Best Tile for Showers and Bathrooms – Ceramic, Porcelain or Stone?

When it comes to tile flooring in homes today, bathrooms get most of the attention. While you can install tile flooring in any room of your home, the best tile for showers and bathrooms needs to meet certain requirements. Whether you want something simple for your floors or elaborate in the shower stall, our guide has you covered.

Do you need Floor or Wall Tile?

The first question you need to consider is where you’ll place the tile. Shower walls can be fully tiled from top to bottom or tiled halfway up if you have a bathtub. What works on the floor of a shower will also work in the walls, but not necessarily vice versa.

You need traction when you are in the shower, so if you’re thinking about installing a tile shower floor, you definitely don’t want something slick. The same goes for the bathroom floor itself unless you plan on using a rug. Thankfully, you are not just limited to ceramics in the bathroom as there are plenty of water-resistant options geared for the wettest room in your house.

When it comes to wall tile in the bathroom, the options open up considerably. The same styles and finishes are still available, but you don’t have to worry about things being water-tight outside of the stall. Moisture can still be a concern, so it’s best to stick to the options below unless you like dealing with things mold and mildew.

The Best Types of Tile for Bathrooms and Showers

Below you will find the best tile for bathroom floors, walls, and your shower stall. While there are other alternatives that will “work” in your bathroom, these building materials are designed to deal with moisture and humidity better than other styles of flooring. You will not find heart pine or engineered tiles on this list…

Ceramic

The best flooring for bathrooms is ceramic, which should come as no surprise. Ceramic tiles have been used in shower stalls for decades, and they are a popular choice for flooring as well. They can also be very slick, which is why you always need to pay close attention to the surface texture and size.

Mosaic tiles are an excellent choice for shower, and they come in a wide array of colors and designs. You can even pick up tiles on a mat, which makes installation a breeze, and ceramic tiles are easy to cut. These tiles can be used in the flooring or walls, just keep slip resistance in mind with flooring and stick to certified products.

Porcelain 

Right behind ceramic is porcelain, a similar material that’s often found in sinks, tubs and other home goods. It’s fired at a higher temperature than ceramic, so while both are made from a clay mixture, porcelain is considerably stronger.

Another advantage of porcelain is the fact it has through-body construction, which means you won’t see color changes from a chip. It’s another popular material for shower stalls, but just as slippery and the selection isn’t quite as large. Porcelain tiles are also harder to work with, as well something to keep in mind if you go the DIY route.

Stone 

If you are looking for something different in your bathroom, stone tiles should be towards the top of your list. The right kind of stone can be used in walls, floors and shower stalls as long as it’s sealed and not slick your feet.

While there are over a dozen styles of stone found in bathrooms today, marble, travertine, slate, granite, and limestone are the most common. You won’t have the same colors at your disposal compared to ceramic tile, but the available textures and patterns more than make up for that. Stone is more expensive and needs more care overall, but will give your bathroom a distinct style.

Luxury Vinyl Tile

The only reason LVT or Luxury Vinyl Tile isn’t the best tile for bathrooms overall is the fact it’s not made for use in showers. It will breathe new life into any boring bathroom floor, however, and your choices are virtually unlimited in the style department.

Want a wood-like tile or a pale natural marble floor? You can have that with luxury vinyl at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional alternatives. This material is easy to work with but not as durable as stone or ceramic so you will need to seal some seems.

Linoleum Tile

Linoleum is considered a classic compared to vinyl tiles, and while it’s another product that’s not found in shower floors, it’s very popular in bathrooms. It’s an eco-friendly material that’s biodegradable, and one of the more inexpensive styles of tile on our list.

Linoleum floor tiles can come in solid shades, with intricate patterns, bold colors, or a light texture. They handle water well, although seams can still be an issue if not properly sealed. You can read a bit more about this material in our linoleum flooring guide.

Bathroom and Shower Tile Buying Guide

Knowing the best types of tile for your bathroom or shower can certainly speed your project up, but there are still some things you’ll want to know if you plan on using certain types of tile in the bathroom of your home.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

How’s the décor in your bathroom? Are you remodeling the entire room or just redoing the shower with tile? Browsing through hundreds of tile samples can be exciting, but it may be a waste of time depending on your tastes.

