Up for debate: hardwood floors v. tiles that look like wood

OK, so I was shopping for countertops with a friend, while we did choose a gorgeous granite for her kitchen, what stood out most in my mind from that trip was the gorgeous ceramic tiles I saw that look like wood. If you don’t believe me, see if you can tell the real wood floors from the faux tiles below….

Allright, so it’s a trick question… these lovely photos are all tiles. Were you fooled?

Now, now, before you get all, “Well that’s all nice and good, but I’d never go for it because I want/need/love real wood,” allow me to expound upon a few of the advantages of ceramic/porcelain over hardwood floors

  1. Avoid the anathema of all hardwood owners… the dreaded chips, nicks, and scratches. Anyone who has paid for hardwood and then cringed when their friends arrive for a party wearing high heels knows the dangers here.
  2. While wood can expand or crack in wet environments, tile resists moisture, allowing a wood look on decks, around pools, or in baths or kitchens.
  3. You can make those planks as wide and/or long as you want without paying out the wazoo. Modern looks call for wide planks, but let’s face it, those wide planks don’t fit within every budget. With tiles you can easily get widths of 8″, 12″, 16″, or even 20″.
  4. With tiles you can have radiant heating… and as it was so well put in Dwell, anything else is just blowing warm dust around your house.
  5. Tile is supereasy to clean and maintain.
  6. Tiles stay cool, which is a blessing over summer months or for those who live in warm climates.

On the downside… well, tiles provide for less noise insulation (although cork underlayments and other under-tile insulators are available), less comfort for those who are standing for long periods of time, and may have less appeal for homebuyers who are not in the know. It’s also recommended that you keep a few extra tiles just in case you need to replace a chipped tile and the line of tiles you’ve bought is discontinued.  I’d also advise being supercareful about your grout color… if the color is off, it will make it obvious that it’s tile right away.

So, having said all that… here’s a roundup of the coolest wood tiles I’ve seen.

Love the varying widths of the Xilema porcelain tiles (shown here in Ciliego).

The hyperrealistic porcelain tiles from Sant’Agostino Ceramica come in 16 colors.

The clever W-Age ceramic tiles from Provenza provide look you could never achieve with real wood: crosscut to show the rings. Downright cheeky if you ask me.

I like the contemporary look of these Timber Glen tiles from daltile (shown in Cocoa).

Halcon Ceramica’s Forest line (shown here in Caoba) looks nicely weathered.

The Fondovalle Ironwood line comes in 4 colors, including awesomely modern Nero Bruciato, shown here.

Novabell Ceramiche has three lines of wood look tiles, including the above-pictured herringbone pattern.

So… what do you think? Would YOU trade in your hardwood?

71 responses to “Up for debate: hardwood floors v. tiles that look like wood

  1. Although I agree that the faux wood tiles are getting better and better in their visual appearance, there are many benefits to wood floors that still need to be considered when purchasing a floor.

    1. Wood floors may be open to nicks and scratches but they are also a natural renewable resource that can be refinished when worn. Not to mention the patina an old floor develops cannot be matched by any other surface.
    2. Wide plank wood floors are available in most budget ranges today from $2.99/sqft and up.
    3. Wood floors are also compatible with radiant heat flooring systems.
    4. Wood is also easy to clean and maintain.
    5. Tile may stay cool in summer months but it is also cold in the winter months. In fact tile flooring is twice as cold to the bare foot as wood.
    6. Wood flooring is rated as a lifetime material and in most cases where installed and maintained properly it will last as long as the home is standing. The original floors at Monticello, installed in 1803 are still in service today.


    • Thanks for raising those points, Sam! I didn’t realize you could use radiant heating with wood.

      • I live in Arizona and just had the misfortune of buying a house with beautfiful hardwood. The kicker is the owner failed to disclose a termite problem!….Now, I have to rip up the entire floor, drill into the cement and kill the termites, patch the floor and come up with an alternative….It is a nightmare!….Wood is NOT suitable for the Desert southwest. It’s a problem waiting to happen!

