How to choose the best tile for your bathroom floor remodel

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Choosing the right tile for your bathroom renovation can seem like a daunting task. Trust me, I know! We recently completed our downstairs bathroom remodel and each aspect of it took tons of research, time, and to be honest, some frustration. (What home remodel project goes smoothly though?)

I knew I wanted to redo the bathroom, and at first I wasn’t sure what should be first. Do I pick a paint color first? Pick a new vanity first? Or maybe the floor tile? Feeling a little overwhelmed, I decided to start with the floor. After all, paint colors can be easily changed. Vanities can be easily (well, somewhat easily changed), but switching out a floor is a royal pain. So I knew that was the first step in our remodeling project.

8 important things to research before selecting your tile:

I’ve made a pretty detailed list of the 8 things that I feel are important when you are making your bathroom floor choice. If you are a planner (like me!) then this will give you a good place to start.

1. Material – It’s no secret that porcelain and ceramic tiles are popular choices for home renovations. Even though there are so many other choices out there, not all are appropriate for a bathroom floor. If you are shopping specifically for a bathroom floor, then porcelain and ceramic are two major competitors in this category. Even though there seems to be a lot of discussion about which tile is superior for a bathroom floor, both can work. Ceramic is a bit more porous than porcelain, but now there are so many ceramic options that are glazed, and that gives the tile an added moisture barrier. Porcelain tile has the same color throughout, meaning, if you chip a piece off or if the tile is scratched, the color should be the same underneath. Ceramic tile might reveal a different color underneath a scratch or chip because the color isn’t the same throughout the entire tile. Porcelain wins a point in this category for me. Another difference between these two competitors is price; porcelain can tend to be more expensive than ceramic. This shouldn’t deter you, however. There are so many choices these days, and you are bound to find either material in your price range.

Once you’ve narrowed down what tile you want, you may be confronted with the ‘glazed’ or ‘unglazed’ option. Both tiles are made the same way, but the glazed tile just goes an extra step by adding on a thin layer of liquid glass to give the tile the sheen you see.

  • Glazed – resistant to staining due to the fact that it has the glaze layer to protect it; can be a little more slippery than an unglazed tile; can be available in different sheens (matte, satin).
  • Unglazed – a little more susceptible to staining; offers more friction (not as slippery).

2. Design is usually the number one driving factor of picking out anything in a home renovation. We normally have an idea of what we want to do in a new space or if we are overwhelmed with choices, we start searching and make our initial picks based off of what we like. This is a great place to start because you can narrow down what you like based on looks. Once you have an idea of what you like, you can start applying the other points in this post to your selection. After all, most of us are driven by what visually appeals to us. Given that the first point in this post narrowed down your choices to either porcelain or ceramic, you should be able to narrow it down even further by deciding on your design choice.

3. Is it durable? This one is an important aspect of a tile that you don’t want to overlook. You want your tile to last for years after it is installed. We recently had our bathroom floor removed, and the men that did the demo joked that the stone tile we wanted out of there was mean to last forever. It was extremely difficult to remove. When our house was built in the 90s, they certainly selected a tile that was durable and perfect for wet areas and guaranteed to hold up.

Tile companies usually will specify in the description if a tile is suitable for a wet area. Take this tile, for example. If you scroll down on the page, there is a section called ‘Specifications.’ It tells you that it is suitable for bathrooms, shower floors, shower walls, and bathroom floors. You want to make sure that you have looked into this aspect of the tile before ordering.

