What are the advantages and disadvantages of hardwood floors vs Tile Planks that look like wood?
I get a lot of calls and comments on my blog asking me whether I think hardwood floors or porcelain planks (that look like wood) are better? It’s a challenging question to answer both because “it depends” and because there are pros and cons for each option.
Many prefer hardwood, but they are concerned about scratching and water, especially if they are installing floors in a kitchen or if they have a dog. The answer to what’s best can also be shaped by your sub-floor (as this can impact cost) as well as your climate.
Now, I do want to preface this by explaining that there are 2 main structures for hardwood flooring – Solid and engineered hardwood. (You can read more about that in the linked article). For the purposes of this article, I’m comparing solid hardwood vs porcelain planks. Generally, solid hardwood flooring will last longer than engineered hardwood.
In general, if you are choosing between engineered wood (on concrete slab) vs tile (on a concrete slab), I would generally recommend tile over engineered wood, if all other things are equal.
But if you are choosing between solid hardwood and tile planks, in my opinion, they are both good options. Of course each also has drawbacks, too and no floors are perfect. Only you can answer which of these factors are most important to you and therefore which option is better for you, your family and your home.
This article is organized as follows:
- Pros and Cons of Solid Hardwood Flooring
- Pros and Cons of Porcelain Tiles or Planks that look like hardwood floors
- Where you can buy Tile Planks that look like hardwood
- Cleaning products and useful items for both hardwood and tile flooring
Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
Advantages of Solid Hardwood over Porcelain Planks that Look like hardwood
1. Hardwood is the preferred surface – it’s the real thing.
Most customers prefer real hardwood flooring, especially in Northeast, Mid Atlantic and Mid West. It’s natural and timeless. It’s beautiful, and it has natural variation. Hardwood is both traditional and contemporary. Hardwood flooring is universal, and it will never go out of style.
2. Improves your home’s value.
Without a doubt, hardwood will improve your home’s value. It’s a capital improvement (which will reduce your sales tax…and later your capital gains tax). It will help you sell your home faster and for a higher price. Read more here: What types of flooring provide the highest ROI (return on investment)?
3. Can last 100+ years.
Yes, solid hardwood can last for generations to come. This is another reason that it has such a strong ROI. We have refinished wood floors from the 1800s (and several from the 1700s). While color preferences may come and go, refinishing your hardwood floors is a great way to keep up with the trends.
4. Easier on your feet.
Hardwood is easier and more comfortable on your feet. This is especially noticeable in kitchens where you often spend more time. Tile floors tire you out faster, and once your feet are tired, your back and whole body gets tired.
Note: Hardwood is also easier on your pet’s feet (and it’s more comfortable for them to lay down on. (Of course pet pillows can also make things more comfortable for your furry friend, regardless of whether you have hardwood or tile. This one shown is an orthopedic mattress). The hardness on your pet’s feet will be more noticeable as they age.
Hardwood is also much warmer on your feet vs tile planks. This is especially noticeable in cooler climates and especially in the winter. Tile conducts heat better…so it conducts the heat right out of your feet. With hardwood, your room will be warmer and heating bills lower. Your pets will also be more comfortable.
6. Hardwood flooring can make your home look larger and more cohesive.
Because hardwood is the preferred flooring surface, you will generally find it most areas of the home. So, if you are you are considering replacing the flooring in your kitchen or entryway, and hardwood here will generally match the wood you have in the other areas of the home (e.g. Living room, dining room, steps, bedrooms). By having the same flooring surface in all/most areas, it will make your home look larger and more cohesive. See (6 Ways to make your home look larger).
Disadvantages of Solid Hardwood over Porcelain Planks that Look like hardwood
1. Hardwood can scratch and needs to be refinished.
Kitchen tends to wear down faster as it has heavier traffic (and more chairs scratching). There are ways to reduce the scratching, including getting an extra coat of poly, getting area rugs (especially where chairs are) and felt pads. You can read more here: How to reduce scratches in hardwood flooring.
The good news is that when it’s time to refinish the floors, you also have the option to change colors and decor. Generally floors only need to be refinished every 7-10 years and by that time, styles have often changed and many prefer to make a shift. And, this is a relatively inexpensive way to refresh the decor in your home.
