Tile-Stone (Bathroom) Buying Guide

Tile-Stone (Bathroom)
  • Getting Started

  • Tile is the most frequently used option for bathroom floors and walls due to the versatility of tile and the moisture in the bathroom. Tiles are rated for their durability and strength, providing information for which types of tiles are best used in different installations, from flooring to shower walls or countertops and backsplashes.

    The Porcelain Enamel Institute rates tiles for hardness, which provides information for proper usage.

        •  PEI 0 Use only on walls— not strong enough for floors

        •  PEI 1 Use on floors in light traffic areas, such as bathrooms.

        •  PEI 2 Use where soft shoes will not cause abrasion, so not suitable for kitchens, entryways, etc.

        •  PEI 3 Use in residential or light commercial areas, such as offices.

        •  PEI 4 Use in regular traffic areas such as kitchens, commercial offices, restaurants and hotels

        •  PEI 5 Use in heavy traffic areas such as in public buildings, building entryways, etc. Takes abrasion and moisture well.

    The Tile Council of North America tests for slip resistance with the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) test. Tiles are measured for their usability if a variety of applications. Check with the DCOF rating for floor tiles to minimize slipping. Also, use small carpeting around areas of extreme moisture, such as outside the tub or door of the shower. The smaller the tile, the larger the grout area, the less chance for slipping.

  • Floor Tiles

  • Ceramic floor tiles are made from natural clay, which is fired to take out its moisture content and then glazed to create a moisture resistant surface. Tiles can range in size from 4-inches by 4-inches to 2-feet by 2-feet and come in a variety of colors. Mosaic tile patterns are mounted in mesh panels for easier installation. Ceramic tiles can be slippery when wet, so choose floor tiles with a slip resistant surface, or smaller tiles with lots of grout lines that will absorb the moisture and be less slippery.

    Porcelain tiles are created from denser clay with minerals added for strength. Fired at higher temperatures than ceramic, porcelain floor tiles are stronger and more durable. Ranging in size from 4-inches by 4-inches to 2-feet by 2-feet, they come in a variety of colors. Mosaic tile patterns are mounted in mesh panels for easier installation.

    Natural stones often are cut into tiles as large as 24-inches by 24-inches or mosaic patterns and used on bathroom floors. Installation of larger or oversized tiles may be challenging as any unevenness in the subfloor may cause cracking of the stone. Sealing will reduce staining and add life to the stone.

        •  Marble is the most commonly used natural stone, installed most frequently in white as sheets or as tiles. The veining in the marble adds an aesthetic not found in other materials; realize the veins will not match up when installed. Marble is a soft stone and will react to acids in lotions, cleaning solutions, etc. Sealing marble will reduce water absorption.

        •  Serpentine is a natural stone often mistaken for marble. Serpentine is available in gray, white, green, yellow, or blue-green. Since it is a different mineral structure, it is more resistant to acids and abrasions. Although, serpentine will flake so installation must be done with extra care using an epoxy-based adhesive.

        •  Onyx, another rock mistaken for marble, is a sedimentary rock that has a translucent property, making it a very desirable stone. Usually thought of as black only, onyx floor tiles are available in a milky white, black, and a variety of earth tones. It is a soft stone with little resistance to acids and abrasions.

        •  Granite is a dense rock making it very durable for use as flooring tiles inside and outside. It has a very low absorption rate and holds up to stains and abrasions. Granite tiles come in an assortment of colors from white to black, beige and tan to green.

        •  Travertine is a sedimentary rock available in earthy tones. Its characteristics make it adaptable for bathroom installations.

        •  Quartzite is another hard stone used to create floor tiles. Honed quartzite provides a better surface on the floor; polished quartzite is too slippery.

        •  Soapstone naturally is a light or darker gray with white marbling.  It is highly heat resistant and works well with radiant heat; it is not slippery when wet.

    Slate tiles come in a range of colors and are strong enough to be used as floor tiles in bathrooms.

    Pebble and Rock mosaics are created with tumbled pebbles and other stones to create a natural outdoor look inside.

    Vinyl tiles are a less expensive alternative to natural stone or even ceramic or porcelain. Newer designs imitate natural stone or even wood and can create a spa-like ambiance desired by homeowners. Vinyl tiles are easy to clean, resilient, slip-resistant and cushiony to the step.

  • Wall Tiles

  • Ceramic tiles are made from natural clay, which is fired to take out its moisture content and then glazed to create a moisture resistant surface. Ceramic tiles are created in a multitude of colors, shapes, and sizes for making a unique bathroom installation.

    Porcelain tiles are created from denser clay with minerals added for strength. Fired at higher temperatures than ceramic. Manufactured in a vast variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, porcelain tiles can be used to create personalized rooms for homeowners.

    Glass tiles are created in many colors, sizes and shapes. The finish may be glossy, frosted, iridescent, matte, or brushed. Glass tiles can highlight an area by bringing attention to the surface, such as in a shower, or can be used on the walls throughout the bathroom.

    Natural Stones

        •  Marble — again white is the most frequently used because it opens up the space — is popular for bathroom walls.

        •  Travertine is available in earthy tones resulting from minerals in the mix at formation. Its characteristics make it adaptable for bathroom installations.

        •  Polished Quartzite is durable and comes in a variety of colors and textures.

        •  Onyx provides the height of design due to the translucent nature of the stone. Well suited for bathroom walls.

        •  Serpentine wall tiles are ideal for use in the shower as they are moisture resistant, even more than marble. Because the natural stone splits, the tiles may be produced with a texture.

        •  Soapstone is ideal for tub and shower surrounds doe to its non-slippery nature. It does not absorb moisture and is resistant to oils and soap absorption.

    Granite shows off its richness of color with small flecks at the surface. Cut into a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.

    Slate offers a wide palette of colors that can bring texture and character to the bathroom.

    Pebbles and rocks are organized into mosaics for use throughout the bathroom. Colors, sizes, shapes vary from mosaic panel to panel.

    Metal may not be considered a bathroom material, but accent tiles in aluminum, copper, stainless steel and bronze can add a unique feature to a bathroom installation. Reflect the vanity hardware or shower and faucet metal in interesting areas of the walls.

  • Price Considerations

  • Material price is the largest part of the budget.  The size of the tile as well as the type of material indicates the cost.

    Maintenance of materials must also be considered. Natural stones will require sealing, and should be re-sealed periodically, especially on floors. 

    Installation is another factor in the price of tiles. Professional installers should be consulted, especially for natural stones. Oversized tiles may need floor leveling prior to installation. Mosaic panels are the easiest to install for do-it-yourselfers as they are sold in plastic webbing for setting in the thinset mortar and are easy to fit as the webbing can be cut rather than the actual tile.

    Vinyl floor tiles are the least costly option for bathroom floors.

    Ceramic tiles on floors and walls are a great value for the investment. Easy to clean but may need re-grouting after years of use.

    Porcelain tiles are more expensive than ceramic but still a moderate budget option. Easy to clean, they may need re-grouting after years of use.

    Glass costs are based on size and shape and intricacy of a mosaic. Some glass mosaics may contain natural stone and metal for increased architectural interest.