Brick pavers and stone tiles have a lot of characteristics in common. Brick is a manufactured product, but it is made with natural materials, primarily clay. Brick used for flooring often is called thin brick or brick tile and ranges in thickness from 3/16 to 5/8 inch. It is installed with thinset mortar before it is grouted, just like stone, ceramic, and other types of conventional tile.
Stone tile is cut from solid natural stone and can have almost any size, shape, texture, and level of finish, from rough to highly polished. The types of stone available are equally wide-ranging. While stone and brick flooring have some minor differences, they are similar enough in important ways that you may want to take a good look at both before making a decision.
Natural Stone vs Brick Paver: Major Differences
The key difference between stone and brick flooring lies in the range of available options. While travertine, slate, and some other textured or weathered-look stone types can offer a similar warmth and rustic charm to clay brick, that's pretty much where all of brick flooring resides: warm and rustic. By contrast, stone can be highly refined (think: polished white marble) or highly dramatic, as with deeply veined granite.
Similarly, brick flooring by nature has a lot of texture, in the surface of the brick as well as the (typically) wide ground joints. Many brick floors look very much like brick walls. Stone can be equally textured, or it can be nearly as smooth as polished concrete or terrazzo, such as with large stone tiles that are set with very fine grout joints so the stone looks almost continuous.
The look of natural stone tile can range from the dusky, craggy faces of cleft slate to the lustrous luminescence of honed pink onyx. Many factors can affect the appearance of stone, including the type, how it is cut or split, how much finishing it has undergone, and even where the stone comes from. As a natural product, no two pieces of stone are exactly alike, making this material uniquely custom.
Brick potentially has all the charm of a farmhouse wall, the warmth of a Colonial hearth, or the stateliness of a Georgian mansion. As a flooring material, it is essentially a sliced-off face of a traditional clay brick. That means it can be a classic brick-red with crisp edges, or it can have the mottled and weathered coloring of a salvaged brick, complete with rounded and chipped edges. Most brick flooring is rectangular. After all, it's meant to look like real brick, and there's no point in having it mimic other materials.
Best for Appearance: Stone
Stone tile wins the appearance category merely for its versatility. But truly, the determination of best-looking is up to personal preference. Both materials are standouts among the standard flooring options.
Water and Heat Resistance
As a category, stone tile is one of the most water- and heat-resistant flooring materials available, right up there with ceramic and porcelain tile. It can be used in showers and on kitchen countertops, so it can stand up to direct water spray and the heat of a pan just out of the oven.
Brick flooring offers water resistance that is nearly equal to stone's, and it's arguably more heat-resistant. Brick is fired in a kiln, much like ceramic and porcelain tile. The porosity of brick may allow it to absorb more moisture than most types of stone, but brick will not be damaged by normal household spills or frequent mopping.
Best for Water and Heat Resistance: Stone
Brick's porous surface and wide grout joints makes it unsuitable for shower floors, the wettest floor in the house. Both stone are brick are commonly used for fireplace hearths and for flooring under wood-burning stoves, so they tie for heat resistance.
Care and Cleaning
Stone tile flooring is not difficult to clean or maintain. It can be swept or vacuumed and mopped like ceramic or porcelain tile. However, most types of stone must be sealed periodically for stain resistance, and even then it can remain vulnerable to stains. The grout should also be sealed to help keep it clean and free of stains, but grout is usually the hardest part to keep clean on any tile floor. Be sure not to use harsh chemicals or acidic cleaners on stone to prevent damage.
Brick flooring has similar care needs to stone tile and typically should be sealed for stain resistance. Some brick is glazed and does not need sealer. Grout can be particularly hard to keep clean on brick floors because the grout joints are usually quite wide; more grout means more area to collect dirt and grime.
Best for Cleaning and Care: Brick
As a rustic material made for the outdoors, brick isn't intended to be fussed over or buffed to a shine, like many types of stone. You choose a brick floor for character and warmth, not elegance or high style. That means you'll probably spend less time worrying about a brick floor looking perfect.
