Picking the best tile for bathroom walls can be scary. After all, it’s a significant expense, an investment you’ll need to look at every day, and one that is hard to replace if you make a mistake.
The best tile for your bathroom walls will fall within your budget, give you a look you adore, and won’t require more maintenance than you’re willing to put in. Most importantly, you will look at it and feel joy.
Watch this video for help in choosing the best bathroom tile. I interview bathroom designer Kathleen Stacey Finley, who shares tons of actionable advice.
At the end of this post is a form you can fill out to get a free bathroom tile calculator. It can help a lot as you plan your project. And you can also read my ultimate guide to bathroom tile, a resource called 21 Tips for Perfect Bathroom Tile. It covers everything from how to choose tile size, tile colors, tile finishes, grout, sealer and much, much more.
Now onto what you’ll want to consider in order to find the best bathroom tile for YOUR bathroom walls.
The Best Material for Bathroom Walls
One of the most important choices you’ll make is what material your bathroom tiles will be. Marble could be a great option if you have no budget, you want something luxurious, and are willing to clean and wipe it dry routinely.
On the other hand, if you want a budget-friendly tile for your bathroom walls that is low-maintenance and you don’t mind some irregularities, you could go with ceramic.
Read about each tile material below, and as you do, keep note of which one seems like it would be the best tile material for you:
1. Ceramic Tiles
- A wide variety of textures, patterns, colors, and shapes are available– Ceramic tiles don’t have to be plain and boring. It is easy to install
- Versatile and attractive
- Low to medium cost
- Prone to cracking
- Ceramic is often too porous for high humidity areas and must be regularly sealed.
Check out these patterned blue ceramic tiles from SomaTile could make a great feature tile for a backsplash area.
2. Porcelain Tiles
- Porcelain is an excellent choice for bathroom walls.
- Works well for shower walls
- Color extends through the entire tile
- Easy to install
- Gorgeous and durable
- Scratch and stain-resistant
- Highly water-resistant
- Low maintenance
- Can be slightly more expensive than ceramic tile
I love these lantern-shaped, high gloss porcelain tiles from Tenedos. They are unusual, practical, and durable. A wide variety of colors and shapes of tiles are available.
Read about why porcelain is also our top choice material when it comes to choosing a bathroom floor tile material.
3. Natural Stone Tiles
- High visual impact
- Sturdy and durable
- Excellent insulation properties against warm and cold weather
- Can be sourced in a variety of earthy colors.
- Needs to be sealed regularly.
- Sometimes challenging to clean
- Can scratch
- May be costly
If you want to keep a neutral tone bathroom but love natural stone, check out these warm white natural stone tiles from Tenedos. These would add great texture and a natural feel to a dry area.
4. Marble Tiles
- Interesting natural patterns
- Creates an opulent, luxurious feel
- Easy to install
- It needs to be sealed regularly
- It needs to be handled with care
- Can be costly
Check out the beautiful veining in this large white and grey square marble from Emser Tile. Breathtaking!
6. Travertine Tiles
- A lovely natural stone option that is not a costly as marble or limestone
- Luxurious effect
- Come in a variety of shapes
- It needs to be sealed regularly
- Can be difficult to lay because a wet saw is required to cut tiles to size
- More costly than standard ceramic wall tiles
- More brittle than limestone
I love the warm, earthy look of travertine, so this is what I have in my own bathroom. Check out these gorgeous tumbled travertine tiles.
And for even more information on tile material choices, be sure to read my post 17 Beautiful Bathroom Tile Materials.
How to Pick the Best Shape for Bathroom Wall Tiles
The days of bathroom tiles always being square are long gone. Today, tiles come in all shapes and sizes.
If you have a feature area, say behind a bath or the back of a shower, you might want to use smaller accent tiles that contrast with the tile you use in the rest of the bathroom.
Bathroom designer Kathleen Stacey Finley has excellent advice on how to choose the right shape for your bathroom tile. She says: “
Be aware that often when you use a non-traditional shape, the shape itself determines the layout.”
