Our Flooring: Solid Wood vs. Faux Wood Tile

January 23, 2014

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We have, literally, been researching and planning to replace all the flooring on the first floor in this home since last August. We were initially going to go with a bamboo, but the one we were looking at wasn’t very thick and we didn’t feel confident it would outlast the daily wear and tear of our 150 pound dog, Greta’s scooter rounds, or the long Idaho winters–which mean a lot of snow and wetness. We moved on and started looking at the hardest hardwoods available, which would be a lot more durable and then we ran into another problem. Our subfloors. We have particle board subfloors on top of strand subfloors. Almost every hardwood flooring company we talked to said that any sort of warranty would be voided if we put flooring on top of these kind of subfloors. We talked about replacing the subfloors, which would be very labor intensive considering there’s a layer of tile and two layers of subfloors. Our other option was to use a special underlayment (the same one John and Sherry did) before putting down the hardwoods, but unfortunately the flooring company we were talking with said that the warranty could still potentially be voided since we would still be technically laying it on top of particle board subfloors.

Through this process, we were introduced to the idea of wood tile–not technically wood–but surprisingly realistic. Intriguing! We ordered 9 different samples and were finally feeling like there was hope for us. We really love the look of wood floors–that’s something we wanted. But, and maybe I’m asking too much, I didn’t want to baby my floors. I don’t want to put little socks on Charly, or worry about our guests removing their wet shoes immediately after entering our home or follow wet foot prints with a towel. I don’t want Greta (or future children) to not be able to ride their scooter in the house–which I get is a completely absurd thing to do, but something she loves and we allow. Maybe faux wood tile is for us? Here’s a look at the 9 samples we ordered:


1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9

While we could see an application for almost all of them, for our home three of them we liked right away. Number 6, 8 and 9.


We stared and moved those three around for over a month. Researched more about each one’s color variance, printing method (it matters!) and watched how it collected dust and hair throughout the day.

Right off the bat, our favorite was this great deeper brown (but still mid-range) option called Hickory Vintage (number 8). The color was rich and warm and the print was pretty cool. The downside was this was the only option out of our top three that was roto-printed (instead of ink-jet). It would have the least variation from tile to tile meaning it would probably look the least realistic when all lined up next to each other. The other clear downside, seen from the photo below, was it showed every speck of hair and dust.


The second option we considered (number 9) was called Fronda Roble. The graining was gorgeous and it hid hair and dirt the best out of all three. A couple things we didn’t love were the slightly pink undertones and the size. At 8″x24″ it felt more tile-sized than your average hardwood–even most of the wide planked ones that are popular today.


The third option we looked into was called Nordic Brown (number 6). You can see a couple “Charly hairs” (as we so lovingly call them around here every second of the day) but for the most part it disguised things pretty well. The more we looked into and researched this option, the more we liked it. First, it was printed (like the previous option) using an ink jet. This means the variation and repeating pattern is greater than older roto-print type printing applications. It’s the most realistic you will get because they are based on actual digitial pictures of wood flooring. We dug deeper and discovered that, on top of a large pattern variation, this type of tile actually has about 9 different shade variations as well, which would give it a nice realistic touch.


In fact, if you scroll up, the one we deemed “too light” (actually called Nordic Light) is the same flooring, but a different color–which gave us more confidence that some tiles in this collection might have some of that graining that the Nordic light showcased, and some might be just long strands like shown here. Perhaps the thing that sold us most on this one, which if you haven’t guessed is the one we decided on, was the photo on the manufacturer’s site:

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 8.08.26 PM

We are really excited to get this project done. We called around for estimates to lay the flooring, and were quoted $17 THOUSAND dollars–cue heart sinking–so we’re doing it ourselves and sharing every detail along the way. From tearing our our existing tile, to laying the heated flooring system to laying the tile itself.

To be honest, the task is daunting. From the mess of demolition to making sure every tile is perfectly level, it should be enough to make us postpone the whole project indefinitely. But, on the contrary, we finally feel like we found something that is perfect for our needs and wants, and can’t wait to see it all come together after the dust settles. Onward!


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What do you think?

  1. William Elliot says:

    Do you have a link to the website for the tile you decided on? I believe you called it Nordic light?
    Thanks Bill e

  2. Stephanie Webster says:

    I love these floors and am trying to convince my husband to let me put this in our new home. He’s concerned with two really young kids, that they will get hurt more from falling on tile. How has it been with your littles? Do you notice a difference than when you lived with real wood? Also, where are your leather chairs from that are in your living room? I love them so much!

  3. Carmela says:

    Hi Julia – Contemplating on getting a very similar wood tile in a 6″ x 36″ size in a great room. The space is large and I am really worried that in such a large space (with only 36″ planks) the pattern will look repeating (even if staggered to some extent). Can you advise after seeing a larger space done in person if it will still give the illusion of real wood? Thanks (btw: Looks great)!

  4. Hi, I would like to commend you on the fantastic job you did with this flooring project. Wood tile has become a popular trend in flooring recently and they approach you took from picking the best look to deciding to DIY really is impressive

  5. Brenda says:

    What brand name was your wood tile??

  6. Kelly says:

    Just came across your blog today and I’ll definitely be following from now on. I’ve been waffling back and forth about tile vs hardwood as well. Are you still happy with your decision to go with tile throughout the main floor? What flooring did you use on your upper level?

  7. Xhi Ann says:

    I hope you’re still replying to comments to this older post Julia! I’d love to know who the manufacturer is for the tiles you shared. The Tile Shop links don’t seem to provide any info. Thx!

  8. Jit V says:


    Your article is really good. If its okay can I see the pictures of your wood look tiles? Also how are they holding up after 1.5+ years of installation? We have a yellow lab who is afraid of walking freely on wood surface and has scratched our brand new engineered wood floor in 3 months across the whole house. So we plan to install something that looks great but mainly not get scratched by our labs day to day usage. We are in Northern California so not sure if they will be too cold in winter or too hot in summer.

  9. Drew says:

    I’ve seen faux wood tile that looks exactly like real wood and I’ve seen really bad looking tile. It all depends on what appeals to you. Thanks for the great advice.

  10. […] PS: my favorite post on wood vs tile […]

  11. […] PS: my favorite post on wood vs tile […]

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  13. Natalie says:

    I just came across your blog today. Like y’all, we have gone between replacing all the floor on our main level (which is broken tiles in the kitchen, beat up hardwood in the foyer, and carpet in the fam room) with hardwoods, then bamboos, and now considering the tile wood floors. I love the idea of not having to worry about spills, etc with real hardwoods, but I do also LOVE the look of them. I’m hoping if we do the tile, it looks so real that you have to actually feel it to tell that it’s not actually hardwood. I see this was posted in Jan, so have y’all installed it already, and are you completely happy with it? Also, do you know if the resale is the same as if you had real hardwoods? We have a 2yo and a 6 mo old, so tile is so temping to do! Thanks!

  14. Phoenix Tile says:

    Nice post! It was really interesting. The information which you provide is really informative and helpful to home owners. I like this blog very much. Definitely I will share this blog to my friends. Thanks…

  15. Tina says:

    Ohhhh man I wish I had wood flooring. I am obsessed with wood right now! I loved 6 and 9 the most :)

  16. Tammy says:

    You are certainly brave to take on the task yourselves. Our old house had worn hardwood floors and we never wound up replacing or fixing them. We just got a new house and I am pleased all the floors are in great shape. It’s one less thing to worry about!

    • Julia says:

      What a dream! We were never really happy with the floors in our last house and like you, never got around to fixing them. Since we plan on being here for the long haul, we just want to get the floors DONE as soon as we can.

  17. Holy Moly! I cant believe how real it looks. I guess the grout lines are really thin? they arent noticeable thats for sure. And 17 grand?!?!?! That’s friggin ridiculous. Good luck guys!

  18. Summer says:

    Beautiful choice, Julia! This will be gorgeous. I’ve had my eye on “wood” tile, too. I didn’t know that it was so much more expensive than hardwood when it comes to installation–that is useful information. If you don’t mind me asking, how do the costs (of the materials, hardwood vs wood-looking tile) seem to compare, based on your research?

  19. Lebow says:

    A friend of mine told me about faux wood tiles bu thats most certainly is gonna be the next big thing for my home ;) thanks for this amazing post

  20. Monica Mondragon says:

    Oh, this is going to be exciting! It should look awesome! Can’t wait to see all the details/suggestions for installing the flooring heating system…I’m dreaming of having that under foot someday.

    I like way they set the tile randomly in the manufacters photo. My friend laid this type of flooring in her kitchen, but the contractor set them very evenly and I find it oddly disturbing. It makes it look like tile, not wood, like it’s supposed to.

    I found it quite amusing to see the ‘recommended grout colors’ to the samples you linked too–Mobe Pearl for Nordic Brown? Um, I don’t think so!

  21. Wendy says:

    #8 was my first choice, but I can see the concern with how it is printed. There’s nothing worse the a rigidly repeated pattern where none is intended.

    I’m excited for you to do this and educate me – I’m demoing the backsplash in my kitchen and would like to save on the labor costs for the new on. I think your experiences will go a long way toward making me jump in myself or convincing me to open the checkbook!

  22. Julie says: … just installed the faux wood tiles in there home in a herringbone pattern. They look great.

  23. Christina says:

    Ugh! Tiling makes me want to cry!! We’ve been working sloooooowly on our kitchen tile for a month. Good luck to you! Its going to be amazing!

  24. Robin says:

    I miss you guys in Feedly! Are you working to get it running through Feedly again? I hope you can keep that little baby cooking until 40 weeks :)

  25. Jenny says:

    Great choice! We installed ceramic tile wood look floors ourselves over 600 sq ft a little less than a year ago. It was crazy hard work but I have to say I love my floors. Everyone who comes in is convinced they are wood not tile so we keep a small piece of tile around just to prove it! I’ve been a slacker and not posted the finished floors but you can see them here and here.

    Best of luck with your flooring project!

  26. Kaitlyn says:

    Oh my goodness are you brave!! I am obsessed with this wooden tile. Such a great idea. I cannot wait to hear how it goes – Would love to re-tile my kitchen sometime soon and hope to reference your blog as a tutorial!

  27. Elisa says:

    WOAH, is that quote because it’s tile?! We had that “awesome” carpet/tile thing going on downstairs and a few years back replaced it with high quality laminate. We get lots of compliments but it certainly isn’t impervious like we thought. I had *no idea* tile came in wood-like planks like that. I definitely miss the ease of care that tile brings (I’m sure you know!) We got ours installed – every surface downstairs, just over 1000 sq ft for about 2k. But I’m guessing it’s because it is easier to trim and was floated over our concrete slab? He was also local. Yikes.

    Anywho, good luck. I’m way intrigued by this wood tile.

    • Julia says:

      Yes, tile is unfortunately a lot more spendy to install than laminate or wood because of the additional steps. The good thing about such a high labor price tag was it was a VERY easy decision to decide to do it ourselves. Hahaha. We’re actually dreading the demolition phase–laying the new floors excites us!

  28. K says:

    I’m so excited to see this happen. I’ve been so interested in these faux-wood tiles after seeing them pop up in a few bathrooms. What an awesome option! Can’t wait to see the results! I’m sure it will be beautiful.

  29. Jennifer I. says:

    Was that 17k to lay flooring?! Whoa. That’s madness. From multiple quotes? I’m sure you guys will do a great job and the bonus of doing it yourselves is that you know it will be done right!!!!

    • Julia says:

      Ugh. Yes. There will be approx. 1700 sq ft of tile to lay and we were quoted an average of $3/sq ft for the heated flooring system and $7/sq ft for the tile. Insane.

  30. What a perfect father and son activity :-) No, seriously! That tile is GORGEOUS and I seriously think we need to consider that for our future home. I don’t think I’ve seen ANY wood flooring in the homes I’ve been into here. It is ALL tile. Which is totally fine with me, but it has to be the right tile. Can’t wait to see this project complete!

  31. Rebecca W. says:

    We had dark wood floors in our first house and HATED how all the dust/hair/everything showed. We’ve been much more pleased (and do much less sweeping up) with lighter ones in our new home. Glad to see you are laying a heating system, I was about to ask if you considered tile would be cooler than hardwood but I see you’ve fixed that problem!

    • Jennah says:

      Us, too. When we ripped up the carpet in our home, we chose a medium-dark laminate hardwood. We even went lighter than the ones we really liked but um…still to dark, esp in a small home with 3 pets. You see evvvvverything. Next time we know to go lighter!

      We also put in our flooring right prior to baby. She was due December 30 and we (well hubby and FIL) finished in late November. Because our house is so small, the entire house was just insanity the whole time, and obv my nesting instincts were NOT happy. So…good luck with that ;)

  32. Rebecca says:

    They look great! But all I keep thinking about is you keeping that baby in until a solid 37 weeks. Please say Chris is doing the heavy lifting. I had my 1st at 33 weeks. Clearly not as premie as they come but the first year was filled with NICU’s, nebulizers and worry. Take it easy Julie and kick those feet up, at least for 8 more weeks :).

    • Julia says:

      Absolutely! That’s definitely mine (and our) priority. We’re shooting for 40 weeks with this little one and not a second sooner. ;) Fortunately, we have family near that can help Chris with this massive task.

      • Rebecca says:

        Thats right – get the men on the task! You point to what they should do from the sofa. :) They are going to look great. btw sorry for the typo *julia. :)

  33. Kelly G. says:

    We ended up using the same selection process for our kitchen- from bamboo to hardwood to wood-looking tile. And we have three dogs, so we’ve got a ton of hair to deal with! The hardest part, in all honesty, was the soreness and exhaustion of it all. But it’s SO WORTH IT. And we love it. Good luck with yours! It’s going to be fantastic!

    • Julia says:

      Ohh! I wish I could see! So happy you love it.

      • Melissa says:

        I’ll try and share some pictures for you to see it (once I’m at home and can get onto my Photobucket account). Seriously, you’re going to love it. We don’t even find it cold under foot at all (and we live in Saskatchewan where it was -58 last week…….tile was still cozy without any underfloor heating). A pleasant surprise!

      • Melissa says:

        OK, so I’m in the process of uploading some tiling photos right now. Take a look in a couple hours :-)

        I’m so excited to see it when you’re done, I love all your other projects.

    • Melissa says:

      My husband and I used almost the exact same tile in our house (approx. 1200 sq feet, main floor). It was about 2 weeks worth of heavy work and mind numbing lifting, and tons of finicky laying of tiles, but damn if it isn’t the best flooring I’ve ever had. With six dogs, it’s super easy to clean, it looks like a million bucks, and it’s durable as anything.

      Be sure to put concrete board under it (that’s the yucky part) and invest in some heavy duty kneepads from Home Depot or the like (we got gel filled ones, best $$$ spent on the whole project!!).

      Good luck!!

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