Choosing Bathroom Flooring

Get tips on how to find the right floor surface for your remodel
Hexagon Bathroom 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.

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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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Ceramic Tile Flooring

Durable and easy to clean, tile is a practical flooring choice for the bathroom. Ceramic tile comes in a wide range of sizes, shapes and styles, some of which mimic the look of natural stone. Textured designs help prevent slippage. Image courtesy of Mohawk Ceramic

Porcelain Tile Flooring

Porcelain tile is fired at higher temperatures than ceramic, making it more durable and less porous. Today's homeowners are opting for larger floor tile —12x12 or 18x18 inches — to reduce grout lines. Image courtesy of Mannington Mills, Inc.

Stone Tile Flooring

Usually made from travertine, limestone, marble, granite or slate, natural stone lends a high-end look to a bathroom. This type of tile is the most expensive, but it lasts a lifetime. Image courtesy of Collaborative Design Architects

Elaborate Tile Designs

Many designers are thinking beyond basic square tile when installing bathroom floors, incorporating unusual shapes and small mosaic tiles. Here, a mix of marble, limestone, and onyx mosaics produces a one-of-a-kind tile floor. Image courtesy of AKDO

Heated Tile Floors

Tile floors can be hard and cold underfoot, but radiant floor heating systems provide a solution. These systems can be installed under tile — as well as hardwood and other popular flooring surfaces — to create a warm surface to step on after a hot shower or bath. Image courtesy of WarmlyYours

Photo By: Warlmy Yours

Vinyl Flooring

A budget-friendly bathroom flooring option, vinyl is durable, low maintenance and soft underfoot. Vinyl tiles can mimic the look of ceramic, porcelain, stone or hardwood, and they're warmer to the touch than traditional tiles. Image courtesy of Congoleum Corporation

Linoleum Flooring

Linoleum flooring is making a comeback as a new generation discovers its benefits. An all-natural alternative to vinyl, this surface is extremely durable and comes in a wide variety of colors, from quiet neutrals to vibrant hues. Image courtesy of Forbo Marmoleum

Laminate Flooring

Laminate floors combine the look of hardwood with a stain- and moisture-resistant surface, making them a great choice for the bathroom. This strong flooring material withstands traffic and looks great for years. Image courtesy of Pergo

Carpet Tiles

While wall-to-wall carpet is not practical in the bathroom, carpet tiles can add warmth and softness to a bathroom floor. If the carpet gets wet, the squares can easily be pulled up to dry. Image courtesy of FLOR

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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