There’s more to bathroom flooring than just the humble tile. Choosing your flooring of choice can quickly become one of the toughest decisions you’ll make during a renovation or a new home project once you make this realisation. With so many bathroom flooring options available on the market, each one has its unique pros and cons.
Let’s start with the obvious option. Many designers recommend porcelain tiles for good reason.
Pros: The material is dense, scratch and stain-resistant, non-porous, hygienic and sturdy. Tiles come in a wide range of textures, colours, designs and sizes to suit a lot of styles and shapes of bathrooms.
Use them to create classic, modern or luxurious bathrooms. The best part? Some high-end porcelain tiles mimic the look of expensive natural stone like marble and timber. Use these to create your dream bathroom at a lower price and in a more practical way.
- Porcelain tiles get cold quickly, but good thing they are compatible with underfoot heating.
- Tiles are unrepairable when they chip, however the colour runs through the whole tile, so chips are less visible.
- Dirt builds up in the grout joints, but it won’t be visible when you use a dark grout (and you can always re-grout).
Maintenance: You don’t need to seal porcelain tiles. However, they do require cleaning. You can do this using your usual household cleaners and a damp mop once per week.
For homeowners on a budget, consider ceramic tiles that are more affordable than porcelain tiles.
Pros: Ceramic tiles are durable, low maintenance, stain-resistant and compatible with underfloor heating. They come in a wide range of styles and mimic high-end flooring materials too. These are more porous than porcelain, making them easier to cut.
Cons: Tile chipping is more noticeable because the design of ceramic tiles is only on the surface and doesn’t continue through the tiles. They’re also cold and hard underfoot.
Maintenance: Clean ceramic tiles using your regular household cleaning products and a damp mop about once per week. You might need to re-grout at some point if it becomes stained.
Encaustic cement tiles
Many designers recommend encaustic cement tiles when homeowners request stunning tile work in the bathroom.
- Handcrafted encaustic cement tiles possess beautiful patterns and vibrant colours that stand out from a neutral background.
- They are slip-resistant and durable.
- Tiles won’t crack as long as they’re on a perfectly level surface.
- Tile chipping isn’t obvious because of the thick layer of coloured pigments used.
Cons: Encaustic cement tiles are porous and installing them can take a long time. The tiles need to dry before you seal them and the sealant needs to dry before grouting. They require two coats of penetrating sealant as well.
Maintenance: Even if well-sealed, you will need to mop spills on the tiles immediately. Clean the tiles with a pH-neutral soap only. Never use ammonia, alkaline or acidic cleaners because these damages the surface of the tiles. Use wax to protect the tiles from staining. Use oxalic acid to remove difficult stains on the tiles.
Designers recommend travertine tiles to homeowners who want to build a luxurious bathroom. The tiles offer a high-end look and are an excellent substitute for marble.
Pros: They’re easy to clean, hardwearing, repairable and compatible with underfloor heating. When you buy travertine tiles from your supplier, choose the tumbled finish as it’s slip-resistant.
Cons: All-natural stone tiles are expensive and high maintenance. Travertine tiles are heavy, so they require a sturdy sub-floor and regular sealing. They’re cold and hard underfoot and can get scratched easily.
Maintenance: Use a neutral pH cleaner and plain water – no ammonia, acidic or alkaline cleaners.
Slate is one of the most beautiful tile options available in the market. It features unique velvety markings against dark stone.
Pros: Slate tiles are durable, low-maintenance and compatible with underfloor heating. These come in honed and polished finishes. And when one of the tiles cracks – you can quickly repair it.
Cons: Slate is a high-maintenance flooring material that requires sealing every 12 to 18 months. As tiles are heavy, they need a sturdy sub-floor.
Maintenance: Remove the dirt and grit off slate tiles when you sweep or vacuum, and mop the floor using a mild detergent.
For homeowners who can splurge a bit, consider marble floors. These floors offer a timeless, modern, dramatic and luxurious look. Choose large 80x80cm slabs of Carrara marble in small bathrooms to make them appear bigger, lighter and more spacious.
Pros: Marble is compatible with underfloor heating. It comes in a wide range of patterns and colours and no two tiles are the same. When a tile breaks, you can easily fill in the cracks to fix it.
Cons: Marble is porous, high maintenance and susceptible to stains and etching.
