What To Consider When Selecting New Floors For Your Bathroom

Written by bprescottFebruary 7, 2012
Big bathroom

Floored by the choices

Did you know that a floor accounts for about one-third of the space you see in a room? So no matter what size bathroom you're planning, the flooring material you choose packs a wallop of an impression. Do you want the floor to be the focal point of the room or provide a neutral backdrop for the fixtures and furnishings? If you have a plain-Jane bathroom that can use some visual interest, an oh-my-gosh tile floor may be a tremendous improvement. But if the new wallpaper and cabinets you plan shout, “Look at me!” perhaps a more neutral or subdued flooring is the best choice.

Sure, its visual impact may be powerful, but the comfort a floor creates and the care it requires are just as important. Keep in mind that the type of floor you choose should be determined by the bathroom's function, your taste and budget, and the maintenance it requires. Ebony floor tiles are indeed a dramatic choice, but remember that anything dark will show every speck of dirt and dust, not to mention talcum powder.

Selecting Your New Flooring Material

Today's flooring materials for a bathroom offer many choices in styles and textures, and many are surprisingly easy to install. Vinyl tiles range from 40 cents to $4 a square foot, while ceramic tiles are from $2 to $10 a square foot.

You'll find the greatest selection at a flooring retailer, where you can make arrangements to take samples home. Some stores charge a small rental fee that's applied to the purchase of the material; others trust you to return them like a library book. Take advantage of the opportunity to bring samples home and lay them on the floor to help you visualize how the pattern will look in your bathroom.

Most flooring retailers offer to install the materials they sell, so you can easily find out the cost of installation compared with doing it yourself. Keep in mind that the more expensive the material, the greater the risk of doing it yourself. By that, we mean if you make a mistake on inexpensive floor tile and have to buy more tiles, it isn’t going to break your budget. But a mishap with top-of-the-line materials is going to cost you big time. We know many contractors who consider do-it-yourselfers their best customers. The pro gets called in whenever the do-it-yourselfer botches the job and turns to the pro to make it right. So put the cost of the materials and your time and talents in the equation when you're making the decision whether to do it yourself.

We explain how to install four different flooring materials in this chapter. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, and the material you decide to use depends on many factors. Here’s what to look for.

  • Ceramic or stone tiles: Ceramic and stone floor tiles offer you an endless number of choices in their size, style, and colors, not to mention how you choose to lay them out. For safety’s sake, those with a matte finish offer the best footing. Also keep in mind that the larger the tiles, the faster the installation.
  • Laminates: While laminates were first introduced as wood look-alikes, today you'll find laminates that look like tile, quarried slate, and many variations and shades of different woods. The planks lock together like tongue-and-groove wood flooring. Some laminates are glued together, and others lock together with metal edges. They lie on a thin foamlike sheet of underlayment. A laminate floor can be installed over almost any subfloor. It is durable and resists stains and surface moisture, so it's a good choice for a bathroom.
  • Sheet vinyl: When you want one dramatic pattern to cover your floor, sheet vinyl is a durable and long-lasting choice that offers variety and ease of use. Installation requires careful cutting and then laying the flooring over a layer of adhesive.
  • Vinyl tiles: Embossed vinyl tiles are tough-working, no-wax surfaces. Some are self-sticking, with adhesive on the back of each tile, so you simply press them in place. Others are designed to be set into a bed of adhesive, adding a step to the installation process. Either type of tile is a good choice for a fast fix-up.

Before choosing one type or brand of flooring over another, find out whether there are any special considerations for using it in a bathroom.

Don't be afraid to ask questions and get advice from the retailer about ordering the correct amount of flooring for the job. Even when you're on an exploratory trip, have an accurate drawing of the floor with dimensions so that you can get an idea of the size and scope of the project. You'll quickly see that each type of flooring material comes in a range of prices, so look for a style that’s within your budget. If you have an idea for a complex tile pattern, take a picture or a drawing of the design so you can estimate the different tiles you'll need.

See the flooring material calculators on the Cheat Sheet in the front of this book to estimate how many tiles you'll need.

When you're selecting material, make sure that it's available in the quantity you need. Although this advice may sound obvious, we know too many people whose remodeling or building projects have been halted because the flooring material was a no-show. Unless the flooring is laid, vanity cabinets can't be installed, and consequently, neither can countertops. So confirm that the material you choose is available in the quantity you need so that no snafu halts the progress of your remodeling.

On a more practical note, don't forget about making a bathroom safe by choosing surfaces prone to safe footing. Water makes polished surfaces such as marble and high-gloss tiles slippery, so if you choose them for flooring, use them as an accent, not directly near a bathtub or shower. Better choices are unglazed porcelain tiles and flooring with a textured surface, both of which are more resistant to slipping



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