Wood Effect Tiles - Buying Guide

Combining the warmth of wood with the practicality of porcelain, wood effect tiles are a pretty irresistible choice. Thanks to cutting edge technology, they’re really hard to tell apart from the real thing, are really easy to live with and cost considerably less than hardwood floors. If you’re thinking of using them in your home then you’re in good company – plank tiles are currently the hottest trend in interior design.

But picking the perfect plank can be a little overwhelming at first. There’s a dizzyingly array of different designs and styles so it can be difficult to know where to start. So we’ve put together this handy guide to wood effect tiles to make finding your new flooring that little bit easier.

Design and Style

Choosing the style you want is the best way to begin and the great thing is wood effect tiles can strike the right note on just about any floor – natural and rustic in a country cottage or chic and contemporary in a city apartment. There really is something for everyone, from tiles based on the classic wood grain look to more knotted affairs and planks which really take the concept of wood planks to a new level.

If you’re at the early planning stages and a little unsure, why not pick up a magazine or browse a few design blogs for inspiration? Make a note about the looks you like best – are they traditional or modern? Light or dark? Neutral or more daring? Pretty soon you’ll have a clear idea of how you’d like your new room to look.

We often advise customers that there’s four different wood styles to look out for – Timeless, Traditional, Modern and Unique.

  • Timeless wood tiles encapsulate everything we love about natural materials – they have a warm, inviting appeal that won’t go out of fashion. Timber Oak is a great example and it’s easy to see why its one of our most popular tiles.
  • Traditional wood tiles are a great choice for older properties or if you want your new floor to look as if its been down for years. Look for tiles that are textured to mimic wear and tear from generations of footfall, or for heavily-shaded ranges inspired by reclaimed timber floors.
  • Modern wood tiles tend to be in shades of light to medium grey and have a smooth surface. This makes them a great choice for sleek kitchens and contemporary open plan living spaces.
  • Unique wood tiles will give your room the coveted wow factor and make a style statement. They push the boundaries of wood effect tiles and offer a chance to get creative. For example, Driftwood Multi is inspired by sun-bleached fishing boats – it’s heavy blending might not be to everyone’s taste but in the right place it looks fantastic and makes a serious style statement.

Where to use?

With its natural grains and knots, real wood is undeniably beautiful and full of character. But if you’ve ever considered a real wood floor, you’ll know there’s plenty of downsides. Natural timber warps when wet, so you can’t use in your bathroom. It stains and dents quite easily – impractical for busy kitchens. And you can’t usually use real wood with underfloor heating – an essential option for todays homes.

On the other hand, thanks to the fuss-free benefits of porcelain, wood effect tiles can be used almost anywhere. Aside from traditional places such as kitchens and hallways, you can use these planks in wet areas such as bathrooms and utility rooms. They can be used safely with underfloor heating, making them a great choice for living areas. And as they’re frost proof, you can tile your back patio to achieve the ‘inside outside’ feel.

As an aside, it’s becoming increasingly popular to use wood tiles on walls – a modern take on traditional timber cladding – especially in bathrooms and showers. The image below shows this off to great effect.

Ceramic or Porcelain?

Given that most wood tiles are made from porcelain, it’s pretty likely the decision will already have been made for you.

Porcelain is a denser form of traditional ceramic, and as a result, it’s far more hardwearing, waterproof and extremely difficult to stain. This makes it a great choice for busy areas that see lots of footfall – the type of floors where you’re likely to lay wood tiles. If you’re new to porcelain, we can’t stress how easy it is to live with, so for the majority of kitchens, bathrooms and living areas porcelain is the obvious option.

Ceramic wood tiles are slowly being phased out, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss them completely as they’re still far more durable that timber itself. Ceramic planks tend to be smaller and less expensive than porcelain, so they make a great choice for bathrooms and less busy areas of your house – our Spanish-made Arteak planks are a great example.

Can I use them in my shop or restaurant?

Most porcelain planks are so resistant to wear and tear they can be safely used in busy shops, bars, offices and restaurants. If you’re thinking of using tiles in a busy commercial setting, it’s best to check the ‘PEI’ rating – a score of 4 or means the tile will be highly resistant to wear and tear. A score of 3 or less means the tile is more suited to a domestic setting. Get in touch if you need to know more.