- You need the help of marble specialists during installation to prevent the stone from cracking.
- Marble requires sealing before grouting and again afterward.
- To clean marble floors, use a mop in a dry sweeping motion to avoid scratching the floor.
- Use plain water and a pH-neutral cleaner only.
Engineered timber floorboards
These offer the natural look and warmth of solid wood. Consider them when you want wooden floors in the bathroom, minus the worries.
Pros: Engineered wood floorboards are as soft and warm as solid hardwood. They offer a more stable material than actual wood in high-moisture environments. They come in a variety of timber species, widths, styles, colours, thicknesses, and finishes. You can sand and refinish thick floorboards several times. Engineered wood is also compatible with underfloor heating.
Cons: Water damage is still possible, so never leave standing water on floorboards.
Maintenance: Sweep the floor before you mop the surface. Use a cleaner specialised for engineered wood. Avoid wax-based cleaners and harsh detergents.
Laminate is an excellent choice when your budget is tight. It’s one of the most affordable bathroom materials, considering it has a 10-year warranty on the protective layer in most cases.
Pros: Laminate is moisture-resistant, easy to clean, comfortable and won’t require sealing. It comes in many colour choices and can mimic the look of wood, stone or ceramic tiles.
Cons: It’s not suitable for underfloor heating. Unlike hardwood floors, you can’t refinish laminate flooring. When a portion of the laminated floor gets damaged, you’ll need to replace it.
Maintenance: Use laminate floor cleaner and dry the floor at all times to avoid damage. Do this to prevent accidents as well as it’s easy to slip on laminate.
High-quality vinyl tiles
Vinyl tiles are one of the most budget-friendly options for home renovators.
- They’re stain-resistant, waterproof and durable.
- They’re available in a wide variety of designs including geometric, polka dots, stone or timber.
- They’re compatible with underfloor heating, but check the temperature restrictions with your supplier to be safe.
Cons: Some vinyl tiles feel plasticky and the design of the tiles can fade over time.
Maintenance: Avoid using abrasive cleaning materials. Use a soft broom to sweep the floor and clean it using a mop and soapy water.
Cork is a versatile flooring perfect for traditional bathroom designs.
Pros: Cork is resistant to mould and mildew, hypoallergenic, durable, sustainable and recyclable. It offers a warm and soft underfoot feel, plus good sound insulation. Most cork flooring options today come in an engineered board form with a moisture-resistant core.
Cons: It’s a light-sensitive material, so it’s likely to fade when exposed to intense sunlight. Cork can be high-maintenance, challenging to repair and it isn’t suitable for underfloor heating.
Maintenance: Seal cork floors every two to three years and clean it using a vacuum and a damp mop.
For a modern, industrial or edgy look, concrete floors or cement tiles are your top choices.
Pros: Concrete is a durable, robust, low maintenance and versatile building material. It’s compatible with underfloor heating, which keeps it from getting cold. It also won’t harbour pests.
Cons: Concrete is porous. After a few years, small cracks might develop, especially if it hasn’t been laid correctly. Concrete is heavy and requires strong support underneath. For best results, hire a contractor specialising in this type of bathroom floor.
Maintenance: Wash concrete floors using a damp mop. Use plain water or a mild, non-acidic detergent only.
The last on our list is rubber flooring which can be perfect for families with young children.
Pros: Rubber is comfortable to walk on, durable, sustainable and waterproof. You can buy it as tiles and as a sleek, seamless sheet. It’s compatible with underfloor heating, but check the ideal temperature range with your supplier first.
Cons: Rubber is not scratch resistant, hard to repair and fades quickly.
Maintenance: Clean rubber floors with a damp mop and the supplier’s recommended detergent.
To identify the best bathroom flooring for your home, start with who will use the bathroom.
For families with small children, choose non-slip floors that can withstand splashes and pools of water during bath time.
A bathroom for the elderly members of the family must offer a right level of slip resistance and a floor that is soft underfoot in the event of falls.
Choose a bathroom flooring that’s kind to your bare feet, low maintenance, easy to clean as well as gorgeous.
Then think about the style you’re aiming for. Do you want a look that’s rustic, contemporary, modern, minimalist, Scandinavian, Hamptons or other looks? Which bathroom flooring suits your style?