Selecting the Right Bathroom Flooring

Carpet in the bathroom? You bet! Our expert shares advice on flooring options that are powder-room friendly.

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Natural stone — such as slate, marble and limestone — is one of the most expensive flooring options, but its timeless beauty and durability make it well worth the cost.

When choosing the right flooring for a bathroom, there's more to keep in mind than personal style. Some very specific factors come into play: Is your flooring, for instance, impervious to water? Will it stain easily when makeup takes a spill? Is it safe when walking across with wet feet? Given those considerations, here are some of the top contenders in bathroom floor surfaces:

Carpet: Many people think that carpet isn't a reasonable option for potentially waterlogged bathrooms. However, all you need to do is make some careful choices. As long as your carpet is water-, mildew- and stain-resistant — with a backing that doesn't allow water to seep into the pad — you're good to go. And it's worth looking for options within those parameters. Not only does carpet provide softness and warmth underfoot, but the color and pattern options are practically limitless, too.

Ceramic Tile: Ceramic floor tile differs from, say, wall tile in that it's designed with more of a texture to prevent slippage. It is typically between 1/2-inch to 3/4-inches thick, and measures anywhere from 4 x 4 inches to 2-feet-square. In addition to squares, other shapes are available, including octagonal and hexagonal. And mosaic tiles (2 inches square or smaller) come in pre-mounted fabric mesh sheets. Ceramic tile is available in a vast variety of colors and patterns; plus, you can take your creativity to yet another level with colored grouts. This type of flooring is durable and hygienic, but make sure that you pay close attention to the porosity rating; it's critical in a space such as a bathroom that requires something that's moisture-proof. The porosity classifications range from impervious (the least absorbent) to vitreous, semivitreous and, finally, nonvitreous (the most absorbent).

Laminate: Made of layers of materials literally bonded together for strength — resin, wood fiber and Kraft paper, for example — laminate flooring is compacted under pressure to create the final product, which is then transformed into planks. In fact, the surface of a laminate plank is actually a photographic image, printed from film onto a thin decorative layer, which is in turn protected with a wear layer. The high resolution of the film results in a realistic appearance, so laminates may appear to be a variety of other materials; wood grain is one of the most popular. And because it's durable and easy to clean, laminate flooring a logical choice for bathrooms.

Even hardwood floors can be a viable option in the bathroom if they're finished to be water resistant; a few good coats of clear gloss sealant will keep it watertight.

Hardwood: Part of hardwood flooring's charm is that it lends a sense of warmth to your bathroom. Plus, if hardwood is your flooring of choice throughout the rest of the house, you'll create a cohesive look. What's more, even worse-for-the-wear hardwood floors can be given a fresh outlook; you can stain or paint to complement the rest of the room's decor.

Natural Stone: Cut into tiles, typically 12 inches square or larger, stone is easy to care for and durable, but it does require a strong subfloor. It also has the potential to be slippery when wet, especially in a polished form. As an alternative, however, stone can be honed (ground flat but not polished) or textured (by sandblasting); keep in mind, though, that unpolished forms may require a sealant to prevent stains. And one more word to the wise if you opt for a stone floor: Keep a pair of slippers handy as it tends to be cold underfoot.

Vinyl: Long one of the most popular choices for bathroom applications, vinyl comes in sheets or tiles. Sheet vinyl comes in rolls that are 6- or 12-feet wide, providing a seamless look. Vinyl tiles, on the other hand, are typically 12 to 18 inches square and lend themselves to a variety of different patterns. Tiles are usually easier to install, and it's simple to replace just one, if need be. On the downside, though, a vinyl tile installation has many more seams, which creates more places for germs to grow. Both options, however, are easy to clean and effectively resist stains and moisture.

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