Making the solid choice: wood tile

By Joanne Loos Posted in: FlooringInterior

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Every now and then, there comes a material that seems to define an era of décor. You can almost tell when something was last remodeled by the material choices the owner has made. One era called for furnishing and finishes that matched the space age, another for colorful toilets and tubs, another called for granite everything, and another for modern materials like Lucite and vinyl.

Today, it seems another trend has been catching on: wood tile. Contrary to its moniker, wood tile is not made of wood at all. Rather, it is porcelain or ceramic tile with several wood images that are put together to resemble wood. Unlike natural wood, the tile is often less expensive and more durable. Plus, you can install it in places where wood might not fair so well, like the bathroom. What else do you need to know about wood tile?

It’s hard. Natural wood has a soft feel and a tiny bit of give while you are standing on it. Tile, on the other hand, is much harder. This means that not only will falls hurt more (think little ones running and falling), but other things like simply standing for long periods of time will hurt more as well. If you plan to stand for extended periods, whether at a desk or in the kitchen, you may need to purchase a wellness mat or something similar to go over the tile that will be easier on your legs.

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It can get slippery. Unlike natural wood, which has grains that help with traction, tile has a smooth surface. To help you decide which tile to get, pay attention to the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating. This is a score between 1 and 5 that will tell you how durable the tile is. For flooring, look for a score of at least 3, although 4 is preferable. Tiles that score lower than that should be used for other applications, like walls or backsplash.

Bad grout can ruin the look. Wood tile has a much smaller grout joint than typical tile. This allows the tiles to be laid closer together, minimizing the grout needed across the floor. However, even with minimal grout, the wrong color will still stand out and take away from the wood look. Choose a grout color that will blend with the tile rather than detract from it.

Maintenance is manageable. While natural wood may need polishing or even sanding and refinishing from time to time, wood tile often needs nothing more than sweeping and mopping.

Have a question or comment for Joanne? Email her at thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.