body porcelain tiles that were polished in the factory. Trying to replicate this polished factory finish is usually next to impossible even for professional stone restoration contractors. Porcelain tiles are extremely hard tiles and normal stone restoration and polishing procedure do not apply to porcelain tiles.

  • Glazed porcelain tiles have a glazed finish to them and are similar in properties to normal glazed ceramic tiles. These tiles will have a non porous baked on surface that can be chipped away just like the glazed finish on ceramic tiles.

  • Factory polished porcelain tiles are through body tiles that are polished at the factory with high tech diamond polishing machines. These types of tiles will not have a baked on surface but are polished at the factory with silicone carbide polishing machines.

  • Factory sealed porcelain tiles are through body porcelain tiles that are sealed with a high gloss topical sealer at the factory. Factory sealed porcelain tiles are through body porcelain tiles and the factory seal is prone to imperfections throughout a batch of porcelain tiles.

Glazed porcelain tiles have a factory installed glaze put on them which is similar to normal glazed ceramic tiles.  Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles will have the same basic characteristics in that they are easy to clean and maintain due to the extremely dense and non porous glazed finish. The glazed finish will never need to be polished and the tiles will retain their glazed finish for the life of the tiles. Glazed porcelain tiles do not typically have defects in them that make people want to polish them.

The extremely hard and dense characteristics of factory polished porcelain tiles requires them to be polished using industrial grade silicone carbide polishing machines.  Porcelain tiles are too hard to polish with normal diamond polishing machines.  Stone restoration professionals can use diamond pads to polish softer stone tiles like marble, travertine and limestone. Stone restoration companies do not have the capabilities to use silicone carbide polishing machines for polishing a porcelain tile floor. It is also impossible for a stone restoration company to diamond polish porcelain tiles with diamond polishing pads.

Factory polishing of porcelain tiles requires that intense quality control procedures be put in place during every aspect of the manufacturing and polishing process. Many times cheap porcelain tiles do not have adequate quality control and manufacturing standards. Often times there can be marks left on the porcelain tiles from the manufacturers polishing process. Many times homeowners do not adequately inspect their polished porcelain tiles before they are installed and these marks will only become evident after the tiles are installed. In many cases manufacturing defect marks on porcelain tiles are blamed on the tile installer and this is simply not the case.

Another major problem people have with polished porcelain tiles is a hazy film like appearance on the tiles.  Often this hazy film like like appearance was not visible on the sample tiles when they were chosen at the tile store. Darker colored polished porcelain tiles are notorious for having this hazy film like appearance on the tiles. In many cases the hazed look of the installed polished porcelain tiles looks like grout haze left on the tiles. The tile installer is often blamed for leaving a grout haze on the tiles since the installed tiles do not look the same as the sample tiles in the tile store. In many cases the dark colored porcelain tiles were simply poorly manufactured with this hazy appearance. It is important to always inspect your tiles before they are installed. Usually there is no warranty for installed tiles and you will have a hard time convincing a tile store to refund your money after the tiles have already been installed.

In some cases the dark colored polished porcelain tiles are all manufactured with this hazy appearance and this hazy appearance is even evident on the sample tiles at the tile store.  The problem is the lighting at the tile store can be different from the lighting in your home or business. Many people just look at the sample tiles in the tile store and pick out the tiles without ever viewing the chosen tiles at the place where they will eventually be installed. It is always important to view any tiles you plan to purchase in the exact place and position where they will be installed. In many cases the hazy look of the porcelain tiles can appear by just looking at porcelain floor tiles at an angle while they are lying flat on the floor.

Another type of porcelain tile is factory sealed porcelain tile.  These types of tiles are not glazed but instead they have an extremely hard and durable factory installed finish on the tiles. This factory installed sealer is not like a normal topical sealer that can be stripped away. The factory installed sealer will give the porcelain tiles a slightly glossy appearance to them. In cases of cheap factory sealed porcelain tiles this factory installed sealer is not installed properly which gives a blotchy look to the porcelain tiles. Often when just looking at one or two of these factory sealed tiles you will not notice the blotchy look of the tiles. Many times this blotchy look is only evident when all of the tiles are installed and the tile floor is carefully inspected.

Some homeowners do notice an uneven glossy look of their factory sealed porcelain tile installation and believe that the tiles can be polished or buffed out to make them all have the same even glossy appearance. You can not buff this factory applied glossy sealer on porcelain tiles. Some stone restoration companies will be able to apply a product supplied by the tile manufacturer that will take out a lot of the gloss of the factory sealed tiles. Taking out the glossy look of all of the porcelain tiles can make the entire porcelain tile installation look dull and lifeless. Often the uneven glossy appearance of the factory sealed porcelain tiles will look better than removing the gloss out of all of the porcelain tiles.

Many times homeowners will resort to trying to apply a topical glossy sealer to the porcelain tiles to make them all look evenly glossy and shiny.  Applying a topical sealer to porcelain tiles is not recommended by most tile, grout and stone restoration professionals. A topical sealer applied to dense non porous porcelain tiles can not adhere properly to the porcelain tiles. This topical sealer can chip, crack or peel away from the porcelain tiles. Topical sealers can make the porcelain tiles look shiny initially but topical sealers will scratch and dull over time. Topical sealers also can make the porcelain tiles have an uneven plastic look to them that looks unnatural and cheap. Also it can be difficult to perfectly apply a topical sealer to porcelain tiles and you may notice that the uneven look of the topical sealer looks worse than the uneven appearance of the porcelain tiles when they were installed.

Topical sealers will also scratch, wear down and look dull over time.  Periodically this topical sealer will have to be stripped away and reapplied. Stripping a topical sealer off of porcelain tiles requires aggressive floor stripper products combined with professional tile floor restoration machines. Stripping a porcelain tile floor also has the potential to damage your baseboards and working with floor strippers is not typically a DIY homeowner job.

You should always thoroughly inspect all potential porcelain tiles before you purchase them from the tile store.  Looking at the potential tiles in exactly the same position and lighting is essential to ensuring that you are purchasing the tiles that you want to have installed. After purchasing the tiles you should also thoroughly inspect all of the tiles before they are installed to make sure that the tiles you purchased all look the same as the tile that you chose at the tile store. In reality there is not much that can be done to completely correct bad porcelain tiles that have already been installed.

It is important to regularly clean and maintain your porcelain tiles on a regular basis.  Many times factory polished porcelain tiles are actually porous requiring them to be regularly cleaned and sealed. Sealing the porous porcelain tiles will protect them from absorbing stains and contaminates that can permanently stain the porcelain tiles. If you suspect that you may have faulty porcelain tiles you may consider having a tile and grout cleaning and restoration contractor look at the tiles to verify that the porcelain tiles are indeed flawed.

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