Retiling your shower can change and modernize your bathroom space, but with all the options available, it’s not always straightforward to know which product is the right one for you. Glass and ceramic tile both have their place for specific projects and spaces.
Glass tiles are durable, easy to clean, and come in numerous colors, shapes and sizes. However, glass tiles are more expensive than ceramic tiles and need to be installed professionally. Ceramic tiles also come in a wide variety but are easier to install. However, ceramic tiles are susceptible to stains and irregularities.
Glass and ceramic tiles can be used for your main tile or as accent tiles to make your bathroom design pop.
My FREE bathroom tile calculator can help you keep your project organized and on budget. Fill out the form and I’ll send it to you now.
Which Is Better: Glass or Ceramic Tile?
Both glass and ceramic tiles have their pros and cons. However, if you understand the strengths and limitations of these two types of tile, you can quickly figure out the right option for your shower.
|GLASS TILES||CERAMIC TILES|
|Water-Resistant||Yes, impervious||Yes, but with 0.5-3% absorption|
|Varied Shapes, Sizes & Colors||Yes||Yes|
|Uniform from One Tile to the Next||Yes||No|
|Easy to Clean||Yes||Yes|
|Requires Frequent Cleaning||Yes||No|
|Easy to Install||No||Yes|
Read this post from bathroom designer Kathleen Stacy Finley for the best advice on choosing the right tile for your bathroom.
What Are the Pros of Glass Tiles for the Shower?
Many would say that choosing between glass and ceramic tiles comes down to aesthetics and personal style. Glass tiles certainly don’t come up short in the looks department, but there is more to them than a pretty face.
Glass Tiles Are Durable
You wouldn’t necessarily think of strength when thinking of glass, but glass tiles are incredibly durable and can withstand reasonable force. It may come as a surprise to you to learn that they don’t break easily under pressure and can therefore be a suitable option for your shower floor.
You can view glass tiles as a long-term investment since, with the proper care, they’ll continue to look as good as new and offer you a long-lasting shower design solution.
Glass Tiles Are Easy to Clean
You won’t be scrubbing away for hours with glass tiles. Instead, with some warm soapy water or all-purpose cleaner and a soft cloth, you’ll be able to quickly wipe the dirt.
For more stubborn soap build-up, you can use a simple vinegar solution to get your tiles smiling back at you.
Glass Tiles Offer Variety
You’ll find glass tiles in just about every color imaginable. They also come in many different sizes, shapes and patterns with a variety of different finishes, including gloss, pearlescent, or matte.
Art3D manufactures a pearlescent mosaic tile that will add pure glamour to any shower.
The color is subtle and neutral, which can shade in with multiple designs. Made of mother-of-pearl, a type of glass, this tile provides an extra reflective effect to elevate any space.
Glass Tiles Offer Depth
Glass tile is made with a translucent glaze that is fired onto the back of the tile. You can see the gorgeous colors are seen through the entirety of the tile, as the color doesn’t merely sit on the surface as it does with a ceramic tile.
This translucency allows light to penetrate right through the tile, making glass tiles highly reflective. The result is visual depth; reflecting abundant amounts of light, glass tiles make a shower look bigger and brighter.
These glass subway tiles from Adedeo (pictured above) offer exactly this depth effect, especially in their gorgeous taupe color, which adds warmth while allowing the space to feel bigger. In addition, their high gloss is super reflective, so your shower tiles will reflect light from every angle.
If you’re tiling a small bathroom, using glass tiles can make it look bigger. For more ideas, read 18 Ways Tile Can Help Your Small Bathroom Feel Bigger.
Glass Tiles Are Water-Resistant
You won’t have any water seeping into your glass tiles; they are impermeable to water. A glass tile’s absorbency rate is 0%, while a ceramic tile sits between 0.5% and 3%. They, therefore, make the perfect option for a shower as you won’t have any water soaking into your tiles and causing dampness.
You obviously want to avoid dampness in your bathroom as this can lead to bathroom mold, mildew, and germs, as well as structural damage.
Since they have a 0% absorbency rate, glass tiles are also stain-resistant, so you won’t see ugly watermarks appearing on them over time.
