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

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.

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.

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.

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Wood plank tile can be risky business

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

4 months 18 days ago

This site has been really helpful.

My wife and I would like to tile a 540 sqft basement that is already tiled on a noticeably uneven floor (we would be the new owners but the house was built in 1910). Reading the comments above where you repeatedly say the floor should be level but doesn’t have to be flat and I was wondering if the prep work could just be pouring self-leveling concrete on top then tiling. The ceiling has the normal 8ft height so it wouldn’t be an issue in that sense but are there longterm or installation drawbacks I’m not considering?

4 months 20 days ago

My installer mentioned if I wanted plank tile because of what she called cuppage she recommended a mud set vs. thinset. She said it was double the price but I would see a much better result. Do you find his to be true?

doug pratt
5 months 8 days ago

I am looking at various wood-look tiles for a remodel and not sure how to judge/choose the quality of the finish. In other words, how do I determine the quality of the wood appearance. are there different methods of producing the color and uneven, hand scrapped feel that will matter in terms of long term wear and overall quality? thanks.

Tom Biehl
5 months 19 days ago

Wish I had located this page prior to going it alone, on my own. Good information I will remember for next time. I have an uneven floor. I’m considering pulling it up and starting over.

Tracy Ferrick
7 months 19 days ago

We just had wood like tile installed in our dining room , kitchen and laundry room …what would you recommend to seal the grout/tile to protect against dirt and stains. Grout line is 1/8 (recommended by installer).