Figuring Out the PEI Tile Rating System

Monday June 02, 2008
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Tile flooring differs in the type of surface, the size of the tiles and in the patterns in which they are laid. There is also, however, a difference in the amount of wear floor tile can withstand.

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) has established a rating system designed to provide information about tile and its ability to withstand wear. There is also a rating system that provides information about the amount of moisture a particular tile is designed to withstand. Paying attention to these rating systems can help you select the right tile flooring for your home.

Here is a look at the rating systems for tile and what they mean:

  • PEI wear rating system – The PEI rates tile from one to five to give consumers a better idea of what type of tile to put in the different areas of their home.
    • Class 1: This rating is designed for no foot traffic. It is for walls and other areas where people will not walk on it.
    • Class 2: This rating is designed for areas with light foot traffic like bathrooms and also for wall use.
    • Class 3: This type of tile is designed for light to moderate foot traffic, countertops, walls, and other areas of your home where normal foot traffic will occur.
    • Class 4: This tile is for moderate to heavy foot traffic. It is suitable for all residential applications and for some commercial uses.
    • Class 5: This tile is designed for heavy to extra heavy foot traffic and is suitable for all residential, commercial and institutional uses.
  • How porous is the tile? – In addition to the PEI rating system for the amount of wear tile can withstand, it is important to pay attention to the porosity of the tile. Porosity means the amount of water tile will absorb. This is especially important in areas of your home like bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and patios or outdoor areas.
    • Impervious tile: This is the least absorbent tile. It is the best for areas of your home where the tile will come in contact with water or humidity like bathrooms and kitchens.
    • Non-vitreous tile: This is the most absorbent tile. It should only be used in areas of your home where there will be no moisture or humidity.
    • Vitreous and Semi-Vitreous: These tiles lie somewhere in the middle and are a better fit for all areas of your home.

Higher PEI numbers usually mean higher cost – The type of foot traffic is not the only determining factor in the PEI grade of tile that you will purchase for your home. The higher the PEI number, the more expensive the tile. Class 5 tile is going to cost more than Class 1, because it has been double-fired to ensure that it will withstand scratching, wearing and discoloration.

PEI rating is not the only factor in determining tile quality – PEI ratings will help you determine what kind of traffic tile can withstand, but it is not the only determining factor in selecting the right tile.

Calibration should also be taken into consideration. Calibration means ensuring that all the pieces of tile are the same size.

Squareness of edges should also be considered. This involves looking at the pieces of tile to make sure that none of them are warped.

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