What Size Tile Is Perfect for YOUR Bathroom?


Small bathroom with subway tile

 

Choosing the correct size tile for your bathroom is probably the design aspect that has the most significant impact on the overall look. Not to mention, getting this wrong can amount to a very costly error. 

It’s essential to understand the dynamics of your bathroom and how the right size tile can work to enhance the look and feel you’d like to create for the space. 

The size of the bathroom tile you use is directly dependent on the space you have available and the area of the bathroom you are tiling. Large-format tiles can create expansive designs even in small bathrooms, while small mosaic tiles are perfect for showers and backsplashes. 

In this post, I’ll help you figure out exactly what size tiles will work best in your main bathroom area, walk-in shower, and tub surround.

You may want to download my free tile calculator. It will help you figure out exactly how many tiles you’ll need for your project and how much it will cost. Simply fill out the form below and I’ll send it to your inbox.

 

 

What Size Tile Should You Use in Your Bathroom?

 

Basket weave is one choice for your tile layout

 

The size and layout of your bathroom will influence the size of the tile you should be using, but maybe not in the way you think. 

In the past, interior designers encouraged smaller tiles in smaller bathrooms, but this is no longer an ideal that the design world is promoting. 

More and more, the popularity of larger format tiles is increasing, with manufacturers producing far larger tiles than ever before. However, this doesn’t mean that larger tiles are best for every situation or all bathroom areas. 

  • Large-format tiles are anything bigger than the standard 12×12 inch (30cmx30cm) tile. These tiles come in sizes as large as 24×24 inch (60cm x60cm) and 48×48 inch (120cm x 120cm). 
  • Medium tiles are your standard size 12×12 inch (30cmx30cm)
  • Small tiles can be as tiny as 1×1 inches (3cmx3cm). 

When used correctly, all these tile sizes can help you create the bathroom of your dreams. 

 

How to Choose Bathroom Tile

 

 

Be sure to have a clear vision and objective for your bathroom before selecting your tiles.

Knowing the look and feel you wish to achieve and the elements of your bathroom you’d like to mold or highlight will guide you in choosing the correct tiles to realize these goals.

For guidance on selecting your bathroom tiles, read A Designer’s Advice on How to Choose Bathroom Tile and watch the video above.

 

How to Plan Your Bathroom Tiling Project

 

granite, marble, quartz samples

 

Once you have an idea of what tiles you might want, it’s time to be sure. 

Planning will help if you look at how the tiles will fit in your available space and how your bathroom fixtures will impact the layout.

The best option is to get some sample tiles and lay these out in your bathroom. But if you can’t get your hands on sample tiles, then use paper cut to the size of your tiles to see how the tile size will work in your space. 

You can also draw out your tile design with accurate scaled measurements to ensure that your chosen size will achieve the desired outcome. 

In the rest of this post, we’re going to consider the main area of the bathroom, the tub surround, and the walk-in shower as separate areas. Why? Because the guidance varies for each of these parts of your bathroom.

 

What Size Tile to Use In a Small Bathroom

 

For our purposes, if your bathroom is small, it’s 45 square feet (4.18 square meters) or less. 

 

AREATILE SIZE
Small Bathroom FloorLarge format tiles 15 - 24 inches (38cm-60cm) 
Small Bathroom WallLarge or medium format tiles, or tiles with 2:1 ratio sizing
Small Walk-In Shower Wall1 – 4 inch square tiles (3cm – 10cm) 
Small Shower Floor1 inch tiles (3cm)
Small Bathroom Tub SurroundDesigner's Choice

 

Your main goal is likely to implement a design that will allow the space to feel bigger. Using the correct size tile can assist you in achieving this. (Also, my post 18 Ways Tile Can Help Your Small Bathroom Feel Big will give you plenty of additional ideas.)

While in the past, interior designers encouraged the use of smaller tiles to fit into a smaller space, the new view is that larger tiles and fewer grout lines work to expand smaller rooms. 

With fewer lines breaking up the space, your eye is more efficiently guided to the room’s furthest points, which creates the illusion of depth and a more extensive area. 

