How to Choose Tiles for Bathrooms


Homeowners often choose tile for bathroom floors, countertops and walls. Not only is tile virtually waterproof, it is easy to clean and maintain compared to other finish materials. No matter what your budget, you'll find a large selection of tile to fit any bathroom decor or application. When choosing tile, consider factors like size, texture, finish, maintenance and design to find the best tile products for your bathroom.

  • Match the type of tile to the surface where the tile will be installed. The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) has developed a series of ratings for tile that help buyers distinguish between different products. The lower the PEI rating, the more delicate the tile, while higher ratings are given to more durable materials. Choose Type I tile for walls, or stick with Type II or III for countertops and floors. If you want a truly heavy-duty commercial grade tile, look for materials marked as PEI Type IV or V.

  • Look for the coefficient of friction (COF) rating for each product. Check the manufacturer's specifications, or ask your tile supplier for assistance. The higher the COF, the less slippery the tile will be when it gets wet. The Remodeling Center recommends a COF of .60 or higher for bathroom floors. The COF of tiles for walls and countertops is not a major concern, as these surfaces won't cause falls like floors can.

  • Use small tiles to make cramped spaces appear larger. Using large 12 x 12 tiles in a small bathroom can make the room appear even smaller. Pick small 4 x 4 tiles or even mosaic tile to make the room look bigger than it really is. If your bathroom is fairly large, stick to bigger tiles to keep finishes from looking too busy.

  • Ask your tile supplier to help you compare material options. Ceramic tile is generally the most economical and is available in the widest range of colors and finishes. Porcelain tiles are similar, but may cost more because the color goes all the way through the thickness of the tile. Glass and stone are the most expensive but are also incredibly durable and hard to duplicate with cheaper materials.

  • Pick easy-to-maintain tiles. The smaller your tiles, the more grout lines you'll have on your floor, walls or countertops. Grout lines are difficult to clean, especially in a bathroom. Pick bigger tiles if you want to minimize the number of grout lines and reduce maintenance requirements.

  • Take color samples or single tiles to see how they look in your bathroom. Compare each option to your existing decor, or see how different combinations look together.

Tips & Warnings

  • Mix and match different types of tile to create a custom look. Use subway tile for your walls, and add glass mosaic tile to create a border to design. Pick ceramic for your shower with a row of slate tile mixed in. There is no need to use the same type of tile for all applications within your bathroom.
  • If you plan to sell your house soon, stick to neutral colors to appeal to a wider market.

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