The designer in me delights when I come across a brand new product and know that when I use or specify it, the end result of whatever it is will be better than before. I know you’ll like this discovery too, especially if you’re considering a wood effect floor in a kitchen or bathroom.
Everyone knows that using most real, unpainted woods in very wet flooring areas is a daft idea and if you didn’t know, then you do now. So that’s bathrooms out, if you’ve any sense. What about kitchens? Although not as wet as bathroom areas, kitchen floors get high traffic, frequent red wine spillage and potentially disastrous fridge defrostations, so though you may hear tales of ‘mum’s parquet floor lasting 30yrs’, there are many downsides. Laminate is forbidden, it’s simply cardboard with a photo finish, please don’t be tempted. Engineered wood is tougher so scratches or damage can be sanded away, but if it gets soaked it’s pretty much irreparable. Real wood can be sanded, can shrinks back if it swells with moisture and is authentic and warm underfoot. But there are always issues with wearing, staining and spillages.So what’s the answer? Yep, many of you know it already – spectacular porcelain tiles like the ones in the image above. The recent advances in tile tech are quite literally astonishing and it’d be fair to say from a distance, it’s a tough call to tell the difference between tile and timber. Actually, close up it’s hard to tell the difference, with many now having fabulously textured surfaces. From walnut to Scandi weathered white, manufacturers have raised their game and when you couple wood effect tiling with underfloor heating, it’s a match made in footsie heaven.So it no longer matters that most timbers are banished from the bathroom, because tiles are taking over. Stark modernism is being elbowed aside for a warmer look and these hard wearing, virtually indestructible planks can create anything from a rustic farmhouse feel to something far more contemporary, without any of the dampness downsides.
There’s only been one blip to this whole new world of tiling and that’s the grout line issue. How do you best grout timber plank tiles? Think about it….. real wooden floors simply don’t have grout lines. Granted, some older floors have naturally occurring spacings but mostly the planks are laid next to each other and certainly in newer engineered flooring, there’s little visible gappage.
The accepted wisdom has been to try and find a grout as near as dammit to the darkest tone within the tile but when you have a beautiful creamy larch or rich oak plank, will jasmine or light brown really cut the mustard? They can look excellent, like the example below, but could they look even better?
You can minimise the grout issue by using what’s known as a rectified tile, which means that the tiles are guaranteed by the manufacturer to be of the same dimensions and of a uniform size. With rectified tiles, the grout line gap – needed for expansion and to allow some movement to avoid cracking – can be minimised to as narrow as 3mm. If the type of effect you want is that of an engineered board, perfectly flat and regular, then a rectified tile would achieve this effect when laid with minimal grout lines. But some tiles don’t come with the option of rectified and some are designed to give a less crisp look. What then?
You could choose to go for a contrast and I give you Exhibit A below, a lovely image from Mandarin Stone. Very on trend with the herringbone / mixing pale to dark woods / contemporary white grout lines to darker areas. But do the darker tiles look like timber or is the effect lessened because of the grout lines. Have you ever seen a dark wooden floor with white gaps in between each plank? Perfectly acceptable and even desirable when going for a contemporary & contrasting effect, but not spot on if you actually want to mimic the look of real timber.This is probably a better example. Wouldn’t the timber planks look more realistic with matching grout lines? (I suspect this image is CGI, or maybe the planks are vinyl, but you get my point).Ladies and gentlemen of the timber porcelain buying world, I give you ……. *drum roll*….. Timber effect grout!! What a totally brilliant idea.
Italian firm Kerakoll, known as the Green Building Company, have developed a special resin which looks more like wood than anything else on the market to date. It’s also water based (environmentally friendly), hypoallergenic and bacteriostatic which are three more fantastic qualities.And here’s the killer punch, it has timber shading. The grout line colours have been chosen to reflect the 12 most popular selling timber tiles, with names such as Acer, Oak, Teak, Elm and Larch. Though I quite like their given Italian names below because if you say them all fast enough, it’s pretty much a Hogwarts Spell. Like magic grout, which is what it is really.
They’re textured to mimic the look of wood but get this… the grout is stain proof. So not only will your wood effect porcelain tiles boldly reject that spilled Dolmio sauce, so will your grout. Genius! Plus, it’s not even expensive. This stuff is a no-brainer.
This below is an example of the grout, used in the showroom at Casa Ceramica in Manchester. Looks ace doesn’t it? I may have gone slightly darker but the shading is all down to personal taste. Loving the pleat pattern too.
If you want to rush out and buy some, then you need to go to good tiling showrooms who stock Kerakoll products and ask for Fugalite Bio Parquet. Many won’t have heard of it yet, the great ones will be all over it. I’m hugely impressed with the rest of their range too and having spoken to a few people in the trade, find I’m not alone.
I adore discovering innovative new products and this is now on my spec list for our build. We might have to film the install as the only vids I can find online have a soaring classic soundtrack with Italian or German subtitles.
Roll on testing it out with our pale wood porcelain tiles in the Moregeous kitchen early next year. As a house which consumes rather too much red wine for it’s own good, we’ll most definitely be needing it.
PS If you’re Manchester based, you can get it from Mark at Simply Tiles in Sale on 0161 962 7777. He’s extremely knowledgable and was very helpful when I went in for the first time this week. 10/10
PPS I was not paid to write this post, this is just me, loving you lot enough to share my secrets 😉