Tile is the most common type of flooring for bathrooms, and it comes in a variety of materials, sizes, colors, thicknesses, and finishes. But it can feel overwhelming to decide what tile is best for a bathroom floor material because there are so many options. So, let’s make this easy:
Porcelain with a non-slip finish, such as matte, is the best tile material for the bathroom floor. It is durable and is almost impervious to water. It comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, providing a plethora of design options. Porcelain, however, is more expensive than other tiles and is difficult to install.
However, in addition to porcelain, there are other good options for bathroom floor tiles. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of tile materials, shapes, sizes, and finishes. You’ll learn the information you’ll need to determine what tile is best for your bathroom floor.
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What Floor Tile is Best for the Bathroom?
When choosing floor tile, the most important thing is to ensure that it is floor-rated and waterproof (or at least water-resistant).
The bathroom is a high humidity and wet area, so it’s important that your tiles are not susceptible to water.
Other aspects of choosing a bathroom floor tile are based on a combination of your design preference and the construction of the tile. In addition to tile material, the finish and thickness of tile are key items to consider when deciding what floor tile is best for your bathroom.
Best Bathroom Floor Tile Materials
There are so many different types of bathroom tile materials. Each material provides a different style and has different attributes such as the degree of waterproofing it offers, tile thickness, and durability.
Often when choosing tile, we only think about how it will improve the overall look of the bathroom. Instead, it’s important to consider what makes each tile different. When you consider the differences between each tile, it’s easier to decide which tile will work best.
Bathroom floor materials all have their positives and negatives. Here are some popular bathroom floor tile materials:
Porcelain is a popular tile choice, and maybe the most popular choice for bathroom floors. It is impervious to water and comes in a variety of styles and colors. These tiles are easier to install compared to other tile options, but if you choose a glossy finish, porcelain tile can become slippery when wet. So for porcelain floor tiles, choose a matte or textured finish to prevent accidents.
Ceramic is another popular bathroom floor tile material. Unfinished ceramic is not impervious to water, just water-resistant, so unless you’re using glazed ceramic, you’ll probably want to seal the tile (a very easy process) to make it more waterproof. Ceramic is less durable than porcelain, but it’s cheaper. Textured ceramic tile is a great option for a bathroom floor.
Glass tile usually comes in mosaic sheets. These tiles are extremely waterproof and are durable and scratch-resistant. They come in a variety of colors and often the mosaic sheets come in multi-colored designs.
Glass tiles tend to be smaller tile pieces requiring more grout, increasing installation costs. They are often used on a shower floor.
There are so many stone tile options to choose from–granite, limestone, slate, and marble. All these tiles are beautiful, but you cannot use every type of stone tile on your floor! Although marble is stunning, it is extremely slippery when wet and so you’ll only want to use it on the walls.
Granite, limestone, and slate are great floor options because you can order these stone tiles with more textured finishes. Stone tile must be sealed to be waterproof. You’ll need to do this regularly to prevent water damage. Stone tile also tends to be one of the more expensive tile options.
Vinyl tile is waterproof, easy to install, and comes in a variety of styles and colors. If you’re looking for a faux hardwood flooring design, vinyl tile is the best option for you. This durable tile is also one of the cheaper flooring tile options.
Linoleum has been around since the 1860s. In the 1960s, sheet linoleum was used in almost every US bathroom and kitchen. In the past couple of decades, this flooring material has evolved. You can now buy linoleum tile (sheet linoleum cut into tile pieces) and linoleum plank tile (linoleum tile pieces mounted onto cork backing).
People and stores often use the terms vinyl and linoleum interchangeably, but these materials are very different. Linoleum is a natural product and is extremely durable. Today’s linoleum tiles come in an interlocking option called Marmoleum, which can be purchased at Home Depot.
Terracotta tiles are a beautiful, rustic red clay color. This tile material comes in different shapes and is often used in houses that have warmer tones. This tile material isn’t as waterproof as other tiles and requires frequent sealing if used in a bathroom.
Is Porcelain Or Ceramic Tile Better for Floors?
