When it comes to bathroom flooring, the tiles you choose can have a significant impact on how your new bathroom looks. Size, colour, shape, pattern, material, finish, and proportion all play a role, and if you choose the right combination, you can turn your bathroom into one of the highlights of your home.
Here is a complete guide on how to choose the best tiles for the bathroom.
Tips for choosing tiles
An important consideration when choosing tiles is to take into account the size of your bathroom, the height of the ceiling, and the amount of natural light in the room. With bigger bathrooms, large format tiles look stunning on both floors and walls and will give them a flawless finish. In smaller bathrooms, mosaic or penny tiles work well, and are also recommended for bathrooms with lots of curves and angles, as it can be challenging to lay large tiles in irregularly sized bathrooms
However, certain patterns on larger tiles can also make a bathroom feel bigger than it is, but it depends on their pattern and the way they are laid. For example, tiles with an oversized diamond pattern can work in a smaller bathroom as they will create diagonal lines that give the eye a longer path to follow from one side of the room to the other. Less grouting can also give a room the illusion of more space.
The colour of your tile will determine the emotional “feel” of your bathroom
Colour plays a vital role in the choice of tiles as it should not only suit your home’s style and personality, it can project the feeling of a calm and tranquil retreat or a warm and inviting ambience.
Neutral colour tones keep the design basic and allow your cabinetry and accessories to take centre stage. They are ideal for smaller bathrooms as they can exude an “open” feel, and recommended for bathrooms that don’t get a lot of natural light. Neutral tiles can also have a longer “life” and won’t date as quickly as highly coloured or patterned tiles — updating your bathroom’s look can be as simple as adding some modern accessories! If you want to experiment with bold or bright colour and patterns, it’s recommended you stick with one tone and create interesting layers through varying textures.
Dark colours can add warmth and hide dirt and stains, but can tend to make the room feel more enclosed. However, if combined with a gloss tile that has a reflective surface, it will help create the illusion of space.
In a larger bathroom, contrasting coloured floor tiles can help define the room, however, subtle variations can be more forgiving than a solid colour which can appear flat and a little dated. Running a contrasting floor tile up one single wall is also another option and can create the illusion of a bigger room.
Tiles laid in a Herringbone pattern
When choosing tiles for your bathroom, you not only have the seemingly endless choice of texture and colour, but the way you lay your tiles as well. For example, if you have a small, narrow bathroom with low ceilings, vertically-laid tiles can subtly emphasise the height of the space. If your bathroom has limited floor space with tall ceilings, horizontally-laid tiles will create the illusion of width.
Running horizontal tiles on walls can also create a “wrapping” effect, and if you use the same tile on the floors and walls, it will make your bathroom look more expansive. Some of the more popular tile patterns include:
- Classic—timeless laying patterns are the easiest to replicate if you are tiling yourself.
- Traditional stack—tiles are laid out in straight lines to form a neat grid. They typically line up with the edges of floors and walls and suit square or rectangular tiles.
- Diagonal—like the traditional stack except rotated 45 degrees.
- Brick bond—these are laid out in rows, with each row offset half a tile length from the row on either side of it. This is the traditional way of laying subway tiles and creates a staggered look without the disciplined order of a strict stacked pattern.
- Alternative stacked—created by starting with a standard stacked layout and then shifting every second row up half a tile width.
- Herringbone—there is the traditional 90-degree herringbone pattern, but also a 45-degree version where you angle the tiles 45 degrees to the surface of your tiling.
- Step ladder—similar to a herringbone pattern, it involves alternating vertically and horizontally laid rectangular tiles. When the eye notices just the tiles in one direction, the effect is of a series of tiles stepping up diagonally across the surface.
- Cross hatch—also called a basket weave pattern, it is created by laying rectangular tiles in pairs and rotating each pair 90 degrees to create the impression they weave under and over each other.
- Checkerboard—a dramatic variation of the classic stacked or diagonal tile pattern, dark and light square tiles of the same size are alternated to create a “chessboard” effect.
- Chevron—a close relative of the herringbone pattern, instead of using purely rectangular tiles, the ends of each tile meet the sides at a 30 or 45 degree angle.
If you’re considering different-sized tiles within your bathroom, make sure their proportions work together and they line up properly wherever they meet. For example, if you’re using a 300 x 300mm tile on the floor, wall tiles should be sized in multiples of 300mm—100, 150, 600, or 900—so that the width of two floor tiles equals one wall tile and therefore the grout lines will match up perfectly.
The endpoints of tiling should also be factored in. Wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling tiles can enhance the size of a bathroom and create a sense of space. However, if you’re creating a feature wall, the endpoints should line up with the joinery to ensure the space makes sense visually.
