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The Right Way (and the Wrong Way) to Install Porcelain Wood Look Tile Floors

By 03/22/2015February 4th, 202140 Comments

There is a right way and a wrong way to install porcelain wood look tile floors. I’ll show you both ways here and explain why one is better for wood look tile.

I’m here at the same house in Kauai we were in last year! This time, Terreeia and I are with my sister Elizabeth and her family.

This is the view from the tub in the master bathroom ensuite. 

The Right Way to Install Porcelain Wood Floors | Maria KillamElizabeth is enjoying a  quiet moment with her book.

We passed by a charming diner and coffee joint that I want to share with you. Here it is from the outside:

The Right Way to Install Porcelain Wood Floors | Maria KillamI love that the flowers match the building!

Here’s the entry with some pots of bamboo to define it. But do you notice the precise way the porcelain wood floor tile has been installed? Look closely.

The Right Way to Install Porcelain Wood Floors | Maria Killam

Instead of laying them randomly like a regular wood floor, the installer attempted to lay each tile too perfectly, with every other row lining up exactly. This is NOT a good look if you are trying to duplicate the look of a real wood floor.

How to install porcelain wood look tile.

What should you do instead? Take a cue from Kate at Centsational Girl, who has posted before about her porcelain wood floors. Here they are (below right) alongside the ones in the diner.


See how Kate’s floor tiles are laid in a random pattern, and how not one of the tiles line up perfectly with any other tile? See how much more authentic her floors look as compared to the diner’s? Irregularity is important when going for a natural wood floor look with porcelain tiles.

Are wood look porcelain tile floors timeless?

I get emails all the time asking if these tile floors are timeless. If they are installed correctly and the colour is right, they are definitely way more classic than whatever the current, trendy large-scale tile of the moment happens to be.

Read more:Should you install the current trendy fad tile?

In my True Colour Expert live colour workshops, you’ll learn more about choosing timeless and classic finishes.

The Right Way to Install Porcelain Wood Floors | Maria Killam

Overall the shutters and bamboo really add to the beachy, Hawaiian feel of this restaurant. But, the floor tile should have been installed with a random pattern.

Here are some more fun pictures of our trip:



Bill took this photo of a rainbow with his iPhone 6! I think I need to get one ASAP.

terreeia and bill

Here’s my Terreeia with Bill out on one of the amazing golf courses and having a great time!


The beach just a short walk from the house!


Here’s Elizabeth and I at dinner the other night. How can you tell we shop together ; )

Which of you has porcelain wood floors? Let me know what you think of them.

Related posts:

What Everyone Should Know about Porcelain Tile

Dreamy Beach House in Kauai

Details to add when Planning your Beach House

If you would like your house to fill you with happiness when you walk in the door, become a client.



  • Maggie S says:

    I just put a 19″ tile that looks like vintage wood parquet floor in my bathroom and everyone thinks it is wood. Everyone loves it (and I do too) they don’t even believe me what I tell them that it is tile and they have to touch the floor. I hope it isn’t going to look out of date since it isn’t the standard “wood plank” look you see every where.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Love it! Thanks for sharing the link! Maria

    • Cherie says:

      What a beautiful tile! I doubt it will ever look anything but classic and elegant!

    • KA says:

      Love that, too!

      Good installers can take inexpensive materials and make them look expensive. Bad installers can take your expensive materials and screw them up or make them look bad.

      I once did a kitchen for a 62 yo quirky woman who doesn’t like to spend money. She spent maybe 12,000 on cabinets but hadn’t chosen the knobs. Rather than have the installer drill the holes, she said I have a drill and I can do it. She bought knobs on sale and learned her drill wasn’t powerful enough to go through the maple cabinetry. So each knob is not aligned, on the flat part of the door and every single door and drawer should be replaced. This is an extreme case, but yesterday, I told the installer, and you should have seen his face. It was like you used a drill on Michaelangelo’s David.

  • Isabel says:

    I have wood look floors and I LOVE them. Super easy to take care of, and look awesome. We went with a variable barnwood tile along with a thin 1/8″ brown grout. The tile are not event but randomly set. We even had the installer make half piece tile transitions. LOVE LOVE IT. And with 6 kids and a dog, they’re perfect.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I think they look great. But I wouldn’t have them butt up to real wood floors. It would be emphasize the “fauxness” of them…don’t ya think?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Absolutely, that would not be a good look!

      • Jan says:

        I’m getting ready to have my kitchen remodeled and going to have porcelain wood planks flooring. When the kitchen is done, I’m going to have the carpet in the living area removed and possibly replace with hardwoods. but, you indicate that wouldn’t look right. What are my options? Replace the carpet with more carpet? Really didn’t want to do that.

        • Maria Killam says:

          Then choose a different tile for your kitchen. . . they will look very bad combined together. Maria

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Shoot! I forgot to mention it’s nice to see you having fun with your cute family.

  • Pat Johnson says:

    I have just discovered you… Love your advice… And have purchased 2 of you books . We are actually building a house on Kauai south shore area near Poipu . It is Hawaiian cottage style on board and batten. I am totally stumped to choose exterior color that will work well in that vivid environment. Can you help!?

  • Lucy HAINES says:

    Maria, What a beautiful place to relax! I know you are having fun. I have mixed emotions over porcelain “look alike” wood floors. Like you pointed out, if done right they can look authentic. I put porcelain tiles in my son’s condo that looks like lime stone and he loves them. Because he is a bachelor he says they are easy to keep clean. So I guess whatever makes you happy is a good thing.

    Enjoy the rest of your vacation with your family!

  • Love the idea of the wood look porcelain. But you’re right, they are too symmetrical. My friend actually did the same thing with wood laminate – it looks too uniform and really emphasizes that it’s not real wood. Shame because they spent a lot of money doing this project and the result is just okay.

  • Emily-Maine says:

    When renovating our Florida fixer-upper condo, we couldn’t warm up to the tile look (we are from New England where wood floors are traditional). However, wood is not a great option with a concrete slab subfloor due to potential moisture issues. We ended up installing 7 x 20 wood-look tiles in a weathered light brown/gray shade. They are attractive and and have a nice “beachy” look.

    • KJ says:

      Beg to differ. We have solid hardwoods glued down over slab; they’ve been here since 1989. We had them refinished, handscraped, on site a few years ago. They are FABULOUS! Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t have solid hardwoods on a concrete slab foundation; they are LYING to you! They just don’t know how to install them.

  • Sue Lecas says:

    Love the pics of your family spending time together!

  • Janice says:

    What a lovely family you have and what a beautiful location to have some family fun. You and your sister are both gorgeous.
    I put in porcelain wood tile floors in kitchen and utility rooms of this house. We are buying a new house, had all the Pergo removed and again installing the exact same porcelain wood tile. I wish I could post a pic of my kitchen here. They are a mid tone brown, not too rustic, not too formal. I had the grout done in a darker color and the tile spacing is 1/16th. They are also offset as a real wood floor would be. Love the floors. We have rescue fur babies so think mud, grass, fur. Very easy to keep clean. Dark enough so every bit of dirt does not show, light enough that every bit of lint does not show. Neutral so they go with anything. Enough texture so the pups don’t slide all over the place. So far as I am concerned they are the perfect floors. I don’t worry about trends. I will be 64 in a few days and I just do what makes sense for my family, what I can afford and whatever puts a smile on my face 😉 Have a new house cabinet painting/decorating dilemma. Need to go find your posts on open concept or just arrange a consult! Thanks for sharing Maria! <3

  • Brenda F says:

    I think it is totally sweet that your sister allowed you to take a photo while she was in the tub. That’s love!

  • sandyc says:

    I’ve been in 6th heaven since your “freedom” post on choosing Standard vs Custom colors last August and your suggestion to Christy in Summer School to consider wood-look tile for her open floorplan home a la Kate at Centsational Girl. After much hard work choosing the perfect tile to refloor my 1350 sf very open floorplan home, I realized it would end up looking like a museum floor, just matte, and I’d be very disappointed. When I saw Kate’s floors, I was intrigued, and when you confirmed that choice, I was ecstatic. I think I’ll be close to 7th heaven when my boat finally comes in. In the meantime, I’ve chosen a color I love and bought a couple of boxes to do little vignettes around the house (taking pix) to get the feel plus looking at tons of pix (wood and wood-look tile). I’m with you, Janice – I’m into what works and looks good to me and I’m not worried about trends. Because of what I’ve learned from Maria, I know that whatever I do will be much more attractive and timeless than most of what I see here in my Arizona retirement community. Maria’s definitely right about layout – most critical thing after right color choice.

  • Maria,
    What a beautiful trip you are having! Your brother-in-law actually captured a double-rainbow. Look closely and you will see the second fainter one, just to the right. xo Ellen

  • Kathy says:

    Porcelain tile comes with installation instructions by the manufacturer. Most of the typical format plank tiles have a 1/3 offset specified and the size of the grout joint. It’s not wood and even if you know it is faux wood look, it is a great product for busy homes.

  • Janet from IL says:

    I am seriously considering porcelain wood-look floors for my house. Love the lighter color that Kate at Centsational Girl used in her house. Thanks for a great post, Maria, as always. Good to see that you were able to return to beautiful Kauai with family.

    • Sylva Leduc says:

      Janet, I was rereading this post and because of your comment about Centsational Girl’s floors I visited her site. The width, length, random layout and colour of her wood-look porcelain tiles are exactly what I’ve been looking for. Heading to Daltile tomorrow.


  • Loribeth says:

    Jim and I were looking at a house that had a concrete slab foundation. The previous owners had torn out almost all the flooring, leaving the concrete bare. Because real hardwood cannot tolerate the moisture that cement is prone to have, we talked about putting in radiant heated floors using the porcelain wood flooring. We decided not to buy the house, but we’re keeping in mind if we look at another house built on a slab.