 

Use Large-Format Tiles on the Floor 

 

large format tile on small bathroom floor

 

Using larger tiles on the floor trick your eyes into believing we are looking at a grander space. 

However, there is a maximum to how large you should go with your tiles in a small space. 

If you choose tiles that are too oversized for the area and many of the tiles end up needing to be cut by your installer to fit into the room dimensions and fit around your fixtures, you will undermine the effort to make your small bathroom look bigger.

You need an ample amount of whole large format tiles in a small bathroom for the overall look to be visually appealing. If your tiles are so large that you can only fit two, for example, this will look odd and throw off the room’s balance.

By the way, large-format tiles also require a level, even surface for installation, so you may want to check with a contractor that your bathroom floor or walls are level enough for them.  

 

Use Medium or Large Tiles on the Bathroom Wall

 

12 x 12 inch white tile on small bathroom wall

 

You may want to tile all the way from floor to ceiling, especially if you’re using light or neutral-colored tiles. This can help a small bathroom seem bigger.

 

The Problem With Small Tiles in a Small Bathroom

 

small bathroom with small tile

 

If you use small tiles on the floors and walls of your small bathroom, you will draw the space in, making an already small area feel even more cramped. 

Our eyes read the many tiny tiles and grouting lines as busy and this tells our brains that what we are looking at is full. We associate “full” with not having enough space, so when we look at a bathroom filled with small tiles, we view it as compact. 

Smaller tiles with plenty of grout lines break the visual fluidity of a room, making it look cluttered and feel claustrophobic. 

 

Use Small Tiles on the Shower Floor of a Small Bathroom Shower

 

Penny Tile on Shower Floor

 

It doesn’t matter if you have a large bathroom or a small bathroom, you should use small tiles (1-inch x 1-inch or 3 cm x 3 cm) on the shower floor. This helps the installer create a gradient that will send water down the shower drain. Smaller tiles also mean more grout and a better base for grip. 

 

Try Small or Medium Tiles on the Shower Walls in a Small Bathroom

 

girl washes herself in small shower with medium subway tile

You can get away with using a smaller tile on the walls of a smaller shower. A 1×1 inch mosaic can work perfectly. The smaller tile will look proportionate to the smaller space and with less surface area to cover, this small tile will not be so overwhelming for the eye. 

If you want to make your shower space appear more prominent, consider tiling to the ceiling to elongate the space. 

Use smaller tiles up to 4 x 4 inches (10 x 10 cm) on the shower walls.

Whatever size tile you choose, go for a thinner grout line. If you’re using a neutral-colored tile, try a grout in the same shade. This makes the grout seem to recede into the background. For more on this, read How to Make Thin Grout Lines in the Shower.

 

What Size Tiles to Use for a Large Bathroom?

 

If you are fortunate to have a big bathroom (bigger than 45 square feet or 4.18 square meters), you want to select designs that enhance the grandeur, not shrink it.  

 

AREATILE SIZE
Large Bathroom FloorLarge-format tiles 15 inches and up
Large Bathroom WallLarge format or tiles with 2:1 ratio sizing
Large Walk-In Shower Wall4 – 30 inch tiles (3cm – 75cm)
Large Bathroom Shower Floor1 inch tiles (3cm)
Large Bathroom Tub SurroundDesigner's Choice

 

Use Large-Format Tiles on the Floor and Walls

A standard 12×12 inch tile can do the job, but larger format tiles offer the modern edge that these original size tiles do not. 

If you use small tiles on the bathroom floor of a large bathroom, it is likely to look messy and overwhelming. 

While you can bring the larger format tile up onto the wall to further increase the spaciousness of the room, another option is to contrast large format floor tiles with smaller wall tiles to add visual appeal. 

However, it’s not a good idea for your wall tiles to be larger than your floor tiles. Larger wall tiles will make your room feel disproportionate, creating an Alice in Wonderland effect.  

 

Create Accents in Other Areas with Small Tiles

Of course, the layout of your fixtures and the materials you choose for them can assist with this, but the strategic placement of smaller tiles can also come into play. 

You can add your unique touch to your bathroom space with the smaller tiles, whether elegant or fanciful. 

