How to choose bathroom flooring - everything you need to know, according to experts

Marble? Vinyl? Porcelain? Ceramic? Discover how to choose bathroom flooring with these expert tips...

how to choose bathroom flooring porcelain check tiles by Porcelain Superstore
(Image credit: Porcelain Superstore)

When learning how to choose bathroom flooring, there are a host of factors to take into consideration, not least how to blend form and function.

'It’s important to consider the entire room when choosing your bathroom flooring,' says Louisa Swannell, Head of Creative Design at Walls and Floors. 'If you want to make a statement of your flooring, a patterned tile might be a good choice. But if you’re making a statement with your wall design, you may want to consider something more subtle for the floor such as a wood design of vinyl or tiles.'

As well as aesthetics, there are a number of practicalities you'll need to think about when considering your bathroom ideas, including durability,  water resistance and whether you intend to install underfloor heating.

'Bathroom lend themselves to having underfloor heating, though the type and model you go for can affect the flooring you choose so it is worth considering if this is something you’d like to install before picking your bathroom flooring,' says Barrie Cutchie, at BC Designs. 'An electric system can be retrospectively fitted during a renovation project and works best with either tiles or stone flooring.'

One of the key considerations to think about is choosing non-slip flooring, as wet floors in bathrooms can be dangerous. 'Tiles with a smooth finish will be slippery underfoot, though you can get tiles that have an extra layer of slip resistance which are worth investing in,' Barrie adds. 

We've tapped the experts to find out more top tips on how to choose bathroom flooring below.

How to choose bathroom flooring

how to choose bathroom flooring grey porcelain tiles by Mandarin Stone

(Image credit: Mandarin Stone)

How to choose bathroom flooring can be a bit of a minefield, but experts are on-hand to help make the decision clearer.

Nick Woodward, of Essential Living (opens in new tab) says: 'As well as taking into account all of the practicalities (see more below), the best way to go about choosing a bathroom floor is to pick a design that reflects your intended style. If you want the freedom to create unique styles for your bathroom, custom tiles are the best option.' 

If you want your bathroom flooring to have more of a natural and authentic feel, then go for textured vinyl or porcelain that has a wood grain. 'Similarly, if you’re looking to target a modern and luxurious feel, natural stone and concrete may just be what you’re looking for,' Nick says. 

What practicalities are there to consider when choosing the best flooring for the bathroom?

how to choose bathroom flooring porcelain grey and white tiles by Mandarin Stone

(Image credit: Mandarin Style)

'When choosing your bathroom flooring, there are three main requirements: slip-resistance, durability and how easy it is to clean,' says Walls and Floors' Louisa Swannell.

And Nick Woodward elaborates, commenting: 'There are many practicalities to consider when choosing the best flooring for your bathroom. Due to water and moisture buildup, the most important thing is to ensure that the materials  you choose are completely waterproof. Making sure your flooring is anti-slip is also an essential factor to consider for health and safety purposes. 

'Choosing a floor that is easy to clean will also benefit you in the long-term. While there is no denying that tile is a beautiful choice for a bathroom floor, there is the hassle of keeping the grout lines nice and maintained. You should also strongly consider floors that won’t discolor when they come into contact with cleaning solutions. 

'Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring someone else to do the job, you should ask whether the flooring you want is easy to install. Vinyl planks and click-lock flooring shouldn’t take too much time to set up, while tile flooring is very labour intensive. Before you even begin the installation process, make sure to first measure your bathroom to determine how much flooring you’ll need. 

'Another thing to consider is the cost of the materials you’re working with, as well as the price of the installation if you’re planning to hire someone. Vinyl bathroom flooring is generally the cheapest of all tiles, while marble or other types of stone could totally blow your budget if you don’t consider the entire cost of the job beforehand.'

 

What is the best bathroom flooring?