    One thing that also ruins the illusion of a wood floor that diner is the grout lines. They are too prominent. If you look at the other floor, the grout lines are very narrow and hardly noticeable.

  • Claire says:

    I like wood look porcelain with thin grout lines and random placing. Some even come in a variety of sizes that really look great when all used. They are great in bathrooms (where I have it in trendy gray, yikes) and in beachy locales because sand and moisture is hard on hardwood floors. I also think some porcelain tile is quite nice and I have a huge expanse of it on my first floor (12 x 24 inch laid in herringbone pattern) which reads as white but would Maria would probably consider blotchy. Maybe I will hate it someday but I get tons of compliments on it, it doesn’t show dirt/stains readily, and is easy to clean. I live near the beach, and get lots of foot traffic, so I am happy with the ease of care. I tried to follow Maria’s advice elsewhere to keep things from looking busy. It was a great help to me during a stressful rebuild after a hurricane.

  • Carol J says:

    I LOVE my porcelain wood floors. My contractor knew exactly what he was doing and laid them in random fashion and with very narrow grouting between tiles. The grout color is a slightly darker version of the tile color — not much contrast. Most people do not realize they are tile until I tell them and they always bend down to take a closer look.

  • Fran says:

    Have fun on your vacation, Maria! Markus and William are adorable!

  • mairi says:

    I saw an article today and realized what a beautiful option this type of flooring would be…and they’ve laid the tiles randomly as you suggest Maria. Stunning!

  • justine says:

    I just used them in my master and upstairs bathrooms.
    They look great! Laid random pattern, thin darker grout. The tiles even came in slightly different shades in the box. Very affordable, I would do again in a heartbeat. Oh and the bedrooms have sisal look carpet.

  • Eliesa says:

    We just had these tiles installed in a herringbone pattern throughout the house and we LOVE them! Although much has changed since this post, here is an update I posted recently about the new floors.

  • rachellekennedy says:

    I am also in Kauai!! Just checking my emails and there you were in Kauai as well!

  • alannah says:

    Marble can be very bossy, porous and needs to be sealed once a year, to much maintenance for me. Porceclain requires no maintenance, can get full bodied (chips will have same colour as top) and look like marble. Porceclain that looks like marble to me is the way to go. They even make ceramic, porcelain that is all one colour so no bossy there. My husband installs all the different types however, I won’t put any marble in my house even at cost and free installation.

  • I love porcelain wood tiles! The first time I ever saw porcelain wood tiles, I was surprised that they were tile rather than actual wood. They look so similar to dark wood floors at first glance! I think they are absolutely stunning though. Great post!

  • tara dillard says:

    Love Hawaii. See rainbows, and brides daily. Sometimes sister/me will say to the other, “We haven’t seen a bride yet today.” Without fail we see a bride before bedtime. And, we buy the same jewelry when together too.

    Great tile pointers…..I am designing the porcelain tiles to flow from terrace level room, out onto covered porch. Still not trusting when they are labeled for outdoor use.

    Just learned the hardi-plank siding……is not hardy. And that is from the carpenter on my team.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

    Hosta. Deer love to eat, dormant months of the year, must divide and dead-head and prune off yellowing foliage when it is done. The annuals are a horrendous harm to environment with greenhouses, fertilizers, insecticides, plastic trays, trucking soils, and etc…..

  • Nancy Schneider says:

    For Tara Dillard
    We have porcelain tiles that say “Frostproof” and they are frostproof – I have them outside on my porch – here in New England. However, if they say “frost resistant” they are not recommended for outside. Also many manufacturers recommend spacing no more than 1/3 the total length. So if you have a 24″ tile – 8″ is the most you can go before the next grout joint so there is no lippage. Some install closer, depends on the floor and how large it is. Hope this helps.

  • Tracy says:

    I’ve been all over to every tile store imaginable as I was so set on wood tile for my Florida condo. While there are some beautiful wood tiles out there I couldn’t find one to get exited about. This was bugging the heck out of me until I realized nobody ever put wood floors in a 1970’s concrete building in south Florida on the water. why would I want to create that look? For me, it just didn’t feel right so I’m now opting for 12×24 tiles in a charcoal gray (no undertones Yayyyy!). Now that excites me!

  • Ruth says:

    Can you butt wood like porcelain tiles against real wood stairs?

  • Camille says:

    I opted for porcelain wood floors on our waterfront house in Maine. I did not want to live with damaged floors from people running in and out with wet or gravel or pine needle filled treads on their shoes.
    The tiles are 6 X 36 inches. Our installer explained that they had to be installed with the seams at 12 and 24 inch intervals because there is a slight arched curve. This method was dictated by the manufacturer to keep the tiles from cracking.
    We are happy with the floors, especially the easycare maintainence.

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