When deciding on tile, keep in mind that many websites will show the PEI rating in the description. This rating lets you know how a tile will hold up to abrasion. There is a scale from 0-5 with 0 being not rated (you wouldn’t want this for a floor) to a 5 being good for heavy foot traffic. The tile we chose for our bathroom floor has a PEI rating of 3, which is suitable for ‘moderate traffic,’ and certainly suitable for a bathroom floor. I felt comfortable using this in our bathroom where I knew it would hold up to my four boys and constant use. Based on my research, there are many different PEI charts out there that all have roughly the same meaning. Here is one for you to reference:

A quick guide to PEI rating

4. Is it slippery? There are so many beautiful tile choices out there, and you might be tempted to reach for the shiny polished tile to give your bathroom a luxury appeal. Polished shiny tile is gorgeous, but it’s also very slippery. Consider if you will have small children getting out of a tub, or maybe an adult with not-so-great balance. We went with this tile from Lowes. It has a PEI Rating of 3, meaning it is durable enough and appropriate for using on a bathroom floor. It also has a matte finish which helps to give it a little more friction when walking through on socks or stepping out of the shower. Choosing a glazed tile with a matte finish can give you enough friction to not worry about it being slippery.

If the slip factor isn’t important, then go for any of the polished tiles. Sometimes having a little sheen on the floor is important to your design aesthetic. This polished porcelain tile, for example, has a pretty sheen to it, but take note that some of the reviews mention that it is slippery.

5. Is it easy to clean? This one might not seem important, but it’s huge to me. The rougher the tile, the harder it is going to be to sweep, vacuum, or wipe up spills with a paper towel. I ordered a sample of this tile from Tilebar when shopping for our bathroom renovation. I loved the design but when it came in, it was a little too matte for my taste. Dust and fuzz seem to stick to it easily and I tried wiping with a damp paper towel and it just smeared the dust and fuzz around. I think this tile would work well for an outdoor setting instead.

Another aspect of cleanliness is the color of the tile that you select. Certain colors seem to show dirt and dust more than others. A tile with a heavy pattern might disguise the dirt/hair/dust more than a bright white marble look. The white tile that we chose shows everything, but since it is easy to vacuum due to its finish, its quick to clean. Any stain that appears also wipes up easily.

6. Is it moisture resistant? You want to make sure you are choosing something that is designed specifically for wet environments. A peel and stick tile might be a quick and easy way to update a space, but it isn’t designed for wet areas. Sure, you aren’t putting it in the shower, but the bathroom floor isn’t guaranteed to stay dry. Water can easily be splashed out of the tub, toilets can overflow, and the humidity in a bathroom can also work against you.

7. Is the tile in your price range? This one seems like a no-brainer, but is very important. Most people have a budget when it comes to a home renovation. If you are installing tile over a large surface area, the price tag can add up per square foot. At the same time, you might be thinking of redoing a powder room with a small surface area. You might be willing to go with a pricier option in this case.

One way to save a little money is to buy from a large store like Lowes or Home Depot. If you are willing to spend a little extra and want more unique options to choose from, Tilebar has some beautiful, unique designs. You are sure to find something for your next project. They also have a sample program where you can order 5 samples for $5. This is what I did for a few projects. When you get your tile samples in and make a decision, don’t throw your unused samples out! I’ll share some ideas in a future post about what you can do with unused samples.

8. Installation. There are several things you need to consider when deciding how to install your tile. Are you willing to take on the DIY project yourself? Or is it something you would rather hire out? I think it boils down to a few factors: time, money, and experience.

  • Time – If you aren’t crunched for time, you can spend as much time as you need to research the best methods of removing existing floors and installing new floors. This is definitely something you want to do your homework on before taking a sledgehammer to your existing floor!
  • Money – if saving money is important, and you have the time, then a DIY might be your best choice. You will have to pay for the materials, but you won’t be paying for labor.
  • Experience – I truly believe that anyone with a will to take on a project like this can certainly do it. It just takes time, and probably some trial and error.

One other thing to consider is opportunity cost. (This ties into the ‘time,’ bullet point above). Is it worth it to have a professional do the installation for you? Are you going to be spending so much time researching and doing the actual labor that you are missing out on doing other things that can benefit you instead? (Like, your day to day job, for instance!) When we weighed the pros and cons of doing our own floor, we realized that with our limited time (my husband and I both work) and four kids, it would take us months to have the floor finished. Instead we hired a local floor company and it was done in 2 days. That was completely worth it to us!

I hope that these points help you in your quest to find the perfect tile for your bathroom floor remodel! Thanks for reading!

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