Wood-Look Porcelain Tile: Just Another Trend, or a Better Alternative to Hardwood Flooring?

Dec 18th, 2018

Just a few short years ago, wood-look porcelain tile began its quick ascent to mainstream popularity; today, it continues to enjoy acclaim as a premium and eco-friendly alternative to hardwood flooring. Its detractors, meanwhile, claim that wood-look tile is "just another fad" that will disappear as trends in the industry change. In this edition of "TrashTalk," we will evaluate the pros and cons of using this material, and hopefully come to a conclusion as to which side of the debate has more merit.

Basis for Comparison

We'll need to start our discussion by laying some ground rules for a "fair fight"; what makes one better than another? We'll be judging these two materials on the basis of their durability, ease of maintenance, impact on resale value, cost and environmental impact. These characteristics should all contribute to a well-informed flooring decision, but you may find some to be more important than others.

Durability - Winner: Wood-Look Porcelain Tile

With proper maintenance, hardwood flooring can be kept in good order, but it's far more susceptible to warping, scratching, dents and other damage than it's porcelain-based counterpart. Wood-look tile stands up to high traffic with ease, and is usable in damp areas like bathrooms without the warping concern of real hardwood; that said, wood look tile is the clear winner in this category.

Score: Wood-Look Tile - 1, Hardwood Flooring - 0

Ease of Maintenance - Winner: Wood-Look Porcelain Tile

A well-kept hardwood floor is certainly a beautiful sight to behold, but the key word here is "well-kept"; the National Wood Flooring Association recommends maintaining your floors with a cleaner specific to your finish on a monthly basis, as well as refinishing the floors every 3-5 years. Since it's tile, wood-look is just as easy to clean as the ceramic tile you know and love from other parts of your home; just be sure to clean up spills promptly, according to MSI Stone. This point goes to wood look porcelain.

Score: Wood-Look Tile - 2, Hardwood Flooring - 0

Resale Value - Winner: Hardwood Flooring

Some have cried foul on the wood-look tile trend, calling it just that. While products have gotten better at imitating the look of real wood over the years as this material's popularity surged, you can't get closer than the real thing; it's why we recommend using natural stone over imitation materials like marble-look quartz, and it's a reason why we'd recommend going for real hardwood over wood-look tile as well. Of course, hardwood flooring is more expensive than tile with wood patterns, such that the return on investment is similar, but solid hardwood wins in terms of overall value added.

Score: Wood-Look Tile - 2, Hardwood Flooring - 1

Cost - Winner: Wood-Look Porcelain Tile

When it comes to your home, you can't make decisions based on price alone, but it is a factor of great importance. Hardwood flooring has tried to enter the low-cost arena of late, with some less expensive "engineered hardwoods" emerging onto the scene, but these products are typically of inferior quality; repair costs can sometimes end up adding up to more than the savings realized by using engineered over solid hardwood! As a more affordable alternative to solid hardwood, and a superior product to engineered hardwood, we're giving this round to wood-look tile.

Score: Wood-Look Tile - 3, Hardwood Flooring - 1

Environmental Impact - Winner: Wood-Look Porcelain Tile

Sustainability in design is a growing concern among many homeowners and designers; as the ramifications of climate change rear their ugly head even now, decision-making in every facet of our lives plays a critical role in protecting our future. Not only does the manufacturing of hardwood require deforestation, but most chemicals used to finish (and repeatedly refinish) the surface emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can be hazardous to human health.

On the contrary, wood-look tile contains no actual wood, and is completely inert once it's been installed; it's actually been exempted from emissions testing by numerous environmental standards bodies like LEED. The clear winner in terms of environmental friendliness is porcelain plank tile.

Score: Wood-Look Tile - 4, Hardwood Flooring - 1

Overall Winner: Porcelain Wood-Look Plank Tile

By a score of 4-1, wood-look tile wins the day; it's more affordable, more durable, and easier to maintain. If you're looking to add more overall value to your home before a sale, hardwood is the best option for you, but on an investment return basis both materials are equally attractive options. While wood-look flooring can be expensive from some retailers, StoneTrash has tens of thousands of square feet at steeply discounted prices. When you're looking to redo your floor, be sure to check StoneTrash first for the best deals around!