Budget WatchWhen choosing tiles, it is very easy to get carried away with the material, designs, and patterns they are available in. But before you go looking, keep an estimate in mind and then head out so that your heart doesn't break when it is set upon a piece you can't afford.
Let's directly begin with what is needed of a bathroom tile, apart from its aesthetic value. It needs to be sturdy so that it can handle all the foot traffic it is subjected to; the floor tile should be anti-skid so that the chances of slipping and injury are minimized greatly; and it should be of the right size so that a small bathroom doesn't look smaller and a large bathroom doesn't look like it has no end. Think these parameters can help you choose the right tiles for your bathroom? Let's find out.
Who Will Use the Bathroom?
Will it be guests, your kids, an unruly teen, or a conservative couple? The design and choice of tile material depends a lot on these factors. For a guest bath, you can be a little more risky and try designs and materials you wouldn't otherwise. For a bathroom that will be used regularly, you will need designs that you can tolerate on a daily basis. Kids and teenagers will need more vibrant designs, and older individuals will need more mature colors, patterns, and materials. This is a general trend that has been observed and is not to say that individuals in these categories cannot have other tastes.
Ceramic, Porcelain, or Glass?
In my humble opinion, nothing beats ceramic tiles for bathrooms. Why? The designs are endless, the sizes are perfect, the durability is unparalleled, and the maintenance is basic. You will get all looks in these―from hardwood to natural stone to patterns suited for the overgrown child or the underage adult.
Above: Ceramic tiles can provide the look of natural stone, and very convincingly so. For the low-budget consumer, these tiles are godsend, and definitely much easier to maintain than the real thing.
Porcelain is the next best thing because its design runs through and through, so if you happen to chip a bit of the tile, you will see the same pattern running through it, which makes its maintenance great. Also, since it is made from clay, it is highly resistant to moisture. However, the patterns available with porcelain are fewer than ceramic.
Natural stone tiles spell opulence, luxury, and richness. But maintaining them can be quite a task. Not only do you have to ensure that they are sealed thoroughly (they are sneakily porous), you also have to polish them regularly so that they retain their shine. A lot of people have marble in their bathrooms, and while it looks immensely luxurious, it can pose a danger because it is also very slippery.
On the Right: If you must have natural stone tiles in your bathroom, use them on the walls, and stick to ceramic on the floors. You will be able to maintain the stone better, and the chances of slipping and the event of regular polishing will be less frequent.
Glass tiles are amazing, and are found to be as durable as ceramic tiles. They've been designed for heavy foot traffic, so you can use them for flooring. And their appearance adds depth to the tile, and when the tile is used in the bathroom, it lends depth to the entire bathroom. It appears like liquid beauty that was solidified to capture that moment for eternity. If you're not comfortable with the idea of using these for the floor, adorn your walls with them to create designs that have never been seen before. The gloss they have and the richness they impart can rarely be matched with any other material.
Vinyl and cork floors are also good choices, but the difference between the two is vast. Just like marble, cork floors also must be thoroughly sealed so that they are not damaged. The most environment-friendly option for the bathroom, these are great if you get them installed professionally, after seeking advice from your tiling contractor. Vinyl floors are affordable, durable, and easy to install. Like ceramic, they are available in a vast array of designs, and the options are nearly limitless.
Big Tiles or Small?
Tile size is a huge consideration for a bathroom. Now, large tiles (such as 24" x 24") are all the rage, but when you take them into the bathroom to lay them, understand that you may face a drainage problem, because laying these tiles on a slope for drainage is tedious. So water may pool on the floor and not drain easily. This is particularly true of the shower area. Further, large floor tiles in a very small bathroom make absolutely no sense because a lot of them will have to be cut to be fit in there. This increases labor costs and time, and essentially, this is not very practical.
So for floors, the ideal size would be 12"x 12". In case of walls, you can go for bigger tiles, but ensure that the walls are sturdy enough to bear their weight. When placed on walls, large tiles give an illusion of more space.
