Bathroom flooring ideas to inspire your next renovation

Jayne Dowle
·9-min read
Photo credit: Tile Mountain
Photo credit: Tile Mountain

From House Beautiful

The bathroom floor is the great multitasker of the home. It needs to make a visual impact and can even express a style statement of its own, yet it's also required to be warm and comfortable underfoot, safe and non-slip.

Naturally, a bathroom floor must be easy to keep clean and maintain. And when you're choosing the most suitable flooring for your space, bear in mind how easy it will be to fit; in smaller bathrooms, for instance, fashionable large-format tiles require lots of fiddly cuts to merge neatly around sanitary-ware and pipework.

Remember too; if your bathroom is tiny, using the same style and colour in wall and flooring treatments can create an illusion of a more expansive space.

'Bathroom tiles are the hardest thing to replace and are exposed to lots of traffic and frequent cleaning,' says Jo Oliver, director at The Stone & Ceramic Warehouse. 'Therefore, it makes sense to spend the money on something you know will last and you will enjoy for longer.

If you're looking for some bathroom flooring ideas, read on for the pros and cons of the most popular bathroom flooring.

1) Bathroom Floor Tiles

Tiles are an ideal bathroom choice, both visually and practically. There’s a tile for every budget and style, and when you decorate with tiles, the transformative effect is immediate and hard-wearing. With a regular wipe-down, tiles are easy to maintain and keep their good looks.

However, unless you're an experienced DIYer, tiling is probably a job best left to a professional tiler; you will need to factor in the cost of this. Take professional advice on how many tiles you will need for the job. It's advisable to order at least an extra 10 per cent in case of awkward cuts and breakages. Porcelain tiles especially can be difficult to cut.

Photo credit: Tile Mountain
Photo credit: Tile Mountain

Tiles can be ceramic, porcelain or real stone, such as limestone or marble. Stone is a costly choice and these days there is a huge range of ceramic and porcelain tiles which create the look without the expense and maintenance.

So, what's the difference between ceramic and porcelain? Ceramic tiles, made from brown, red or yellow clay, absorb more water than porcelain. Porcelain is considered to be finer – it's made of white clay – and is usually more expensive. Its ability to repel water makes it highly-suitable for demanding areas such as wet-rooms, says Abbas Youssefi, director of independent tile retailer, Porcelain Superstore, but hard-wearing ceramics are ideal for the majority of bathrooms.

Photo credit: Walls and Floors
Photo credit: Walls and Floors

'A key trend in bathroom tile design is a move towards large-format tiles,' say Ben Bryden, sales and marketing director at RAK Ceramics UK. 'These offer a stylish and minimal look, with less grout, creating a clean and uninterrupted finish.' Using large format tiles in the smaller bathroom is a clever design trick, making the room appear bigger, while also making the space easier to clean.

'Whatever kind of tile you decide on, we would always recommend taking a sample home before you buy,' advises Jo Oliver. 'Look at the tile in the space where it will be installed. The colour and look of a tile can change dramatically in different environments and lighting, and you want to be completely sure you are happy with the design you have selected.'

And as a final touch, suggests Dominic Lees-Bell, digital content manager at bathroom company, Drench, 'Adding a colour-matched grout throughout adds to the streamlined effect and can make a smaller space look so much bigger.'

2) Bathroom Vinyl Flooring

Available in a wide range of styles and patterns, vinyl is a versatile and cost-effective bathroom flooring idea, as it offers water resistance as well as providing good insulation. It is also suitable for use with underfloor heating systems, a popular choice in modern bathrooms. And compared to other kinds of bathroom flooring, it's relatively easy and inexpensive to replace when you fancy a new look – you can do it yourself with basic tools and eco-friendly adhesive.

Photo credit: Carpetright
Photo credit: Carpetright

David Snazel, buyer, hard flooring, at Carpetright, likes vinyl because it's a good family choice: 'Prioritising safety in the bathroom, particularly around shower areas, is essential, so ensure you consider how practical and slip-resistant flooring is before purchasing. Vinyl is highly water-resistant.'

There are some excellent 'look-a-like' vinyls available now which replicate natural – and far more expensive – materials such as marble and wood-plank flooring. For a luxury finish, look for 'LVT' (luxury vinyl flooring) – browse House Beautiful's collection at Carpetright, or LVT specialists, Amtico, and Karndean.

Photo credit: Lifestyle Floors
Photo credit: Lifestyle Floors

'When choosing vinyl, the thicker it is the more comfort there will be underfoot, and a higher wear layer will result in increased durability,' says Inga Morris-Blincoe, general manager at Lifestyle Floors.

