Real Estate: Faux materials have come a long way

07/12/2014 10:00 AM |
Imported Italian porcelain tile installed last winter by farmer Paul Reeve at Bayview Farm Market in Aquebogue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Imported Italian porcelain tile installed last winter by farmer Paul Reeve at Bayview Farm Market in Aquebogue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The mere mention of imitation wood or stonework are enough to make some people cringe.

With memories still fresh of 1970s and ’80s-era linoleum floors, peel-and-stick “brick” and faux wood wall paneling, you can’t blame people for wanting to install only real wood and stone when designing their own homes today. 

It’s that, or stick to the basics, right?

Wrong.

The times they are a-changin’ — and so are the quality and aesthetics associated with imitation flooring and finishing, thanks to advancements in technology, said Tim O’Neill, owner of Seacoast Tile in Southold.

Thirty years ago, silkscreens were used to apply glazes to porcelain tile to imitate the look of natural materials. The resolution was low and the colors and patterns were limited. But the introduction high-definition cameras enabled manufacturers to transfer high-resolution photos of real wood and stone onto porcelain tile. The result is natural-looking wood or stone equivalents with the color and texture of the real materials, but greater durability.

“Today’s high-definition woods don’t look anything like the fake wood paneling on cars from the ’60s and ’70s. They look authentic,” Mr. O’Neill said. “This is the largest segment in the flooring industry for growth.”

A few reasons HD porcelain tile is becoming an increasingly popular design trend include the variety of available colors, textures and patterns and that it eliminates the need for costly maintenance — such as sealing tile or sanding warped flooring — associated with aging stone or wood. The tiles also come in long, rectangular plank lengths that won’t scratch, fade or ever need to be sanded or refinished, said Ron Morizzo of Ron Morizzo Kitchens and Baths in Cutchogue.

Porcelain tile flooring featuring a high-definition image at the Seacoast Tile showroom in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Porcelain tile flooring featuring a high-definition image at the Seacoast Tile showroom in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

“[The tiles] can be made to look like distressed wood or barn wood or could have a more contemporary style,” he said. “We have done a lot of installations in bathrooms and kitchens because it is easy to maintain. Basically you just have to vacuum it and mop it. If water gets on it, it’s not a big deal. It has come a long way from 20 years ago.”

Laying down porcelain tile as an alternative to real wood or stone or wood laminate is also advantageous for people living in flood zones, because it is water resistant, Mr. O’Neill said.

“If the old type of laminate got wet it would swell and it would need to go in the dumpster,” he said. “That stuff is just filling our landfills.”

There is some added cost associated with installing high-definition porcelain tile — roughly $8 more per square foot, including labor, compared to real wood or stone, Mr. O’Neill said. But it’s worth the price for people looking for low-maintenance design, he said.

“If it is installed properly it can last a lifetime,” he said. “It kind of evens itself out.”

Paul Reeve, owner of Bay View Farm Market in Aquebogue, said it was definitely worth the expense when he shipped in porcelain wood tiles from Italy in February to install at the farm stand.

“It gives a natural, country, East End look,” he said. “It fits the character we’ve created here. We try to keep the place fresh and clean; that is why we chose it. It is easy to clean and very durable. And honestly I got tired of painting the concrete every year. I would spend $3,000 a year on paint for the floor and just didn’t want to do it anymore. Anyone that has damaged wood floors should consider putting this down because it will last a lifetime.”

cmurray@timesreview.com

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