The Pros and Cons of Vinyl Tile

Thanks to new embossing techniques, this affordable, durable flooring classic can masquerade as tile and hardwood.

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Vinyl or synthetic tiles are a cost-effective solution for homeowners on a tight budget. Their resilient, bendable material comes in various sizes — one of the most common being 12" x 12" — and because they are manufactured, virtually any pattern or color can be created. But because vinyl is unlike ceramic, stone or porcelain tile, can the synthetic really be considered tile?

"In a broad sense they are a tile," says Paul Wilson, a ceramic tile consultant for TheTileDoctor.com. Wilson also works with tile on his DIY Network show, Tiling Techniques. When looking at a definition of tile, Wilson says vinyl qualifies because it's often referenced as linoleum or plastic. For example, The American Heritage Dictionary lists tile as "a thin, flat or convex slab of hard material such as baked clay or plastic, laid in rows to cover walls, floors, and roofs."

That's good enough to get vinyl in the running as a tile, but before you go synthetic, consider the material's pros and cons.

Pros

It's affordable, compared to ceramic, stone or porcelain.

Peel-and-stick vinyl tile can be installed over other materials quickly, requiring less demolition. It's also easier to replace.

Resilient tile is sometimes the only solution for a floor with excessive movement or cracks, says Wilson. Any other tile would break.

Cons

For beauty and durability, look to ceramic, stone or porcelain.

"You shouldn't ever use vinyl or resilient tiles in a wet environment, like showers and tubs," says Wilson. Also, avoid using vinyl in exterior applications which require hard tile.

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