What to look for when selecting a bathroom tile?

If you're looking to revamp or remodel your bathroom you might not need to completely gut the bathroom - maybe you can just have it re-tiled. The best ways to give the bathroom a vibrant and dramatic look is by choosing the right tile shape, color and design - if you're lacking inspiration take a look our “7 Creative Bathroom Tile Design Ideas".

The bathroom is usually the only room in the house where we spend time alone; it's the place where we freshen up in the morning and it's the last place we go to at night. In recent times, the bathroom has reinvented itself as a place of sanctuary and somewhere to relax – it's no longer just somewhere you take a shower and brush your teeth. The right tile selection is critical to ensuring that your bathroom has the look and feel that you are trying to create in own unique space.

Here are a few basic Bathroom Tile Selection Tips

  • Decide on the color of the tiles to be used. Try a solid hue for the dominant color and patterns or more lighter colored tiles for the borders.
  • Try contrasting the color of the tiles on the bathroom floor with that of the walls. It will give the room a great visual flair.
  • When using tiles of the same color throughout the bathroom think about mixing up the shapes such as square tiles for the floor and diamond for the walls (or even mix them up together).
  • Grout – it is available in more colors than white! Consider something different.
  • Try hand painted tiles. You can make it personal or just live it up with your family crest planted above the tub.
  • Make sure to select the right tile texture. You can have matte, gloss, bumpy, porcelain or even glass tiles. All of these give a different look to the bathroom.
Even with this information you are probably unaware of what type of tile you need or want. A tile is just a tile, isn’t it? WRONG! You can choose from glass, ceramic, terracotta, marble, slate, stone and the list goes on. Each one of these materials has their own pros and cons (which we've tried to cover below).

Types of Bathroom Tiles

Ceramic tileCeramic tiles are very durable and come in a variety of colors and shapes it is also the most affordable option.

Ceramic tiles are thin slabs of clay or other inorganic materials, hardened and set by kiln firing and usually coated with some kind of gloss or matte glaze. Ceramic tiles are so durable that Pompeii has many examples of ceramic tile work that are still pristine after 2000 years.

Ceramic tile is a great choice for bathrooms because it’s easy to clean and doesn’t house germs. It is manufactured in production runs and there is variation between these lots. Ensure all your tiles come from the same run, otherwise you will risk variation in tile color or finish.

Ceramic tile is rated from zero to five based on hardness; zero–two is suitable for wall tile, three is good for most residential uses, and four and five are hard enough for commercial applications.

  • DIY - Yes
  • Best Use: Floors, walls, counter tops, splashbacks
  • Pros: Durability, versatility, low maintenance, easy installation, affordable
  • Cons: Can vary in size and color from lot to lot
  • Price Range: US$3–$6 per square foot.

Ceramic tile suppliers
Solar Stone (US)
Beaumont Tiles (AUS)
Kajaria Ceramics (IND)


Porcelain TilesPorcelain tiles are an all-purpose tile, they are durable, reasonably priced and come in a wide range of colors and textures. Porcelain tiles are becoming increasingly popular. They are a subtype of the ceramic tile. Porcelain bears a perception of high quality, but for residential applications, its particular toughness is unnecessary. Porcelain is designed for heavy traffic in a commercial and public space not for a home bathroom. However, the manufacturing process of porcelain provides unlimited design potential, making it popular in the residential market.

Porcelain requires a special compound for setting as porcelain has low porosity compared to its ceramic cousin. If you are planning to self install your new porcelain tiles then ask the manufacturer how to, not the sales person.

  • DIY – Yes, but ask the manufacturer for the correct method.
  • Best Uses: All-purpose; ideal for high traffic and public areas.
  • Pros: Toughness, variety of design
  • Cons: Requires modified setting material to install correctly.
  • Price Range: US$3–$7.

Porcelain tile suppliers
Tiles Porcelain (UK)
Bettini (US)
Rocca Tiles (IRE)


terracotta mossTerracotta is one of the oldest tile materials around, dating back before the birth of Christ, when it was sun-dried rather than oven-fired. People often use it, glazed or unglazed, when they want a rustic, weathered look. It is very durable and will last a long time.

Unfortunately it’s very difficult to assess the quality of the terracotta tile, even for tile professionals. Buy only from a seller whose reputation you trust; even then, you may encounter problems.

It is highly recommended that you seal the terracotta tiles and it will enhance the quality and appearance.