1. Natural stone

how to choose bathroom flooring black and white marble by Mandarin Stone

(Image credit: Mandarin Stone)

Natural stone, like slate, marble bathroom flooring, or limestone, will undoubtedly give a high-end aesthetic. But this visually pleasing finish does also come with a higher price tag and maintenance levels.

'Natural stone is beautiful and because of the natural variations in it, is unique to your bathroom,' says Barrie Cutchie at BC Designs (opens in new tab). 'However, natural stone is porous and so needs to be sealed.

'It will also require maintenance in order to ensure it remains water-resistant but, if you have the time to dedicate to this, it really is beautiful.'

The experts at Mandarin Stone (opens in new tab) agree, saying: 'These materials have much more natural variation and therefore inherent beauty. They do require sealing and some routine cleaning regularly but not too often.'

And Nick Woodward adds:  'While natural stone would boast a beautiful appearance in your bathroom, they require a lot of maintenance if you want them to keep looking their best - especially if you’re dealing with marble. 

'These materials are also very heavy, so you must make sure that your home will be able to carry this type of flooring.'

2. Porcelain tiles

how to choose bathroom flooring porcelain terrazzo tiles by Mandarin Stone

(Image credit: Mandarin Stone)

Porcelain tiles are an excellent choice for bathroom flooring ideas, being durable and hardwearing.

Louisa Swannell says: 'Tiles are often the most desirable floor type for bathrooms due to their water resistance and the wide variety of designs available. 

'When deciding between a ceramic or a porcelain tile, there are a few things to consider. Ceramic is more cost-effective and more DIY friendly, whereas porcelain absorbs less water and is more hardwearing. Always make sure to check the slip rating on your tiles.'

And Mandarin Stone says: 'Porcelains have little or no water-absorption and are manufactured to have high-grip finishes. As they are manmade, there can be less variation within the product.'

How to choose bathroom flooring marble-effect ceramic tiles by Walls and Floors

(Image credit: Walls and Floors)

If you like the look and variation in natural stones, like marble, but don't want to worry about maintenance or sealants, you can always choose a natural stone effect in porcelain or ceramic instead, as above.

how to choose bathroom flooring concrete-effect porcelain tiles by Mandarin Stone

(Image credit: Mandarin Stone)

Another contemporary option are concrete-effect porcelain tiles for a modern-industrial look that also has a tranquil spa-like feel (above).

3. Ceramic tiles

How to choose bathroom flooring vintage style star ceramic tiles by Walls and Floors

(Image credit: Walls and Floors)

Ceramic tiles offer a fantastic selection of patterns and prints. This means they can fit into many bathroom tile trends,  and make an easy way to add extra style and verve to your space.

Barrie Cutchie, Design Director at BC Designs (opens in new tab), says: 'Ceramic and porcelain tiles are the most popular option for bathroom floors. There is a huge selection to choose from now with some gorgeous patterns and designs. When it comes to picking, make sure the tile you pick, especially with ceramic, is suitable for your floor and not just walls.'

how to choose bathroom flooring patterned tiles by BC Designs

(Image credit: BC Designs)

He adds: 'Choosing the tile options means that those of you who are keen on DIY should be able to fit it yourself. Ceramic tiles are much easier to cut than porcelain and so make the natural choice if you are going to attempt it on your own.'

4. Vinyl

how to choose bathroom flooring with grey LVT vinyl by Walls and Floors

(Image credit: Walls and Floors)

If you're looking for an affordable and ultra-easy bathroom flooring option to lay, LVT is a great go-to.

'LVT (luxury vinyl tile) flooring is water-resistant, making it ideal for damp environments,' says Louisa Swannell, Head of Creative Design at Walls and Floors (opens in new tab)

'This type of flooring is super-easy to lay and maintain. It’s also available in a variety of designs to suit every style.'

5. Microcement

Rosh Mahtani Alighieri modern house in Clerkenwell

(Image credit: Mary Wadsworth)

'Using concrete in an upstairs bathroom can be tricky as the weight can make it untenable, but a great alternative is microcement,' says Barrie Cutchie.

