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Wood look tiles: The truth about timber tiles

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The increasing consumer preference for green building materials that also come with the promise of durability, longevity and low maintenance is driving design trends across the world.

While timber remains a universal favourite in interior decor, especially for walls and floors, concerns about sustainable sourcing are encouraging architects, interior designers and homeowners to consider more eco-friendly alternatives such as wood look tiles in porcelain and ceramic.

It’s hard to replicate the timeless aesthetic and traditional raw appeal of timber in interior design, be it in the warm textures of hardwood flooring or the rich tones of timber wall panelling. However, natural timber comes with its own challenges, not only in terms of sourcing and pricing but also in its long-term care and maintenance.

Timber is not for every environment, nor can it be used in spaces exposed to moisture such as bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms. Besides, hardwood floors need to be constantly protected against scuffs, scratches and spills.

Having made a soft entry in the market more than a decade ago, wood look tiles are increasingly finding acceptance as a viable alternative to natural timber in design applications. Several factors have contributed to the rising popularity of wood grain tiles, particularly, durability, affordable pricing, choice of sizes, colours, patterns, variations, finishes and materials, low maintenance, application versatility, green qualities, and longevity among many more – all without having to compromise on the beautiful aesthetic of natural timber.

Wood look tiles: Porcelain or ceramic

Timber grain tiles are typically available in porcelain or ceramic. While porcelain is more widely used as a base, it’s easy to confuse one with the other. A high quality porcelain tile has a higher breakage point than a ceramic tile – this means a porcelain tile can withstand hard knocks.

Porcelain can also stand up to minor temperature changes, avoiding cracks. Ceramic wood look tiles are ideal for low traffic residential living spaces.

The PEI rating introduced by the Porcelain Enamel Institute determines the ability of the tile to resist abrasion, and ranges from PEI 1 (easily scratched) to PEI 5 (maximum scratch resistance). A minimum PEI rating of 3 is required for residential home applications, and higher for commercial installations.

Porcelain wood look tiles are offered in through-body and colour-body options. While a through-body tile will have a consistent colour and pattern throughout including the surface, a colour-body tile features a baked-on sheen, which can get damaged.

Design versatility

Technological advancements in the production of wood effect tiles have not only enhanced product quality but also dramatically improved the look to simulate real timber to perfection, making the hardwood finish more realistic and authentic than ever before.

The sheer versatility of wood look tiles is impressive, especially in terms of the timber species they can replicate. Bold or dark, greys or pastels, these porcelain tiles can reproduce the beauty and warmth of Oak, Walnut, Chestnut, Maple, Teak, Jarrah, Wenge, Acacia or any other species of your choice.

The wood effect on these tiles is created by scanning natural timber and using high resolution inkjet printing technology to print the image down to every knot and grain in great detail. Wood look tiles that repeat the pattern every few tiles will not be realistic enough to visually simulate timber.

However, when the pattern is only repeated, for instance, after 24 or more tiles (faces), the wood effect is more authentic. The higher the number of faces, the more realistic your timber look flooring will be in the final design outcome with the repetitive pattern barely noticeable.

Choose your wood look from any of several timber species or the currently trending reclaimed wood and distressed wood finishes, select textures to go with your grains and knots, go for the glossy, polished finish or keep it rustic with a weathered look, complete with imperfections.

If the stock doesn’t match your expectation, you can even have your wood look tile customised to your personal grain, colour and texture preferences.

Indoor and outdoor

Wood look tiles are versatile in application too. Turn your bathroom into a spa-like environment with a wood effect, or get the much-desired timber finish in your kitchen. But timber grain tiles have a wider application beyond just the wet areas of your home.

Adopt a wooden floor look throughout your home including your living spaces and bedrooms. Create an accent wall to add drama to your interiors.

Being impervious to water and moisture, wood look tiles are perfect for homes in marine environments such as beach houses or homes near water bodies. Get a hardwood floor for your entryway without worrying about scratches, scuffs or dripping umbrellas.

Take the design theme outdoors seamlessly by installing wood look tiles with anti-slip properties on your deck or any alfresco space.

Timber look tiles are pet-friendly, stain-proof and moisture-proof, will not warp or splinter like timber, and can retain both colour and finish over the long term. These tiles are also compatible with underfloor heating systems.

Plank sizes

Wood look tiles come in a broad range of sizes to replicate real wood. Thanks to modern production processes, tiles can even be supplied in 72-inch length planks (or more) with a choice of widths to suit the application and design theme. Some tile collections are also available in variable lengths to mimic a real hardwood floor. Shorter and narrower planks are perfect for creating herringbone patterned floors.

