Tile vs Hardwood: A Complete Guide
Choosing between tile vs hardwood is a decision every homeowner must make when considering their next remodel. And frankly, it’s a very hard decision to make.
The good news is that I’ll be providing insight here which I think can help you make the right choice.
I’d like to introduce myself before we get started. My name is Ray Hughey and I’ve been installing floor and tile for just over 10 years now. I run a Flooring & Tile business out of Plainfield, IL. I’ve seen it all when it comes to home remodeling, flooring, and tile!
Everything I’m going to about to tell you about tile vs hardwood comes from 10 years of experience in the business and I’ve said nothing but my honest opinions here.
With that being said, let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
- Which Is More Durable: Hardwood or Tile?
- What Are Bare Spots And Why Are They Important
- How Does Water Affect Tile and Hardwood?
- So, Is Tile More Durable Than Hardwood?
- How Weather Conditions Affect Hardwood and Tile
- What About Tile?
- Cleaning Tile Flooring Vs Cleaning Hardwood Flooring
- What Should I Clean Tile Flooring With?
- What Should I Clean Hardwood Flooring With?
- Here National Floors Shows You Exactly How To Clean Hardwood Floors!
- How Kid And Pet-Friendly Is Tile Flooring?
- Which Has More Design Variety: Hardwood or Tile?
- Multiple Tile Sizes Used In One Flooring Project
- What Is The Best Flooring To Put On Concrete: Hardwood Or Tile?
- Can You Install Tile On Concrete?
- Can You Install Hardwood On Concrete?
- Which Is Cheaper: Tile Or Hardwood?
- How Much Does It Cost To Install Hardwood?
- How Much Does It Cost To Install Tile?
- Which Should You Choose: Tile Or Hardwood?
Which Is More Durable: Hardwood or Tile?
This is a question I get asked very often.
In most cases, tile is going to be more durable. Hardwood scratches much easier, is more susceptible to weather conditions, and is easily discolored by prolonged sun exposure.
Tile is a much harder surface than hardwood so it will be able to withstand much more wear and tear. That being said, it also has to be set right. If you don’t have enough mortar “coverage” on the back of the tile (a.k.a bare spots), then it can actually be much less durable than hardwood because it will be easier to break.
If you Look At The Bottom of The Tile You’ll See The ‘Contact Patch’ or ‘Mortar Coverage’
What Are Bare Spots And Why Are They Important
When laying tile, we want the mortar to spread evenly across the entire back of the tile. This ensures that a strong bond is formed between the tile and the surface we’re setting it on. Generally, we want 90% mortar coverage on the back of a tile.
So, say you only have 40-50 % coverage on a tile, if you dropped something heavy or set something heavy on the tile, that tile has a strong possibility of breaking because the bond between the tile and the surface is not strong enough.
Now, hardwood doesn’t raise off the floor, so it doesn’t have this problem. However, if we lay something heavy on a Hardwood floor it could leave indents over time if it is a softer wood.
How Does Water Affect Tile and Hardwood?
For tile, if there is a large amount of standing water left for a long time, it can possibly ruin the bond between the subfloor and the tile.
On the other hand, if hardwood is exposed to a large amount of moisture, it will warp and expand eventually. Over time, it will “buckle” if the water is not removed from it.
Longevity Over Time
With tile, the only longevity issue you’ll have to worry about is sealing the grout every few years which, for the most part, is inexpensive. The Flooring Girl created a nice intensive guide about why sealing grout is important and she even details how to do it yourself, be sure to read this resource!
Whereas with hardwood, its surface is easier to scratch. Simple things like having a rock in your shoe or even your dog’s nails can scratch the surface of hardwood really easily. So, hardwood floors will need to be refinished every few years.
When looking at the lifetime durability of these two materials, it’s cheaper to seal grout on tile every few years than it is to refinish hardwood floors. This means that hardwood can be more expensive to maintain in the long run.
So, Is Tile More Durable Than Hardwood?
In general, porcelain and ceramic tiles tend to be more sturdy and durable than hardwood. However, to reiterate, they have to be set right because if they are set wrong, they are much easier to chip and/or break completely.
How Weather Conditions Affect Hardwood and Tile
When it comes to hardwood, all types of weather affect it — moisture, heat, and cold.
For example, if you look at houses in say Arizona (very hot climate), in most cases, you’re not going to find much hardwood flooring installed out there because of the climate.
If you live in an area where you get cold winters and a hot summer, you MUST leave an expansion joint around the perimeter of the hardwood installation. Otherwise, when it gets warm, hardwood floor will expand and buckle because it has nowhere to expand to.
