Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels really are the newest thing in tile. Until recently, the technology for making tiles of such size wasn’t even available. We have seen cutting-edge designers incorporate GPTP in large commercial properties for awhile now. But, can they be used at home? Can we use them on your bathroom remodel? Let’s explore these questions and more!
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What are Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels (GPTP)?
Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels are the new kid on the block. Their history starts in the early 2000s with new processes adapted from other industries. Rather than fill a form with a clay mix , press it, and fire, Gauged Porcelain uses a roller process, much like those used in the steel industry. Particles of those minerals are rolled under extremely high pressure and fired as sheets. The intense pressure and heat sinter those particles together, again, much like the manufacture of small steel parts. The panels experienced a number of problems early on, but through dogged experimentation and improvement, the newest ones are very durable, and when installed well, last a lifetime.
The panels available now, 20 years later, run the gamut in color, texture, and styles. There are industrial-look panels, natural stone look panels, and simple color panels with minimal variation. Their manufacturers design them to be used in a wide variety of applications. These include floors, walls, interior wet areas, exteriors, and even countertops and furniture!
While there are differences in the thicknesses, weights, and application suitability, each manufacturer will have panels available for most applications.
How is GPTP different than regular tile?
The most obvious answer is size: Gauged Porcelain Panels currently (2022) are manufactured as large as 1.5×3 meters (roughly 5×10 feet). While traditionally-manufactured tiles do get rather large, they typically don’t get any bigger than 48″x48″.
Not only because of their size, but also their flexibility, handling of panels all along the supply chain must be different. At the distribution and installation level, specialty forklifts, pallets, A-frames for transport must all be available as well as employees trained to handle the panels.
Another major difference between regular tile and GPTP is their flexibility. While all tile will flex somewhat, GPTP is able to flex so much as to facilitate curves. There are several artisans developing ways to build curved sinks and other furniture, all finished with single sheets of gauged porcelain.
Furthermore, panels now must conform to certain manufacturing standards codified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Their publication ANSI 137.3 sets standards to ensure easier cutting, and less susceptibility to breakage during transport and installation. Their publication ANSI 118.19 sets the standards for installation. Because failures were fairly common in the early 2000s, a lot of study and testing went into understanding the best procedures to ensure long-lasting installations. Then, testers approached mortar and adhesive manufacturers to develop specialty products for these panels. All of that information and new understanding was codified into the 118.19 standard.
Can I use GPTP in my house?
Gauged Porcelain Panels are a good option for any place you might put tile. The biggest limiting factor for most customers is price. Both materials and labor costs for Gauged Porcelain installation are many times the cost of regular tile. If, however, budget is not a problem, the panels can be install almost anywhere. The minimal grout lines are especially appealing to homeowners. Everything almost appears monolithic, without the need for the cost, weight, and carbon footprint of full stone slabs.
In a remodel, there is the added option of installing panels over existing flooring. While this doesn’t work in every context, in some places where the demolition would be especially disruptive, installing panels over existing tile or stone is a good option.
Is GPTP waterproof?
Gauged Porcelain has a very low water absorption rate and can be used in showers and in exterior applications. Despite that fact, it should not be considered a waterproof finish. Like any tile in a wet area, preparation will include the application of a waterproof membrane. Especially in an area like a shower, the details are important to get right, so you don’t experience a shower leak. The site specifics and products will change, but the fundamentals of the preparation remains the same.
How much does it cost to get Gauged Porcelain Panels installed in my home?
Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels are currently one of the most expensive finish options available to homeowners. The panels themselves have a high cost per square foot, and the labor even more so. Contractors must invest significant time and labor up front for training. Furthermore, they invest significant money in having the correct tools ready to even offer the service. While all pricing is local and varies across the states, many customers find costs of $100-250 per square foot installed.
How to Find a Qualified Contractor for Gauged Porcelain Tile Panel installation.
While finding a qualified, trustworthy contractor can be a struggle for any project, finding one for a GPTP project can be especially challenging. The industry has been ramping up training for a number of years, but Covid-19 and materials shortages have made the training even more of a struggle. Here are some tips for finding and interviewing a contractor:
The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) and National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) both have documents outlining basic qualifications for your tile contractor. These are questions to assess their familiarity with the fundamentals of ANSI standards, the TCNA handbook (a manual for tile installation), and their certifications.
Beyond the basic qualifications, your contractor should have training or certifications specific to Gauged Porcelain. Certifications can be issued by manufacturers, or the NTCA. As of the time of this writing, advanced certifications are available from CTEF, and in development from other organizations.
It does take quite a bit of organizing to setup a gauged porcelain project. Larger shops are often best set up for installation because they have crews ready for the multi-person installation process. Smaller shops often need to collaborate for these projects in order to have the necessary man power.