How to Choose the Perfect Bathroom Tile

Versatile, durable, and easy to maintain, tile is the most obvious and popular option when doing a bathroom remodel. However, with so many options to choose from, picking the perfect bathroom tile can be a daunting task. We’ve come up with 10 tips to help you narrow down your options and find the perfect match.

1. Determine your budget.

Like shopping for anything, the first step to picking a bathroom tile is determining your budget. With millions of options to choose from, establishing a budget will be the easiest way to narrow down your options.

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Image Credits: Pinterest.

2. Choose a material.

Bathroom tile comes in many different styles, shapes, sizes, and materials. Perhaps the first thing to decide is what material you want to go with. When choosing a material, it’s important to consider durability, maintenance, installation, look/style, and cost. Each tile will have its own pros and cons, so only you can decide which tile suits your lifestyle, tastes, needs, and preferences.

Choosing the right tile material is particularly important in the bathroom because only some materials are suitable for bathrooms due to the water, heat, and moisture. For example, carpet and solid hardwood are generally off-limits in bathrooms because they do not do well in moisture. However, you can mitigate these concerns by installing proper ventilation or sealing your tiles.

The most commonly used tiles in bathrooms are ceramic, porcelain, stone, and glass tiles.

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Designed by RailiCA Design.

Ceramic:

The most common types of tile are ceramic and porcelain. The main difference between the two is durability, as porcelain is more water-resistant than ceramic. Nonetheless, both porcelain and ceramic tile are virtually worry and maintenance-free. Ceramic is extremely easy to maintain, and you’ll likely only have to look after the grout. Ceramic is the least expensive and therefore more economical option. However, it is also more porous than porcelain, which means that it is less water-resistant and stains/chips/cracks more easily. Because of this, ceramic is only safe for indoor use.

Porcelain:

Porcelain is perhaps the best all-around option because it is stylish, durable/waterproof/easy to maintain, and cost-effective. It is more impervious to moisture than ceramic, and is one of the most moisture resistant tiles out there. For this reason, it is easier to maintain as it is easier to clean and less likely to stain in the first place. Porcelain is more expensive than ceramic, but it is more durable and long-lasting, which means it may be more cost-efficient in the long run as ceramic is more likely to chip or crack, and stains are harder to remove in ceramic tiles. It is harder and denser than ceramic, and as dense as marble but less likely to stain than marble. Porcelain is also good for outdoor use.

The downside to porcelain being hard and durable is that it makes it harder to cut and install. Ceramic is much easier to cut, which makes it the better option for inexperienced DIY-ers or for those who need to cut their tile into special/complex sizes and shapes. Porcelain requires special tools and more professional expertise to cut.

Porcelain tiles also have a through-body composition, so chips in the glaze will not be as noticeable in porcelain tiles because they are the same color throughout. For example, if you chip a green ceramic tile, you’ll find white below the surface, making the chip much more visible, but if you chip a green porcelain tile, the tile will be green all the way through.

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Designed by Threshold Interiors NYC.

Stone:

Stone tiles include a variety of stones like marble, slate, and limestone. Each of these materials offers a distinct look because each tile is unique, something you won’t typically get out of ceramic or porcelain tiles. Stone tiles vary in how moisture resistant or sensitive they are depending on the type of stone used, but stone tiles are typically not waterproof so they are harder to maintain and moisture is often an issue. They are more porous and tend to hold on to dirt and grime, and need to be properly and regularly sealed to last. Marble, for example, requires a high level of maintenance. They stain and crack easily and should be resealed at least once a year. If you want to incorporate stone tile in your bathroom, consider placing it outside of the shower area for easier maintenance.

Glass:

Glass tile adds style and dimension and can be used to create a beautiful mosaic backsplash. It is easy to clean and maintain as it is impervious to water. For this reason, it can be used anywhere in your bathroom, like the shower area. It is also quite durable after installation, so you don’t have to worry about staining, cracking, or discoloration. The only downside with glass tile is that it is more expensive and difficult to install.

Another potential concern with glass tile is that it is slippery, so it’s not the best option for floors. Something you want to keep in mind when choosing a tile is slip resistance. You might want to look into non-slip tiles, or consider texturing your tiles (slate is also a naturally textured stone). Smaller tiles are less slippery because there is more grout, and grout is a non-slippery surface. Consider using smaller tiles for the shower floor to help reduce the risk of falls. Smooth, glazed tiles are easier to wipe down (great for a space like the bathroom, which requires frequent cleaning), but are also more slippery, especially in the shower. Or, use non-slip materials on the floors and keep the slippery, smoother tiles on just the walls.

