Material Comparison

How Tile Compares with Hardwood

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Tile vs. Hardwood

Hardwood floors are popular for a reason.

The color, natural earthy ambiance added by the knots, and warm texture compliment many design styles. For its exquisite beauty, however, there are drawbacks. Ceramic tile, on the other hand, can provide the same striking features as wood flooring without its inherent problems.



Wood floor appearance is dictated by four characteristics:

1. Board Width

Board cuts come in three main styles: parquet squares, narrow strips, and wider strips. Parquet squares provide a distinctive geometric design that compliments formal spaces, narrow strips create the illusion of more space, and wider strips impart a rustic tone to the room or augment a clean-lined modern look.

Ceramic tiles can be cut to the same shapes and sizes, and be treated to provide the exact same visual effects with wood grain and knot

3. Colors

Natural wood has its own color, but the finish used can either darken or add a sheen to the wood, providing a range of tones as wide as blonde to black.

2. Wood Species

Some of the most common hardwood floors include cherry, maple, and oak because of their durability. More attractive exotic woods like Brazilian cherry and mahogany are highly sought for their appearance, but are far less durable and scratch or dent easily.

The same gorgeous warm tones can be achieved using ceramic tiles, eliminating the concern of durability with less hardy woods. Tile also lasts longer than wood.

4. Textures

New hardwood floors can be installed looking bright and shiny, or deliberately distressed to look antique, hiding accumulated damage over the years.

Similarly, ceramic tile can be designed to provide the same appearances. For those who want to maintain the appearance of a new hardwood floor, ceramic tile that is cut and colored to look like new hardwood, can be glazed with a scratch resistant coating to keep it looking new for decades.


Financial Differences

Hardwood is more expensive to install and maintain than ceramic tile. Over its lifetime it is far more costly than ceramic tile, which can provide the same appearance at reduced maintenance and repair cost.


  • $5-15 per square foot for material, averaging $10 per square foot.
  • $2-8 per square foot for installation, averaging $5 per square foot.

Either the material or the installation cost will go up depending on where the finish is applied, adding $3 per square foot.

This comes to an average $18 per square foot to install a hardwood flooring. For this example we are installing and maintaining a 100 square foot section of hardwood floor at this rate, bringing us to $1,800 for the initial install.

Ceramic Tile

The initial cost for tile installation, providing the same visual quality and character, is cheaper:

  • $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, making a 100 square foot ceramic tile installation, on average, an investment of $1,700.

Maintenance Cost Comparison

Hardwood floors need to be refinished approximately every 5 years. This costs between $1.50 – $5.00 per square foot. That’s an average of $3.75 per square foot, and for a 100 square feet that totals $375 every 5 years.

Ceramic tile has no such need.

The longer you have and maintain a hardwood floor, the more it costs you:

At (Lifetime) Ceramic Tile Hardwood
Initial Cost $1,700 $1,800
10 years $1,700 $2,550
20 years $1,700 $3,300
40 years $1,700 $4,800


Environmental Sustainability


While hardwood is matched evenly with ceramic tile in terms of appearance, and falls flat when the cost comparison is applied, it stands to trial as an environmentally responsible construction material. This, however, can only be said if the material is FSC certified. This makes hardwood second only to tile in terms of sustainability, as compared with other materials.

Ceramic Tile

There are functional tile floors in England that are over 200 years old, still glistening as brightly today as when they were first installed in the 1800’s. Tile is uniquely sustainable for its durability and longevity, meaning that if it is well maintained it can be hundreds of years before new materials need to be sourced for repairs or replacements. Add in that the original sourcing of tile is already often IgCC and LEED v4 certified and ceramic tile is certainly more environmentally sustainable than hardwood.




Cleaning hardwood floors is easy, but must be done regularly. You’ll be sweeping the floor with soft bristles or a dry microfiber mop daily, vacuuming weekly, wiping it down with a cleaning solution monthly, providing maintenance coats/finishes to protect it from scratches every 3-5 years, and doing a full sanding and refinishing every decade.

The stain, dent, and scratch resistance of hardwood floors all depend on what type of wood you use and what type of coating you have protecting it. You will get what you pay for, however, and that price will only scale up with years of maintenance. With that said, no wooden floor is completely scratch resistant, and a single errant table nudge can leave a permanent mark.

Ceramic Tile

Compare this to ceramic tile, which only needs a weekly vacuuming and occasional mopping, and there is much less work. The only difficulty comes with cleaning the grout between the tiles because it is more porous than the tile and more easily absorbs dirt. Spraying this with grout cleaner and scrubbing it out can brighten it up quite easily. If you use a darker colored grout it takes much longer to notice any dirt to clean, and there are no drawbacks.

Extra Resources

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