Find out everything you need to know on how to choose bathroom tiles for the first time with a step by step guide.
Welcome back to the Spring One Room Challenge sponsored by Better Homes and Garden where I’m making over our master small ensuite bathroom in 8 weeks. This biannual series is a fantastic place of inspiration for all types of rooms and styles. Make sure to head over to the One RoomChallenge blog to see 20 featured designers and 100s of guest participants like myself. Bonus, there are a lot of bathroom ideas this year! Read how to work with a small ensuite bathroom design and small bathroom ensuite ideas from the first two weeks if you’ve missed those.
How to Choose Bathroom Tile
I’m guessing you are here because you have a bathroom remodel in the works or perhaps in the planning or “maybe” stage. It is easy to get distracted with all of the beautiful pictures and tile choices we see online but understanding the different sizes and use of tiles will make the selection process and communication with a tile installer/contractor much easier. Plus you will know the right questions to ask!
Here are the three basic tile categories used for a bathroom.
- Field Tile is the primary tile used to cover a wall or floor.
- Mosaic tiles can be ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal, or stone tile less than six square inches. They usually come in large sheets for easier installation and used for accents, shower floors, and bathroom floors.
- Trim/Profile types are various shapes for bases, caps, corners, moldings, and angles. These pieces are needed for a smooth finish to any open edge. I talk about a tile trim alternative below.
Next, you should have a good understanding of the basic materials tiles are made of to plan for expenses, upkeep, and safety (what tiles are safest to stand on wet!) There are many different types of tile but here are the most common ones used in a bathroom.
The Most Common Used Tiles in a Bathroom
- Ceramic tile – One of the most common because it is suitable for many applications. It is easy to install, clean, and comes in hundreds of styles, and is a great price point. Unglazed tile can have a beautiful rustic finish but glazed ceramic tiles provide more protection for longer-lasting floors.
- Porcelain tile – Mosaic or paver tile composed by the dust-pressed method. It is known for a dense and impervious body that can emulate natural stone, brick, or wood without the upkeep. This makes it a versatile tile but installation is a little more difficult than ceramic and the cost can be higher.
- Natural Stone -Can include marble, travertine, granite, and limestone. Natural stone offers a beautiful high-end design with no two tiles being the same. It is through and through which allows flexible cuts for trim and accent pieces but also requires more upkeep. They need to be sealed as frequently as 1-2 times a year and require specific cleaning products so the porous stone does not get stained or damaged. There are many different price points for natural stone, marble being on the upper end.
Now it’s time for the fun part, how to mix and match tile.
How to Select Bathroom Tiles
Side note, I did not consider all of these things when we renovated our first bathroom and have learned from the experience. I’m excited to see how our next bathroom remodel turns out with much more experience and knowledge under my belt.
Decide on a color palette and stick to it. In general, your color palette should be 2-3 colors or 4 at the most. If you have a multi-colored tile, pick a color from it to use in other tiles. You can use the same tile in different cuts to create a monochromatic or neutral style but with different textures.
Consider scale and pattern. Think large and small, combine busier patterns with classic shapes and solid colors. Two or three different tiles are a good rule of thumb. Typically a bathroom uses a floor tile, a wall tile for the shower/tub surround or even walls, and an accent tile as a focal point. This is just a guideline if you don’t know where to start!
Stick to one show stopper. This will probably be your must-have tile choice and possibly the most expensive. The featured tile can be big or small and used for a show-stopping floor, vanity wall, shower, or tub surround accent. The choice is up to you!
Don’t forget about grout size and color. Keep in mind that choosing a color in a contrasting color to the tile will emphasize the tile more while selecting a grout color similar or same as the tile will create a more subtle look. You can also emphasize and de-emphasize the tile with the grout line’s thickness. Side note: White grout is always difficult to keep clean. Using a light grey is a beautiful alternative for a white or light tile in a highly trafficked area.
Use different tile finishes. Mixing up finishes in the bathroom is just as effective as layering design elements and decor in other rooms. It’s easy to create a beautiful and interesting design with many choices like gloss, satin, matte, crackle, and metallic. Try to mix at least two different finishes but always consider function over form for safety! In general, matte or honed tiles are a go-to for flooring. Small-scaled tiles for the shower floor can help to reduce slip and fall accidents.
Finish off with tile trim/edging profiles. Protect the exposed tile edges, create a smooth and neat transition, and eliminate the need for caulking with tile trim. A common trim is a bullnose which is a tile with a finished edge and often available with their field tiles counterparts. As I mentioned before, natural stone or tiles that are through and through can be rounded and cut into trim pieces. An alternative to tile trim altogether is one called Schluter and comes in a variety of finishes and sizes.
So now that you know how to choose bathroom tile, you need to know how much! A good rule is to take the full square footage of the area being tiled and add 10% overage. This will cover damaged tile and incorrect cuts or breaks.
What I’ve used in our bathrooms:
Our first bathroom got a complete overhaul by removing a wall and door between the vanity and the rest of the bathroom. Thanks to the Fall One Room Challenge and a few amazing sponsors I turned it into a classic black and white marble bathroom complete with a floor-to-ceiling gallery wall and wallpapered vanity area.
Now that I’ve been through the process once, I’ve decided to mix ceramic walls and porcelain mosaic tiles with the same marble hexagon floor in our small ensuite bathroom. Accent grey mosaic and pencil tile will pull out the colors of the marble veining and will be easier to install on the walls than the natural stone. I chose a glossy white field tile to cover the entire shower surround and tile wainscotting the rest of the bathroom. I’m excited to see how the glossy finish will reflect light and make our small bathroom look bigger. The upper walls and ceiling will be painted in green hues for contrast and cheerful pop of color.
To do list:
- Demo bathroom with the contractor
- Check walls for damage and fix if necessary
- Have contractor install floor tile
- Shower surround, floor, and niche
- Wainscotting tile
- Install new vanity
- Have contractor install faucets and trim
- Sand texture down on walls
- Paint walls
- Paint the ceiling
- Paint the trim
- Clean up and paint salvaged door
- Have contractor install barn door kit
- Hang door
Hopefully next week I’ll have some progress to show!!