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PEI Rating Explained: How to Pick the Perfect Tile

The PEI rating for tile is a method from the Porcelain Enamel Institute. It measures how hard and lasting ceramic and porcelain tiles are.

In the PEI rating process, experts check how well the top layer of a tile’s enamel can resist wear. This test does not check how easily the whole tile can break, nor does it rate how slip-resistant the tile is.

Here’s a useful point: PEI tile ratings go from 0, for tiles that only go on walls, to 5, for tiles that can handle a lot of foot traffic on floors.

Related: Differences Between Commercial and Residential TilesWall Tiles vs. Floor Tiles

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Table of Contents

How PEI Rating Works

Ceramic and porcelain tiles come in various types for different uses. Some tiles are only for walls, some for floors, and others work for both.

Tiles often have recommendations for which rooms they fit best. This depends on their finish, design, or surface feel.

The PEI tile rating helps you quickly understand if a tile is suitable for your needs. For example, a designer sees a tile with a PEI rating of 0 and knows it’s for light use on walls, not floors.

Similarly, when a designer is picking tiles for a restaurant, they will look for those rated PEI 5. These are the best for places with lots of people walking around.

Remember: Always follow the tile factory’s guide for putting the tiles in place correctly.

Understanding How PEI Rating is Determined

The PEI rating measures how well a tile’s surface enamel can resist wear. This is done by a special machine called a rotary abrasion resistance tester.

In this test, steel balls press and roll over the tile’s surface while someone watches the changes.

The rating depends on how many times the machine turns before you can see wear on the tile.

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Details of the PEI Rating System

Tiles receive a PEI hardness rating from 0 to 5. This rating shows how many turns it takes for the wear to become noticeable.

PEI NR means the tile has no rating. This is often true for natural stone tiles, which are not glazed and so cannot be tested.

PEI Class and Their Uses:

0 – Only for light use on walls, not for floors.

1 – For walls in homes and businesses. Do not use on floors. A common use is in shower areas.

2 – For walls and floors with light use, like in residential bathrooms.

3 – Good for countertops, walls, and floors with normal walking on them. Suitable for all home uses.

4 – Fits all home uses (walls and floors) and medium commercial and light public areas.

5 – For all homes and places with much walking. Mainly for floors and often not the best look for home interiors.

PEI 0

PEI 0 tiles on the PEI scale are specialized for specific uses. These tiles are not designed for flooring as they cannot withstand foot traffic. Instead, their ideal use is for wall applications in areas that don’t face regular stress or wear.

They excel in decorative roles, such as wall accents in living rooms or backsplashes in kitchens. Their lack of durability for floor use doesn’t limit their aesthetic appeal for wall designs.

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PEI 1

PEI 1 tiles are the least durable in the porcelain tile market. It would help if you did not use them in high-traffic areas like floors or bathroom counters. These tiles are great for areas like shower walls, bathroom walls, or kitchen backsplashes. They are less durable but still offer porcelain tile benefits like resisting stains and water. They also come in many designs and colors.

PEI 2

PEI 2 porcelain tiles are versatile. You can use them for shower walls, counters, and backsplashes. They last longer than PEI 1 tiles and are suitable for floors in less-used areas of your home. Remember, PEI 2 tiles can’t handle a lot of weight or many people walking on them.

If you put them on the floor in a main bathroom or a busy mudroom, they might get damaged. They are good for moderate use in homes but not for busy commercial spaces.

PEI 3

PEI 3 tiles are the strongest you need for any place. You can install them in kitchens and bathrooms, using them for counters, backsplashes, walls, or floors. These tiles are thick enough to handle heavy foot traffic and wear. You might choose PEI 4 or 5 tiles for tougher floors, but PEI 3 offers a wider choice of colors and patterns.

While perfect for home use, PEI 3 tiles have limits in commercial settings. They work well in light commercial areas but are not suited for heavy commercial use.

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PEI 4

For home improvement, PEI 4 porcelain tiles are a great choice. They fit any home need, from hallway floors to bathroom counters and kitchen backsplashes. They’re also ideal for light commercial use, like in restaurants, offices, and shops.

PEI 4 tiles are perfect for businesses needing durable, easy-to-maintain flooring. They’re even strong enough for outdoor use, like on patios, for homes and businesses.

PEI 5

PEI 5 tiles are the most durable and strongest porcelain tiles available. They suit almost every use, whether in homes or heavy commercial areas. Install them in any space, regardless of how busy it is. These tiles are a common choice for places with lots of people, like schools, factories, hospitals, supermarkets, malls, and other busy spots.

Despite their strength, PEI 5 tiles offer fewer colors and patterns. This is why many homeowners prefer PEI 4 or lower for their projects.

Choosing the Right Tiles Based on PEI Ratings

When picking tiles, the PEI class is key. Tiles with a low rating like 0 or 1, meant for light-duty, can break if placed on floors. Tiles with a high rating, like class 5, might be too heavy for wall installation. Remember, the PEI class isn’t the only factor in selecting a tile, and some don’t even have a PEI rating.

Tiles are also classified as either floor or wall tiles, based on criteria beyond the PEI rating. Wall tiles, which don’t get walked on, can be thinner and smoother as they wear less. They can feature intricate designs, like reliefs, which are not suitable for floors.

Floor tiles usually have a matte or textured surface to reduce slipping, especially in moist areas.

Additionally, some manufacturers don’t use PEI ratings, offering only location-based suggestions.

How to Find PEI Rating of Your Tile

The Porcelain Enamel Institute doesn’t keep a list of PEI ratings for tiles from major manufacturers. To find the rating, you should look at each tile’s manufacturing details. This information is often in small print on the sales sheet or the product specification sheet.

Every company will tell you where you can install their tile. They might use a PEI rating, say whether the tile is for walls, floors, or both, or even give both types of information.

Some companies also suggest which rooms are best for their tiles, like kitchens, bathrooms, or hallways.

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