Also, key areas to keep in mind that are not a good idea for hardwood floors would be front windows (depending on which way your house faces the sun), sliding glass doors (where sun penetrates), and/or any other areas where the Hardwood will be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods.
The reason why to not do this is that hardwood will discolor and fade when exposed to direct sunlight for a consistently long period. Direct sunlight ruins hardwood floors!
In short, hardwood is affected by the weather in many ways. It can discolor or warp if it gets too hot or is exposed to too much direct sunlight. Also, hardwood is not a good choice if you live in a very hot or very humid climate.
What About Tile?
Heat and cold do not really affect tile in any major way. For example, comparing it to hardwood, tile doesn’t buckle or warp. It isn’t affected by sunlight and doesn’t expand or contract. Seasonal weather changes will not have any effect on tile flooring installations.
Hands down, tile wins this category by far because it is not affected by weather at all. Tile can tolerate any conditions you throw at it.
Cleaning Tile Flooring Vs Cleaning Hardwood Flooring
One myth that needs debunking is: You should clean your tile with vinegar.
This IS NOT TRUE!
Once a year, you may be able to use a SMALL amount of vinegar. However, do not do this regularly.
Otherwise, you will break down the grout and/or discolor both the tile and the grout. This can become a big problem.
Because yes, you can touch the grout up. However, that can lead to its own set of issues. The grout will not be the same color as the rest of the grout that is already down and may look slightly different.
Also, if the grout breaks down in many spots, you have two choices — touch it up and live with the fact that it may look slightly different or have the entire job redone from scratch.
In my business, most of the time, I hate to see avoidable mistakes like this because re-grouting entire tile installations makes a huge mess!
As a whole, it would have to be grinded out that it would look like a huge dust bomb went off in your house.
Lesson: Don’t regularly use a large amount of vinegar to clean your tile. You’ll thank me later.
What Should I Clean Tile Flooring With?
There are many cleaning products you can use that are safe. Here is a great guide by Better Homes & Gardens that completely breaks down cleaning tile floors. Be sure to check it out for all your floor cleaning questions! One of the simplest products that work well to clean tile is Dawn Dish Soap.
What Should I Clean Hardwood Flooring With?
First off, hardwood is a pain to keep clean!
Hardwood shows everything, especially darker hardwoods! It shows anything from dust to pet hair and footprints. You’ll have to clean it much more often than you have to clean tile.
To keep it in pristine condition, you’ll probably have to clean it at least once a day. You should use a dry mop when cleaning a hardwood floor or even a Swiffer. But it must be wrung out afterward if the Swiffer is damp!
Do not leave stagnant water on your hardwood floor as it will buckle over time.
Here National Floors Shows You Exactly How To Clean Hardwood Floors!
Kids & Pet Friendliness (+Plus Slip Resistance)
I don’t care what anyone tells you. It doesn’t matter what kind of coat you put on hardwood. If you have kids and/or pets, the hardwood is going to scratch! There is nothing you can do about it.
Sure, you can hide it with a lighter wood finish or area rugs and runners. At the end of the day, the floor will still scratch. That is just the truth.
Also keep in mind, that the darker hardwoods will show everything.
When it comes to slippery floors, in general, hardwood is going to be more slippery than tile will — except for glazed finished tile. Glazed finish tile is just as slippery as hardwood is, especially when wet.
How Kid And Pet-Friendly Is Tile Flooring?
Any tile will definitely hold up to wear and tear from kids and pets. It is not going to show scratches.
If there is water at all, the tile will definitely be slippery. There’s not much you can do about that.
However, in most cases, it is less slippery than hardwood. This definitely depends on the tile though.
I’ve alluded to this in previous paragraphs but as far as water, tile tolerates water way better than hardwood. This is why you don’t see bathrooms done in hardwood (for the most part)!
Which Has More Design Variety: Hardwood or Tile?
Short Answer: Tile 100%!
With hardwood, you can’t be as creative with the actual design.
For the most part, there are really only 2 ways to lay hardwood, opposite of the floor or on a 45-degree angle. The color and the shading is really the only difference along with the size of the wood planks.
There are some different thicknesses in hardwood from 1 inch to 3 inches. But overall, it’s pretty much the same concept no matter which way you look at it.
As opposed to tile, you have all sorts of sizes, ranging from 8×8 (inches) to 3’ by 4’ (feet). And that’s only talking about the size.
Multiple Tile Sizes Used In One Flooring Project
You can use all kinds of different materials with tile — from ceramics, porcelain, and marble. Also, the patterns you can have with tile gives much more versatility.
