Best Practices for Picking Proper Bathroom Flooring

How do you go about picking your bathroom flooring?
Image via

If only it was as simple as “pick what you like!” when it comes to selecting the material for your bathroom floors.

Sure, it’s important that you like what you purchase, and if you’re planning to make a substantial investment, you need to be able to live with it for the long haul.

But that’s exactly what you need to think about where the bathroom is concerned: what types of flooring materials are going to not only survive in the bathroom but also thrive?

It’s a bathroom after all, so the presence of water and humidity is the overriding concern. You need something that will repel water and not soak it up.

For the majority of people, this moisture issue rules out the following materials:

  • Carpet: This thirsty material soaks up water, which is great for slip prevention…and mold and mildew growth. Best to avoid it.
  • Laminate: Although this material is naturally water-repellent, laminate flooring has a tendency to peel around the edges and buckle when it becomes wet.
  • Hardwood: If you have sufficient drainage in your space, hardwood could be a contender. However, don’t forget that wood is natural and will swell/retract with the conditions of the room which could trap moisture and cause wood rot.

Keep in mind the quality and condition of your bathroom vanity or cabinets as well when selecting your flooring. Make sure to get components that will complement each other instead of fight for attention (for example, if you put down exquisite marble floors with laminate cabinets…how can your cabinets hope to compete with that?).

Top Considerations

In addition to appearance and water resistance, ask yourself how the flooring stacks up in terms of:

  • Maintenance – How easy is it to clean?
  • Durability – Will it stand up to stains and items being dropped on it?
  • Comfort – You’ll be walking around in bare feet the majority of the time, so how does it feel underfoot? Is the material so cold it will shock you awake in the middle of night? Or so rough it will be uncomfortable at any time of day?
  • Safety – Likewise, will you be safe walking around in bare feet that are wet? If you can conduct your own “Slip and Slide” tournament inside your bathroom, you may want to keep looking for something more suitable.

Given the above concerns, stones and tiles – with a healthy dose of bathmats – are likely your best bet!

Tons of Tile

For complete control over ceramic tile layout and pattern, you can install individual tiles. This way, you can run them in any direction (horizontal or vertical, etc.) and staggered in a brick pattern or aligned.

With individual tiles, keep in mind that you need to account for the grout so be sure to purchase grout spacers in order to have uniformity all the way around.

Although grout selection is a personal preference, here are some good grout guidelines:

  • The most common widths are 1/16″ for vertical tiles (backsplash, shower walls, etc.) and 1/8″ for floor tiles.
  • The consistency of your tiles will largely determine your options for grout width – if you select natural stones like slate or some quarry tiles that are not uniform on all sides, a wider grout line is preferred.
  • Go with a wider grout line if you want to highlight the grout and thinner line if you want to highlight the tile.
  • At the same time, the color of your grout is also a factor – pick something completely different to provide contrast and interest or select a similar shade to blend the grout into the tile.

Finally, be sure to take the big picture into account: if you select a grout line that is too thick for your tiles, you can end up with a “grid” effect where your floor looks like you’ve placed tiles into a pool of grout as opposed to the intended look of a tile floor with a grout accent.

Tiny Tiles

Or perhaps you prefer the installation ease of pre-mounted tile sheets.

If you favor the look of tiny tiles (hexagons or penny rounds, for example) in an intricate layout or a mosaic pattern, these sheets are a DIY-er’s dream.

Not only do you not have to account for the grout space (they come spaced appropriately) in between tiles, but you also have less cutting with a saw. Since the webbing between the tiles is easily severed (with a straight edge or good pair of scissors), the need to use the wet saw is minimal.

*Tip: Inject some of your personal flair by including a repeating accent tile within the sheets. Simply decide where you want your individual tiles to go, carefully remove the pre-mounted tiles only where you will replace them, and then install the sheets as normal. Just remember to account for the same grout width if you swap out tiles.

Now that you have some more information, what type of flooring are you feeling?


Chris Long is a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago suburbs. Chris also writes on bathroom design topics for the Home Depot website. His interests range from providing advice on bathroom accessories to saving water and money via new bath and plumbing technologies.

Home Decor Tips For the Clueless Bachelor
Best Practices for Picking Proper Bathroom Flooring