Glass Tiles Are Good For Allergies
Due to the impervious nature of glass tiles and their ability to keep out dampness, they are a wise choice for those battling mold and mildew-specific allergies. A glass tile is your best bet to keep mold and mildew at bay and is the obvious choice for those with allergies.
Glass Tiles Are The Eco-friendly Option
Many glass tiles are made from recycled material. However, even for those not made from recycled glass, the great thing about glass is that once it is done serving you in your home and you’re ready to replace it, all-glass tiles are 100% recyclable.
Glass tiles are also more energy-saving in terms of their production. It takes half the energy to produce a glass tile versus a ceramic one.
What Are The Cons of Glass Shower Tiles?
Glass tiles may be shiny, little rainbows of joy in your shower, but they do come without some negatives. These flaws may sway you in your shower tile decision-making.
Glass Tiles Are Expensive
There’s no disputing that glass tiles are the expensive choice for your shower. If you are working on a tight remodeling budget, these are not the right option.
Although you may find a good deal, you’ll likely look at roughly $30-$40 USD per square foot for glass tile. Some repeating pattern tiles can have you paying as much as $100 USD per square foot, which can break the bank if you use them for an entire floor-to-ceiling shower design.
Glass Tiles Need Professional Installation
With glass tiles being translucent, you can see the adhesive through the tiles. If you use the wrong color or don’t adhere perfectly, it can look messy.
As glass tiles are an expensive product, you certainly don’t want to make a mess and have to redo a project due to poor installation.
If you’re required to cut the tiles to fit into your shower space, again, this is best left to the professional tilers as it is easy to break glass tiles in the cutting process, and you need particular tools to get the job done.
Of course, hiring a professional for installation adds another cost to your shower tiling project.
Glass Tiles Scratch
Despite being durable and beautiful, glass tiles do scratch easily. Scratches will be your biggest maintenance issue when choosing glass tiles.
Unfortunately, as glass tiles are so reflective, any imperfections are very noticeable.
Therefore, it is best to use glass tiles on your shower walls rather than on the floor, where they are more likely to get scratched and need replacing sooner.
Glass Tiles Require Regular Cleaning
Although glass tiles are easy to clean, you’ll need to clean them far more often than you would need to clean ceramic tiles.
Glass tiles show dirt very easily, especially in terms of fingerprints and soap scum build-up. So if you’re not a fan of frequent cleaning, glass shower tiles may not be your best friend.
Glass Tiles Are Slippery When Wet
Glass tiles, especially the high gloss versions, can be slippery when wet. If you choose to use glass tiles on your shower floor, it would be best to go for matte versions and small tiles, resulting in more grout and better grip.
Glass Tiles Are Dangerous When They Break
While glass tiles are solid and able to take a great deal of weight, if something falls on them at the wrong angle, they can break. A broken glass tile can be very sharp and cause injury, so this is something to be mindful of, especially if you have young children or adventurous shower-loving pets.
What Are the Pros of Ceramic Tiles for the Shower?
Ceramic tiles may not offer the same depth and shiny translucence as glass tiles, but don’t discount them; they have their own merits.
Ceramic Tiles Are Affordable
The most endearing feature of ceramic tiles is their price tag. They are substantially more cost-effective than glass tiles and are available in a range of prices to suit everyone’s budget.
Ceramic Tiles Are Timeless
They may not give your bathroom the high drama of glass tile, but ceramic tiles have history and timelessness about them. Picking ceramic tiles means avoiding trends and instead choosing a classic look with longevity.
Ceramic Tiles Are Durable
Like glass tiles, ceramic tiles are durable and can last a lifetime with the proper care and maintenance. You are more likely to lose your grout than your tile when it comes to ceramics.
Ceramic tiles come with a hardness rating from 0 – 5. The lower-rated tiles are meant for walls and backsplashes, while those rated 3 can be used for floors. Anything rated 4-5 is for commercial use.
Ceramic tiles are also water-resistant, although not as impervious as glass. However, you can seal them with a waterproof sealant, which will make them as water-resistant as glass tiles.