Everyone has a different sense of style. It’s easy to put down a new bath mat that matches your flooring, but a wood grained cabinet may clash with your new white porcelain wall tiles. It pays to plan ahead, and you’ll want to consider any renovation plans down the line if choosing a traditional tile as well. Removing or installing new flooring over linoleum and vinyl is considerably easier than tearing out ceramic tile or stone.

Maintenance 

Everyone loves a hot shower, and it’s a great way to start your day or sooth yourself before you hit the hay. Steamy showers can also cause issues in your bathroom if you don’t have proper ventilation, which can wreak havoc in your bathroom.

Mildew loves bathrooms along with pink mold, a bacteria that can appear quickly in damp shower stalls. Thankfully, ceramic tiles are extremely easy to wipe down, and grout joints are not difficult to clean. It’s also usually easier to clean mold from grout than caulking, which often has to be removed and caulked again unless you keep things spotless.

Regardless of the flooring or wall tile you choose, think about how much you love or loathe cleaning. Some materials will require maintenance periodically as well, so you may have to reseal stone or replace a tile on occasion. Any bathroom floor tiles made from vinyl or linoleum will need to be sealed, and you will need to caulk areas where tile meets tubs and toilets.

Traction

If you plan to install wall tiles, you can obviously skip this section. Grip and texture are critical for flooring, however, and something you need to take seriously in shower stalls.

When most people think of “slick tiles,” they think of ceramic or porcelain for a good reason. Well, they are the most popular options around and well-suited for flooring if you go small or textured. Mosaic tiles and smaller tiles, in general, give you more grip underfoot. The more grout lines, the better, if you are going to walk on wet stone or ceramic tile.

You can also refer to the dynamic coefficient of friction measurement or DCOF rating for slip resistance. It’s one of the more reliable ratings as it deals with safety standards, and a product needs to have a score of at least 0.60 or higher for a tile to be considered slip-resistant. Anything below that is risky in the floor or your shower or even your bathroom floor if you plan to go mat-less. Size is up to you, but again, you’ll get more traction with small or mosaic tiles due to more grout lines.

For luxury vinyl, laminates, and other styles of flooring, there are similar rating systems available. Manufacturers may use different scales like SCOF, instead of DCOF or ASTM E303-93, but the end result is the same. You want tile flooring with excellent slip resistance in your bathroom.

DIY or Hire a Pro

Laying tile is a rewarding experience, but can be time-consuming isn’t for folks that don’t like a mess. Surfaces have to be prepped, and new boards may have to go down depending on your plans. You can run into a myriad of issues once you start removing the paneling, linoleum, or old tile from your bathroom as well.

On a positive note, you don’t need many tools, and the ones you require are easy to use. For ceramic tiles, you’ll need a tile cutter, mortar mix, grout, a level, and a few other inexpensive implements. You just need sealant for the seams with vinyl and linoleum while stone is installed in a similar fashion to tile, but usually needs to be sealed.

The biggest drawback to putting tile in a bathroom is a huge headache and could rule it out for some. Bathrooms are typically small, which doesn’t give you much room to work. It’s not easy on your back or knees, and it can take a rookie several weeks to do what a contractor can handle in a matter of days. If you are leaning towards hiring a professional, check out our pricing tool.

Pricing tool

Shower and Bathroom Tile Cost

If you are wondering how much bathroom tile for your walls or floors will set you back, it’s a tough question to answer. While you can find ranges that vary wildly from one style to the next, there’s a good reason for that. Tile pricing is based on a number of factors including the overall quality, finish, style, and type.

You also have to consider the fact many manufacturers offer a budget, mid-range and premium lineup – usually several of each. With that in mind, ceramic is cheaper than porcelain, and stone varies by type. You can find natural stone tiles at the same price as quality porcelain tiles or pick up high-end marble at over $20 per square foot. Linoleum is cheaper than luxury vinyl tiles, although the difference is minimal at certain levels.