What is a PEI Rating

What is a PEI Rating

Understanding PEI Rating + What It Means When You Choose Your Next Tile

Your new home is almost set. You meet up with the contractor and the only thing left to do is complete a very small yet important detail of your home: Tiling. You browse through the best colors, designs, and styles but a key quality of choosing tiles is one that not a lot of people know about and forget to ask their tile maker: PEI rating.

What is it? How do you use it? And how do you make decisions based off of it?

Here’s our quick guide on how PEI ratings are important and can impact your decision-making process when buying your next set of tiles.

What is the PEI Rating of Tiles

PEI is the abbreviation of “Porcelain Enamel Institute”, an institute based in Norcross, GA. It is dedicated to regulating the standards of Porcelain enameling plants and their suppliers.

PEI rating defines the hardness and durability of the ceramic products; mostly tiles. It shows how much wear-resistant the enamel glazing layer of a tile is. The higher the PEI, the more wear-resistant the enamel glazing of the tiles would be.

Just to be clear though— PEI doesn’t indicate the total fracture strength of the entire tile; it only indicates the strength of its glazing.

How is the PEI measured?

PEI rating of any tile is measured by using the rotary abrasion resistance testing machine. In the PEI testing process, a set of steel ball bearings is pressed down and rolled over against the tile surface and an observer is there keeping track of the effect. The ratings are issued based on how many revolutions of the machine's abrasion head does it take for the tile to have some visible abrasions appear on the surface.

The tougher the enamel on the glazed tile is, the more revolutions of the machine head it will take to create visible abrasion and hence the higher the PEI of the tile will be.

Known as the PEI scale, this rating covers tile hardness for flooring. Tiles are rated based on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most durable rating.

PEI Rating: Classes and their suitable applications based on it?

Scale 0 - For light-duty usage. Never use for underfoot applications.

For example, display area, walls in the unused spaces, encased areas, etc.

PEI 1 - Suitable for residential and commercial walls. Not intended for foot traffic.

For example, backsplashes, bathroom walls, accent walls, etc.

PEI 2 - Suitable for residential light foot traffic. For this rating, think of areas where people would normally walk around in with very small amounts of scratching dirt.

For example, dining rooms, living rooms, bathrooms, etc. Not suitable for residential areas subjected to continuous or heavy foot traffic.

PEI 3 - Suitable for light usage commercial spaces and all residential areas. Think of the spaces where there could be a sizable amount of people wearing conventional footwear.

For example, residential halls, kitchens, foyers, laundry room, meeting room, commercial offices, reception areas, boutiques, clinics, showrooms, etc.

PEI 4 - Suitable for residential, medium commercial, and institutional areas with light applications. PEI 4 rated tiles are durable and are highly reliable if you are using them for your home modeling.

Some of its applications for example are-- hotels, restaurants, hospital lobbies, public corridors, etc.

PEI 5 - Suitable for toughest applications, heavy traffic, and heavy footfall in both commercial and residential settings. These are the “heavy-duty” tiles with nearly permanent glaze. PEI 5 rated tiles that can withstand a lot of damage, abrasive dirt, and moisture.

Their application areas, for example, are malls, public buildings, subways, public transport spaces, or swimming pools.

NR: Applies to the natural stone and other unglazed materials that are not glazed and hence have no PEI ratings.

Quick Note:

PEI Ratings are strictly indicators of a tile’s strength and durability. It does not necessarily describe its overall value and pricing.

In some scenarios, some tiles may have a PEI rating of only 1 or 2 and can prove to be a bit more costly than one with a rating of 4 or 5. If you’re choosing a tile for your shower, for example, there shouldn’t be much of an emphasis on the PEI rating. But when you’re choosing a tile for light traffic areas like your living room or your floor, then taking it into some type of consideration is recommended.

How do I choose the right tile for my settings?

After knowing all the essentials about the PEI tile rating, it's important to keep in mind that each class is suitable for a particular application only. A light-duty tile that has a 0 or 1 PEI rating cannot be used for commercial setup or floors because it's very likely to crack.

On the other hand, a thick, class 5 tile cannot be used for indoor walls because it will be too heavy for the wall adhesive to hold and may eventually cause problems.

Some tiles and manufacturers don't even carry the PEI ratings so it's best to be informed beforehand about what applications are the particular tile is suitable for.

Tiles which are designated as floor or wall tiles based on other criteria must be used for their desired application only. As wall tiles are not designed for barefoot traffic and receive almost no wear they don't work well on the floors and vice versa.

Not all manufacturers provide PEI and other details about the tiles so always be sure of the suitable applications of the tiles that you buy before you order them.