Concrete vs Tile Flooring

Concrete vs Tile Flooring

By Fortino Rosas / September 20, 2021 / 8 Comments

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    Concrete vs. tile is a tough match-up. Literally, because both of these floors are incredibly tough.

    So, when it comes time to make a decision, how do you pick?

    Do you go for trendy concrete that we now know is far more stunning when refinished than anyone could’ve imagined? That’s right – concrete is a beautiful option that’s no longer stuck unappreciated in warehouses and on city roads.

    Or do you choose tile? The classic floors gracing nearly every home you’ve ever encountered that, these days, can be styled to resemble any look and pattern.

    This guide examines the finer details of concrete and tile to see which option works best for you. Heads up – these two are very much alike, so read closely to spot the differences.

    In this guide, we’ll explore:

    Side-by-Side Comparison

    DurabilityExtremely tough and durable, resistant to scratches and marks, won't buckle beneath heavy furniture or even cars, anything dropped is likely to shatterVery durable and difficult to crack and if one tile busts, it's easy enough to replace the single square
    MaintenanceEasy to maintain, will need waxing or sealing every 3 to 9 monthsEasy to maintain as all it needs is a good wipedown, but the grout could use the occasional steam clean
    Eco-Friendly?Yes and no, since most subfloors are already concrete there's usually no extra production of materials required, but it's not a good insulator and installing new concrete floors expels high amounts of carbon dioxideNo. While tile won't emit harmful toxins and it uses naturally sourced materials like clay, it takes a lot of energy and resources to produce.
    LongevityCan last up to a lifetime even when undergoing lots of traffic and years of wear and tear.Depending on the grade, tile floors can last up to 50 years.
    AestheticsNowadays, comes in a variety of colors and texturesWide variety of color and texture options, from wood look to patterns
    ComfortHard surface is uncomfortable to walk on, falls will surely hurt, can be very slippery and very coldSimilarly, hard surface isn't great on bones and joints, can be slippery and cold as well.
    Waterproof?No, susceptible to moisture and can produce mildew and mold as well as expansion and cracking if water penetrates concrete.Yes, the top layer protects against water damage and naturally resistant to humidity.
    AffordabilityRanges from $2 to $30 per square foot to refinish and style existing concrete floors and $2 to $15 per square foot for new concrete floorsCosts well below $5 per square foot but the prices can vary depending on quality
    InstallationCrucial that you hire a pro as it can be dangerous to installProfessional installation is recommended as the grouting process isn't the simplest


    Let’s begin with how each flooring type looks and feels since concrete is typically seen as only industrial and made for warehouses and driveways. We’re here to tell you that’s not the case.

    So, starting with concrete, you’ll be surprised at how many color and texture options there are with concrete floors. If you’re pouring fresh concrete, the mixture can be pigmented from the get-go. But if not, you’ll be able to add a stain to beautify the typically drab slab.

    Additionally, you can refinish concrete to create textured floors or tiled patterns. The options are endless and because concrete floors are so trendy at the moment, you’ll be able to find plenty of inspiration for what you’re able to do with it.

    Onto tile — the equally versatile flooring option that comes in a wide range of colors and designs. With tile, you can get any style from wood-look tile to terracotta to smooth glass-like material. You can use it for more than you’re floors, too. They are perfect as a backsplash in your kitchen and on the walls of your showers.

    The downside for both concrete and tile is that the surface is so hard that it’s tough on bones and joints. When standing on it for too long, you’ll definitely start to feel it in your knees and heels.

    Plus, waking up on a chilly morning will have you in for a shock since tile and concrete get incredibly cold. Make sure to have your slippers ready at your bedside or countless area rugs to avoid freezing feet with concrete and tile in your home.

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    Durability and Longevity

    Being extremely tough, hard surfaces, both concrete and tile are durable and resist a lot of wear and tear.

    It’s obvious that concrete is able to take a beating. After all, it’s used for parking lots and highways. So, in a lot of cases with residential use, there’s no reason it shouldn’t last a lifetime. Be careful with fragile items, though – they’re likely to shatter if dropped on concrete.

    Tile is similarly durable and can last up to 50 years (which is quite near a lifetime, assuming you’re an adult when you decide to purchase flooring). But tiles are more susceptible to cracking under intense pressure, like a refrigerator being unexpectedly dropped, for example. The good news is, you may only have to replace a tile or two if anything happens.

    With proper maintenance, both concrete and tile can be suitable options for your forever home which makes them very good investments if you play to stay where you are.

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    Depending on your circumstances, prices can vary quite a lot when it comes to concrete and tile so cost can actually become one of the biggest differences between the two types.

    Let’s start with concrete’s disparities.

    One scenario is that your subfloor is already concrete. Then you’ll only need to refinish the surface and your good to go, which will run you anywhere from $2 to $30 per square foot. Stay closer to the $2 range and you’re potentially under budget.

    Pour new concrete floors, on the other hand, and your costs just skyrocketed. You’ll pay anywhere between $2 and $15 per square foot for new concrete floors and top that off with the cost to refinish. Plus, it’s crucial to have professional installation when it comes to concrete which will only up the cost – but more on that later.

    Tile will usually cost under $5 per square foot which means in many cases, tile will either be cheaper than concrete or hover right around the same price. Of course, with higher quality materials comes a higher price tag but people expect that.

    In general, concrete and tile should cost you about the same. But remember to include installation costs in the budget you are projecting. We will talk about that next.

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    Maintenance and Installation

    Hard surfaces like concrete and tile tend to be very easy to clean, and both concrete and tile cleaning are no exception. Spilled some coffee? No worries because sparkling floors are just a wipe away. You can use almost any type of mild cleaner to mop down concrete and tile, plus a bit of hard-floor vacuuming (with a tile-friendly vac), sweeping and dusting here and there.

    Concrete will need a good waxing every three to nine months and tile grout can look noticeably filthy over time. A simple steam-clean on tile when you start the notice the grime should do the trick, though.

    As previously mentioned, concrete requires professional installation. It can be quite dangerous to do yourself and it’s better to hire someone that knows what they’re doing.

    You can install tile yourself. However, pros recommend hiring a contractor to do the job. The process is tricky and certainly not for the faint of heart. Installation of tile is tedious with the heavy materials and takes ages so you might as well get a pro to take on the challenge.

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    Other Factors to Note

    These days, it can be important to some that their flooring is eco-friendly and safe for the environment. With both concrete and tile floors, you won’t be getting the most sustainable materials on the market, that’s for sure.

    With concrete, the good news is most subfloors are already concrete. So it’ll just need a bit of refinishing. As a result, manufacturers won’t need to product any new materials. But in general, the creation of concrete releases a high level of carbon dioxide into the environment.

    Tile floors typically consist of naturally occurring materials like clay. They won’t release harmful toxins into the air. However, the production of tile expends a lot of energy. It isn’t the eco-friendliest.

    Something tile definitely has over concrete floors is that tile is waterproof, hence why tile is commonly used in bathrooms and kitchens. Concrete is susceptible to moisture to the point of mold and mildew potentially growing beneath its surface if water gets trapped below. Tile is very water-resistant and naturally protects against humidity, too.

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    Which Should You Buy?

    When comparing two different kinds of flooring, it’s tough to boil down which is better. The real question should be, which type of floor is better for you – concrete or tile?

    The answer depends on a few things: where you’ll be installing the floors, how much time you have, and what your budget is.

    Starting with where – if you need floors in your bathroom or kitchen, go with tile because of its waterproof nature. Spills and leaks will likely happen in those rooms so you’ll want floors that can weather the storm (if you will).

    Also, both tile and concrete (but mostly concrete) aren’t the most suitable for upper floors so if you need something for upstairs bedrooms, consider tile over concrete and perhaps something even lighter over both options.

    Since the installation process of both concrete and tile can be tedious, the first step is knowing what your subfloor consists of. If it’s concrete and you’re in a time crunch, giving them a refinish won’t be weeks of work. Tiling on the other hand can take quite a long time and is something to consider when making the final call.

    Staying under budget seems nearly impossible at times when renovating a space. But when choosing between concrete and tile, overall, tile seems to be the most cost-effective choice in most cases. Concrete doesn’t have a DIY install option, either, as it is potentially dangerous. However, you can install tile yourself with enough patience and finesse.

