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Authentic wood has long been a popular choice for the construction and finish of buildings. However, fresh technologies bring to the fore a wide variety of additional options. We compared the differences between natural wood, vinyl and porcelain wood-look tiles, and had John Almon of The Tile House offer some guidance on what to look for.

Digital Printing

Natural wood is ideal for flooring and panelling in certain applications, although it has become costly due to scarcity or extinction. The arrival of digital printing makes it possible to reproduce the effect of genuine woods on ceramic or porcelain surfaces, to craft wood-look tiles. Details such as wood grain, knots and saw cuts are given a new lease of life on more contemporary materials. Digital printing presents an innovative realm of design and décor, which allows for experimentation with various elements and mediums.

Wood-look inspiration from: / /


As a décor medium, porcelain has the functionality to be incorporated into the fabric of various spaces, including bathrooms, patios and decks. The recent availability of porcelain planks, in lengths of up to two metres, eliminate design limitations and has made porcelain a more versatile tiling material. Nevertheless, what allows porcelain to largely outshine vinyl and authentic wood is the ease with which it can be maintained, and the selection of potential finishes.

Image courtesy of The Tile House

The fuss-free maintenance of porcelain makes it a practical alternative to natural wood and vinyl for usage in bathrooms and public areas. Taking a rejuvenating bath or shower can leave a bathroom environment warm and moist, which is not conducive to sporting genuine wooden, or vinyl tiles. Genuine wood and vinyl expand and contract when exposed to heat and/or dampness, which reduces the lifespan of the mediums and forms a splintered, ragged appearance. Moreover, the nooks and crannies of authentic wood could serve as a breeding ground for dirt, germs and insects. This could cause the upkeep of restaurants and coffee shops to become problematic, since hygiene is a prime concern during health inspections. The use of porcelain wood-look tiles ensure that rooms easily stay in stellar condition to keep health inspectors smiling.

The assortment of porcelain finishes unlocks opportunities to explore décor prospects in the home. In the bathroom, a smooth and polished version of porcelain wood-look tiles can adorn walls, while an anti-slip version is advantageous for safety in the shower. Laying porcelain wood-look tiles with a matt finish indoors, and those with an anti-slip finish outdoors, can create uniformity in the ambiance of the living room and patio. Such tiles may also be used to generate the illusion of a pool deck. This would be preferable to vinyl tiles, which are not fond of sunlight.

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The Final Verdict

Natural wood, vinyl, and porcelain wood-look tiles, each put forward a distinct offering that can contribute to a building’s overall function, and aesthetic. The key is to use the right material for the right application. For the purposes of remaining practical however, porcelain wood-look tiles are the optimal solution for most applications.

Tile Shopping?

Take a trip to The Tile House, to enjoy a collection of exquisite tiles, and receive expert advice on finding the most fitting tiles for your needs.

Visit their showroom at 122 Marine Drive, Paarden Eiland, Cape Town

Trading hours: Monday – Friday 8am – 4pm, Saturday  8am – 1pm

Visit their website at

Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter

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Get more expert advice from The Tile House by reading Deco Trend: Out On The Tiles. You may also enjoy Everything You Need To Know About Screed Flooring

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The ELLE Decoration Design and Decor podcast is all about blending the beautiful and the useful with inspiration and information. We’ll make you dream, as well give you the practical insights to make those dreams comes true. Tune in every month to interesting guests chat about design, decor, food, travel and culture.

Zeenat, a digital intern at ELLE Decoration, is a creative at heart with a passion for weddings, fashion and makeup. She adores blissful moments of solitude spent indulging in a warm cup of Rooibos tea, and red velvet cupcakes.