Two of the most popular choices for bathroom floor tiles are porcelain and ceramic. These tile materials are so similar, however, that it can be difficult to determine which tile material is best for your bathroom.
Let’s compare porcelain tile and ceramic tile:
|PORCELAIN TILE||CERAMIC TILE|
|DURABLE||Yes||Yes (but less than porcelain)|
|STRENGTH||Hard and dense||Softer material|
|MATERIAL||Refined clay and other natural materials||Coarse clay|
|COLOR||Various colors, color runs through entire tile||Various colors, color is only on the surface of the tile|
|WATER-RESISTANT||Yes, impervious||Yes, but with 0.5-3% absorption|
|VARIOUS SHAPES AND SIZES||Yes||Yes|
|EASY TO CLEAN||Yes||Yes|
|EASY TO INSTALL||No||Yes|
What Type of Finish is Best for a Bathroom Floor?
Tile finishes are a key component of a tile’s durability and aesthetic. A tile is treated with a specific finish to provide a different appearance such as matte, glossy, polished, and satin. But some finishes are more water-resistant than others.
When considering what tile finish is best for your floor, always consider whether or not the finish will be slippery when wet. Let’s look at the most common finishes for bathroom floors:
Porcelain and ceramic tiles often have matte finishes. This finish allows the tile to become water-resistant (ceramic) or waterproof (porcelain), without a shiny sheen. This finish is an excellent choice for tile floors because it offers more traction in wet-prone areas than other tiles. Matte tiles also provide a more natural-looking design.
If you love stone tiles, satin-finished tiles are a great option. Unlike polished stone, satin stone tiles aren’t dangerous when wet. Satin stone tiles tend to have a soft foot feel. The process of creating the satin finish also creates a poreless tile, making it resistant to mildew.
Textured tile gives more dimension to the floor. The uneven texture provides you with more traction in the water-prone area of a bathroom.
Don’t choose an overly textured tile as it will be uncomfortable to stand on. In addition, while beautiful, textured tiles can be more difficult to clean.
To learn much more about bathroom tile finishes, read 12 Tile Finishes to Make Your Bathroom Design Pop!.
How Thick Should a Tile Floor Be?
Now that you know the tile material and finish options, it’s time to consider tile thickness. This topic of tile is often forgotten, but it’s so important. When installing tiles, it is imperative that all the tiles are the same thickness or the floor will be uneven.
Tiles come in a variety of thicknesses which is determined by the type of material and finish. When it comes to a bathroom floor, thicker tiles are better.
Thicker tiles are more durable and will last longer, making them better for the floor. They also tend to have more texture than thinner tiles, providing more traction to prevent slipping.
Floor tiles tend to be about ½ in (1.27 cm) to ¾ in (1.905 cm) thickness. When considering which tile thickness, you’ll probably want to consider other items as well, including:
- Grout thickness
- The gap between the floor and the bathroom door
- Floor substrate
Determining the best tile thickness for your bathroom floor takes time, but it will make your floor last and help make it more water-resistant. To learn much more about tile thickness, check out my post, Why Bathroom Tile Thickness Matters.
What Kind of Tile is Best for the Shower Floor?
We’ve concentrated on the best tile materials for the area of the bathroom that gets the most traffic, but what about the shower floor? The obvious and most important item to consider when choosing a tile floor is whether or not the tile is waterproof.
The two tiles materials that are the most waterproof are porcelain and glass. Both these tile materials are impervious to water, making them ideal for the shower floor and shower walls. Porcelain and glass tile also come in a variety of colors and designs.
If you’re in the process of renovating your shower, remember to waterproof your shower wall before the tile is placed. Definitely check out the post How to Waterproof Shower Walls Before Tiling to learn exactly how to waterproof your shower walls and why it’s so, so important..
How to Choose Floor Tile Size
How do you know what size tile you will need? Tile comes in so many different sizes that it can be difficult to choose. When should you use a large tile vs a small tile?
The size of floor tile you choose is dependent on your personal preference, however, you should consider the room size and the location of the tile. It’s important to measure the bathroom floor to ensure that you choose the right tile size.
