In most rooms in the average home, selecting flooring materials is largely based on the visual appeal and the look and feel the homeowner wants to create.
In the family room, bedrooms, and office, for example, while durability is important, the aesthetics usually come first. In the bathroom, the rules change. Not only do you want the floors to look great, but they also need to be durable so that they can withstand the constant strain of water and high humidity levels. It has to be easy to maintain, too.
If you choose the wrong type of flooring material for your bathroom, it’s a sure bet that you’ll end up having to replace it within just a few years – if not sooner. In addition to durability and appearance, there are other important factors that need to be taken into consideration, too; cost and ease of installation, for example.
With so many important factors to consider, trying to determine which type of flooring material you should install in your bathroom can be hard.
To help you on your quest for the perfect bathroom floors, we’ve put together a list of some of the best options, including the benefits and disadvantages of each type, so you can determine which one will best suit your needs.
Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles
When it comes to flooring materials for bathrooms, ceramic and porcelain tiles are, without a doubt, one of the most popular choices. They’re waterproof, inexpensive, easy to install, and they’re available in a wide assortment of colors and shapes, styles, and colors.
From subtle designs and muted hues to bold colors and interesting shapes – there’s even ceramic and porcelain tiles that mimic the look of natural stone and wood flooring. Plus, ceramic and porcelain tiles are very easy to clean.
How do ceramic and porcelain differ? While they two are a part of the same tile family, they’re made differently. While both are made from a mixture of kiln-fired clay, the clay used for porcelain tiles is more refined and it’s fired at a higher temperature than ceramic.
As such, it’s denser and more durable than ceramic. Porcelain tiles also have a lower water absorption rate than their ceramic counterparts.
So which should you choose? If you’re planning on tilling a full bathroom (one that has a shower, a tub, or a shower/tub combination), you’re better off with porcelain because it’s more water resistant; however, if it’s a half-bath or a powder room, ceramic will work fine, as it’s less likely that they’ll be exposed to high amounts of moisture.
Despite all of the benefits, there are a couple of downsides. Ceramic and porcelain tile tends to be cold, but you can combat that issue with radiant heat.
These materials can also be slippery, especially larger tiles; however, texturizing solvents can be applied to the surface to make them skid-proof. Alternatively, install smaller tiles, as they require more grout, and grout is skid-proof.
- Endless style options
- Easy to install
- Fairly durable
- Easy to clean
- Radiant heating can be installed underneath
- Can be cold, but radiant heat and strategically placed bath mats can reduces coldness
- Larger tiles can be slippery, but anti-skid solvents can be applied to the surface
- Repairing damaged tiles is difficult; they usually need to be replaced
Another popular flooring material for bathrooms is vinyl in sheet, tile, or plank form. It’s been a top pick for bathrooms for years, as it’s very inexpensive and is an easy DIY job. It’s also completely waterproof, which makes it an excellent choice for a bathroom setting.
If you’re redoing a bathroom where the floor will be exposed to large amounts of water, vinyl – particularly sheet vinyl – is a great pick.
Since it’s available in large pieces, in a small bathroom, it can be installed seamlessly, and in larger bathrooms, just a few seams. Few or no seams means little or no water penetration. If you’re looking for a higher-end look, consider vinyl plank flooring.
It’s designed to look like hardwood without the issues that wood flooring poses in a bathroom. It’s also a lot less expensive, easier to install, and easier to maintain than wood. Whether you pick sheet, plank, or tile, vinyl is available in a myriad of styles, so you’ll be sure to find something that will work with the look you’re trying to create.
- Completely waterproof
- The seams of plank vinyl flooring are waterproof, too
- Tile and plank vinyl is an easy DIY job
- Easy to maintain and floating vinyl is easy to replace
- The resale value of vinyl usually isn’t great; particularly sheet and tiles
- If there are any gaps or bumps in the subfloor or underlayment material, it can transfer to the surface of the floor
Natural Stone: Granite, Marble, Limestone, Slate, etc.
Natural stones, such as granite, marble, limestone, and slate are all materials that are commonly used for bathroom floors. All are durable, visually appealing, and offer a timeless look.
Natural stone also usually sees a great return on investment and can bump up the value of your home. Additionally, all of these stones are water resistant, which is why they’re so commonly used in bathroom settings, as they can easily stand up to water intrusion.
There are some downsides, however. Stone tends to be cold, but radiant heating can resolve that issue. While slate is naturally slip-resistant, marble, granite, and limestone can be pretty slippery when wet, though sandblasting can help to minimize the issue, as it texturizes the surface of the stone.
Additionally, natural stone can be pretty expensive. In fact real stone is the most expensive bathroom flooring material.
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Water resistant and durable
- Boosts property value and can see an excellent return on investment
- Natural stone is the most expensive bathroom flooring material
- Some stones are slippery when wet and need to be texturized to combat the problem
- Can be difficult to install on your own
- Can be cold, though radiant heating can alleviate this problem
If you love the look of wood, opt for engineered wood over real hardwood for your bathroom flooring. Hardwood flooring, while beautiful, is not water-resistant, and in fact, it can suffer serious damage if it’s exposed to high moisture levels.
Engineered wood, on the other hand, is constructed with a plywood base, which better withstands water and humidity; however, do note that it is water-resistant, not waterproof. If the planks aren’t properly sealed, water can damage the material, and damaged boards can be difficult to replace.
Since the top layer of this type of flooring is a veneer of real hardwood, it’s almost impossible to tell that it isn’t the real deal. Engineered wood is easier to install and less expensive than hardwood, too.
- Looks just like real hardwood
- Available in a variety of colors, finishes, and styles
- Remains warm
- Installation can be a DIY project
- Less expensive than real hardwood
- While it’s water resistant, it isn’t waterproof
- If it isn’t properly sealed, moisture can damage the planks
- Individual planks can be difficult to replace
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly flooring material that’s also beautiful, affordable, slip-proof, resists mold and mildew growth, and it’s easy to maintain. It’s also pretty affordable and can be installed as a DIY project. Plus, it feels great underfoot; cork flooring has a natural spring that creates a cushioning sensation; it remains warm, too.
As for the eco-friendly factor, cork is highly sustainable, so if reducing your carbon footprint is important to you and you’re looking for a beautiful, low-maintenance flooring material for your bathroom that also feels good, cork is a great choice.
- It’s highly sustainable and eco-friendly
- Easy to maintain
- Easy to install
- Resists mold and mildew growth
- Feels great underfoot
- While it’s water resistant, it isn’t waterproof and excessive moisture can damage the material
- Several layers of polyurethane will need to be applied to unfinished cork
Lastly, there’s laminate flooring. This material is comprised of paper that has been impregnated with resin and applied to the top a wood chip base.
The surface (the design), is a photograph that has been applied to the top of the resin-permeated paper, so there are several styles to choose from; cherry wood, marble, oak, granite, slate, and other types of natural stone and wood designs are available.
A layer of material, such as DuPont RealTouch is applied to the surface to create what is referred to as a wear layer. This helps to improve the durability and the water resistance of laminate flooring.
In order to successfully use laminate in the bathroom, the wood base will need to be protected from moisture; for example, creating tight seams between the planks during installation can reduce the risk of water penetration.
- Easy to maintain
- Can be installed as a DIY project
- Available in an assortment of styles
- Moisture intrusion can damage laminate flooring
- This material conducts static electricity