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    Which is harder: concrete or tile?

    Concrete is harder than tile because it was designed for heavy-duty usage. There’s a reason why parking lots and warehouses have concrete floors and not floors made from tile, hardwood, carpet, or other popular flooring materials. 

    That’s not to say that tiles aren’t hard. Porcelain tiles in particular are known for being incredibly hard, but their hardness doesn’t compare to that of concrete. 

    Imagine if you were to drop a glass on a floor made of tile versus one made of concrete. In either scenario you’ll end up with one shattered glass, but a tile may not escape unchipped.

    What is the best finish for concrete floors?

    One of the biggest reasons why concrete flooring is so popular these days is because there are many different finish options. Deciding which finish is the best is largely based on personal preference, budget, and the desired style you wish to achieve.

    Some of the many concrete finish options to choose from include a water-based stain, an acid-based stain, a fast stain, an acrylic seal, a polished finish, or an epoxy finish of the standard, metallic, terrazzo, or quartz sand variety.

    What are the disadvantages of concrete?

    The biggest disadvantage of concrete is also its biggest advantage: its hardness. Though you will never have to worry about its durability, you may find that concrete is unforgiving underfoot.  

    On top of this drawback, concrete can develop cracks as it ages, and the manufacturing process can come with a hefty cost to the environment. In addition, concrete needs to be properly sealed when installed, otherwise it can be damaged by moisture.

    Finally, concrete is thought to be ergonomically unsound as it has been linked to bunions, lumbar strain, ingrown toenails, and an increase in lower back pain.

    The Verdict

    Concrete is the hottest trend in home renovations at the moment and is far more elegant than its industrial beginnings. Tile is a classic fixture that will look stunning and practical in any space.

    Overall, concrete and tile are incredibly similar in most ways. They’re both tough, durable, and long-lasting options and while they’re hard on bones and joints and can get very cold, concrete and tile are incredibly easy to maintain.

    The main differences come down to three things. The first one is cost since you can’t do concrete DIY. Aesthetics is the next one, since tile comes in every style from wood-look to classic terracotta and you can use it as backsplash. Water resistance is the last one, as tile is fully waterproof and concrete is not.

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    About Fortino Rosas

    Chief Floor Critic, 32 years of experience in flooring installation and sales

    Fortino Rosas is an independent flooring contractor with 32 years of experience in residential and commercial flooring installation and sales. He joined the Floor Critics team to share his expertise with our readers. Fortino has acquired vast knowledge and skills in the areas of product selection, space planning, and installation. He has installed flooring in residential, government, and commercial office projects in the Midwest. Visit Website.

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    8 thoughts on “Concrete vs Tile Flooring”

    1. Armor Coatings

      There are many kinds of floors. If you do not want to install a concrete floor, then consider the possibility of installing an epoxy floor coating.

    2. One aspect that you’ve failed to address is that of heat conduction. A good proportion of polished concrete floors will incorporate a hydronic underfloor heating system poured over a highly insulated polystyrene base layer which ensures that the heat created is released upwards into the room. My question is, does a tiled surface (laid over the same insulated, heated base) suffer a significant loss of thermal transmission due to the voids that are inevitably created in the tiling process….notched trowels etc?

    3. One thing to consider is if you have a contractor do concrete, whether to install or polish, in multiple rooms you have to remove all of your furniture from all areas. Tile can be installed room by room and furniture can be moved around the project.

    4. Question: Help! I stopped my tile installer from installing tile on the floors of my bathrooms because I can see that there’s going to be a 3/4 to one inch disparity between the height of the floor in the bath once the tile’s installed–and the original wood flooring I have in the hallway. I’m not willing to live with that disparity in height. (I have before and it is ANNOYING and looks terrible.). So…as flooring experts, can you tell me what I can do to resolve this problem?

    5. Thank you for the information I needed. Still not sure which way we’ll go but at least I have a better understanding of the difference between the two. One thing I noted thought that there was at least three typos that needs correction.
      Thank you again!

    6. Thanks for helping me learn more about concrete and tile floorings. I didn’t know that concrete can actually have a lot of texture options. It sounds important to look at these especially if it can give you an idea for what feel you want the floor to have.

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