Flooring should always be resilient, but the more time you spend in one location, the more durable it needs to be. Studies have shown that people spend anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour each day in their bathroom. While some of that time could be spent sitting or standing, your feet are generally in contact with the floor.
The best flooring options for bathrooms can range from a simple porcelain tile to exotic marble as it all comes down to your style and the requirements of your family. Unfortunately, each type of flooring has its own strengths and weaknesses, which can make finding the right choice all the more difficult.
What’s the Current State of your Bathroom?
What’s the condition of your bathroom, and why are you replacing the flooring? Whether you’ve decided it’s time to remodel your guest bathroom or are redoing half your home, think about your current flooring and what’s underneath it.
If you already have ceramic, porcelain, or stone tile down, it will usually need to be removed, which isn’t easy and can be quite time-consuming. You may be able to install engineered hardwood over linoleum; however, so it all depends on the style of flooring you have now. If there are problems with your subfloor or it’s uneven, there are plenty of products that can get things back on track. If you find water damage or mildew… get ready to call in a contractor.
Subfloors aside, the other thing to consider is the size and shape of your bathroom floor. Do you have a vintage porcelain tub with claw feet? Those are easy to deal with as you can move the tub to install the flooring, and a shower stall only needs flooring up to the edge. Toilets are not something you want to move, however, and it’s easier to make a cut-out a flooring vent in linoleum or vinyl than it is to cut a half-dozen tiles for the same area.
Flooring vents, baseboard, cabinets, and the aforementioned toilets are all things that can cause you major headaches in a bathroom. It’s also important to remember the overall size of the room as well. While you won’t spend as much installing bathroom flooring in smaller rooms, they are difficult to work in if you’re an average to plus-sized adult.
The Best Flooring Options for Bathrooms
You can practically use any type of flooring in your bathroom from bare concrete to wooden planks. That said, some types of flooring are ideal for bathrooms while others may crack, stain, or begin to separate once a bit of moisture takes hold. Below you’ll find the most common styles of bathroom flooring along with their pros and cons.
Tiles are one of the most popular styles of flooring for bathrooms, and you can use it in the walls, floor, or even your shower stall. It’s also resilient, considering it can outlast other forms of flooring by decades if you buy the right type of tile.
The most common types of tiles for bathroom use are ceramic and porcelain, both of which are clay-based. Ceramic tiles are cheaper while porcelain is more durable, and both can be extremely slippery when wet if they don’t have a proper finish.
Tiles of this nature are cold underfoot as well although easy to clean and maintain. They will need to be sealed periodically, but that’s about the extent of the maintenance involved with ceramic or porcelain floor tiles. You can read more about the pros and cons of each in our comparison guide.
Stone isn’t as common as tile in bathrooms, but an interesting choice due to the types of stone flooring available. Slate, Limestone, Travertine, and Marble are excellent choices, and there is a finish and hue for almost everyone.
Stone will need to be sealed, however, and can be slick if you use something like polished marble. In other words, keep the texture of these tiles in mind and only look at tiles rated for use in bathrooms and other areas where moisture or water can be a concern.
Sheet Vinyl and Vinyl Tiles
Vinyl may not be your first choice, but you’d be remiss to overlook vinyl flooring in your bathroom. Sheet vinyl is one of the best flooring options for bathrooms due to its waterproof nature and the fact you can lay down a single sheet with no joints in the middle of your floor. It can be hard to work with if you’re inexperienced, which is where our next alternative comes in handy.
If you want to install bathroom flooring yourself and need something inexpensive, it’s hard to go wrong with vinyl tile. Peel and stick vinyl tiles are simple to install, but there are thicker tiles that use traditional adhesives as well. The main problem with vinyl flooring are VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which can be produced by the product or from glues.
Luxury vinyl flooring is another vinyl variant and one that can closely mimic the look of wood or stone. They are far more realistic than a wood look floor tile and water-resistant aside from the seams.
Plastic is the main ingredient found in vinyl sheets and tile, but laminate flooring is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Laminate flooring is made from wood but shares more similarities with luxury vinyl planks than hardwood flooring.
These boards have a compressed or wood chip core which gives them stability and a feel akin to engineered or traditional hardwood flooring. While they can look realistic, the image on top is actually printed and covered with a wear layer. As they’re made from wood, this style of flooring is not ideal in wet areas.
You may have seen this type of flooring in older homes or covered it up during a remodel. Linoleum is also used in bathrooms, although it’s not quite as popular as vinyl or tile. That’s because it’s not waterproof, so moisture, spills, or a misfire from your shower head can cause problems.
Are you partial to patterned porcelain tiles or do you prefer vinyl? Regardless of the flooring you choose, take a minute, and think about traction. A leak from the toilet or a spill from the tub can put you on your back quickly, which means you need to consider traction. You also need to think about anyone in your home with special needs that could have trouble finding their footing on certain types of flooring.
With tile, you have to think about the surface itself along with the type of finish. The Tile Council of North America and various flooring manufacturers use DCOF ratings to let you know how slippery floors can be, and it’s a great guideline to go by. The same rules apply for stone, vinyl, and other materials. In many cases, flooring is clearly labeled to let you know which rooms it’s best suited to as well.
Is this a Permanent or Temporary Renovation?
Consumers that plan to pass their homes on to children or family members can skip this section, but if you have your mind set on cork flooring in your bathroom or green sheet vinyl, you may want to think twice. Some flooring styles could turn off potential buyers down the line if you plan to sell your home while others can raise the valuation of your home considerably.
While installing marble flooring in a bathroom isn’t going to have an impact on its overall price, it’s important to think about the future if you’re planning on using anything exotic. Bamboo may look good to you, but it’s an acquired taste. You also have to take into account how hard the flooring would be to replace if necessary.
When buying flooring for a renovation on a home you plan to flip, consider the cost of the materials compared to how much value it can add to the home. Otherwise, choose any style and color you like, just remember that tile or any glue-based flooring can be extremely difficult to remove.
Before you begin to think about hiring a professional, let’s take a minute to talk about maintenance. Each style of flooring will require a different amount of care, which can have an impact on your buying decision.
Tiles floors are generally easy to clean whether porcelain or ceramic. Eventually, you may have to refill a grout line or replace a tile, but they are very low maintenance and durable. Stone is more porous than porcelain and glazed ceramic, so they are harder to maintain the bathrooms. They can be swept like any other style of flooring, but highly textured tiles can be more difficult to clean. You also need to check their water resistance periodically and reseal them as required.
Linoleum, Laminates, and Vinyl tiles are all easy to clean, but you have to use solutions recommended by the manufacturer as some cleaners will cause issues. If you choose tile or planks, flooring will need to be sealed, and grout can weaken over time on groutable vinyl tiles. Sheet-based products are safer from that standpoint and require less maintenance than the other styles, but come with their own set of issues.
DIY or Hire a Pro?
If you want to install flooring in your home and forgo the cost of a contractor, the type of flooring you choose is critical. Stone may look good, but it’s heavy and usually something you’ll need help with. Cutting a stone tile can be tricky as well, and you’re likely to shatter a few clay-based tiles with a manual cutter as well.
More often than not, anything that comes in sheet or tile form will be easier to deal with and goes down quicker. That’s a huge advantage if you go the DIY route, but you still have to consider the cost of “extras” which come into play everything but peel & stick vinyl. While it may just be a few tubes of glue or bags of grout mix, it will add to the overall cost of the job. Tools will be required as well although you can rent wet saws and floor rollers.
Hiring a professional to install flooring in your home is a wise choice if you choose traditional tile, stone, or sheet-based products. They aren’t user-friendly if you’re new to the DIY world, and mistakes can be costly during installation or down the road.
Professionals will also save you the trouble of sealing the flooring, can fix your subfloor issues and deal with all the mess. If you’d like to get a quote for a professional in your area, use our tool below…
While there are many flooring options you can use in your bathroom; it’s best to stick to products built for wet areas. If you plan to use traditional tile, check out our shower and bathroom guide which has some quick tips for stone, porcelain, ceramic, LVT and linoleum. No matter which style you choose, remember to keep your budget in mind along with slip-resistance!