Choosing the most suitable bathroom flooring can be daunting. You want your bathroom flooring to complement the rest of the home yet still withstand high moisture levels, humidity and heavy foot traffic. The sheer number of bathroom floor designs, colors, textures and material types further complicate the process. To help cut through the clutter, we’ve narrowed down the best flooring for bathroom areas as well as the pros and cons of each.
Best waterproof bathroom flooring options
There are many bathroom flooring options on the market today, with many of them claiming to be waterproof. But are they? Waterproof flooring means that no water or moisture will penetrate it no matter how long the floor is exposed. In genuinely waterproof flooring materials, the waterproofing product is baked in rather than just being used as a coating. By contrast, water-resistant floors are usually not resistant to moisture under the top layer of the floor.
While the flooring material may be waterproof, the subfloor is usually not. As such, water can seep through cracks, between floorboards or along the wall and cause damage to the bathroom’s structure. Bathrooms often need a silicone sealant around bathtubs and toilets no matter what flooring type you choose.
Waterproof bathroom flooring is easier to clean and maintain, but it also protects. Because water will always find its way down through cracks on the floor or in walls, this leakage can manifest itself in the form of damp ceilings or walls, especially if the bathroom is on an upper floor. As waterproof flooring is watertight, there’s little risk of leakage.
Waterproof vinyl flooring
Gone are the days when vinyl was perceived as flimsy or cheap. Today it is one of the most popular flooring options for its durability and comfort. Vinyl planks and tiles come in virtually any color and style imaginable.
Waterproof vinyl flooring’s core is reinforced by additional layers to enhance its rigidity. When shopping for waterproof vinyl flooring with rigid core construction, you are likely to come across wood plastic composite (WPC) and stone plastic composite (SPC).
As the name suggests, WPC incorporates fine sawdust or other wood-like materials, a thermoplastic resin, fiber and a foaming agent. Sometimes referred to as wood polymer composite, this type of flooring material is lightweight, resilient, warm and comfortable when you are standing for long periods.
SPC vinyl flooring material uses ground limestone, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and stabilizers. SPC is thinner, denser and heavier compared to WPC flooring. Due to its thin nature, there’s little padding underfoot, which makes it less comfortable.
Types of waterproof vinyl flooring for bathrooms
Waterproof vinyl plank
Waterproof vinyl planks are perhaps the most popular WPC vinyl flooring option on the market today. Made to mimic hardwood floors, they are available in several shapes and sizes.
Waterproof vinyl tile
The top surface of waterproof vinyl tiles is glazed, preventing moisture from seeping through it. Most mimic natural stone, but there are a few that look like wood.
Pros and cons of waterproof vinyl
- Affordability: Vinyl is relatively inexpensive as compared to other flooring options such as porcelain tile or hardwood.
- Ease of installation: Because vinyl is lightweight, you can cut and adjust it to fit your bathroom floor exactly.
- Waterproof: Vinyl floors are water-resistant, making them practical for bathrooms.
- Versatility: Vinyl flooring is available in many shapes, textures and colors.
- Impossible to repair: Once damaged, vinyl flooring cannot be repaired. You have to replace the entire tile or plank.
- Prone to wear and tear: Compared to other flooring materials such as hardwood that can last a lifetime, vinyl flooring has a maximum lifespan of about 20 years.
- Tough to remove: If installed using a vinyl adhesive, vinyl floors are challenging to remove.
Porcelain and ceramic tile bathroom floors
From the appearance, it’s difficult to tell porcelain and ceramic tile apart. Both are made from a clay mixture that’s heated in a kiln. However, porcelain flooring is made of refined clay and is heated at higher temperatures making it denser and more durable than ceramic. Porcelain and ceramic are often the best tile for bathroom floors for durability and affordability.
Types of tile floors for bathrooms
Porcelain and ceramic planks
Technology has made it possible to achieve the appearance of a hardwood floor while maintaining the features of porcelain or ceramic floors through planks that mimic real wood.
Porcelain and ceramic tile
Homeowners are particularly fond of porcelain and ceramic tiles for their bathroom floors due to their versatility and durability. Porcelain tiles are harder, denser, tougher and less porous. On the downside, they are more expensive than ceramic tiles. Ceramic tiles are more affordable because they are less refined, but are also less durable.
Thin-gauged floor tiles
Gauged porcelain tiles (GPT) measure 36-by-36 inches or smaller. These tiles offer superior porcelain features that are only available from natural stone or marble. Gauged tiles are available in a wide range of styles, textures and colors.
Pros and cons of tile flooring
- Easy to maintain: Tile floorings are normally coated with liquid glass which protects them from stains.
- Chemical and heat resistant: Tiles made of porcelain and ceramic do not corrode when exposed to chemical agents or extreme temperatures.