If your bathroom gets a lot of natural light, high-gloss tiles may create glare, in which case a satin or semi-gloss tile is a better alternative. If your bathroom is dark with minimal or no natural light coming in, lighter coloured tiles are recommended as they are more reflective and will brighten up the space.
It’s also worth considering grouting when choosing bathroom tiles. Small tiles and mosaics often have a larger number of grout lines and, depending on the size and shape of your bathroom, can appear too “busy”. Grout in a similar or matching colour will create a more subtle appearance, whereas contrasting grout will further define the shape of the tiles.
Slip wear ratings
Slip wear ratings assess the frictional characteristic of a tile’s surface to detect what is best suited for different environmental conditions. They measure the long-term wear throughout the life of a floor, and take into consideration the wear characteristics, anticipated traffic, cleaning maintenance and the installation process. The ratings are:
- PEI Class 1 Rating (no foot traffic)—Recommended for wall use only in residential and commercial applications.
- PEI Class 2 Rating (light traffic)—Recommended for both wall use and bathroom floor applications.
- PEI Class 3 Rating (light to moderate traffic)—Recommended for walls, countertops and floors where normal foot traffic is expected.
- PEI Class 4 Rating (moderate to heavy traffic)—Recommended for all residential applications as well as medium commercial uses.
- PEI Class 5 Rating (heavy to extra heavy traffic)—Recommended for all residential as well as heavy commercial applications. Most porcelain tiles have a PEI rating of 5, making them the hardest wearing tiles on the market.
Types of tiles
Ceramic tile samples
Ceramic tiles are one of the most popular types of modern bathroom floor tiles. They are typically manufactured from brown, red, or white clay that is fired in a kiln and finished with a durable glaze that carries the pattern and colour on the tile’s surface. The glazed surface makes the tile dense, and they are resistant to stains, slips, and fire.
Ceramic tiles are suitable for bathrooms with light to moderate traffic. They are non-porous and have a high water absorption rate making the surface impervious to water penetration. They are also easy to clean and maintain. Finishes include satin, gloss, matt and semi-polished and polished finishes giving you endless options for the floors and walls of your bathroom.
Typical cost: $35 to $50 per square meter.
Porcelain wall tiles in a luxurious bathroom
In terms of the best tiles for the bathroom floor, porcelain tiles are harder and denser than ceramic tiles, so can handle heavier foot traffic, are more stain and water-resistant, and are less likely to scratch or chip. They are easy to clean and maintain, and like ceramic tiles, are available in a wide variety of designs, styles and patterns.
However, unlike ceramic tiles, their pattern and colour extend beyond their surface and through their full thickness. They can be used to create beautiful effects in terms of colour and texture, but also made to look like stone or wood providing a durable alternative to both.
Typical cost: $50 to $100 per square meter.
Selection of vinyl tiles
Vinyl tiles are highly practical, low-maintenance and can take a lot of wear and tear. They are cost-effective and their appearance has improved dramatically in recent years so there are endless designs and colours to suit all tastes. Vinyl tiles can also effectively mimic the appearance of stone or wood, so if you’re on a budget, can enable you to achieve a lot more for less.
Typical cost: $35 to $45 per square meter.
Modern bathroom with stone flooring
Stone tiles offer a natural, earthy feel and are typically made from marble, granite, slate, limestone, terrazzo, or travertine. One of the biggest benefits of stone tiles is that the beauty of their unique patterns vary from tile to tile, so they provide a beautiful visual aesthetic.
It’s important to note that natural stone tiles are porous so they are prone to absorbing water, stains and lubricants if left for an extended period. Sealing your tiles after they are laid and periodically after that will create a barrier between the stone and any liquid. Maintaining them regularly will also keep them looking flawless and minimise surface damage, however, bleaches and any harsh chemicals should be avoided, as they are inclined to eat into the tiles’ surface.
Typical cost: $80 to $130 per square meter.
Pebble tile flooring in shower. Image from Elonahome.com
Also known as river rock tiles, pebble tiles are hugely popular with people wanting to create natural effects in their bathrooms. They’re perfect for a coastal themed bathroom, adding texture and interest. Typically, pebble tiles come in sheets of pebbles which are held together by grout. When cleaned and maintained regularly, their unique and highly decorative appearance can be preserved for many years.
Typical cost: $200+ per square meter.
Gorgeous mosaic tiles in a dark-blue themed bathroom
Mosaic tiles are great for creating a unique feature in any bathroom design, as they come in an endless array of styles, colours and size. They typically come in ceramic, glass and marble varieties, and because they are small in size, can be pieced together to create amazing designs and effects in a variety of patterns and colours.
But although relatively easy to clean, they often require more grouting than other alternatives, so may need additional maintenance. In some cases, they can also be quite slippery when wet, so check their slip ratings before you purchase.
Typical cost: $100 to $180 per square meter.
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