Material Comparison

Comparing Vinyl Tile and Ceramic Tile

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Ceramic vs. Vinyl Tile

Vinyl tile is popular as a kitchen and bathroom flooring option, and is a fairly economical choice that is both water and stain resistant while providing reasonable durability. It is also sometimes used for countertops.

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Appearance

Vinyl tile can effectively imitate the appearance of wood, stone, and other tile. This imitation isn’t perfect, but at a glance, it is realistic enough. The number of colors and styles available at this quality also means there is very little limiting your design options.

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Financial Differences

Vinyl tile floors provide a relatively cheap alternative to the materials they mimic. While this may look like a good initial investment, at such a low installation cost, vinyl has a short lifespan and significant health concerns and ecological waste problems which can affect the resale value of a property if installed.

Installing Vinyl Tile

The installation cost of vinyl tile averages approximately $4 per square foot:

  • $1-4 per square foot for material, averaging $2.5 per square foot.
  • $1-2 per square foot for installation, averaging $1.5 per square foot.

At $4 per square foot, the total installation cost for vinyl tile in a 100-square-foot area would be $400. The initial cost of vinyl is significantly lower than tile, but the associated drawbacks should come into play with any decision.

Installing Ceramic Tile

The initial cost for a higher quality, ceramic tile installation, using the same visual quality and character, is quite a bit more expensive, but provides far better long term quality and visual appeal.

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

That comes to $17 per square foot, resulting in a $1,700 investment to install ceramic tile in a 100 square foot space.

Maintenance Costs

Cleaning a vinyl tile floor is simple enough; regular sweeping or vacuuming followed by a gentle microfiber mopping with cleaning solution specifically for use on vinyl. With that said, the material’s lifespan is only 10-30 years. So you can anticipate an average lifespan of 15 years before needing to completely replace your flooring or countertops.

At (Lifetime) Ceramic Tile Vinyl Tile
Initial Cost $1,700 $400
15 years $1,700 $800
30 years $1,700 $1,200
45 years $1,700 $1,600

It’s true that it takes quite a bit of time for the cost of vinyl tile to surpass that of ceramic tile. Once you count in the potential effects that vinyl has on your health, however, it becomes much less appealing.

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Health & Safety

Vinyl tile contains two toxic risks; PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and VOCs.  

PVC is a commonly used resin that increases the mechanical flexibility and heat stability of the materials it binds together. PVC contains both organotin and phthalates, both of which are toxic in high enough concentrations.

The health effects of VOCs include:

  • Damage to central nervous system, liver, and kidneys
  • Nose, throat, and eye irritation
  • Headaches, nausea and loss of coordination
  • Cancer

Ceramic tile, on the other hand, is free of both of these chemical risks.

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Environmental Sustainability

Vinyl tile is one of the least environmentally friendly construction materials available for flooring and countertops. During production, manufacturing, installation, use, and even at the end of its life cycle, vinyl has the potential to cause harm both to the larger environment and your own personal living and working areas.

Vinyl tile is loaded with carcinogenic dioxins. While a common rebuttal from many vinyl producers is that dioxins are natural, found in forest fires and volcanic eruptions, it must be remembered that like cyanide, just because something is natural does not mean that thing is safe.

Vinyl is not biodegradable, and almost impossible to recycle. This means that it simply sits in a landfill after it has outlived its usefulness, which you’ll remember, happens fairly quickly.

Ceramic tile, by contrast, is entirely naturally sourced without the use of any dangerous natural or synthetic chemicals. Additionally, if well-maintained, ceramic tile can last for hundreds of years. There are still functional tile floors in England that are over 200 years old, today. Couple that with IgCC and LEEDv4 certifications and you know from beginning to end you are making the most environmentally responsible choice available with ceramic tile.

Extra Resources

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