Wood-look porcelain, a ceramic tile that has a hyper-realistic appearance (down to the grain lines), is in high demand this year for everything from residential kitchens to hotel patios. The material works both indoors and out, with the ability to withstand anything from a thunderstorm to muddy boots. It’s also cost-effective, covering more area for a lot less—on average you’ll save around $5 per square foot—than its natural counterparts. But why the sudden surge?

Lumbar shortages due to COVID-19-related supply-chain tie-ups is a pretty good guess, but expert Cristina Faedi—manager of promotional activities at Ceramics of Italy, an organization that oversees all of Italy’s ceramic production companies—has another idea. She thinks that the rise in outdoor renovations and the search for longer-lasting materials are what’s driving demand. Faedi explains that “wood-look tiles can bring a warm and welcoming appearance, but at the same time have all the practical benefits of ceramic.” There’s no sacrificing the flooring being waterproof—or fireproof or suitable for high-foot traffic. Not to mention, the new era of faux wood tile goes far beyond oak. 

Thanks to the latest technological advancements, some brands are creating a hybrid version that scatters porcelain wood segments in a cement or resin looking base for a patchwork, almost terrazzo-like appearance. Others are getting experimental with abstract color combos. Picture a standard-looking maple, but with turquoise graining. Furniture scuffs won’t elicit a passing thought.