When I mentioned that I was doing a story on faux wood floors during a recent meeting, a colleague cringed. For her and many others, “faux wood” brings to mind cheap laminated paneling and flooring.
But that’s changing with a new crop of porcelain tile that looks so much like hardwood, you have to get down on your hands and knees to tell the difference.
It’s striated and textured like hardwood, has imprinted knots and comes in finishes ranging from reclaimed and barn wood to smooth-as-silk maples and pecans that look like they’ve just been sanded and polyurethaned. The tile has exploded in popularity during the past year or so. And dozens of manufacturers — including Marazzi, Emser, Mono Serra, Cabot, Daltile, Salerno and Kaska — are making it.
Scott Finley, a sales associate at Big Bob’s Outlet in Overland Park, recalls that about 18 to 24 months ago, shoppers started asking for wood grain tile.
“That alerted us to the desire in the marketplace, and when a desire for something hits a threshold where we’re confident it will sell, we’ll go and look for it,” Finley says. “Recently, we got two kinds in: one with a mahogany finish and one in black walnut. We sold out of the mahogany very quickly.”
Tim Perdieu, co-owner of Tile & Stone Warehouse in Merriam, estimates that sales of it in his store are six times what they were three years ago, when he began to stock it.
“I would say it’s 25 percent of our total floor-tile sales right now,” Perdieu says. “That’s why it has a whole row to itself. We now have 22 different styles.”
Wood grain tile provides the same warm look as hardwood floors, with special benefits. To start with, it’s waterproof.
“It’s Kansas City, and when you buy a home, there’s one thing guaranteed to leak: the basement,” Finley says. “So more often than not, they’re putting it in the basement. But they put it throughout their home. And since it is porcelain, and porcelain is recommended for outside because it withstands the freeze-thaw cycle, they put it on their patios. I thought that was brilliant.”
Such versatility means it can be installed throughout an entire home, including in bathrooms, the kitchen and the laundry room. Continuous flooring throughout a home makes for a cleaner, more streamlined look.
Perdieu says he recently sold 5,000 square feet of wood grain tile to a local homebuilder to use in one home.
Wood grain tile is also scratch-resistant. And it can be used on walls, ceilings, the tops of bars, the sides of built-in bathtubs and as fireplace surrounds, where wood would be a fire hazard.
Kathleen Ramsey of Ramsey Interiors in Lenexa designed a wine cellar for a local client using the wood grain tiles combined with travertine marble on the floor.
“It’s hard to do that with real wood because it expands and contracts,” she says. “It’s a great alternative for where real wood is not an option. And it comes in a lot of different colors to mix and match in herringbone patterns.”
Another bonus: It works well with radiant heating.
Janine Terstriep, interior designer and owner of the Decorative Touch in Lenexa, had it installed beneath the wood grain tile floors in the bathroom of Amy Lockton’s Leawood home.
“It comes on at 5 in the morning and again in the evening,” Lockton said. “I haven’t even put any rugs in front of my sinks because it’s so warm. And it doesn’t show dirt.”
Prices for wood grain tile run between $1.59 a square foot for Cabot’s Sonoma Series to $21.69 for Takla Italian’s Long Plank Series. Most are between about $4 and $7, making them comparable to prices of hardwood floors.
“But installation prices can be different,” Terstriep says. “If you’re doing a wood floor that has to be stained and finished on the job site, the labor can be a little more.”
“There are different qualities,” Ramsey adds. “But if you do narrow grout lines, it really looks good. Narrow grout lines are important to making it look real.”
Richard’s Carpet & Tile, Liberty, 816-407-7999
Carpet Corner, multiple area locations, carpetcorneronline.com
Big Bob’s Outlet, four area locations, bigbobsoutlet.com
Tile & Stone Warehouse, Merriam, 913-432-7900
Nebraska Furniture Mart, Kansas City, Kan., 913-288-6200
The Home Depot, multiple area locations, homedepot.com
Lowe’s, multiple area locations, lowes.com