Hardwood vs Wood Look Tile Flooring

Hardwood vs Wood Look Tile Flooring

Choosing hardwood vs wood-look tile is an age-old debate. You can base your choice on a number of factors, such as design, variety, and eco-friendliness.

The splendor of wood is unmatched by any other. Hence, it is little wonder that most types of hardwood, such as rosewood, oak, and cherry are among the most expensive flooring options available today.

While ceramic or porcelain tiles would cost you around $1-15 per square foot (SF), an ash wood floor for the same area will cost you around $7-18. On the other hand, however, hardwood is more slip-resistant, which makes it a safer choice for homes with children, elderly people, and pets.

Here we will take a detailed look at the differences between the two flooring options and try to analyze which is better. Before we move on to the analysis, however, here is a list of parameters we will be comparing our two flooring types on:

Side-by-Side Comparison

 HardwoodWood Look Tile
DurabilityCan last for years, sanded, and refinished to increase lifeA bit more durable. Has ability to last for even twenty years with proper maintenance. Also, easily replaceable.
MaintenanceHarder maintenance, specially where moisture is present. Kitchen, for instance. Also to be cared for against grit that can damage the finishMaintenance is lot easier. May need polishing after every few years though.
Slip ResistanceComparatively more resistant to slip. Comes with anti-slip ratingCome with slip-resistance grading, but more prone to slips, specially when wet
Allergens ResistanceHas hard surface and doesn't attract dust and pollenJust like hardwood, has a solid surface that doesn't offer space to allergens. Also, can be cleaned easily to avoid it.
Kids and Pet FriendlinessMost Hardwood materials, specially the non-shiny ones are great in terms of kids and pet safety. But are a bit more prone to get water-damage and wear and tear casued by pets.Tendancy to cause slip can be dangerous for kids and pets.
Elderly FriendlinessSlip resistance and generally easy cleaning make them friendly for senior citizensProne to cause slip, specially when wet which can be dangerous for elderly people, specially those with problematic eye-sights
Weather SuitabilityDoes not retain heat and tends to expand and shrink depending on the weather. Cannot also withstand extended exposure to rain or snowSuitable to most weather conditions
CleaningCleaning is easy, but requires regular removal and vaccuming to avoid damaging gritCleaning on most tile surfaces is easy, and can be performed with most suface cleaning products. The availability of the cleaning products is also far more than those for Hardwood surfaces
Design VarietyUnmatched natural beauty of the wood. However, only come in different shades of brownA range of options, designs and color schemes available. Also come in wood patterns
Concrete CompatibilityCan be put on concrete slabs, but require an experienced contractor to do soEasier installation over concrete, can even be done on own.
Weight & Traffic LimitsCan withstand a normal weight of the room furniture, but is suited for heavier or industrial weightsThe solid surface enables it to handle heavier weights.
CostWood, specially hardwood materials are more costly. Would have to cut cost on other things, e.g. labour, transport etc. to match pricesA more cost-effective option
NoiseWood floors are louder. Specially when being walked on or when something dropsMore condensed and don’t allow noise to echo off them
Eco FriendlinessTree takes years to reach full maturity. Also, the logs have to cut and binded together, creating waste.The processing of ceramic leaves considerable carbon footprint. They are, however, quite environment friendly in terms of their source
Flooring GuideHardwood Flooring GuideWood Look Tile Flooring Guide

Durability

Unlike softwood, which is comparatively less hard and more susceptible to dents and scratches, hardwood is more resilient, even to moisture; which is wood’s worst enemy.

Water damage can wreak havoc on hardwood floors. Long-term exposure can even cause irreparable damage. However, hardwood can fare reasonably well if the problem is rectified in time.

With proper care, hardwood can last up to many years. You still need to protect it against grit, water, and even your pet’s nails to maintain its quality. You can add more life to it by sanding and refinishing it every couple of years.

Compared to hardwood, ceramic and porcelain tiles are sturdier. Not only can they withstand more weight and traffic, but moisture also does not affect them. They do, however, tend to chip or break with time, but can last for over twenty years with proper care.

Just like hardwood, the wood-look tiles that are mostly available in ceramic or porcelain can also be polished after every few years and given new life.

Back to Top

Weather Suitability

The weather has a significant impact on most hardwood floors. Water and humidity can wreak havoc on wood. Therefore, having wooden flooring installed in coastal or tropical cities might be a bad idea.

Humid conditions make maintenance all the more difficult. Even having a dehumidifier can prove to be challenging. For instance, you would need to leave your dehumidifier or air conditioner running even if you go on vacation, which can increase up your electricity bill.

Similarly, it is a fact that wood expands in heat. This process is called thermal expansion, and hardwood is no different.

Thermal expansion can cause the wood to bend, swell, and even shrink. Therefore, if installing a hardwood floor, it is important to maintain humidity levels at 30-50% and not to let the room temperature go past 60-80 degrees F.

Both humidity and heat can also cause discoloration on your hardwood floors.

Tiles, on the other hand, don’t have these issues. They can tolerate even the most extreme weather conditions, and as long as you have expansion joints installed in the tiled area, there is no need to worry about seasonal contractions and expansions.

Back to Top

Cleaning

Both hardwood and ceramic tile floors are quite easy to clean. While ceramic or porcelain tiles can be cleaned with most standard floor cleaners, special hardwood floor cleaners are also readily available in stores.

Both types of flooring need to be protected against grit and dust (a dedicated hardwood vac or tile vac would be a handy). These elements can destroy the surface, causing scratches and marks which often become permanent. Therefore, regular cleaning is a must.

Unlike tiles, however, wooden surfaces should not come in contact with water often. To clean wooden floors, use a dry mop. If you absolutely must use water, make sure you dry it off completely, and there is no stagnant water left on the floor once you’re done.

The best thing about both these surfaces is that their firmness makes them easy to clean. There is little danger of the surfaces accumulating dust and becoming health hazards which can cause allergies.

Back to Top

Kids and Pet Friendliness

All wood, including hardwood, is prone to develop scratches easily. If you have kids and pets on a wooden floor, be certain that your floor will get scuffed. However, there are steps you can take to prevent and disguise scuff marks.

Hand-scraped floors, for example, naturally have an imperfect texture. It gives an antique look to the floors, and damage like scratches are not very visible. Similarly, light-colored or Matte Finished hardwood floors are also excellent at hiding imperfections.

The best option, in this case, is pre-finished, engineered hardwood flooring. This kind of flooring, in most cases, comes with aluminum-oxide layers that provide it with more firmness and durability which adds to its children and pet-friendly floor rating.

Even if you don’t go for the options mentioned above, there are certain finishes you can apply at the time of installation that can protect your wood flooring against water penetration and even scratches. Polyurethane finishes, for example, are quite popular and also provide maximum protection with minimum maintenance.

You can avoid facing these issues with ceramic and porcelain. Although they can develop scratches, for instance, in an area where there is a lot of furniture movement, they usually remain impervious to children and pets.

A significant issue with tiles is, however, that most materials are not very slip-resistant. This factor can be particularly dangerous for kids and pets, especially if there is water on the floor. Therefore, select the types or brands which offer the most slip-resistance.

Back to Top

Slip Resistance

If you have children, elderly people or pets in the house, slipping and falling can have serious consequences. While ceramic and porcelain are known to be slippery, you have to take preventative measures with hardwood floors as well.

Slipperiness in hardwood flooring can vary, depending on its finish, which can be anywhere from smooth, to textured, to high gloss or hand-scrapped.

Before you write ceramic and porcelain off as being hazards, their slipperiness also depends on their size and finish.

For instance, polished tiles are slipperier than the textured ones. The good thing, however, is that some tests and ratings measure the slipperiness of tiles now and you can select the product that suits you the most based on these tests.

U.S. and Canada have also started introducing national standards, and now all flooring products have to carry the labels of the traction scale. However, this is more to create awareness rather than controlling the slipperier products. The labels would inform you that the tile you are purchasing can have a particular level of slipperiness.

The Tests

As mentioned earlier, there are some tests whose results you must look out for when deciding to invest in particular flooring. The Ramp test is one such method where flooring is put on a ramp at different angles, with varying substances like oil and water on it, where they measure the product’s slipperiness against the maximum angle on which it provides resistance.

An R-rating of 9-13 inclusive is given where the most slip-resistant product will have the rating of thirteen.

Another famous slip-resistance test is called ‘Pendulum’ test, which gives the product a PTV score from 0 to 36. While products with 0-24 have slip risk, those above 36 are the safest in this regard.

Back to Top

Design Variety

When comparing hardwood to ceramic or any other material, one thing you need to understand is that wood has natural limitations. While you can always polish it to give a new look, hardwood only comes in different shades of brown.

You can, however, choose various kinds of wood textures. These include hand-scraped, matte finished, pre-finished, and more.

You have a lot more options for ceramics and porcelain. They are available in different shades, and even can be specified to give a wood-look. You can find a lot of variety in sizes, shapes, and textures.

Back to Top

Noise

Wooden floors, including hardwood, are louder than most other floorings. They make noise because noise cancellation only occurs when the material is as condensed as possible. If there is space inside the material, it allows the sound to echo.

Imagine the sound hole of a guitar. Its purpose is to echo the sound that the strings produce. Wood has tiny space pockets which do the same job. Therefore, if you drop your keys on a wooden floor, it will make noise, and so will your footsteps when you walk.

This isn’t the case with tiles because they are more condensed and don’t allow noise to echo off them. Therefore, if you’re looking for a quieter home, but just love how wood looks, you can always choose wood-look ceramic or porcelain tiles.