Eco-friendly

Made from natural materials such as clay and sand, wood look tiles with their longevity, minimal maintenance and zero VOC emission hit all the green building goals. They are recyclable too with the ground-up material used in paving applications.

Installation

Wood look tiles are typically installed on concrete slabs. For a more realistic wood look floor, make sure you select tiles with rectified edges – these are tiles with straight edges that eliminate the need for grout and deliver a smooth, even hardwood floor appearance, quite unlike a tiled floor. Tiles with a textured surface or non-slip properties must be considered for wet areas.

Maintenance

Unlike high maintenance hardwood floors, the stain-proof, non-warping wood effect tiles are easy to clean and care for over their lifetime using regular, non-abrasive cleaning solutions.   

And the cons…

In cold climes, a wood look floor can get uncomfortable underfoot. Discomfort can also come from standing or kneeling on the hard surfaces for an extended period of time.

Wood look tiles, especially those with smooth, polished surfaces can get slippery in wet areas, resulting in falls and injury. Wood look floors are also quite noisy.

Pricing

Based on the quality, type, size and customisation, wood look tiles can cost anywhere from AUD 16 to AUD 46 per square metre, or higher.

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Signs point to improving business conditions for designers

Michael J. BerensThursday, May 10, 2018

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Signs point to improving business conditions for designers

After several months of declining growth, the interior design industry showed signs of regaining momentum in the latter part of the first quarter.

Both residential and commercial sectors have experienced increased activity in recent months. The upward trend has boosted designers’ expectations that demand will continue to grow in the months ahead.

Presently, the outlook for design firms remains very positive, according to the American Society of Interior Designers. Its latest Interior Design Billings Index (IDBI), for March 2018, rose 2 points for the month, to 58.5, its highest level since June of last year.

Even though the business inquiries index dropped somewhat from February, designers expressed increased optimism about their prospects in the months to come. The six-month outlook index in March climbed more than 6 points month-over-month, to 62.7.

That optimism is reflected as well in the findings of the just-released 2018 U.S. Houzz State of the Industry report. Interior designers who participated in the survey anticipate substantially higher revenue growth for the year as compared to 2017.

More than three-fourths of residential designers believe revenues will be higher this year, by as much as 11.1 percent on average, resulting in higher profitability. In addition, more than two-thirds expect demand for services will increase as well.

In last year’s Houzz State of the Industry study, nearly one-third of designers had voiced concern about the difficulty of finding prospective customers.

As an indication perhaps of how the market has shifted in recent months, this year nearly the same proportion expressed concern about the shortage of contractors instead. Again this year, managing client’s expectations, particularly in regard to costs, remain the primary concerns of a majority of designers.

Most of the demand for residential design services (about 70 percent) comes from renovation and remodeling projects of existing homes. About 20 percent comes from design of newly built custom homes or new homes for sale.

However, designers in this year’s Houzz study reported a notable increase in commercial design projects as well — 13 percent in 2017 versus 7 percent in 2016. This may be an indication that firms are diversifying more to expand their markets, given the relatively static market growth for interior design services within residential remodeling and design industry overall. It may also be a reflection of the growing crossover between residential and commercial design in sectors like office, hospitality and health care.

Adding support to designers’ optimism are recent encouraging indicators of continued strong demand for remodeling services for the foreseeable future.

In its most recent Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) forecast, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University projects continuing robust homeowner remodeling activity, with overall growth remaining above 7 percent for the remainder of this year and into the first quarter of 2019.

MetroStudy’s National Residential Economic Report for the first quarter of 2018 contains a similar projection. The National Association of Home Builders reports that its Remodeling Market Index (RMI) for the first quarter of 2018 shows the remodeling industry is on “solid footing” and projected to achieve revenue growth this year.

On the commercial side, the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for March shows an upward trend and increased activity in the commercial sector month-over-month.

The Dodge Momentum Index also was up for the second month in a row in April, jumping 6.1 percent over March, led by “aggressive growth” of 6.3 percent in the commercial sector. The institutional sector experienced a healthy but more modest growth of 5.8 percent.

As with remodelers, architects and builders, interior designers are facing challenges of rising labor and materials costs along with shortages of qualified labor that may cause delays or project backlogs. In the main, however, current indicators suggest that designers can expect continued demand for their services and positive growth overall this year.

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