Are Wall Panels Better Than Tiles? A Comparison for Homes

Posted on August 24th, 2023 07:00 AM

When it comes time to install new wall coverings in your Sri Lankan home, two popular options are tiles and wall panels. But how do you decide which is the better choice for your space?

There are pros and cons to both wall tiles and wall panels in terms of cost, appearance, durability, moisture resistance, and other factors. This article will compare tiles vs. wall panels to help Sri Lankan homeowners like you make the right choice.

Introduction to the Wall Panels vs Tiles Debate

Tiles and wall panels are both great options for installing an easy-to-clean surface on your walls. Tiles have been used for centuries around the world, while prefinished wall panels are a relatively newer product on the market.

When considering new wall coverings for your Sri Lankan home, it’s important to weigh the costappearancemaintenance requirementsdurabilitymoisture resistance, ease of installation and replacement, and the best locations to use each option. There are give-and-takes with tiles and wall panels that make them better suited for certain applications.

This article will examine the pros and cons of tiles versus wall panels so you can make an informed decision when installing new wall cladding in your Sri Lankan property. Let’s compare these two popular wall covering materials head-to-head.

Cost Comparison: Tiles vs Wall Panels

One of the biggest considerations for any home improvement project is cost and budget. Let’s look at how tile and wall panel costs compare.

Upfront Material and Installation Costs

Tiles are generally more expensive upfront to purchase and install:

  • Tile material itself is more expensive than many wall panel materials
  • Professional tile installation also has higher labor costs than installing wall panels
  • Additional materials like backer board, grout, and adhesive increase tile costs

Wall panels made of materials like laminate, metal, or vinyl tend to have lower upfront material expenses. Installation costs are also cheaper since wall panels are easier for DIY-ers to handle.

So your total upfront investment will typically be higher for tile vs wall panels.

Long Term Costs and Maintenance

Looking beyond just initial purchase and setup costs, you also need to consider long term expenses.

Tiles are very durable and designed to last a long time. However, the grout between tiles will need periodic re-grouting to keep it looking fresh. Re-grouting tiles has associated labor costs if you don’t DIY.

Wall panels may have a shorter lifespan before needing full replacement. However, there is no grout to maintain. There are some DIY maintenance steps like occasional surface cleaning, caulking panel seams, or painting/staining that are low cost.

So factoring in long term maintenance, tiles may have higher lifetime costs unless wall panels require frequent whole replacements.

Appearance and Design Comparison

Beyond just cost, aesthetics and design are also key considerations when choosing new wall finishes.

Tile Design Options

Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles provide many classic and contemporary patterns, colors, shapes, and textures to elevate your home’s design. Glass, metal, and stone tiles also offer upscale looks.

Tile layout arrangements like brick, herringbone, or hexagon patterns can create visual interest on walls. Borders, accents, and mosaics provide limitless design choices.

Wall Panel Styles

Wall panels are also available in a diverse range of colors and realistic textures and finishes. Stone, brick, wood look, and abstract modern patterns allow for stylish looks.

Some panel product lines offer coordinating tiles and planks for a streamlined, matching aesthetic throughout a room.

3D decorative wall panels provide contemporary geometric and nature-inspired design options as well.


An advantage of tile is the ability to fully customize sizes, shapes, patterns, and designs. Wall panel styles and sizing are more limited, but still offer choices. If you want one-of-a-kind wall art, tile provides more individual customization capability.

Maintenance and Durability Comparison

A key question homeowners have is whether tiles or wall panels will be easier to keep clean and looking like new over years of use. Let’s look at the maintenance and durability factors.

Tile Durability

Porcelain and ceramic tiles are fired at high temperatures making them incredibly durable and resistant to scratches, moisture, heat, and daily wear-and-tear. With proper installation and care, tile walls can last decades.

However, the grout between tiles is more vulnerable and will need periodic re-grouting. Cracked, stained grout can make a tile wall look worn and dated over time. Re-grouting requires some ongoing maintenance expense.

Wall Panel Durability

The durability of wall panels depends on the material. Vinyl panels can last many years, especially with careful cleaning. However, moisture and excess humidity can damage vinyl over time, limiting its lifespan in wet rooms like showers.

Wood or laminate wall panels are prone to water damage and swelling, so these are best limited to dry rooms only.

In terms of scratches and dents, vinyl and laminate panels scratch more easily than porcelain or ceramic tile. Extra care is needed to clean them gently and avoid damaging the surface.

Cleaning and Care

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are simple to keep clean. Just use a gentle tile cleaner and soft cloth or sponge with warm water regularly. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasives.

Wall panels may need a bit more care, depending on material:

  • Vinyl wall panels can be cleaned like tile. Avoid harsh cleaners.
  • Wood wall panels should be cleaned delicately with a microfiber cloth and mild cleaner.
  • Use gentle, non-abrasive cleaners on laminate wall panels.

So in general, tile is lower maintenance in terms of keeping walls clean, fresh, and looking new over decades of use. Wall panels require extra care and still may need replacing every 5-10 years.

Moisture Resistance Comparison

Moisture resistance is especially important when choosing wall finishes for bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other damp areas in a home. Let’s compare how tile and wall panels compare.

Tile Moisture Resistance

Glazed ceramic and porcelain tile is highly water-resistant and can withstand wet environments. The unfired tile back and grout lines still allow some moisture penetration so waterproofing is recommended.