You can have tile installed using straight patterns to 45-degree angle patterns, brick patterns, third patterns, herringbone patterns, and so on. You can also do pinwheel patterns (3-4 different sized tiles in one project).
All in all, hands down you can do a lot more designs with tile than you can with hardwood.
Here is an awesome tile idea inspiration list compiled by Architecture Inspiration (Over 30 Ideas!). Also, feel free to check out my flooring and tile picture gallery as well, compiled from jobs I’ve done throughout my career.
What Is The Best Flooring To Put On Concrete: Hardwood Or Tile?
Hardwood can be done on concrete but as an experienced flooring and tile contractor, I would not recommend that you put hardwood over concrete (just my opinion).
The correct way to put down hardwood is with glue and nails on top of a plywood subfloor. If you eliminate the nails and just go with the glue, there is not as strong of a bond as there should be.
With only glue holding down the hardwood, any water or moisture that gets introduced has a much better chance of destroying the floor. Also, by only using glue, you’re taking away what makes hardwood durable.
Without nails, hardwood loses its sturdiness.
So, to reiterate, hardwood flooring, in most cases, is not a wise choice to install directly on concrete.
Can You Install Tile On Concrete?
For tile, I believe that doing the installation yourself on concrete is a bad idea. First, it MUST be completely dust-free. You also have to use the right set of mortar (thinset) to ensure the strength of the bond.
The biggest problem with installing tile over concrete is the concrete is usually not perfectly straight. So, more than likely, you’re going to fight a lot of high peaks and low plateaus in the floor plane. This is why it’s not a job for someone who is inexperienced.
Can You Install Hardwood On Concrete?
Overall, I would never install hardwood over concrete.
If you want to install something over concrete, I would go with tile or in my opinion, the best choice is a floating floor. This Old House created an awesome guide for beginners, where they break down step by step on how to install a floating floor over concrete. Be sure to take a look as all the answers are in there!
Which Is Cheaper: Tile Or Hardwood?
What kind of material are you using? More expensive hardwood which is more per square foot? Big marble tiles or 12×12 ceramic?
Depending on your material, your prices per square foot can vary a lot for both hardwood and tile. It will also determine your installation cost.
How Much Does It Cost To Install Hardwood?
When it comes to installation, there is no easy way to estimate what it will cost.
Is this a new construction job? Are you remodeling your current home? If remodeling, are you tearing out existing materials? Do you have to replace the existing subfloor? Is it pre-finished hardwood or raw hardwood that will need to refinished or stained?
Those are all factors that will play into how much your job will cost to install.
How Much Does It Cost To Install Tile?
It’s virtually the same with tile.
Do we have to put down the cement board? Are we tearing out old materials? What size tile is it? What kind of tiles are they? What kind of pattern do you want to do?
Those are all top considerations that will affect the price drastically. It’s not straightforward.
The only way to know is to get an in-person estimate. Odds are most homeowners looking to remodel are not going to know what the job entails.
To give an accurate price, I need to see the area, cover all the bases, see what material they want to use, what pattern they want to do and make sure I see everything that needs to be done. I have a very basic tool I put on my website to give you a tile & flooring installation estimate. Give that tool a try, but remember it all depends on your area and the going rate there!
Which Should You Choose: Tile Or Hardwood?
I never would try to influence my opinion on a customer. This is about you and your home.
You’re gonna have to live with it and I most likely will never see it again once the installation is done.
If you have your mind set on something, I’m not going to influence you one way or the other unless I think you’re making a mistake. It all goes into the style of your home.
What look are you trying to go for?
There is not one that is per se “better than the other one”. At the end of the day, it all depends on what you want.
Durability and maintenance wise, I would say tile has the advantage in those categories, hands down.
At the same time, the clean look and beauty of a nice hardwood floor is definitely something that tile can’t replicate (even though tile has a beautiful look of its own, too).
Other than that, in my honest opinion of being a flooring and tile contractor for 10 years, besides the look, hardwood doesn’t have many ‘functional’ advantages over a tile.
I personally believe, in most cases, tile is more durable, cheaper to maintain, and has more design versatility.
Personal opinions aside, I would advise you to go with whatever you like better!
If you’re a fan of hardwood and the weather is not an issue, I’d love to install some hardwood on your floor and transform your interior!
If you like tile better, great! Let’s get you a nice bathroom remodel or a beautiful backsplash in your kitchen.
So, there you have it. Hopefully, I gave you a pretty good overview of how tile and hardwood stack up against each other.