The Basics of Wood-Look Ceramic Tile

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If you'd seen tile-that-looks-like-wood eight or even five years ago, you would have laughed. But now, tile manufacturers have improved--if not perfected--the art of duplicating the look of wood--in ceramic or porcelain tile form. It's all due to sharp graphics and better texturing.

Is it an uncanny simulation? No. Does it look convincing from a distance? Yes (more on that later). Is it attractive? That's all in the eye of the beholding homeowner.

Why would someone do this when the world is overrun with solid hardwood flooring stores, online retailers, and installers anxious to put real wood in your home?

There are many good reasons:

  • Tile Durability, Wood Looks: Tile is more durable than wood in some ways. For instance, if you have a pet (claws, anyone?), the tile will never show scratches.
  • Ease of Installation: Real solid wood flooring usually requires professional installers. Tile, by contrast, is very much a DIY job.
  • Wood Floor in Bathrooms: Ceramic tile is perfect for bathrooms' wet environment; wood, an organic substance, is terrible here. If your heart's desire is wood floor next to a bathtub, you can finally get it.
  • Exotic or Expensive Woods: Not in the mood for cutting down the Amazon rainforest? Or for emptying out your bank account to buy super-expensive hardwoods? You can buy the approximate look of ebony, mahogany, or other rare woods for a fraction of the price with certain lines of ceramic or porcelain tiles.

How Much Does It Look Like Wood?

If you want it to look like wood, you can probably convince yourself of this. After all, the brain is a powerful organ.

Bottom line: Wood-look ceramic tile looks like wood from a distance--i.e., before entering the room. Upon entering, the illusion begins to break up. Upon close examination, you will be unconvinced.

The main issue is that wood-look ceramics will always have a bit of a sheen, or gloss, to the surface. 

  • 01 of 09

    White Birch Wood-Look Tile Flooring

    White Birch Ceramic Tile from Florim USA
    Florim USA

    Florim USA's White Birch tile, from its Urban Wood Collection, is a good springboard to start talking about tile that looks like wood (or not).

    This tile comes in widths ranging from 3.81" to 5.77", and lengths ranging from 23.43" to 35.20".

    Why is this significant? Because these are roughly the same sizes--long and narrow--that wood flooring comes in.

    Florim USA, formerly American Florim, is the U.S. component of the Italian company Florim Group.

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  • 02 of 09

    Does This Ceramic Tile Look Like Oak Wood Flooring to You?

    Ceramic Tile That Looks Like Oak Wood Flooring
    Florim USA

    The most significant thing about this flooring is that it is installed in a kitchen--traditionally not a wood-friendly place.

    Wood does provide a softer surface for standing, but with ceramic tile, you just need to add an anti-fatigue gel mat and you are ready to go.

    From Florim USA's Urban Collection, this is a color body porcelain tile with high definition graphics.

    Feeling green? Florim USA's tiles are certified by Italy's standards department, Bureau Veritas Italia, to have a minimum of 40% pre-consumer recycled content by weight.

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  • 03 of 09

    Walnut Wood Flooring in Porcelain Tile Form

    Tile That Looks Like Walnut Wood Flooring
    Florim USA

    More from the Florim USA Urban Wood Collection.

    Shades of floor board-sized porcelain tiles vary slightly within a box. No flaw: it's intended to be that way to mimic shade variations found in real wood flooring.

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  • 04 of 09

    Tile Flooring With the Appearance of Ash Wood

    Ash Tile that Looks Like Wood - Marazzi USA Riflessi di Legno Collection
    Marazzi USA

    Marazzi USA's Riflessi di Legno Collection is the one that contains all of their porcelain tiles that looks like wood.

    Shown here is a close-up of their Ash--chair leg added for scale--to show the nice embossing of the tile.

    Marazzi Ash is, along with other wood-looking tiles, rectified. This means that the tiles are exactly the same size, allowing the installer to lay them with very tight grout lines. 

    It is also interesting to note that rectified tile is kiln-baked in a large sheet, then cut down to ensure perfect sizing. Conventional tiles are individually dried, which may lead to slight size variations.

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  • 05 of 09

    Ebony Wood Flooring or Porcelain Tile?

    Tile That Looks Like Ebony Wood Flooring
    Marazzi USA

    Of all the tiles-that-look-like wood covered so far, this one from Marazzi USA's Riflessi di Legno Collection looks the most like the material it is trying to imitate.

    Darker wood-look porcelain and ceramic tiles tend to simulate the original better.

    What is interesting is how this tile is laid. All of their Ebony porcelain tiles are 24" long. But they vary in width: 4", 6", and 12". This installation includes all three widths. It's a fantastic way to break up the monotony of conventional tile patterns and gain visual interest.

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  • 06 of 09

    Generic Wood Tile Plank From the Alps?

    Tile Plank That Looks Like Generic Wood

    This matte-finish tile plank comes in long 48" boards that are 8" wide (making it faster and easier to tile your floor; less tile-setting involved). It's from Vitromex.

    The line is called Alpes, though the species is emulating is not clear.

    As a porcelain, this tile comes with an ASTM C-373 water absorption rate of less than 0.5%, meaning it can be installed in water-heavy places like bathrooms.

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  • 07 of 09

    A Real Gem: Tile That Looks Like Reclaimed Wood Flooring

    Tile That Simulates Look of Reclaimed Wood

    From Vitromex and coming in 36" long by 6" wide planks, this is a porcelain tile that mimics the look of reclaimed wood flooring.

    Termed Madera, this handsome series comes in four realistic colors, ranging from light (Meadow) to a very dark (Sunset).

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  • 08 of 09

    Tile That Looks Like Hand Scraped Wood Flooring

    Tile With Look of Handscraped Wood

    Yes, you can simulate almost any species, stain, and texture of wood in tile planks. One of the more promising textures: hand scraped. Since it's so popular in real wood form, why not in tile?

    From Vitromex's Heritage Wood series, these short tile boards, only 24 inches long and 6 inches wide, more closely duplicate the appearance of shortboard oak flooring. Unlike many other wood-look tiles, which are mainly designed for large-scale commercial use, this one is simple, warm, and homey.

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  • 09 of 09

    Wenge-Look Tile Plank Flooring

    Vitromex Wenge Wood Plank Tile Flooring

    One of the great benefits of buying plank tile that looks like wood is you can purchase exotic woods for less than the cost of the real thing.

    The concept isn't applicable when you're looking at inexpensive domestic species like ash or maple. But a species like the quite hard wenge (and hard to find in as a solid hardwood vs. the thin veneer atop engineered flooring) is easier to obtain as tile.

    Vitromex is one of a small number of companies certified to produce porcelain flooring. This photo shows their Tzalam line, which has the shape of wood planks in 6" x 36" pieces.