By Brent Ehrlich
Crossville's Laminam Oxide panels are used on the ceiling and walls of the Macy's in Herald Square, New York City.
Porcelain has been manufactured in one form or another for more than 2,000 years and has been used for everything from urinals to Ming Dynasty vases. In buildings, porcelain is usually found in small tiles and bathroom fixtures, but porcelain panels (sometimes called large-format porcelain panels, or LFPP) are now finding their way into mainstream architecture. More common in Europe but now offered by Daltile, Crossville, and StonePeak in North America, these extremely thin panels can be used for exterior cladding, walls, countertops, and other solid surfaces and offer intriguing environmental performance when compared with other surface and cladding materials.
Porcelain is often confused with conventional ceramic tiles, which are made with a combination of clay and sand, and fired at 1,900°F. After firing, ceramic tile can still be somewhat porous, with moisture absorption greater than 0.5% and as high as 20%, according to StonePeak. Porcelain contains sand, clay, and also feldspar and is heated to about 2,300°F. The high heat melts the feldspar and other ingredients together, leaving the final product with a moisture absorption of less than 0.5%—the ANSI standard for porcelain that is used by the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency and ISO (though ISO does not use the term “porcelain”).