Durability and Maintenance
Stone tile makes for a hard-wearing floor that stands up to high traffic and everyday abuse. Tiles can be chipped or broken from heavy impact, but damaged tiles can be removed and replaced, just like other types of tile.
Brick flooring is just as durable and easy to repair as stone tile.
Best for Durability and Maintenance: It's a tie.
Stone tile, like brick pavers, can be installed by DIYers with some tiling experience. However, all but the simplest installations are best left to professionals. Most types of stone have special challenges: Cleft stone is uneven and irregular, tumbled tiles have imperfections and rounded edges, large format tiles must be installed perfectly flat and flush with one another.
Brick tiles or pavers can be particularly tricky to install if you opt for special patterns, like herringbone or pinwheel patterns. For that matter, a classic "brick wall" pattern of 2-over-1 isn't so easy to get just right over a large floor area. Therefore, professional installation is recommended.
Best for Installation: It's another tie.
Natural stone tile flooring averages about $5 to $10 a square foot but can range up to $25 per square foot and beyond. That's for the materials alone. Professional installation costs another $7 per square foot, on average; specialty installations, such as rectified tile, will likely cost more. That brings the total to $12 to $17 per square foot.
Brick pavers or tile also cost in the $5 to $10 range for materials, and installation will likely be in the higher range for tile flooring, given the relative uncommonness of brick flooring and the likelihood that decorative patterns will require tricky layouts and a lot of custom cuts.
Best for Cost: Brick
Brick wins on cost only because its high end is lower than that of stone's.
Stone is one of the few flooring materials that can easily outlive your house. With proper installation, it should never need to be replaced.
Brick is—you guessed it—one of the other flooring materials that can outlive your house. (For the record, concrete and high-quality ceramic or porcelain tile are the others.)
Best for Lifespan: Another tie!
When well chosen and properly installed and cared for, both natural stone tile and brick paver flooring undoubtedly add value to a home, for several reasons. Homebuyers typically prefer long-lasting hard flooring (such as tile and hardwood) over carpet because it’s more hygienic and won’t need replacing in the near future. And both stone and brick are simply higher quality and more durable—thus more permanent—than vinyl, laminate, cork, and other types of “resilient” flooring. Given the relatively high cost of stone and brick flooring, any real estate agent would be sure to praise the floor as an
Comfort and Sound
As far as your feet (and babies’ knees) are concerned, stone tile and brick paver flooring are equally hard, cold, and loud. They can add to fatigue during long hours in the kitchen, and they aren’t exactly cozy in family rooms or bedrooms, but you can always add a rug for warmth and comfort in select areas. Stone and brick don’t amplify the sound of hard shoes, like hardwood and, especially, laminate do. Coldness isn’t all bad; brick and stone can get cold on their own, but they’re also excellent materials for flooring over radiant (in-floor) heating systems. They transfer the heat nicely, and they even store a bit of heat so the temperature doesn’t drop quickly when the heat goes off.
Natural stone tiles and brick pavers are essentially two different styles of the same flooring. They offer similar performance, need similar care, and cost about the same, on average. They’re also high-quality materials that add a custom look to any room. And they’re equally suitable for any space, with the minor exception of brick not being suitable for shower floors. In the end, the choice really comes down to style. If you’re looking for farmhouse, Colonial, French country, Tuscan, or other rustic or traditional styles, brick might be the perfect fit.
Stone's versatility can make it the best fit for anyone's style, including those seeking a traditional or rustic look. Given the variety of types, sizes, and styles of stone floor tile, there’s a good option for almost every decorating plan.
As a natural product, stone tile doesn’t lend itself to brand identity or reputation. The best way to buy stone tile is to find a reputable, experienced local tile dealer and work with them to find the best materials for your needs. Good dealers offer a wide selection, often at competitive prices, and reputation and customer service means more to them than, say, the local outlet of a national home improvement chain.
Brick paver or tile flooring is much less commonly sold as other types of tile. You may need to shop online or through a local tile dealer or installer. Here are a few leading brands to give you a sense of what’s out there: