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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?

Lumber shortages that resulted from COVID-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. In fact, Roca Tiles cites tile as being 30 percent more anti-slip than traditional hardwood, making it ideal when designing for aging in place. 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.

Take a Walk on the Cozier Side

wood look herringbone tile
Kenridge Chevron Maple, Tile Bar ($170)

This take on herringbone takes all the pain out of the typically lengthy installation process (no more cutting individual planks to size!). It also comes in a rich,  charcoal finish that’ll have people convinced you put work into staining them.

Not Your Grandmother’s Parquet

parquet wood look porcelain tile
Barberry Decor Miele, Tile Bar ($70)

Gone are the days of parquet flooring being associated with prewar rentals and tripping hazards (the blocks are known to shake loose over time). Available in five different stains, this porcelain version has such intricate “graining,” your guests won’t be able to tell the difference.

When in Doubt, Keep it Simple

wood look porcelain tile
Laurelwood Cream, Daltile ($36)

If you’re just looking for a more durable alternative to standard hardwood, look no further than your local Home Depot. Plus, with a class four abrasion resistance, the planks are suited for super heavy foot traffic. Say goodbye to pesky mud getting stuck in the grooves. 

The Slatted Wall Treatment

wood look porcelain tile
Montgomery 24″ x 48″, Ivy Hill Tile ($193)

Think beyond the floorboards with this 24-by-48-inch option that’s perfect for adding some interest to shower walls or elevating a standard kitchen backsplash.