Back to Top

Concrete Compatibility

Even though you can directly lay hardwood on a fresh concrete base or concrete in general, you would need an expert to do the job. It is generally advised not to install hardwood directly on the pavement, but rather on a pre-prepped plywood subfloor with nails. And only on or above grade at your home, and not in the basement.

You should use glue and nails to make wood stick, as they don’t react with the element. However, if you have a concrete base and would like to have a wooden look over it, go for wood-look tiles that have no issues sticking to cement.

Back to Top

Eco-Friendliness

The worst part about having hardwood floors is the trees that need to be sacrificed to produce it for you. It can take years for a tree to reach maturity, and with global warming as a big concern, a lot of countries have taken measures to regulate the chopping down of trees.

Additionally, the process of logs having to be cut and bound together to make tiles generates waste. Therefore, hardwood floors have an undeniable adverse effect on the environment.

The sadder part, however, is that the alternatives like ceramic and porcelain are no better in this regard either. While sourcing them is environmentally safe, the processing of the material in a kiln using intense heat and fuels leaves a sizeable carbon footprint.

Therefore, if you want to be more eco-friendly, you can look for other options like wood-patterned floor sheets or carpets, etc. Or perhaps, to make up for your part in deforestation, keep the wooden floors but also grow trees.

Back to Top

Cost

One of the major deciding factors regarding the flooring in your new home is the cost of the flooring. Does your choice of flooring fit your budget? Calculating the hardwood or tile cost involves many different aspects.

The primary one is, of course, the material cost. But other prices include installation, labor, transportation, or other ancillary products such as nails or plywood to install, and finishes and polishes to maintain the material.

Additionally, as we discussed earlier, if for instance you live in a place where there is high humidity, you would also have to invest on items like dehumidifiers or air conditioners that can regulate the temperature and moisture levels in the area of your floor.

But the first myth which needs to be debunked is that all hardwood flooring costs more than other wood-look materials. That’s not true. Your expenses can vary a lot depending on the type of wood you choose for your flooring.

Material

While Teak, Ash, and Heart pine are some of the most expensive options, as they can cost anywhere between $6 to 25/sf, there are other materials like Red and White Oak, Pine, Cherry Wood, and walnut that can be on the cheaper end, costing between $2 to maximum $9/sf.

So while you can go as high as it can get in terms of flooring, the availability of cheaper materials can fulfill your desire to have hardwood at ceramic’s price, which is somewhere around $1-15/sf.

Installation

As mentioned earlier, installing hardwood floors is a little more complicated than installing ceramic and porcelain tiles. While the latter can even be your ‘DIY’ project if you are confident enough, installing hardwood is tricky business.

It requires you to prep up the floor, lay down the base material such as plywood, and protective sheets, and then carefully place the wood down and nail it to the ground.

Due to its technicalities, getting hardwood installed through a professional service can cost you around $4,000 per 500 square feet. And due to a comparatively more straightforward process, installing tiles can be half that price for the same area.

Trade-Offs

If you decide on opting for a cheaper flooring, be aware that it may come with certain drawbacks, especially in terms of quality. You may not see it at first, but after some time, you may experience your floors bending, discoloration, or expansion in structure due to their exposure to harmful factors.

This stands even true for other materials as well. While paying a higher price does not always guarantee quality, in most cases, there may be reasons for the high price tags on certain products. For example, a slip resistant ceramic tile will cost more than the one with low anti-slip ratings.

Similarly, the difference can be found in the thickness of the product as well. A cheaper tile may not be able to handle as much pressure as one that is thicker.

Back to Top

The Verdict

There are advantages and drawbacks to each of these flooring tiles; the choice is yours to make at the end. If you want a more family-friendly floor, you can decide to get hardwood flooring which is covered in protective coating.

The coating will keep you safe from slipping while giving you the same luxurious splendor of wood. If you’re looking for cheaper but quality floors, wood-look ceramic or porcelain might be a good option for you.

Here are some pros and cons of hardwood and wood-look tiles:

Pros (Hardwood)

  • Comparatively more slip-resistant
  • Durable
  • Pet- and kid-friendly

Cons (Hardwood)

  • Water can cause irreparable damage
  • Needs proper weather conditions to maintain its look
  • Pricey

Pros (Wood-Look Tiles)

  • Cheaper than most hardwood options
  • Variety of designs
  • Easy installation

Cons (Wood-Look Tiles)

  • Tend to slip more, therefore not very elderly-, kid-, and pet-friendly
  • Processing leaves huge carbon-imprint

Back to Top

Ashley Rose Marino

About Ashley Rose Marino

Ashley is the owner and principal of Ashley Marino Designs in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and loves anything and everything home related. When not designing interiors, she’s hopping on an airplane across the country and writing about what she knows best. Visit Website.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *