Over recent years, wood-look tiled floors have become a fashion trend as they emulate real wood while being easier to maintain. But are they the right choice for you? Are their supposed benefits so good? If it is the appearance of wood or natural variation you are seeking, why not go for the real thing?
This kind of choice often has us running round in circles trying to make up our minds, so we will make your life easier by providing a side-by-side comparison between bamboo flooring and wood-look tile.
KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BAMBOO FLOORING AND WOOD-LOOK CERAMIC TILE – A GUIDE
HARDNESS (Resistance to Denting)
Bamboo flooring is one of the hardest wood floors out there, and as such, it is highly resistant to denting. It can resist heavy furniture without denting and stand up to active pets and rambunctious children. The hardest bamboo option is strand woven bamboo, which is 2-3 times as hard as oak as measured on the Janka Hardness Scale. We have no hesitation in giving it 10 out of 10 for resistance to denting.
Being a ceramic material, wood-look tile is also extremely hard and highly resistant to denting. It is difficult to compare the hardness of bamboo and wood-look tile directly as they are measured using different methods. As we have said, we measure the hardness of bamboo and other hardwoods on the Janka Hardness Scale while we measure the hardness of ceramic tiles on the PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute Abrasion Scale). Quality wood-look tile should have a PEI rating of 3 to 5; anything less would be susceptible to damage. As with bamboo, we award wood-look tile 10 out of 10 for resistance to denting.
ECO-FRIENDLESS / DAMAGE TO THE ENVIRONMENT
One of the reasons for the increasing popularity of bamboo flooring is its environmental friendliness. Although a bamboo plant might look like a tree, it is indeed a grass. Just as you can cut grass and it will regrow, you can cut bamboo, and it will also continue to grow. That’s why you can harvest a bamboo plantation, then leave it for a few years, typically five, and harvest it again without uprooting any plants. Doing this doesn’t damage the environment in any way or harm plants and animals. Growing bamboo is also a great way to remove carbon dioxide from the environment and counteract global warming. We score it 10 out of 10 for eco-friendliness.
Wood-look tile is also an eco-friendly material. Derived directly from the earth, it is a natural material. The only real downside is the amount of energy required to fire it in the kiln. Providing that energy from fossil fuels is certainly not good for the environment. However, many modern processes recycle that heat by using it in other industrial and agricultural processes. Thus, we score it 9 out of 10 for eco-friendliness.
INDOOR AIR QUALITY, OFF-GASSING, & FORMALDEHYDE EMISSIONS
Maintaining good quality air in our homes is a vital aspect of maintaining good health. Unfortunately, many of the materials we use in our homes emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause us both acute and long-term health problems. Clearly, when we can do so, it makes sense to opt for materials that don’t degrade our home environment. Bamboo floors are almost entirely free from VOCs. The only possible contaminant is the small amount of UF adhesive used in the manufacturing process of engineered bamboo flooring. However, it is a very small amount, and these floors are still very safe. For indoor air quality, bamboo receives 9 out of 10.
Like bamboo flooring, wood-look tile doesn’t emit VOCs, although the adhesives used to fix it to the floor can be a source of indoor pollution. However, overall, it is just about equivalent to bamboo flooring, so it also gains a score of 9 out of 10.
COMFORT FOR WALKING / WARM UNDERFOOT
Bamboo flooring feels nice and cozy underfoot, and that makes sense. It provides excellent thermal insulation, so it never feels cold to the touch. It is so nice to feel a bamboo floor underneath your feet, even on a cold day. Not only does it feel cozy, but it also looks cozy too, providing a warm inner glow. It gets a well-deserved 9 out of 10.
Being ceramic, wood-look tiles have high thermal conductivity, the opposite of bamboo. The reason they feel cold to the touch is that they drain heat from your body, making you feel cold. Even when a wood-look tile floor is at the same temperature as a bamboo floor, the wood-look tile floor will feel very much colder. This might be a difficult concept to understand, so check out our video below for a better description of the effect. The bottom line is that wood-look tiles feel cold – not much fun first thing in the morning. In fact, they feel positively chilly. They score just 3 out of 10 for underfoot warmth.
Bamboo flooring has better water resistance than hardwood and is much less likely to be damaged by spills. But it’s essential to dry up any spills when you discover them, and certainly not leave them there for over a day. Leaving a spill for that length of time will likely result in swelling and leaving a stain. While this bodes against installing bamboo flooring in areas such as bathrooms where the floor is expected to get wet frequently, it is sufficiently water-resistant for most purposes, so it scores 8 out of 10.
Wood-look tiles are highly water-resistant; in fact, they are one of the most water-resistant flooring materials available. You can safely install them in bathrooms, kitchens, and even outdoors and around pools. They deservedly score 10 out of 10 for water resistance.
PRICING & AVAILABILITY
Square yard by square yard, bamboo flooring, and wood-look tiles are similarly priced. Expect to pay between $4 and $7 a square foot. This price is significantly less than that for hardwood tiles. Regarding availability, both options are readily available for fast delivery — both score 9 out of 10.
ORGANIC, NATURAL MATERIALS VS SYNTHETIC
As we’ve already noted, bamboo is a grass and is an entirely organic and natural material. Granted, some unnatural products are used in the production process, but the bamboo planks you nail or glue to your floor are 100 percent natural. It scores 10 out of 10 for naturalness.
The raw materials used to manufacture wood-look tiles include clays, refined minerals, and chemical additives. These clays and other minerals are combined and pulverized using a variety of mills and other machines. The crushed materials are separated into various particle sizes, and glass materials are then added to provide water resistance and decorative features. Next, the tiles are formed by using dry pressing at pressures up to 2,500 tons or by using a combination of extrusion and punching. They are then carefully dried using heaters or microwaves, and the surface is sprayed or printed with various glazes. Finally, the tiles are fired in a kiln. Typically, the firing temperature is around 2,100 to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, and the process can take several days. While tiles do use natural clays, they are an entirely synthetic product. On a scale of one to 10, wood-look tiles score just a single point for organic naturalness.
NATURAL VARIATION IN THE GRAIN – LOOK AND FEEL
Bamboo flooring has a beautiful, natural variation in the grain pattern which creates a stunning effect, especially over large areas. In fact, this natural variation is one of the main reasons people choose bamboo. Every board is unique, and no two bamboo floors are the same. Your bamboo floor will be individual to you. It achieves 10 out of 10.
While the finish provided by wood-look tiles is undoubtedly attractive, there are finishes available that emulate just about any wood. They do it well too, and at first glance, you can easily mistake them for a genuine article. However, once you look more closely, you will soon make out the repeating patterns that betray the fact that they are indeed synthetic. They don’t look as good as real bamboo, but they do gain 6 out of 10 for their look and feel.
EASE OF INSTALLATION
Bamboo flooring is hardwood flooring, so it’s installed just like traditional hardwoods. While it isn’t 100% child’s play, if you are reasonably dexterous and want to install it yourself, you shouldn’t encounter too many problems. Of course, you can always hire a handyman, carpenter, or professional floor installer for a reasonable price. There are three different ways that hardwood and bamboo floors are installed:
- Nail down
- Glue down
For more information on this, please follow the links to our installation guides. And if you don’t want to do it yourself, there is no shortage of professional installers you can call on. For ease of installation, we report an 8 out of 10.
Wood Look Tile
Installing a wood look tile floor can be quite tricky for anyone without any previous experience in laying floor tiles, so unless you are an experienced DIY enthusiast, it may be a job better left to the professionals. However, if you wish to do it yourself, the necessary steps include: 1) Ensure you have a solid underfloor 2) Lay down a substrate such as an uncoupling membrane using thin-set mortar 3) Allow the thin-set to cure fully 4) Lay down the tiles using another layer of thin-set mortar and allow to cure 5) Grout the gaps between the tiles 6) Seal the grouting to avoid future stains Somewhat more difficult than bamboo, it receives 6 out of 10 for ease of installation.
EASE OF MAINTENANCE
Bamboo floors are easy to maintain – exactly like most hardwood floors. You need to clean them regularly to avoid the build-up of grit and other debris that could scratch the surface. We recommend weekly sweeping or vacuuming followed by mopping with a lightly damp mop. Avoid excess water, and do not steam mop or wet mop hardwood or bamboo! You should wipe up any spills when they occur using an absorbent cloth. Really, this is a simple, common-sense, uncomplicated cleaning regimen. We give it 8 out of 10 for ease of maintenance.
Wood-look tile floors are easy to maintain, even easier than bamboo. They need regular vacuuming or sweeping, possibly with a rubber broom if you have pets. Mopping them every week will keep them looking good. We suggest you use a neutral cleaner and avoid bleaches or anything abrasive. Since it is slightly easier to maintain than bamboo, it receives 9 out of 10.
THE FINAL ANALYSIS
As you have seen, there are pros and cons for both types of floors. However, bamboo flooring has the edge with the final scores being: Bamboo: 91 points Wood Look Tile: 72 points