  • DIY – No, due to sealing.
  • Best Uses: Flooring, counter tops, walls
  • Pros: Beauty, longevity when well-made
  • Cons: Wide variations in quality
  • Price Range: US$3–$7 per square foot.

Terracotta tile suppliers
Saint Tropez Stone (US)
Merchant Circle (US)
Rustica Tiles (UK)

Marble TileMarble tiles have a beautiful, unique look like no other surface, with all their whirling patterns and shade variations. But the same patterns that make marble beautiful can be a real headache to match from tile to tile. To ensure patterns match make sure all your tiles come from the same batch and lay them out before fixing them to any bathroom surface so you can see what the pattern result will be.

Marble, like most stone tiles, has high maintenance requirements. It must be sealed and cleaned regularly; for cleaning, use only a mild detergent solution or a product specially designed for marble. Wipe up any spills immediately as they can stain or etch marble’s porous surface. Marble isn’t the best option for the bathroom room of a family home.



  • DIY - No
  • Best Use: Floors
  • Pro: Beauty
  • Cons: Expense; high maintenance; can crack, stain and etch readily
  • Price Range: US$5–$15 per square foot.


Marble tile suppliers
Hot Muralist - Tiles (US)
Tile Metrics (US)
The Sexy Bathroom (US)

Slate tileSlate tile is a popular roofing material however it is still popular as a bathroom tile with its air of prestige and a reputation for longevity.

Slate is a metamorphic rock with relatively weak bonds between layers, so tile made from it tends to split along those planes. For an installation to resist damage, it must be set on a solid surface with mortar.

  • DIY – No, not unless you have been studying tiling for the past year.
  • Best Uses: Floors, roofs
  • Pros: Beauty, longevity
  • Cons: Softness, tendency to split
  • Price Range: US$2–$10 per square foot


Slate tile suppliers
Leaf Cutter Design (UK)
Bathroom Heaven (UK)
Tile Contractor Inc (US)

 

 

 

 


Granite TilesGranite is an igneous rock that has formed under very high heat and has a crystalline structure instead of a layered structure like slate. Tile made from granite is very dense, with strength similar to porcelain.

Using tile granite rather than solid granite cuts the expense drastically. Make sure tiles are spaced closely to minimize grout staining; you can use tinted grout to achieve a more seamless look as well. Sealing the grout and the tile/granite thoroughly.

  • DIY – No, it all must be sealed
  • Best Use: Kitchen counter tops
  • Pros: Durability, density, strength
  • Con: Limited trim options
  • Price Range: US$7–$15.

Granite tile suppliers
The Sexy Bathroom (US)
Granite Warehouse (AUS)
Global Sources (INT)

Glass tilesGlass tiles are one of the most popular choices. Glass tiles come in many varieties and colors. It is not a do-it-yourself project due to it being a fussy product to install. Beware of general contractors who claim they can install glass tiles as this tends to be a job for a specialist in glass installation.

Some glass is suitable for residential floor traffic; make sure yours is rated for that use before you have it installed or just stick to the walls and opt for a different tile product for the floors.

  • DIY – No, make sure you get a glass installation specialist.
  • Best Use: Decorative accent, backsplashes
  • Pros: Beauty, variety
  • Cons: Expense, difficulty of installation
  • Price Range: US$7–$30 and up per square foot.


Glass tile suppliers
Moving Colour (US)
Glass Tiles (US)
Building Green (US)


Concrete tilesConcrete tiles are a tough man-made mix of stone, sand, water and cement. It is long lasting, water shedding, hail-resistant and can be made to mimic the look of other building materials. It is rapidly becoming an indoor favourite. Polished concrete bathroom floors and walls help create that minimalist industrial illusion

Because it requires specialised tools and knowledge, and you must ensure that the structure being covered can withstand the weight, concrete tile should be installed by trained professionals only.

  • DIY - No
  • Best Uses: Floors, countertops
  • Pro: Durability
  • Con: Difficulty of installation
  • Price Range: US$3–$5 per square foot.

 

Concrete tile suppliers
Metro Tiles (AUS)
New York General Contractor (US)


The choice you make on material can influence your choice of color or size of tile you would like or need. Take a look at slate or granite tiles, they are limited in colour as they need to be of a earthen hue and you would not be able to get them as small as a glass tile could be 1cm x 1cm. Many interior designers feel that small bathrooms should be tiled with small and light colored tiles to create a visually large space. It comes down to personal preference too. Try mapping out you bathroom on a piece of paper, make a few copies and then draw on your intended tile design/pattern and color it in. This will give you a fair indication if the color and size of tile will work for your space.



 
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