2. Hardwood doesn’t hold up so well to water.
This can be a concern for those considering hardwood for the kitchen or entryways. The good news, though, is that if your wood does get damaged, it’s fairly easy to repair (unlike tile which can crack and generally is not reparable). And, if you use 3 coats of polyurethane on your floors, you should be well protected from everyday damage. Check out these articles: Does hardwood make sense for kitchens? and What are the best brands of polyurethane?
3. It’s more challenging to find stain colors if you have wood colored cabinets
If you have wood cabinets, especially if they are mid-toned, it often more challenging to find stain colors for the woods that go with your cabinets. That’s because you often want to contrast the wood with the cabinet color, and when your cabinets are in the mid-toned range, it’s more challenging to find floors that are light enough or dark enough for a strong contrast. In these cases, it’s often easier to find tile (or tile planks) in the white or white wash range. (On the other hand, white or cream colored cabinets go with virtually all floors).
4. There may be height constraints that won’t allow for solid hardwood.
This often happens if live in a condo, co-op or townhouse that is on top of concrete. It can also happen if your house is built on a slab. For solid hardwood, you need 3/4″ plywood + the solid wood (which is 3/4″) which can add 1 1/2″ inches. Sometimes, there literally won’t be enough room to add wood.
This may prevent you from opening doors (which can be a big issue if you have a metal entrance door (vs wood doors can be cut)), there may be clearance issues with appliances if the wood will be in the kitchen (in particular, check the dishwasher, but also check refrigerator and other appliances) and occasionally, there may be issues with heating devices. In these instances, tile flooring that looks like hardwood may be a better option, especially as they can do directly on top on the concrete.
Advantages of Tile that looks like hardwood (over hardwood flooring)
1. Scratch proof.
Porcelain tiles are as close as you can get to scratch proof vs other flooring options. You won’t need to worry about your kids or pets scratching the floor. You also won’t need to worry about chairs scratching the floors.
2. Tile floors are virtually waterproof
For all intents and purposes, tile floors are impermeable to water and this is a big advantage of hardwood flooring, especially in areas that may be prone to water such as kitchens, bathrooms/powder rooms, entryways. You won’t need to worry about minor spills from cooking, nor the dog knocking over the water bowl. You also don’t need to be concerned with dishwasher (or laundry machine) overflows or damage, nor issues in the powder room. And, if you have tile planks in your doorway, you won’t need to worry about water from rain or melting snow or your pets entering without wiping their feet.
I will caution though that if you have a major floor (or file) and you have a ton of sitting water, and you have a plywood sub-floor underneath, sometimes, the water will penetrate beneath the tile (e.g. through the grout, through the cabinets, walls/sides etc) so tile is not 100% foolproof…but generally no surface will hold up well to extreme conditions such as fire or major flooding).
Porcelain planks that look like hardwood are probably the most popular tile out there now. You will find many options and colors now, and it’s generally easy to find options that work with the color of your cabinets.
4. Easier to find whites/white washes and grays
It’s ironic because the rapid growth of gray and whitewashed planks has also caused a resurgence in growth and a preference for these colors in hardwood floors. And, it is much easier to get pure and cooler color grays and whites in porcelain that it is with real hardwood (since real hardwood is a natural product and inherently has both color variation and underlying pink or yellow tones (pending the species).
The wood (and graining and cuts of wood absorb the stains differently so you see more color variation with the whites and grays (which are lighter than typical wood stains. Porcelain starts with a white bisque, so it’s much easier to dye it a particular color.
5. Tile can be installed virtually anywhere (including moist areas)
Tile can be installed in basements or below grade (i.e. below that ground level). They had hold up well in moist areas such as bathrooms, laundry areas and basements. They are very versatile.
Drawbacks of Tile floors that look like wood (vs real hardwood flooring)
1. Tile can be cold on your feet
This can be a real disadvantage for homes in colder climates, especially during the winter. (Note: this can be an advantage in warmer climates, especially during the summer). If you live in a cooler climate, you could consider installing radiant heat under the tile to warm the floors up (and save on heating bills). Area rugs can also help. (See best gray area rugs for under $200).
2. Tile can be hard on your feet
Yes, your feet are the first part of your body to feel tired and you will notice this in the rooms where you spend the most time (i.e. the kitchen). Your pets will as well.
Here are 2 solutions to help.
