There is a long-running debate between whether natural vs. manufactured materials are better to use in homes. From decks to counter tops, to flooring, you’ll hear some strong opinions. The pro-natural group cites better looks, better prices, better durability and a simple preference for organic materials as they don’t use chemicals and other potentially noxious components. The manufactured materials supporters point to predictability and consistency of product (in appearance, performance and availability), greater color and style choices, better prices, better durability and environmental conservation, You may notice that both sides claim better prices and durability with certain specific products. That’s because, in reality, neither one is less expensive or stands up longer across the board. For example, man-made wood decks will withstand more seasons of weather, with less (no) maintenance than real wood. Those decks, though, cost a lot more to install initially. Conversely, a granite counter top will normally outlast its laminate surface competitor, but is much more expensive. So, there’s no one clear alternative that is more durable or less expensive, and, certainly, no easy answer to which is better. My advice is to consider each product decision independently; for example, if you are looking at flooring options and are considering hardwood, marble, ceramic tile or laminate, there are a lot of factors to think about. If you want to preserve our natural resources, then you’d decide against hardwood (unless it were reclaimed) and marble. If you were concerned about chemicals used in the production of certain products, you might not want laminate. If cost were an issue, laminate might suddenly be much more appealing. However if you expect your floors to take a beating (let’s say you have a Great Dane), laminate might not hold up and hardwood would get scratched. So maybe either ceramic or natural stone tile would be better. What, though, if you simply must have an aquamarine colored floor. Well, then you’re not going “natural”. Or, if you want to create a serene, Zen-like space, you might find that natural stone is more effective than ceramic tile.
So, you can see, there isn’t a simple answer (which is, I guess, why the debate rages). It seems to me that each finish must be independently evaluated in relation to the needs and preferences of the project owner. I’d be willing to bet that, in most cases, people end up with a combination of man-made and natural materials.