How to Choose Bathroom Flooring

Choosing bathroom flooring is far different from choosing flooring in other parts of the house.

Once you get past the commonalities–durability, looks, cost–you have to confront one factor that is found in no other area except the basement: massive amounts of water.

Water is prevalent in bathrooms and it will quickly ruin the wrong flooring. With that in consideration, from best to worst, your floor covering options for the bathroom:

 

1. Porcelain or Ceramic Tile

Summary: Porcelain tile is the best of all worlds for bathroom flooring–waterproof, stylish, and cost-effective.

Like stone, porcelain tile can achieve a rich, textured, solid feeling. Like vinyl, it is waterproof and is fairly inexpensive. Like wood flooring, it looks great.

But should you choose porcelain or ceramic tile? Is there even a difference?

Porcelain is part of the ceramic tile family with one slight difference: water absorption. The Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) certifies types of tile as “porcelain” if they have a water absorption rate of 0.5% or less.

If this is a half bathroom or powder room, you will not need to purchase porcelain tiles because there are no bathing facilities.

 

Advantages

Because there are so many different types of ceramic tiles, you can create the exact floor you want. You can even find ceramic tile that looks like wood or stone.

Individual tile comes in sizes between 4″ x 4″ to 2′ x 2′, and in a wide variety of shapes such as octagonal and hexagonal. Smaller mosaic tiles are pre-mounted on plastic mesh sheets, so you do not have to individually set each tile. With tinted grout, you can be even more creative.

Best of all, tile cleans up well and bravely resists even standing pools of water

 

Downsides

Like stone, tile is cold (though radiant or heated tile is available.

Tile can be slippery. But texturing solves that problem. Smaller tiles are less slippery because more grout is used and the grout acts as a non-skid surface.

2. Vinyl: Sheet, Plank, or Tile

Summary: Reasonably good aesthetics, supreme practicality.

Vinyl is the most popular choice for bathroom flooring for several reasons. Vinyl is very much a do-it-yourself job (you can install vinyl tiles in a weekend, easily). Plus there are thousands of style options.

Sheet vinyl flooring is your best option if extreme amounts of water are expected, such as in children’s bathrooms or laundry rooms. Gappy and poorly laid seams are floor killers. Sheet vinyl may have as few as zero seams in a small bathroom.

Luxury vinyl plank flooring comes in narrow widths (about 5″) and long lengths (up to 48″).

Advantages

Luxury vinyl plank is very easy to install.

Downsides

Sheet vinyl is difficult for the do-it-yourselfer to install.

 

3. Natural Stone

Summary: Good choice, but only if you can afford it.

There are few moisture problems with marble, granite, limestone, and the other stone flooring options. Stone is mid-level is this list and not at the top because of a number of issues.

The first one is that it is cold. The second issue: it tends to be slippery. This can be solved by having the stone textured by sandblasting or by purchasing naturally textured stone, such as slate.

But the main issue that pulls this bathroom flooring option down is cost. Real stone flooring is by far your most expensive flooring option.