- Diverse colors and styles: Tiles are available in a wide range of colors, patterns, sizes, styles and textures to fit most decor.
- Durable: Porcelain and ceramic tiles are rather long-lasting. And water-resistant.
- Hard surface: This type of flooring can be uncomfortable to stand on for long periods.
- Professional installation is required: Even slightly uneven tiles can result in breakage, so the installer needs to be skilled and knowledgeable.
- Cold: This type of floor gets cold during colder months.
- Grout lines: It’s impossible to prevent grout lines entirely. Tiles need some maintenance to keep grout lines clean and mold-free.
Natural stone tiles
When used on your bathroom floor, natural stone tile adds warmth and depth to the bathroom. The tiles are uniquely textured and colored, and can be made of marble, granite, limestone, slate and travertine, among others.
Pros and cons of natural stone tile flooring
- Enhances your bathroom’s elegance: Natural stone flooring can be beautiful and enhance your decor.
- Aesthetic value: While the tiles may be the same material, each has a different coloring or grain alignment, which adds depth and texture to the space.
- Increases home resale value: Natural stone flooring is as expensive as it is unique, thus improving the home’s value.
- Durability: Natural stone is long-lasting when compared to other flooring materials.
- Expensive: Compared to other flooring materials such as vinyl, natural stone is quite costly.
- Uncomfortable: Like ceramic and porcelain tile, natural stone adapts to existing weather conditions. The floor could become uncomfortable to walk on in cold weather.
- Difficult to maintain: Soaps and detergents can lead to floor discoloration.
- Porous: Unlike glazed porcelain or ceramic tiles, natural stones are quite porous and prone to water damage.
Water-resistant laminate floors
Laminate flooring came up as an easy-to-install and more affordable option to hardwood flooring. Since its inception, laminate flooring has undergone tremendous improvements. Today, it is difficult to tell hardwood and laminate flooring apart. There are also laminate flooring styles that resemble natural stone, vinyl and even tiles.
Pros and cons of water-resistant laminate floors
- Easy to install: Laminate flooring is lightweight, so it’s easier to install and ideal for a DIY bathroom floor remodel.
- Waterproof: Laminate flooring is water-resistant, especially when silicone-sealed around tubs and toilets.
- Affordability: Laminate flooring is an affordable alternative to hardwood and other flooring types.
- Durability: Waterproof laminate is long-lasting and practical for a high-traffic bathroom.
- Difficult to repair: While it is durable, laminate flooring has to be replaced when damaged.
- Less versatile: As it is a relatively newer material, there are fewer options when it comes to design and style as compared to other flooring types.
- Appearance: While laminate may mimic natural stone or hardwood, it can look less realistic up close.
Engineered wood floors
If you are keen on getting long-lasting hardwood floors for your bathroom, go for core engineered wood floors. Unlike traditional hardwood floors, core engineered wood has several layers, with the outermost layer being hardwood veneer. The inner layers are made of hardwood, fiberboard or plywood.
Pros and cons of rigid core engineered wood floors
- Water-resistant: Compared to traditional hardwood, engineered hardwood does a better job of reducing moisture problems.
- Easy to install: Real wood flooring is rather difficult to install, unlike engineered wood flooring which can utilize click-lock installation.
- Easy to clean and maintain: As engineered wood is coated with wood veneer, it is easy to clean and maintain, holding up well against dents, fading, scratches and stains.
- Price: Compared to conventional wood, tile vinyl and laminate, engineered wood is considerably more expensive.
- Health concerns: Some people have allergic reactions to the adhesives used to bind the various layers of engineered wood together
- Prone to damage: The outermost surface is not scratch-resistant and needs more care than other types of flooring.
- Fewer chances of refinishing engineered wood: Unlike traditional wood flooring which you can re-sand numerous times, engineered wood cannot be sanded (or only once) due to its thin top layer of hardwood.
Frequently asked questions
What are some bathroom floor tiles for a high-use bathroom?
Porcelain tiles are great for high-use and high-traffic bathrooms as they are denser, harder and less porous than other types. Ceramic tiles have the same benefits as porcelain tiles but are more affordable. Vinyl is the most affordable option for a high-use bathroom.
What are the best cheap flooring ideas?
Laminate and vinyl are both affordable flooring options for a bathroom. Both come in various styles, designs and colors and are two of the more easily installed flooring types.
What are some small bathroom tile ideas?
A small bathroom should have small- or medium-sized tiles in neutral colors. It is not a good idea to install large tiles in small bathrooms. Apart from disrupting proportionality, large tiles may need to be cut off, resulting in waste, which can also interrupt any patterns.
What are the best bathroom flooring ideas for households with kids?
Porcelain and ceramic flooring is great in a kid’s bathroom. These tiles are scratch-, stain- and water-resistant. They are also more durable than bathroom vinyl flooring and can withstand splashes from exuberant playing in tubs and sinks.