What Kind of Tile for Your Bathroom?

Published by Jon W on April 21, 2012 - 12:14am

When you’re designing your bathroom, chances are that you’re considering adding some tile. Because of the moisture that inevitably occurs in the bathroom and the necessity for regular, easy cleaning, tile is a better choice for the floors than say, carpet or hardwood. Many people also continue the tile to the walls, especially around the tub and vanity. But what tile is the best to use? This guide can help you make the best choice there is for your bathroom.

Porcelain

Perhaps the best tile to use in a bathroom is porcelain tile. Made from a mixture of feldspar and clay (with a greater proportion of feldspar), porcelain tiles are durable and more resistant to water than other types of tile. Porcelain tiles come in a wide variety of colors and in some cases, the clay is dyed all the way through the tile, making it more resistant to scratching.

Porcelain tiles are made by compressing the clay before heating it, leading to a denser tile. The density of the tile is a plus in the sense that it contributes to the moisture resistance and durability of the tile, but it also makes the tiles more difficult to cut and install. Porcelain tiles are also more expensive; in some cases, up to two or three times the cost of other types of tile.

Ceramic

While porcelain tile is believed to be the best quality tile for a bathroom, the cost and difficulty of installation deter many homeowners. An alternative to porcelain and the most common type of bathroom tile is ceramic tile. Ceramic tiles are produced by a similar process as porcelain, but use a higher concentration of clay; the clay is also not as tightly compressed before firing, meaning that ceramic is slightly more porous and prone to breakage than porcelain. However, compared to other types of tile, such as stone or terracotta, ceramic still offers adequate moisture resistance for the bathroom. It’s available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, giving you plenty of design options in your bathroom.

Vinyl

Vinyl flooring has come a long way since the days of ugly patterns and flimsy design. Today’s vinyl tiles mimic the look of stone, terracotta, marble and even parquet designs. If you have a limited budget and not much time, vinyl tile is a good option to spruce up the bathroom floor. The surface is generally water resistant and easy to clean, but over time, the moisture in the bathroom can affect the adhesive on the back of the tiles. For this reason, vinyl tile should not be used on the walls or around showers and baths. It won’t take long for the water to dissolve the adhesive, and the tiles will just fall off. Most adhesive backed tiles only cost around $2 each and the installation is an easy DIY project; technically, you don’t even have to remove the old flooring and can just stick the new tiles over it.

Glass

Glass tile brings some color and style into your bathroom. Most commonly used on walls in the shower or as backsplashes or other accents, glass tiles are water resistant while also richly colored and able to reflect light. This means that using glass tiles in the bathroom gives it a richly textured look; the most common effect is using tiles with several shades of the same color in a pattern. Glass tiles are also used in elaborate mosaics, which can add interest and character to the floor or shower area. However, use of glass tile as flooring is growing. Some manufacturers are putting additives into the glass tiles to make it less slippery. In general, glass tile is easier to install than other types of tile, but it can get somewhat expensive.

Slate, Granite and Stone Tile

While natural stone is generally more porous than porcelain or ceramic tiles, meaning that in time it could be susceptible to breakage, it’s still a viable option for a bathroom floor. Slate, granite and stone are naturally more slip-resistant than other types of tile. The cost is comparable to that of ceramic tile and the installation procedure is the same. The type of bathroom tile you use depends largely on your personal style and your budget. Compare all of the options, and choose the type that works best for your design vision.

About the Author: Ryan Tupper is a plumber, contractor, and DIY consultant with over ten years experience.