Natural stone tiles like marble or granite are less moisture resistant and more prone to water damage over time. Periodic sealing is required.

With proper waterproofing and installation, most modern tile materials can withstand wet walls for many years.

Wall Panel Moisture Resistance

Vinyl wall panels resist moisture well but over time excess humidity and dampness can still seep behind panels and cause damage. Using waterproof vinyl panels designed for showers and bathrooms improves performance.

Wood or laminate wall panels have little water resistance and will warp, swell, and deteriorate quickly with excess bathroom moisture. Neither is recommended in damp locations.

MDF or fiberboard panels should also be limited only to fully dry rooms only.

So in wet wall applications like showers, backsplashes, or laundry rooms, properly installed tiles are the better moisture-resistant choice over most standard wall panels. Extra care is needed selecting waterproof wall panel materials for damp areas.

Ease of Installation and Replacement

Another consideration is how easy it is to install new wall finishes or replace them in the future. Let’s look at the requirements for tiles vs. wall panels.

Tile Installation

Installing tile requires more skill and labor compared to wall panels. Here are some factors that increase installation time and cost:

  • Surface preparation with backer board
  • Precise measuring and cutting of tiles
  • Leveling and properly spacing tiles
  • Long dry and set times for thinset mortar and grout

Hiring a professional tile installer is recommended unless you have extensive tiling experience. DIY is possible but challenging.

Tile replacement is also difficult. Tiles are set firmly in mortar and replacing a damaged tile requires cutting out and re-tiling the entire section.

Wall Panel Installation

Many vinyllaminate, or fiberboard wall panels use an interlocking or tongue-and-groove system that clicks together without adhesive. This makes DIY installation straightforward by simply cutting panels to size and clicking into place on the wall.

Replacing damaged wall panels is also easier than tiles. You can detach an individual wall panel and insert a new replacement piece. Complete sections don’t require removal.

So overall, wall panels are quicker and simpler for DIY-ers to install and replace down the road. Tiles have a steeper learning curve.

Best Locations: Where to Use Tiles vs Wall Panels

Based on their different qualities and performance characteristics, tiles and wall panels each work best in certain areas of a home.

Best Locations for Tile

The durability and moisture resistance of tile makes it ideal for these locations:

  • Kitchen backsplashes - Hold up to water, stains, heat
  • Bathroom shower surrounds - Waterproof and steam resistant
  • Laundry room backsplash - Stands up to humidity and detergents
  • Entryways and high traffic areas - Handles wear-and-tear

Tile is great for any space that needs to stand up to moisture, stains, or heavy use. The smooth surface also makes it very easy to clean.

Best Locations for Wall Panels

Wall panels work well in these rooms:

  • Bathrooms - Use moisture-proof vinyl wall panels
  • Basements - Laminate resists mold and mildew
  • Bedrooms and living rooms - Provides decorative focal point
  • Laundry rooms - Use moisture-resistant options near laundry
  • Garage walls - Durable impact resistance

Focus on using vinyl, laminate or fiberglass panels rated for bathroom or damp areas. Other rooms can utilize a wider range of panel materials and styles.

Environmental Sustainability Factors

Eco-friendliness is another consideration for today’s homeowners. Let’s look at how green and sustainable tile and wall panel options are.

Sustainability of Tile

Ceramic and porcelain tiles use natural clay materials and can be recycled. However, the high firing temperatures require significant energy.

Glass tile is made from recycled glass and also recyclable.

Natural stone tile like marble, granite, or slate use abundantly available quarry materials. There are some toxic chemicals used in stone mining however.

So tile is a fairly green option, especially recycled glass or low-energy fired types. Talk to manufacturers about their sustainability practices.

Sustainability of Wall Panels

Vinyl wall panels are made from plastics so have some negative environmental impacts unless recycled materials are used.

Wood wall panels use natural renewable wood but deplete forestry resources. Look for sustainable forestry certification.

Fiberboard and laminate panels contain glues and resins that can off-gas VOCs. Low-VOC options are available.

There are eco-friendly wall panel options, but more research into manufacturers may be required to find sustainable products.

Conclusion: Choosing Between Tiles vs Wall Panels

To summarize this extensive comparison between tiles and wall panels:

  • Tiles have higher upfront costs but last longer with proper maintenance
  • Wall panels are more budget-friendly initially but have shorter lifespans
  • Tiles offer unmatched design flexibility - mix colors, patterns, textures
  • Wall panels provide modern, decorative options but less customization
  • Tile is more durable and moisture-resistant, especially in wet areas
  • Many wall panels work better in dry locations only
  • DIY-ers can install wall panels more easily than professional tile setting

For high-traffic and wet areas like kitchens, baths, and laundry, glazed ceramic or porcelain tiles are worth the investment. Their durability and moisture resistance adds to lifetime value.

For quick upgrades to bedrooms, offices, living rooms, or low-humidity rooms, modern prefinished wall panels add style at affordable prices. Easier DIY installation is a bonus.

Focus on selecting waterproof, moisture-resistant wall panels for bathrooms, basements, and laundry rooms to get the most life from your panels.

Weighing your budget, traffic, moisture levels, and lifespan requirements will help determine if long-lasting wall tiles or budget-friendly decorative wall panels are the better choice for your next Sri Lanka home improvement project.

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