    • Sam,

      I just wanted to address your points from my own personal point of view:

      1. They may be renewable, but they are more than likely to get nicks and scratches whereas ceramic tiles are not. You will more than likely not have to worry about repairs when dealing with ceramic tiles.

      2. Likewise, there are budget ceramic tiles that can cost less and look better than the budget natural wood planks.

      3. I concur.

      4. Wood is also also easier to get dirty, especially the darker hard woods. People complain all the time about having to constantly (i.e. daily) clean their dark hardwood floors, especially due to having pets or footprints. With dark ceramic tiles, this won’t be a problem.

      5. I concur about tiles being cold in the winter. This is why I wear socks/slippers. But then again, you could deal with this by installing radiant heat flooring systems (a la #3).

      6. Unless you have a termite problem or your home falls victim flood/water damage.


  2. Christopher Innes

    I’m planning to replace wooden floor in conservatory with tiles as the wood has been badly discoloured by dirt walked in through back door and by ultraviolet damage. Wood is nice but this was the wrong place for it.

  3. We have english bulldogs with terrible sharp heavy claws. They would destroy real wood. So we opt for the tile b/c it will hold up much better under the trials of the dogs yet give us the feeling and warmth of wood.

    • Great point Adam! Thanks for commenting!

    • So agree, hardwood is NOT recommended for dogs over 120 lbs and I have 3 of them. I love the look of hardwood but need the durability of the porcelain, the dogs will love the cool tiles in the summer and we will just lay area rugs for the cooler months for our comfort. This is definitely the way to go! The examples are beautiful.

  4. I live in Florida and debated between wood and tile until I had a pipe burst in my washer. I’m replacing my old carpet with wood tile. Florida is hot 90% of the year, so cold floors are the least of my worries. There are also termites to consider in my case. The maintainance of wood floors in hot climate areas sucks. There are also pets to consider, and accidents they may have. Wood tile is a no brainier for me. It’s cheaper, easier to maintain, looks just like wood, and will stand up to high traffic, water, stains, and termites.

  5. Pingback: Up for debate: hardwood floors v. tiles that look like wood | Ceramic Floor and Wall Chat

  6. Where can I order the fondovalle ironwood?? That’s exactly the kind I’m looking for… Anyone know how I can get this for my house?

  7. I love tile. I’m a Floridian. But in the last few years, in Home design magazines, and TV shows, (HGTV), and new homes, all I’m seeing is very dark wood. Whats happening?? Is everyone depressed?? Up North in mid winter, coming into a home with “dark” wood floors?? UGH. I did like the idea for one bedroom maybe two with a lighter wood. But all the issues I read about. Warping, water damage, wear marks, nicks, chips, etc. No thanks. Then I started seeing Tile Planks that look like wood..EUREEKA….This is for me. I can have the look of wood with the durability of tile.

  8. Like Ashton I am also having a hard time finding where to buy the fondovalle ironwood tiles. Has anyone had any luck locating them in the US?

  9. I like the durability of the wood look porcelain tile, but I can’t seem to find any solutions for doing a stairway with it online! Do they make bullnose wood plank tiles? Thanks for any help with this!

    • I would also like to know if any companies make bullnose or other transition/edging tiles for stairs. I think maybe wood that matches might be used for this purpose? Would like suggestions as my family room, where I would like to use this tile, has a step down bar area, so I have two steps to deal with…

  10. What color grout would you recommend? I want it to look as close as possible to real wood. pictured above. I . Do you know the grout color they used? THank You!

    • Use a grout that matches the tile color as closely as possible, so that it looks like a space between the pieces of wood. Your installer should have a range of color samples to show you for a perfect match!

  11. Love wood, had it in my Maryland home, but in Florida with the sand and dogs I choose tile easier to maintain and durable.