The shape of your bathroom wall tile can also trick the eye and create the illusion of a larger space. If you have a smaller bathroom, consider using rectangular tile placed horizontally to lead the eye forward and around the room.
If the ceiling is low, lay them vertically so that the walls appear taller than they are.
Penny tile, which is round or hexagonal, can be a refreshing change to an impact area in your bathroom. It often works well as a feature area at the back of showers and a backsplash area around the bathroom basin.
How to Choose the Right Size for Your Bathroom Wall Tiles
The general rule of thumb is that the bigger the tile on your bathroom walls, the larger the space will look. But this depends on the size of your bathroom, too. For a detailed tile size guide read What Size Tile Is Perfect for YOUR Bathroom?
Fewer grout lines will give the impression that the wall is a single, solid surface, giving the illusion of a larger area. But if you are using smaller tiles, try to create thinner grout lines. (Learn how to make thin grout lines.)
Also, if you use large tiles on your wall doesn’t mean you can’t have a feature area, like behind a freestanding bathtub or inside your shower, where you use a smaller tile, to add visual interest.
Creating a patterned or accent tile in smaller areas can be a delightful way to include tiles you love without committing the entire bathroom to a bold pattern or design.
For example, you could use large tiles on your walls but medium-sized tiles in your shower.
How to Select the Best Finish for Your Bathroom Wall Tiles
A tile finish is a process done to the tile material to create a specific texture.
When choosing floor tile, you always need to keep the surface smoothness in mind. But bathroom wall tiles can be any texture.
So if you like a more reflective tile, you can consider using gloss porcelain or a truly reflective tile-like glass. Alternatively, some ceramic tiles are patterned or embossed with subtle detailing.
To create visual interest while keeping the overall tone neutral, you can use the color tile on all the bathroom walls but vary between matte and more glossy finishes in different areas.
Glossy works well behind wet areas like shower backsplashes and behind bathtubs because they are more water-resistant and are super easy to wipe clean.
For much more, read 12 Tile Finishes to Make Your Bathroom Design Pop!
What’s the Right Color Scheme for Your Bathroom Tiles?
When choosing your bathroom tile, there’s a lot to consider:
- What mood are you trying to create in the bathroom?
- Are you trying to make the bathroom look bigger? Or smaller?
- How much time are you willing to devote to cleaning the bathroom tile?
- Will you rent or sell your home in the next 5 years?
My post Tricks to Pick the Best Color Tiles for Your Bathroom tells you what color tiles to get depending on how you answer these key questions. And be sure to read THIS Is the Easiest Color Tile to Keep Clean if you have better things to do with your time than scrub the bathroom!
Accent tile can be more expensive than regular tile, but if you use it cleverly, you won’t need a lot to create the effect you want. Read How to Pick the Perfect Accent Tile for how to choose accent tiles to make your bathroom design pop. (Spoiler: Choose your accent tile first!)
Are Bathroom Tiles Waterproof?
Bathroom tiles may be water-resistant depending on the material and the finish. But the grout you use to secure the tiles in place likely won’t be water resistant, unless you apply a sealant.
If you’re about to embark on a tiling project, read Are Bathroom Tiles Waterproof?
And it’s important to know that the substrate—the material you don’t see that’s behind shower walls or floors—should be water-resistant or waterproof, too. Read How to Waterproof Shower Walls Before Tiling. Even if you are going to hire a contractor to tile for you, it’s important that you understand the scope of what work needs to be done.
So What’s the Best Bathroom Wall Tile for YOU?
Tiling your bathroom walls can be a big project, so try to avoid choosing colors or patterns that may become dated quickly.
But if you don’t want to use tile, there are plenty of great bathroom walls materials to try instead of tile.
And if you’ve already got some bathroom tile you want to replace, consult my step-by-step guide to retiling around a tub.
And don’t forget to download my FREE tile calculator. It will help you determine how much tile to order and what it will cost. Just fill out the form below and I’ll send it straight to your inbox.