Digital designs

If you’ve looked at any tiles recently then you might be aware that newer designs are produced using ‘HD’ or ‘inkjet printing’ technology. The terms refer to the cutting edge way these tiles are made – photos of natural materials are digitally enhanced then ‘printed’ onto porcelain. This results in designs that are far more realistic than the tiles of old, with more variation and less repetition. Even an expert would be hard pushed to tell the different between natural timber and our Orchard Honey planks.

Sizing it up

Tiles continue to increase in size so it’s no surprise to see the wood planks getting longer. Not so long ago, a 15 x 60 cm plank was considered large but now its towards the smaller end of the scale. However, this doesn’t mean that bigger is always better – it pays to consider the size of your room and the look you want to achieve.

Smaller planks are likely to be less than 60 cm long, and naturally they work best in rooms where space is tight, such as ensuite and small kitchens. By laying more planks than you would with a larger tile, you’ll see more variation and achieve a varied and more natural look.

Longer planks are great if you’re tiling a bigger area – an open plan kitchen or the entire downstairs, for example. Smaller tiles can sometimes get ‘lost’ in larger spaces whereas longer wood tiles give a more balanced feel and are more pleasing to the eye. They also tend to have more ‘prints’ than smaller tiles which gives a more realistic look. There’s also the added benefit of fewer grout joints to clean – pretty helpful for busier areas.

We also recently introduced a new 7 x 28 cm plank size. This super dinky tile is designed to be laid in the herringbone fashion, but it also looks great laid with a staggered joint in narrow areas, such as hallways and landings.

Laying Patterns

The classic way to lay wood tiles is with a staggered joint, as you’d see with a natural timber floor. You can choose whether to stagger the joints randomly, where no one tile lines up perfectly with another, or at a consistent distance apart. In our view, irregular joints give a more authentic finish in keeping with the natural style.

An important rule is to not stagger the joints by more than a third. All porcelain tiles, no matter how affordable or expensive, curve slightly along their length. If you stagger the joints halfway along the planks, there’s a chance you may end up with lips between the individual tiles. Keep the joints staggered by no more than one third and you’ll be fine.

An increasingly popular way to lay plank tiles – especially smaller lengths – is in the classic herringbone fashion, where tiles are laid at right angles to each other. It may take your tiler slightly longer to plan and there’ll be a few diagonal cuts but that’s a small price to pay for the added detail and interest the pattern brings.

Underfloor heating

It’s pretty well known that natural timber and laminates don’t like heat. The changes in temperate can make them swell and warp, making your floor look a mess and meaning they can’t be used with underfloor heating.

Thankfully, porcelain tiles are designed to be used safely with all types of underfloor heating systems as they’re completely unaffected by changes in temperature. You can even use porcelain planks outside!

Finishing Touches

Grout joints are sometimes overlooked but they’re a necessary part of tiling and can finish off your new floor perfectly. With most wood tiles you’ll be able to use either 2 or 3 mm spacers, allowing for a small, neat joint. We usually advise picking a grout colour to blend in with the tiles, but you can also opt for a contrasting colour and turn the joints into a feature.

If your floor is in a busy area and you’re worried about a light grout staining over time, it might be worth choosing a light or medium grey grout. Ask your tiler to show you some different grout samples before you make a decision.

On Going Care

Unlike most other materials, living with porcelain planks is pretty much fuss free. Wear and tear is non-existent and because the tiles aren’t porous, they’re incredibly difficult to stain so you won’t have to worry about every little spill. Generally, a mop and warm water is enough for most cleans which means it’s bye bye to hands, knees and scrubbing brushes.

Some manufacturers believe their tiles could last for a thousand years. Although we’re yet to put that to the test, with a little weekly care your tiles should look good as new in the years to come.

Affordable luxury

As with all tiles, there’s no hard and fast rule on how much to pay for porcelain planks. You can spend as much or as little as you like, but as with anything, it pays to know that you’re buying quality.

Here at Porcelain Superstore, we’re online only meaning we can offer the finest Spanish and Italian wood planks at low prices you simply can’t find elsewhere.