  12. Pingback: Wanted: The Hardwood Flooring Imposter | JM Design Build

  13. Put hardwood over concrete, with vapor barrier and plywood sub floor prep. Wood is warping and buckling. Spent $800 on leak detection services who found no leak. Wish this product had been available 5 years ago when we put the hardwood in. Don’t know what we will do with our warped hardwoods but I will never put hardwood over concrete again no matter what prep is done to supposedly prevent moisture or even moisture vapor from reaching hardwood!

    • We live in FL; were planning on laying engineered hardwood. Too much moisture in concrete. Today our floor is cement; in a week will be woodlooking porcelain tile. Your comments confirmed our choice. The company would not even consider wood.

  14. The water line to my ice maker leaked through the wall and under the hardwood flooring in my living room. Of course it all had to be torn up. I love the look of hardwood but I am thinking about replacing it with tile that LOOKS like hardwood. Unfortunately most of the tiles I have seen have a rough hewn look and I want a smooth, sleek look to the floor like brazillian cherry. Any suggestions? Has anyone seen any affordable, smooth, wood-look floor tiles out there?

  15. Elizabeth Barrett

    Question: is the wood-look tile floor slippery when wet?

  16. Hello can you tell me the name and brand of the tikes in the fourth picture – I like those tiles best – its the picture with the fireplace

  17. We’re choosing to put wood-look tile in my basement bedroom. I’m aware that the floor will be cold, but we find it to be a MUCH better choice for people of size. (Which is to say that I weigh twice what I should.) Wood, laminate, and even luxury vinyl planking are all “floating” flooring systems, and that means that over time, the planks will start shifting and the floor will start having boards pop loose and squeaking, etc. The tile won’t have that problem. It also won’t look like square tiles that make me, personally, wince anywhere but in a kitchen or bathroom…

  18. Have 3 small dogs who live inside. After mopping up wet accidents on my hardwood I have decided to go with the wood look tile. Also, I’m replacing what wood I have in my dining area that is currently tile and wood. My dishwasher leaked, as well as a dedicated hot water dispenser tank. I don t have enough wood planks left over to repair the ugly black water damage. As far as being cold, it s over 95 today and the dogs are all crowded on the tile I already have. I wished this product was available 10 years ago!

  19. Unless you are a tenacious cleaner, over time, the grout will discolor (get darker) with dirt/use. So, it seems to me, that even if you choose a grout color that matches the tile perfectly when installed, the grout is likely to get darker down the road and, therefore, not match the color of the tile exactly. Any ideas on how to prevent this?

    • This is a good point. However, if you were using hardwood, there would still be cracks and those cracks would collect dirt and get darker over time. So it’s really 6 of one, half dozen of another.

      I’m suggesting using a darker grout that would match the wood color. Of course this can still darken further, but it would be different from starting with a pure white where the darkening will be very obvious.

      Hope this helps!!

  20. does the tile installation need to be “beefed” up due to the weight???


  21. Help! I have porcelain tile in my walkways (L shaped) which lead into the kitchen which has the same tile. Is it too much tile to have the hardwood look in the front and dining rooms? (Note: We have three large dogs.) Should I stick with carpet to contrast the hard surfaces? What do buyers think of hardwood tile?

    • One of the most compelling points about a new home for a buyer is “Hardwood floors throughout.” The same idea applies for wood look tile! Having one uniform floor throughout is very clean and modern. So go for it! You can always use area rugs to break up the surface and define spaces if need be.

  22. When using tiles now…you can have them installed with what is called toothpick grout lines—basically means there is very little grout between the tiles. I have made my mind up & am going with wood look tile either cross grain or petrified wood look—just waiting on our local carpet store to get more samples in.

  23. NO humidity in the desert is just as bad on hardwood as moisture everywhere else. Wood tile rocks for our people, dogs and décor…

  24. We have real hard wood floors thru out the house. Getting ready for a remodel on kitchen which has tile floors. If I put a tile that looks like wood in a darker color in kitchen will that look odd as the doors will butt up to each other. Our hardwood in the home is is light somebody said its a red ash

  25. I was looking at some tile that was a cheap Chinese brand. It looks real. but everyother tile will look the same since it only comes in two patterns. Do you think it will effect how room looks? What’s the minimum number of different patterns I should look for?

  26. Who make the flooring with the designs in it ? Third pic down from the top ….

  27. I am remodeling my new home this month.. and i cant believe i didnt know about this. i love hardwood but with pets kids and humidity i think i just found my remedy!!

  28. I would like to install wood like tile in my condo which has a concrete floor. For sound, I was going to put a cork underlayment, and because I live in a cooler area, I was going to install heat between the cork and the tile. Is this recommended? Anyother underlayment that I need to consider?

  29. Have to replace all my floors – again – after having just replaced with all oak flooring after Superstorm Sandy. The oak planks are cupping – obviously there is moisture still coming up from the crawl space. Now we’re being told we have to elevate the house an additional 5 feet to a height of 8 feet – or face astronomical increases in our flood insurance premium. I love wood – but I am afraid of additional moisture problems, so I’m considering the wood-look tile. But one other issue is that my old house has floor joists that are not quite level. There is a distinct “curve” down the center of the house – causing the floor to curve from one side of the house to the other. Can tile be laid in this type of circumstance? I know that when they replaced the oak, they had to build up one side of the sub floors to compensate – however there is still a distrinct bowing in the floor. I’m hoping that the contractors that we hire to elevate the house will be able to fix this issue – making the wood-look tile a no-brainer. But if not … any thoughts?

  30. It was mentioned in the article above that you can get the tiles in various widths and lengths, but all the installed floors I have seen have used uniform lengths of tile while real wood floors usually are different lengths regardless of whether width is varied or uniform. Can you install a tile that has that real wood look, ie longer lengths than 24″?

  31. I really like the tile wood look, however I have hardwood in my family room and hallway, I am concidering the tile wood for my 4 bedrooms. What is your design ideas for doing so, should I stick with hardwood or go for the tile wood design?

  32. I just had this tile put in my home and it has sharp edges where they come together. Is this normal or has it been installed wrong? Thanks ~

  33. I would never use “real” hardwood because of the cost and it’s lack of durability. I’ve had wood laminate for about 13 years and it has done well except for a couple of places where my elderly dog had a few accidents toward the end of his life. I was thinking about putting in a dark brown laminate to contrast with the reddish tone in my kitchen cabinets and paneled study (current floor is very close in color to the cabinets and study) and I really like what I’ve seen and heard about the wood look tile. Easiest to clean and will last a LONG time!!

  34. We just put down the wood like tile and I am having problems with a white film in the grooves that will not come out. Floors look great when wet but terrible when dry. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  35. The white film is from moisture seeping up which leaves mineral deposits. Did you moisture proof before laying the tile?
    The only thing that I know to remove mineral deposits is a white vinegar/water solution.

  36. Anna, I just had the dark wood tiles installed and my installer cleaned the floors by mopping them with white vinegar in the water. The white film is probably left over grout that was smeared across the tiles. I had a few places where there were blobs of grout that had been left on too long and put straight vinegar on a rag and cleaned them off. The installer said if they did not all come off (they did), he could do an acid wash. I didn’t want to do that because I was afraid it would ruin my black grout. Yes, I used black grout on dark floors and it looks great! The grout line is tiny and the black makes it look like real wood.

  37. Thanks for the info roomology! We bought a house last year and currently looking at replacing the carpeted areas. I love the look of wood floors but have two dogs; one which is a puppy, a lab Doberman mix. I was told by the human society that she could get to 80 lbs or more. We also have two cats. With all the pets we have carpet doesn’t make sense for us but when I looked into reviews with hardwood floors I found that with the dogs all warranties are voided as well as many owners stating the mistake they made. I went & looked at both tile wood & vinyl wood planks. I prefer the tile look and your article on advantages far out way the disadvantages for our case!!

  38. Pingback: Metroland Media lays groundwork at Habitat Halton build in Oakville | eegbusiness

  39. Thank you for the info. We’re doing away with carpet in my home because it’s horrible. My mom wants ceramic tile similar to what we have in our kitchen and I want hardwood floors. Then my Mom said, “Well, you know they have tile that look like hardwood floor,” and I heard the hallelujah chorus sing.

    I’m sending this information to my mom. You have awesome samples here. Thanks you so much.

  40. we’re thinking of putting wood look tile throughout our new home, including upstairs in the bedrooms and bathrooms.We live in Southern California. Would the tile be too hard and cold in the bedrooms? Should we put cork underlayment to prevent noise upstairs?

  41. I love the look of wood, but I have always liked tile because it’s easier to maintain, cooler and it doesn’t scratch as easily as wood does. This combines the two, so it’s a win-win for me. Love it!

  42. I did put the tile looks like wood throughout our new house. HELP me please! It shows every footprint. We step into the garage or out the front door and the footprints are all across the house. Even socks leave prints. Bare feet too. Suggestions quick!!!!!!

  43. I have a shark floor cleaner. It has dust,mop,scrub. It also has steam.
    Will this damage the tile that looks like wood. If it does, how do you
    clean these floors. Myra

  44. We have the ceramic tile through our great room, foyer and hall way and have recently decided to replace our bedroom carpets, but I can’t find the same tile any longer! EEEKKK! the one we have is a gunstock color – any thoughts on what would look ok in our bedrooms? Would you go a completely different color or would you find something similar?

  45. What about noise level? Have any of you found significant changes in noise level since changing to wood tiles? We currently have hardwood in our great room and want to switch to wood plank tiles, but with two hearing impaired children, I’m concerned about sound buffering and reverberation being a problem.

  46. I want to redo a small office space that currently has carpet and am thinking about wood looking tiles. It will meet up with my entry and kitchen vinyl flooring. Will that look okay? Will I want to match the office furniture wood color or should I go lighter or darker?

  47. Fondovalle does not respond to calls or emails. Both my tile supplier and contractor have been messaging them / emailing them for weeks – no response. Idiotic really, given the interest in the product which is gorgeous.

    Does anyone know of a similar product: i.e. long (36″+) ceramic plank with patterns cut into them?

    Would love to find an alternative!

  48. I live in the desert Southwest and have a home built in 1965 with real hardwood floors in all 3 bedrooms. It is sealed with some type of varnish or something and as old as this home is, the wood is still in excellent shape and does not suffer from nicks, scratches or other damage. I can mop it with regular cleaning products; no need for special wood cleaners. It appears they don’t seal wood flooring anymore as standard practice.

    I will be replacing the carpeting in the remainder of the house with a non-slip variety of ceramic tile in the near future. I may go with the wood-look ceramic simply because I have a formal living room, albeit small, with Queen Anne-styled furniture. I’ve grown to dislike carpeting. I will not be using any heating options due to the fact that it would be an expensive, messy project when the time comes (and it will), when the heating element goes out and will need replacing.

    For Carolyn, have you considered mopping and hosing out your garage floor regularly? That’s the only way I know of to prevent dirt tracking from garage to indoors.

  49. Sandra DiPascal

    What is the smallest grout width that can be use with the ceramic wood floor? I would like the floor to look as closely to a wood floor as possible. I like the durability and clean up of the ceramic wood floor.

  50. I LOVE tile. We installed tile throughout our 1st floor. But, can you install tile on the entire 2nd floor of a house? Will it take the weight?

  51. The third picture shows planks with etching. I love the color. Who makes this and what is the barand and color in that picture???

  52. Some of the tile like wood appears to have grooves in the tile, I live in Arizona where it is very dusty, was wondering if there would be a problem of dust collecting in the grooves?

  53. I have lots of questions too, but it seems that no one is really moderating this site or answering these questions except occasional commenters???

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