Choosing Bathroom Flooring

Get tips on how to find the right floor surface for your remodel
Patterned Floor Tile

Hexagon Bathroom Tile

Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

Design by Brian Patrick Flynn
By: Kristen Hampshire

Tile is the surface of choice in the bathroom—natural stone or porcelains and ceramic that mimic natural stone. Floor tile is larger—12x12 or 18x18 inches—and color schemes are neutral. “Rather than putting a lot of color on the floor and drawing your eye down, we’re incorporating subtle designs to complement the room,” says Rick Miller, president, Miller’s Fancy Bath & Kitchen, Louisville, Ky. In general, Miller likes to keep contrast at countertop level, at the sight line.

Ceramic tile floors are designed with more texture than ceramic wall tile to prevent slippage. Honed natural stone will also provide traction when floors get wet—that’s when the surface is ground flat but not polished. Natural stone also can be sandblasted.

“Travertine has a beautifully warm honey look to it—very soft,” says Ellen Rady, designer/president, Ellen Rady Designs, Cleveland, Ohio. “Slate has a more organic feel. Those are the types of tiles we are seeing.”

Hardwood floors that are sealed will combat moisture damage and can provide a uniform look if the rest of the home has wood flooring. And basic vinyl is easy to wipe down and highly affordable.

As for carpet, while the same soft pile you put in your master bedroom is a no-no (unless you want to grow mildew), there are carpet options that are water-, mildew- and stain-resistant with backing that will not allow water to seep into the padding. There are carpet tiles on the market that make removing single panels for cleaning easy (such as FLOR). You may choose to carpet one section of a master bath—say an area where you place an upholstered seat, or a space that serves as a tranquil transition area. As an alternative, consider rugs that can offer the same softness and easily be removed and cleaned.

Bathroom Flooring Styles and Trends

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Other flooring trends to consider include:

Mix-and-match sizes. To add interest, some designs combine large and small floor tiles. “We are doing staggered patterns where we use multiple tile sizes on the floors—it’s very attractive,” Miller says. Also, think beyond the square. You can incorporate octagonal, hexagonal and 2-inch or smaller mosaic tiles in a pattern.

Tile “carpet”. Create a rug of tile in front of the vanity or surrounding a toilet, or in the space where you step out of the shower. “There’s more use of tile to create spaces and areas in a floor instead of having one continual tile throughout the room,” says Brian Johnson, principal, Collaborative Design Architects, Billings, Mt. he describes a tile border and mosaic area rug with tile.

Heated floors. Tile as a bathroom floor is easy to maintain, attractive and available in so many options. But it can get awfully cold. Radiant heating uses a hydronic or electric system to warm the floor from underneath. Hydronic systems involve rubber tubing that is installed under the floor and a hot water heater is used to heat up water, which circulates through the tubes and radiates warmth up and through the floor. Electric radiant heating is more economical and simpler to install—plus, it’s ideal for heating a single room if you’re not investing in a whole-house system. A thin electric panel containing heat-resistant wire is installed under the floor. Using a thermostat and timer, you can rev up the floor temperature when you use the space. This option can cost about $600 for a small bathroom.

“A heated floor is a big luxury but not an expensive item to add,” Miller says, suggesting that this feature is worth the splurge come resale time. “When you can step on to warm tile in your stocking or bare feet, it makes the bathroom feel like a retreat area.”

Johnson reminds that when installing electric mats underneath tile, be sure not to get too close to the wax ring on which a toilet sits, otherwise it will melt.

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