We’re often asked to explain the benefits and drawbacks of installing wood effect tiles as an alternative to real timber. Here we outline one of the major issues to take into consideration before making your choice – the bottom line.
Remember that whatever you go for, there'll be a significant level of disruption in your home, and therefore it’s important you’re happy and well informed before proceeding. It will be the same trouble again if you’re dissatisfied with the outcome, or you’ve selected a product that is not suitable for the area in question.
Real Wood or Wood Effect Tiles - Which is More Expensive?
Bear in mind that the overall cost of the job is more than just the price of the installed product. You must factor materials and labour into your budget.
The Cost of Tiling and What to Look Out For:
When tiling a floor, the substrate must be prepared in such a way that it’s solid and flat. It’s possible to tile directly onto concrete or over existing tiles, and aside from priming the surface, which is inexpensive, no other preparation work is required. If this is the case in your situation, then you’ll have a much lower bill than if a lot of preparatory works needs to be undertaken.
For example, sometimes a concrete floor may be in poor condition, especially if old tiles have been removed with the likes of a pneumatic hammer. To make good the substrate again, this might mean using a levelling compound, which is a screed like product used to fill in any of the serious holes, undulations or dips. This will add a few pounds to your bill. However, the majority of the time this work is not required. Smaller imperfections in the floor can be ignored as the tile adhesive will cover these when laying the tiles.
When tiling over a surface that's supported by wooden joists, it's recommended to use building boards. These are large lightweight sheets which are designed for tiling over.
If you go to remove old tiles and discover they’d been fixed onto plywood sheets, or the equivalent, you may find that the sheets have, in turn, been screwed into the floorboards (rather than nailed). While not strictly recommended, it’s worth scraping the sheets clean and affixing the building boards directly on top. It’s a very laborious and time consuming job to remove sheets that have been screwed to the floor, and thus an added expense. If they’ve been nailed down, they should come up easily enough.
NOTE: It is never recommended to tile directly onto a timber surface. Although we recognise that it is a common practice, and is cheaper than using building boards, and furthermore has a fairly high success rate, the reality is that timber contains oils and moisture that can impair the quality of the adhesive bond, and is also subject to expansion and contraction. You do not want be in the 3% to 4% of people for whom a job has failed.
After substrate preparation, for either surface, you’ll need cement, grout, and primer for whatever tiles you purchase.
There may also be a cost for waste disposal should you need to remove old flooring.
The Cost of Laying Wooden Floors and What to be Aware of:
Essentially, there are three main groups of wood floors, each with different attendant costs.
Laminate Flooring is considered the easiest to lay. All that's usually required is the underlay, and occasionally beading for finishing where the floor meets the walls. When installing over concrete, a damp-proof 1,000 gauge plastic membrane should be used to guard against moisture damage. The superior quality underlay will be thicker and slightly more expensive.
Engineered Wood is the most popular type these days. Again, foam underlay is required, with damp-proof sheeting if necessary. The planks need to be glued together, unlike their laminate counterparts. As a rule of thumb, the labour cost is usually on a par with the cost of laying tiles.
Solid Wood needs to be either glued to concrete, or secret nailed to batons or wooden sheets. This tends to be more expensive than any of the other options. It simply takes longer to do, and more equipment is necessary.
Note: For engineered and solid woods, it’s only possible to lay the planks perpendicular to the direction of the floorboards. If this is not desirable, it’s necessary to sheet out the floor. This will add significantly to the cost of substrate preparation.
The Cost of the Finished Article:
Comparing the square metre prices of the products discussed, laminate flooring, generally, will be the most cost effective.
Engineered and solid wood planks will be more expensive again. There is a greater range of different woods, from cheaper pines and deals right up to very expensive walnut and merbau, with wildly varying prices. These top of the range woods will be significantly more expensive than what you will expect to pay for the ceramic equivalent. Obviously with the ceramic or porcelain wood effect option, it makes no difference to the price which species of wood is being replicated.
Relatively small ceramic or porcelain wood effect tiles, at 20 x 60 cm can be purchased at particularly low prices, with longer ones working out slightly dearer. However, in general, wood effect tiles, irrespective of their pattern, will be in the same price bracket as the cheaper engineered or solid timber floors.
The Cost of Maintenance:
There is no maintenance, and therefore no maintenance cost to wood effect floor tiles. They should last a lifetime, unless subjected to extreme distress.
To increase the lifespan of wooden floors, they will eventually need to be sanded and varnished to revive their original look. It is a cost that needs to be borne in mind when making your choice. Depending on the amount of traffic, you could expect to do this as soon as 6 or 7 years after installation. This process is quite costly, and very messy and disruptive. It’s not necessary to do it, but eventually your floor will be extremely worn looking where there is the most footfall, and almost brand new in the corners and lesser worn areas.
Laminate floors are not designed for this process. At any rate, it would be cheaper to replace the floor than to undertake this work.
To Wrap Up:
Hopefully we've been of some use in assisting you make your choices. Depending on your situation, budget or long term plans for your property, it’s nice to be wisely informed before you make your choice.
Note that all the images above are of wood effect tiles, and you'll find our full selection of wood effect tiles here.