Ceramic Tiles Are Easy to Clean
With ceramic tiles, you won’t need to work them into a daily cleaning routine. They are simple to keep clean with standard detergent and a soft brush, and they won’t show dirt and finger marks as easily as glass.
However, when you do clean your ceramic tiles, wipe them dry with a soft cloth rather than allowing them to air dry. If you let the tiles air dry, you may see watermarks on the tiles.
Ceramic Tiles Are Easy to Install
The significant aspect of ceramic tiles is that they are easy to install, and with a bit of know-how, you can do it yourself and save on the cost of a professional tiler.
If you’re curious about what’s involved with tiling your shower, read my post about How to Replace Tile Around a Bathtub in 12 Steps.
Ceramic Tile Comes in a Wide Variety
Although they lack the transparency and depth of glass tiles, ceramic tiles come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, patterns, and colors.
Ceramic tiles are made by firing clay at high temperatures and then glazing them. This results in the color sitting on the surface of the tile.
They might be more one-dimensional than glass tiles, but that doesn’t stop many ceramics from shining brightly, as with these (pictured above) stunning gloss tiles by MS International.
Not only do these tiles offer a glossy reflective look that is effortlessly elegant, but they are made in this unusual vintage shape. I love how these tiles look stacked together, creating an old-world appearance with a modern twist.
What Are the Cons of Ceramic Tiles for the Shower?
Unfortunately, with every ying, there is a yang, and ceramic tiles do come with some disadvantages, albeit only a few. These may not necessarily be the deciding factor in your tile decision, but it is essential to gather all the facts before reaching your conclusion.
Ceramic Tiles Have Irregularities
Unless you purchase rectified tiles, ceramic tiles tend to vary from one to another. These variations will be in terms of color and size. Although the differences are negligible, it is apparent to the naked eye when placed next to each other.
Because of these irregularities, you will want to use a thicker grout line between ceramic tiles. Read all about how to grout and why super thin grout lines are best for rectified tiles.
That said, many people love the irregularities of ceramic tiles and their organic look, but if you are one for clean, straight lines and perfection, you won’t achieve your desired result with ceramic tiles.
If you choose ceramic tiles, ensure you purchase enough tiles with leftovers to spare. Keep a few on hand in case you need to replace any tiles later. The reason is that the next time you buy additional tiles, they may come from a different batch and have a color variation to your stock.
Ceramic Tiles Stain
With that 0.5%-3% absorbency rate, certain glazes on ceramic tiles can stain. Over time as the water sits on them, it can seep in and cause damage that manifests as stains.
To avoid this, use a waterproof sealant or ask the manufacturer if they offer dip sealant for their products.
Unglazed Ceramic Tiles Are Porous So Don’t Use Acidic Cleaners
Lots of people like to clean their bathroom tiles with a homemade vinegar and water solution. While this is fine for most tiles including glass, if you have unglazed ceramic tiles, you’ll need to avoid vinegar cleansers. Read Will Vinegar Destroy Your Bathroom Tile? for more details.
Also, unglazed ceramic tiles need to be sealed. Find out more in my guide to bathroom tile and grout sealers.
Glass or Ceramic for Your Shower? Which Is Better?
Both glass and ceramic tiles come with good and bad elements. Once you examine the pros and cons, it should be easier to decide which is best for your shower.
But if you can’t decide which to go with, then mix both. There is no reason why ceramic and glass tiles can’t live in harmony in the same shower.
To save on budget, consider using ceramic tiles for more extensive surface areas and then adding glass tile touches for some pizazz. You can even apply this concept to tiling around freestanding bathtubs.
Whether you choose glass, ceramic, or both, pick the tiles that will help you create a bathroom space that brings you joy.
The size of tiles you choose should depend on the size of your bathroom and where in your bathroom you are tiling. For my detailed tile size guide, read What Size Tile Is Perfect for YOUR Bathroom?
You can also click here to access all of my bathroom tile articles that cover how to choose everything from bathroom tile materials, tile size, finishes, colors, waterproofing materials and much more!
Again, be sure to download my free, super handy bathroom tile calculator. It will help you figure out exactly how much tile you need and what it will cost. Simply fill out the form below and I’ll send the tile calculator straight to your inbox.