Wood plank tile floors: What you need to know

wood grain plank tile Seattle Washington Fremont neighborhood linear shower drain
Wood plank floor tile in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood (9x36in)

Wood-like planks and other large format tile

Be sure to take a look at my newer post: More tips for installing wood look tile flooring that talks about patterns, grout joint size, and has additional installation tips.

wood plank tile problems Issaquah
Putting the tiles face-to-face will expose any flatness issues

There are some frustrating things about porcelain wood planks that your tile contractor may not have told you… and the salesperson at the store may not know. Here are some tips that you may be interested in before you shop for your wood grain tiles.

They’re not flat

They might look flat at first glance, but if you look closely, they probably aren’t. The center is higher, in other words, they are crowned in the middle. Some brands and types are worse than others. This becomes more of a problem when you offset (overlap)  them, which brings us to the next issue:

Don’t do a full offset with wood plank tile

By doing a 50% offset, where the middle of a tile is exactly in line with the grout joint of the next row, you have maximized the amount of unevenness, or lippage, between the tiles. In fact, unless the tile manufacturers say otherwise, the American National Standards Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile sets the limit at 33% maximum offset (ANSI A108.02 Section 4.3.8). This means that on a 24 inch long tile the maximum offset is 8″.

offset wood grain tile Bellevue Washington problems
lippage from wood plank tiles in an offset pattern

The floor has to be extraordinarily flat

If your floor isn’t flat this will accentuate the problems with the crown of the tiles as you can see in the image on the left. For large format tile, which is any tile with at least one edge longer that 15 in., the maximum allowable variation is 1/8″ in 10ft. Floors are just not that flat nowadays.

If you want to see some examples of what can go wrong with these types of tile installations then take a look at this post here.

Use the correct thinset

medium bed tile mortar issaquah washington
A great thinset for installing wood plank tiles

With large format tiles you want to use a medium bed mortar and the correct trowel. While I prefer Laticrete 4xlt for this, you may find Marble and Granite mix from Custom Building Products more readily available. With these types of mortars a 1/2″x 1/2″ notch trowel would be the smallest size that you will want to try. Yes, this uses more thinset and, yes, these types of mortars are more expensive, but this isn’t the time to skimp. If you want plank floors, you’ll want to use a medium bed tile adhesive.

I’ve put together an infographic on thinset that you may find of interest.

Porcelain plank floors can look good but the biggest problems with them can be avoided by simply knowing what to watch out for and planning accordingly. You’ll find that they should last a lot longer than their wood counterparts as well.

Be sure to take a look at my newer post: More tips for installing wood look tile flooring that talks about patterns, grout joint size, and has additional installation tips.


wood plank tile danger issaquah washington
Wood plank tile can be risky business

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98 Comments on "Wood plank tile floors: What you need to know"

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Alice Overstreet
2 years 7 months ago

This page/article helped us prevent an expensive mistake. We had planned to put a wood grain tile floor in ourselves and from this realized epwhen were out of our league. We hired a professional who was experienced and did good work. It was still a bit tricky. Thank you for this page!

2 years 6 months ago

So if most wood plank tiles are not flat in the middle, do “rectified” edges solve that problem? I’ve see the term used to describe some tiles but not others.

2 years 4 months ago

We are planning to put wood plank tile in our basement since hardwood is not a food option down there. From your experience, are there brands you recommend vs stay away from? We ideally want narrower tiles if at all possible to coordinate without hardwoods upstairs. Thanks for the tips?

2 years 4 months ago

Does the concern about the need for flat floors extend to all tile? If our floors are not flat, should we give up on the idea of porcelain tile flooring? I would like to use some kind of large tile in order to minimize the grouting.

Leslie Thompson
2 years 25 days ago

We purchased 250 sq/ft of plank tile and will have an experienced friend install, however, he’s never done this kind of tile before. I am gathering supplies for him, and other than the mortar, grout, tile cutter, and tiles, is there something else he needs? I’ve seen some posts talk about a cement board, some posts/videos don’t.