Using smaller tiles around your bathtub, as a vanity backsplash, on the wall between double sinks, behind the toilet, or in your shower will bring character into your bathroom and flow to the space. 

Subway tiles are a great option; even though they are smaller, they work in a 1:2 size ratio, which lengthens and elongates areas. 

If you want your bathroom ceiling to look like it is in the clouds, have these tiles installed in a herring bow (diagonal) pattern and watch your walls soar. 

The slanted design guides your eye to the very edges of the room, convincing your brain the space is more significant than it is in reality. Likewise, it will also make the area appear wider.

 

Use Small Tiles on the Shower Floor of a Large Walk-In Shower

 

large bathroom floor tiles and small bathroom floor tiles

Small tiles around 1×1 inches (3cm x 3cm) are best for any shower floor, no matter the size of your shower. 

These small tiles allow the installer to put in the proper gradient that leads down to the drain. 

Smaller tiles also mean more grout and a better base for grip. 

Large tiles on the floor of a shower could become far too slippery with the amount of water pouring down and there would be no way to gradually slope the tiles to the drain.

 

Use Medium or Large Format Tiles on the Walls of a Large Walk-In Shower

 

Bathroom with ceramic shower tile

 

Larger showers will logically be able to accommodate larger tiles on the walls. 

That said, most likely you’ll want tiles that are larger than 4×4 inches (10cm x 10cm) on the walls of your large shower. 

With their more extensive surface area, smaller tiles on the walls of your large shower could end up creating a scattered effect.

If you have found a small mosaic tile that you love, you can still incorporate them into your shower design. 

For example, you may wish to intersperse them amongst your bigger tiles or possibly create a stylish pattern between your faucets and showerhead. 

Whatever size tile you choose, go for a thinner grout line. If you’re using a neutral-colored tile, try a grout in the same shade. This makes the grout seem to recede into the background. For more on this, read How to Make Thin Grout Lines in the Shower.

 

What Size Tile for Your Bathtub Surround?

 

glass brick wall by freestanding tub

 

The size of the tiles surrounding your bathtub is more a matter of personal preference than a practical necessity. 

An alcove bathtub is restricted to a maximum tile size of 30 inches (75cm) as these spaces cannot exceed 60 inches (150cm). If you decide on a bigger tile, you’d need to have them cut, which not only seems pointless but also will probably incur an additional expense. 

Apart from the size restrictions of an alcove bathtub, the right size tile for your bathtub surround is the one that most complements your design objectives. This is true whether you have a small or large bathroom.

You might love the sleek, simplistic look of a large format tile or be more inspired by the artistic flair of intricate mosaic tiling.  

Freestanding claw foot tub with brown tile wall behind it

 

You may not think you need to tile around a freestanding bathtub, but if your tub is placed against your bathroom wall, then you should consider tiles or another waterproof covering to protect your walls from mold and mildew. 

Using tiles as a backsplash behind your freestanding tub can create a dramatic element and gorgeous feature wall. Again, the size of tile you choose to use comes down to your design vision. 

If you’re contemplating a DIY bathtub surround facelift, check out my blog about how to replace bathtub tiles in 12 steps

 

Tiles and Tribulations

 

Choose a main tile for the bathroom - neutral or statement tile

Knowing how a specific tile size will look in your bathroom space is vital, in order to avoid a costly remodel faux pas. 

Large-format tiles are the modern answer for all bathroom floors, but avoid getting carried away and going too big in a space that cannot support the magnitude of the tile.  

Make sure the tiles you choose for your bathroom walls complement your floor tiles allowing the bathroom to be a harmonious space. 

Consider the practical purposes of a shower when selecting floor tiles and keep all the design tricks in mind if you want to expand, widen or elongate spaces. 

Above all, always keep your eye on your overall design objective and make decisions that work with this aesthetic. If you’re about to embark on a bathroom remodel, read this post about how to plan

And then get my handy PDF full of designer hacks that can literally help you save thousands of dollars on your bathroom remodel. Fill out the form below and I’ll send it straight to your inbox.

Shana

Shana Burg is a bath enthusiast, content strategist, and award-winning writer. She is the founder of bathtubber.com.

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