On the Right: The size of the tile does not matter when you have a gorgeous patterned flooring in the bathroom. Even though this flooring is dark, the remaining whiteness of the bathroom and fixtures allow it to retain its identity without being overshadowed by the flooring. With such patterns, even a 12" x 12" tile is perfect, because you really can't see the joints here. All you see is how the flooring has created one flowing space in the bathroom.
Best Tiles in Supporting Roles
Mosaic, glass, pebbles, stainless steel or mirror inlays, all of these can be used to enhance the beauty of your bathroom, particularly on the walls. For bathrooms, it is always a good idea to keep the color base neutral, and add color with these accent tiles. Borders that match tiles are available, or you could just use another heavily patterned or fancy tile to add that accent to the room.
While some vehemently support the idea of dark bathrooms, this theme should be followed only if the bathroom is huge. Else you'll start hankering for space (even though it may be available) because the small bathroom looks smaller. Dark colors may be used for accents, and if you really want a dark bathroom, use dark tiles (which I agree, are easier to maintain) only if your bathroom is spacious enough.
Above: If bestowed with the space, use dark tiles, in colors like gray on one wall of your bathroom and use red accents in the form of borders to make the bathroom pop with color. Notice how these borders encase the patterned and textured tiles, while the plain ones lay outside their territory, allowing this entire patch to stand out. Stylish, and how!
Smooth or Textured
As I mentioned earlier, a bathroom floor should be anti-skid. And naturally, textured tiles easily fulfill that job. Or, you could go for mosaic or pebbled floors for this purpose. But remember, these will not be easy to maintain, because the grout can get dirty. So, go for tiles that are specifically anti-skid, or if you're using stone, use one with a rough texture for the floor.
Also, remember that the more the grout lines, the greater is the flooring's coefficient of friction. Simply put, there are lesser chances of slipping on such a floor. Spaced out small tiles with thick grout lines are a great choice for the more slippery areas in the bathroom such as the shower.
On the Right: The pebbled flooring here not only gives the bathroom a very beachy feel, it is almost 100% anti-skid because of its uneven texture. You still have to be careful though. Also, cleaning is going to be a little difficult, but if done regularly, you can have the best of everything in that one small shower cubicle.
Square or Rectangular?
The more irregular the shape, the more difficult the tile is to lay, unless you're hiring a contractor to lay the floor for you. The beauty of square tiles is that they can even be laid diagonally. So you get a different pattern even with a basic tile.
Rectangular tiles (say of sizes 24" x 12") when laid on walls vertically provide the illusion of height, and when laid horizontally provide the illusion of width. These are perfect for bathrooms with low ceilings or narrow walls.
On the Right: While the no-grout look encompasses the space to make it appear as one huge entity, the striped tile laid horizontally in the narrow shower cubicle makes it appear wider, breaks the monotony of the seamless look, and lends class and elegance to this small bathroom. Notice the little striped detail that has been included in the flooring of the shower area as well.
Some More Tips
In a huge bathroom, go for dark tiles if you really like the richness they provide. And then, break this darkness with a bright accent tile running through, along with white fixtures. When choosing dark-colored tiles for your bathroom, ensure that the space has sufficient natural light.
Let a simple tile lend style to your bathroom simply by fitting it in a brick pattern on the walls.
Your entire bathroom can have a designer look by using lightly patterned tiles all over.
Continuing a patterned tile throughout the bathroom in a narrow patch gives it an all-encompassing appearance and contributes to its luxury quotient. The borders add detail to an already exquisite design.
Yet another way to use dark tiles in your bathroom. As a backdrop for a gorgeous mirror and washbasin.
Must the entire bathroom be tiled? This irregularly shaped border allows the tiling to end tastefully.
This guide should help you choose a tile and visualize how you would like to use it in the bathroom. If you're wary about going beyond the regular, play it safe with traditional designs, and be assured that they will look as elegant and charming as you want them to.