  Tile Materials  
CeramicPorcelainStoneGlass
Look/StyleComes in many different styles, colors, shapesComes in many different styles, colors, shapesOffers a more textured, organic, luxurious feel Offers a pretty, mosaic look
DurabilityDurable, but less water resistant and stains, cracks, and chips more easily than porcelainHighly durable and moisture-resistantLess durable, more prone to moisture and staining, crackingDurable once installed
MaintenanceEasy to maintainEasy to maintainHarder to maintain, needs to be regularly cleaned and sealed Easy to maintain
InstallationEasy to cut and installHarder to cut Heavier to lay and difficult to cut Fragile/difficult to install
CostLeast expensiveMore expensive than ceramic, but more cost-efficient in the long runExpensive Expensive

 

3. Think about location.

It’s important to know what part of your bathroom you want to tile. Do you want to tile your entire bathroom or just one accent wall? Is the tile going to span the floor to ceiling or just half of the wall? What about using a tile to add a border or define a shower niche? Knowing what you’re going to tile will help you figure out the tile that best fits your needs. Where you’re going to place your tile will inform what kind of tile you’ll need and how much of it you’ll need. For example, if you’re looking to tile your shower, you’ll need to look for something that is water and slip-resistant. Or, if you’re going to tile your entire bathroom versus just one small section, that’s going to inform whether you go with a bolder/busier or simpler patterned tile.

ProHINT: Tiling a shower from floor to ceiling will make your bathroom look taller.

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Designed by Threshold Interiors NYC.

4. Choose a color scheme.

Another important thing to consider is color. When thinking of the color scheme, remember to take into account other furnishings and decor in the space, like light fixtures and hardware. Your best bet is to stick with neutral, lighter tiles — neutral so that nothing clashes in your bathroom, and lighter so that your bathroom feels larger and more open and airy. Going with a neutral tile allows you to add in pops of color with accessories like fixtures and towels. A light tile is particularly important in a bathroom because bathrooms tend to be smaller spaces, often without windows, so it’s important to create the illusion of space through the deocr. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to interior design. As long as there is a thoughtful design, almost nothing is off-limits.

ProHINT: Choose a neutral tile for the floors because a vibrant or busy patterned tile on the floors will draw the eyes downward instead of opening the space up.

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Image Credits: Pinterest.

5. Decide on a tile size, shape, and layout.

Remember to think about scale when picking your tile. A large tile will make a small bathroom feel larger because there are less grout lines to break up the space and makes the floor feel like one continuous surface. Smaller tiles will require more grout and will be harder to clean and maintain. You’ll also need to decide on a shape. The most common tile shapes are the subway tile, the penny tile, the hexagon tile, and the herringbone tile. Each shape lends itself to a certain aesthetic. After you decide on a tile shape, you’ll have to think about how you’ll want to lay your tile. Do you want the grout to align or alternate? Will the tile run vertically or horizontally, or both? ProHINT: Laying your tiles in a diagonal pattern will make your bathroom feel larger.

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Image Credits: Pinterest.

6. Pick your top 3 favorite tiles.

With a dizzying amount of options, choosing the perfect bathroom tile can be a difficult challenge. A good rule is the “rule of 3”: pick your top 3 favorite tiles. We don’t typically recommend incorporating more than 3 tiles in your bathroom because they can clash and look too busy. We recommend choosing one tile for your floor, one tile for your wall, and one accent tile. If you have a tile that you are in love with, then you can choose one bold or unique tile to be the main attraction and choose your other tiles around it. Using too many tiles can be overwhelming, but sometimes using only one tile looks a bit boring and bland and demands more variety and visual interest. The important thing is to create a cohesive look.

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Image Credits: Pinterest.

7. Consider maintenance.

How your tile looks and how well it maintains are perhaps the two biggest deciding factors when choosing a bathroom tile (aside from budget concerns). A tile that cannot withstand wear and tear will not look good, and you won’t love a tile that you constantly have to worry about cleaning or damaging. Refer to our discussion of tile materials for how well each type of tile material maintains. Also consider the size of your tile as it will determine how much grout you’ll need to clean.

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Image Credits: Pinterest.

PENNY TILE: While we love the look of penny tile, be aware that penny tile can be a bit more difficult to install and clean. We recommend sealing the tile and going with a darker grout to make cleaning easier. Penny tile and light grout can be a huge nuisance. We also recommend going with a contractor that really knows how to install penny tile. An imperfect installation can mess up the look of penny tile and can be uncomfortable to stand on. If penny rounds are laid and grouted correctly, then you shouldn’t have any problems.

8. Pick the right grout.

Grout is a mortar-like mixture that is spread in between each tile to seal the tiles together as well as to make the surface water-resistant. When choosing a grout, you’ll want to consider two things: maintenance and color. Lighter grout will be harder to maintain because you’ll have to clean it frequently. Also, the smaller your tiles, the more grout you’ll have to clean. You’ll also want to think about the color of your grout because it can make a huge difference on the look of your tile. You can choose a grout that contrasts or blends in with your tile, for two vastly different looks.

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Image Credits: Pinterest.

9. Sample, first!

Even with careful research, it can be hard to pick a tile and visualize it in your space. We always recommend getting samples of tiles before placing large orders. A tile can look one way in a store and a completely different way once in your home, based on factors like lighting, space, and decor. Always play around with samples first so that you can see how the tile looks in your bathroom, as well as test its quality.

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Image Credits: Pinterest.

10. Remember the details.

There are thousands of tile options to choose from. With so many choices, the important thing is to carefully curate a tile by taking into account every detail. From the layout to the color or pattern to the grout and the finish (matte versus glossy), all of these factors will inform your decision. Lastly, take into account your space: the size, the aesthetic, and the decor/furnishings. Choosing the perfect tile will be a long and challenging, but rewarding, process.

What did you think of these bathroom tile tips? Comment below!

Jennifer Wiguna
Jennifer Wiguna

Interior design expert and writer.

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