'It is a specialist coating that can be applied to any hard surface and replicates the design aesthetics of real concrete for a modern, minimalist design. 

'Best of all, it is waterproof and suitable for under floor heating so makes the perfect alternative to tile design for a walk in wet room.'

Microcement is also easy to wipe clean, and will add a contemporary industrial look to any space.

6. Wood-effect tiles

how to choose bathroom flooring wood-effect tiles by Original Style

(Image credit: Original Style)

Hardwood is sensitive to water and humidity and will need replacing if it suffers water damage, so it may be best to stay away from this type of flooring,' says Louisa Swannell.

However, don't despair. If you love the look of wood but want it to be bathroom-friendly, you can lay a wood-effect tile floor instead. There's a host of high-quality options to choose from, in all shades, so you can pick a finish that perfectly suits your space.

What to avoid for bathroom flooring

'Ultimately, the choice of flooring you decide for your bathroom is a personal choice, though there are a couple of options that have many more disadvantages than other options, in particular carpet and hardwood,' comments Barrie Cutchie.

'Where toilets are concerned, carpets can be an unhygienic choice as they cannot be cleaned or disinfected at the same level as other floor options. There is also a lot of water around and carpets can quickly become sodden and take forever to dry, while there is also a risk of mold building up. 

'Water is also an issue for hardwood flooring and, in fact, laminated flooring. While suitable for other areas where water is present, like the kitchen, it doesn’t work as an option for a bathroom. 

'For them to be suitable, they have to be perfectly installed and perfectly sealed from the moisture, and this is almost impossible. If hardwood floor isn’t fitted correctly, water will penetrate, and will eventually rot. 

'Plus, they will need to be re-sealed with a polyurethane type coating more frequently than if they were in another room without the moisture challenges presented by a bathroom. 

'Laminate flooring and engineered woods are also on the list of flooring choices to avoid. While engineered wood does have real wood layers at the top, you have to ensure it is fully sealed as well. 

'Often the material underneath the wood layers is not waterproof or even water-resistant. Such is the case with laminate floors, which typically are not great with water, requiring spills to be cleaned immediately or risk swelling and warping. '

how to choose bathroom flooring marble-effect porcelain tiles by Walls and Floors

(Image credit: Walls and Floors)

What kind of flooring is good for a small bathroom?

When choosing flooring for a small bathroom, you can express your creativity with a patterned floor, or choose large-format, glossy tiles that reflect the light.

Louisa Swannell, Head of Creative Design at Walls and Floors (opens in new tab) says: 'It's important to consider the size of the space, and find a harmonious balance for your decor; too much intricate pattern could make a small space feel cluttered. 

'Bright, light colours and glossy finishes are great for small spaces as they bounce light around the room.

'Large-format floor tiles are great for small spaces as they have fewer grout lines which gives a more seamless appearance. 

  

how to choose bathroom flooring blue parquet porcelain tiles by Mandarin Stone

(Image credit: Mandarin Style)

She continues: 'Laying flooring in a herringbone format (see above) can also have a space-enhancing effect, as this layout tricks the eye and makes the room appear longer.'

Nick Woodward adds: 'When you’re dealing with a small bathroom, a top tip is to choose flooring that will give you the creative freedom to maximise the wow factor of your space. 

'For example, ceramic tiles come in different patterns, colours and geometric shapes and choosing these for your floor will add energy and character to your small bathroom.'

 

What is the current trend in bathroom flooring?

How to choose bathroom flooring patterned ceramic tiles by Original Style

(Image credit: Original Style)

'A bathroom trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is patterned tiles!' says Louisa Swannell.

'This timeless style is perfect to create a standout feature of your flooring. From encaustic and monochrome to Mediterranean and terrazzo; there’s something for every aesthetic.'

 

Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.