The most common floor tile size is 12 in by 12 in (30.48 cm by 30.48 cm), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice for your bathroom floor.
When to Use Large Tiles
If you want to make a small space look larger, use a larger tile. Large tiles make a room feel more spacious. (In fact, tile can be your best friend when trying to create the illusion of more space. Read my post 18 Ways Tile Can Help Your Small Bathroom Feel Bigger for some cool tricks!)
Bigger tiles are also a great option if you’re looking for tile that is easier to maintain.
These tiles require less grout, making them easier to clean. Larger-sized tiles also tend to be a cheaper price for both the tile and the installation cost. In fact, large tiles are becoming more and more popular and are often found in newer house designs.
When to Use Small Tiles
Never use small tiles in a very small bathroom. Small tiles require more grout which causes the small space to look even smaller. You can, however, use them in larger bathrooms to make the room feel cozier.
Small tile tends to cost more for both installation and the tiles themselves, so they may not be the best tile option for an entire bathroom. However, small tiles are great for shower floors.
The small tiles along with the large amount of grout they require will provide more traction, preventing you from slipping in the shower.
There are so many nuances to choosing a bathroom tile. To make your search for the perfect tile easier, read 21 Tips for Perfect Bathroom Tiles │ Material, Size, Color, Waterproofing.
Popular Bathroom Floor Tile Shapes
Sometimes we forget that tiles come in a variety of different shapes. We consider square tiles and then move on without thinking about other options. Your bathroom floor doesn’t have to use the same simple and generic pattern that you see in every bathroom.
Instead, use your creativity and step outside the obvious by using any of the shapes below:
Well, like we just said, square tiles are the most common tiles that people use on bathroom floors. Since they are so common, they come in sizes from 2 in by 2 in (5.08 cm by 5.08 cm) all the way to 24 in by 24 in (60.96 cm by 60.96 cm).
Subway tiles are narrow rectangular tiles. These tiles were first used in the subways of New York City. A popular subway tile color is white, but it also comes in many different colors. Subway tiles are a great option if you want to elongate a room.
Rectangular tiles are a popular choice that gives a classic, yet unique feel. Unlike subway tiles, rectangle tiles tend to be wider. Use this shape in any sized room.
Terracotta tiles often come in hexagon shapes. These shaped terracotta tiles create a classic, rustic feel. You can also use this shape with other tile materials such as ceramic or porcelain. Hexagon tiles also make great accent tiles
Chevron tiles are narrow rectangular tiles with edges angled at 30-45 degrees to provide a zig-zag or arrow-like pattern on the floor. Use this shape in large bathrooms or as an accent tile.
If you’re interested in using any of these shapes as an accent tile, read How to Pick the Perfect Accent Tile.
Should Your Bathroom Floor Tile Material and Wall Tile Be the Same?
If you already have tile on your walls, you can use the same tile on your floor, but, of course, you don’t have to! You may even want to consider matching them.
A great way to coordinate but not exactly match your wall tiles and floor tiles is to consider texture and color. Your floor should have a non-slip texture, so for the walls, you could use the same shape and material as the floor, but with a glossier finish. You might also choose to have a darker floor color with a lighter wall color to give a more open feel.
Your bathroom floor tile does not have to be the same as your wall tile, nor do the tiles have to coordinate. It all depends on the design you have in mind for your space. If you do want to match your tiles, consider the following:
Then carry over at least two of these items from the floors to the walls. So you could use the same finish and shape on both your floor and wall tiles.
So, What Floor Tile is Best for the Bathroom?
Porcelain is the most durable tile that is also impervious to water. This is a great option for a bathroom. This tile also doesn’t easily chip and comes in a variety of shapes, textures, and colors.
The downside about porcelain is that it is among the most expensive tile materials and costs more to install. If porcelain isn’t in your budget, ceramic is a perfect alternative. It is more budget-friendly and easier to install. In addition, it is water-resistant (although not as much as porcelain).
This makes ceramic a great option as well, but if you can, use porcelain or glass tile on your shower floor to ensure your shower is as waterproof as possible.
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