First, for you, get a one of those comfortable rubber mats by the sink and key work areas. You won’t believe what a difference these can make. This one is an anti-fatigue mat and it’s 20″ x 32″ and it’s their best seller. If you’d like a longer one, check this one out. It’s nearly 6 feet long and comes in a variety of colors. (Note: these are helpful both for tile and wood floors).
Note: Tile floors can also have an impact on your pet’s feet and it’s not very comfortable to lay down on. (Of course pet pillows can also make things more comfortable for your furry friend, regardless of whether you have hardwood or tile. This one shown is an orthopedic mattress). The hardness on your pet’s feet will be more noticeable as they age.
3. Installation may be more expensive and there may be more floor prep needed
Tile is generally more expensive to install than hardwood is (as there is more labor for tile. In addition, there is often floor prep needed for tile. Tile should not be installed directly on top of wood or plywood because it will crack. (Wood expands and contracts when the temperature and humidity changes and tile is brittle, so it will crack as the sub-floor changes).
Tile should be installed on top of concrete, a mud job (which is a form of concrete) or cement board. And, you should always install on top of a flat/level surface (otherwise, the tile won’t line up and it could crack). This is especially noticeable with porcelain planks. These planks are usually “rectified” (meaning they have clean straight edges) and the grout lines are very thin. So, if your floor is uneven, the edges of the planks won’t line up and it will be obvious (think about granite or marble tiles and how the edges are close and need to line up). So, you may need to invest in leveling out the floor (e.g. self leveling mix). This will add labor and material costs.
4. May become dated in 10-20 years
Tastes change over time. I’ve seen plenty of tile jobs from the 80s and 90s that are very dated. I’ve even seen some from 10 years ago that just don’t look good anymore. Tile is more expensive to rip out (vs. hardwood can easily be refinished and you can change the color without replacing it). So, if you redo your kitchen, you may want to stick to something that is timeless.
5. Could crack or chip
Yes, even though tiles are hard, they can crack and they can also chip. This happens most often when the tile isn’t installed correctly (see point#4). This can also happen if you drop heavy objects (and the objects dropped are more likely to break). Chipping happens more often in ceramic than porcelain, but it can happen in either type.
6. Tiles can be slippery when wet (and slippery for dogs)
Can be solved by getting tile with some texture (for more traction) as well as entry mats and area rugs. (See best gray area rugs for under $200).
Yes, tile reflects noise more, so naturally it’s louder. You’ll notice this even more if you have kids or dogs. This an be alleviated with more area rugs. (See best gray area rugs for under $200).
Where you can buy porcelain planks that look like wood?
FlooringInc is a good place to buy porcelain planks online. They have a nice selection, reasonably priced and they will send you free samples. I believe their shipping cost is free too (and believe me, tile is heavy, so you can get killed on shipping costs from some places).
If you follow this link, it will take you directly to all of the wood grained planks they have. I’d strongly recommend that you buy a porcelain plank (rather than ceramic) as those will look better and they are harder/more durable. They have Daltile, Shaw, Mohawk, Emser and more.
Cleaning products and complementary items for your floors:
Hardwood cleaners and other useful items for floors
To get started try the complete Bona Hardwood Floor Care System, 4-Piece Set with Bona mop, microfiber dusting pad, microfiber clean pad and 32oz cleaner. (See below for refills).
This is the Bona 32 oz cleaner. Most customers use this size on a regular basis.
The Felt Pads can make a big difference and they are especially important for chairs that move the most. I advise my customers to buy extra felt pads as they tend to fall off often especially on chairs that are moved frequently. You can buy the felt pads on Amazon through this link: Felt Pads.
For more useful items to protect your floors, check out Recommended Hardwood cleaning products and supplies as well as this article: How to reduce scratches in your hardwood floors.
For tile cleaners, I’d recommend Bona’s Tile and Laminate cleaner. It’s environmentally friendly, too.
Conclusion – Tile Planks vs Hardwood flooring:
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both hardwood floors and tile planks. I think they are both great options, but you’ll need to choose what’s best for your and your home’s needs. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Other useful flooring articles:
- 2018 Hardwood flooring trends
- Can you change the color of your hardwood floors?
- Water vs oil based polyurethane – which is better?
- Recommended cleaning products and accessories to maintain floors and reduce scratches.
- Porcelain vs Ceramic Tiles – what’s the difference?
- Which is better for kitchen floors – tile or hardwood flooring?
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors
Do you need a local flooring contractor? Find one here.
For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors.