Material Comparison

Comparing Ceramic Tile and Laminate

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Tile vs. Laminate

As it is inexpensive and easy to install, laminate is a reasonable short term investment for flooring, countertops and other uses. It does, however, require a good deal of extra work to keep the material looking good.

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Appearance

If installed carefully, laminate can convincingly recreate the appearance of wood and stone, but only at a distance. The closer you get to the material, the more noticable it is that the same grain pattern repeats itself every couple of boards. This is because only five to ten differently patterned boards are produced in the laminate manufacturing process. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with two side-by-side boards that look exactly the same. Additionally, the texture doesn’t look quite right when looking at the surface closely enough.

Ceramic tile can more accurately mimic a wide variety of materials and textures, even up close!

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Financial Differences

Laminate flooring is a popular choice for its low initial cost. That cost, however, comes with a short lifespan, artificial appearance, and a higher risk of water damage.

Installing Laminate

The up front installation costs of laminate are:

  • $1-6 per square foot for material, averaging $3.5 per square foot.
  • $1-5 per square foot for installation, averaging $3 per square foot.

If we consider the cost to install a 100 square foot section of laminate at an average of $6.5 per square foot, the initial cost for laminate would be $650. The initial installation of laminate outpaces ceramic tile by quite a bit with regard to cost, but when you factor in the short life span of laminate and its lack of durability, it loses that lead.

Installing Ceramic Tile

The initial cost for ceramic tile installation – providing that we choose the same visual quality and character – is more expensive:

  • $5-15 per square foot for materials, averaging $10 per square foot.
  • $6-8 per square foot for installation, averaging $7 per square foot.

An installation of 100 square feet of ceramic tile would cost $17 per square foot, resulting in a $1,700 investment.

Maintenance Costs

Laminate is fairly low-maintenance, but its lifespan is significantly shorter than other materials. When properly maintained, it will typically last anywhere from 10 – 30 years, so you can probably expect to replace your flooring every 15 years.

The longer you depend on laminate flooring, the more it will cost you compared to more quality materials that have a higher initial cost, but are more robust and last longer.

At 100 square feet, the average costs you would be looking at comparing laminate to ceramic tile are as follows:

At (Lifetime) Ceramic Tile Laminate
Initial Cost $1,700 $650
15 years $1,700 $1,300
30 years $1,700 $1,950
45 years $1,700 $2,600

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Health & Safety

While each individual company is regulated to improve its product and meet safety and health standards, some laminate materials have been found to expose people to formaldehyde. The short term effects of formaldehyde have been documented as burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; skin irritation; and watery eyes. While a direction causation has not be established, formaldehyde is regarded as a Human Carcinogen, and there is a correlation between long term exposure and cancer. This is further supported by a study in 1980 that showed that exposure to formaldehyde caused nasal cancer in rats.

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Environmental Sustainability

As it is primarily made from wood chips, sawdust, and other reused wood residues, laminate is an excellent option for the environmentally conscious. It is the resulting product of recycling wood and wood scraps into new materials. However, laminate has such a short lifespan and once its use runs its course, the material is spent and is difficult to dispose of properly. Laminate should not be burned because the sealing layer releases aluminum oxide, which is dangerous to inhale. This is in addition to the immediate release of all present formaldehyde.

Laminate can be recycled, however, when it is broken back down into wood chips or fibers that can be repurposed.

While laminate flooring can be recycled, it doesn’t last nearly as long per installation as ceramic tile. There are functional ceramic tile floors today in England that were installed over 200 years ago and still shine as brightly now as when they created. Add in that the original sourcing of tile is already often IgCC and LEED v4 certified and there is no competition with laminate.

Extra Resources

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