3) Bathroom Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is tough, scratch-resistant and easy to look after, but cheaper versions are highly unsuitable for bathrooms as moisture will easily penetrate the surface and cause the layers of melamine to 'separate' and buckle. The printed surface layer can also become scratched and damaged and start to lift. If you’re looking for a quick, inexpensive bathroom fix, choose vinyl flooring instead.

Photo credit: Woodpecker Flooring
Photo credit: Woodpecker Flooring

Choose a system which locks together, 'floating' above the sub-floor of the bathroom, rather than planks which are glued to any kind of base layer. This will better allow for shrinkage and expansion of the boards. Laminate can work well with underfloor heating; without it however, it can feel cold and harsh, especially in a larger bathroom.

'Caution should be given to the laminate you are buying and you should also be looking out for details such as real-life surface textures and planks with less-repetition – this is one of the big giveaways that it’s laminate as opposed to a real wood floor,' says Sahin Demuynck, international PR and sponsoring manager at Quick-Step.

However, there are water-resistant brands on the market, such as Quick Step’s Impressive collection which look realistic and are guaranteed to withstand the wear and tear of a busy bathroom.

4) Bathroom Lino Flooring

Not to be confused or used interchangeably with vinyl, true lino – it's short for linoleum – is made from natural and sustainable materials, including a by-product of wood, ground limestone, powdered cork, pigments, jute and linseed oil. Lino has been around since Victorian times, its popularity grew because it was easy to clean and came in a wide range of colours and patterns. Most of us are familiar with that vintage black and white checkerboard design. It’s very authentic in a period home.

Our interest in using natural materials for the home has led to a resurgence in recent years, making it another popular bathroom flooring idea. Warm underfoot and moisture-resilient, lino is well-suited to the bathroom and can be used with underfloor heating. It is easily scratched however, so this could be an issue if you have younger children or forget to take your shoes off regularly.

Emma Joyce, brand manager at Victoria + Albert Baths, says: 'We are seeing more and more people specify lino flooring within their bathroom project. This brilliant material makes the ideal surround for either a freestanding or built in bath. Lino is naturally resistant to splashes of water, mould and bacterial growth. As we are living in a continuously hygiene-conscious world, these anti-bacterial properties are a key selling point.'

5) Wood Flooring

Wood and water don’t mix, goes the traditional view. However, experts say that it’s possible to have wooden flooring in a bathroom as long as you opt for engineered wood rather than solid floorboards or planks. This is because engineered wood is made of several layers which create a strong and stable surface, limiting the movement of the floor and reducing the possibility of warping.

Photo credit: Woodpecker Flooring
Photo credit: Woodpecker Flooring

'With the right care, engineered wooden flooring can be just as easy and suitable for this space,' says Robert Walsh, founder and owner of Ted Todd Fine Wood Flooring. 'Just take care to ensure any spills or moisture is mopped up as soon as possible, use a thick, good-quality bathmat and good ventilation is a necessity too.'

Vincent Guillon, sales director at Havwoods, says engineered wood flooring is suitable to install on top of underfloor heating, but notes that homeowners should also consider the surface finish to maximise longevity.

'A polyurethane-lacquered coating works to cover any pores in the wood’s surface, protecting it from dirt and moisture ingress. Alternatively, a UV-cured hardwax oil coating combines the wear advantage of a lacquer with the subtlety of an oil coating for increased resistance and extending the life of the floor,' Vincent explains. 'This hardwearing treatment is micro-porous, water-repellent, dirt-, wear-, and stain-resistant, making it ideal for rooms that are exposed to water spillage, humidity and a high footfall.'

Wood certainly looks good; it can create a seamless connection between bedroom and ensuite and makes a bathroom feel warm and welcoming.

'Choose a wood floor with some texture, as this will give extra grip,' suggests Joss Thomas, founder and designer at artisan furniture and interior design company, Indigenous. 'Wood feels fabulous underfoot – but if you’re looking for a look-alike alternative, a wood-effect porcelain tile with a textured finish is a good option.'

Photo credit: Walls and Floors
Photo credit: Walls and Floors

6) Patterned Bathroom Floor Tiles

'Timeless Victorian-style patterned tiles will never go out of fashion in bathrooms, but today's homeowners are looking for something to stand out on social,' says Abbas Youssefi. 'Patterned tiles are fantastic for giving your bathroom personality and in 2021 we’re going to see lots of new tiles that bring the holiday vibe into the home – tiles that have a warm, sunny style are going to be top of the wish-list.

Photo credit: Tile Mountain
Photo credit: Tile Mountain

And it's true. Bathrooms are no longer boring and clinical, they are the perfect room to show off your individuality, so if you’re missing the Mediterranean, bring it home with swirls of soft terracotta or interesting terrazzo-effect tiles which reflect the light.

Smaller tiles are best for adding character, so consider creating an interesting border to bring a sharper edge to a smaller bathroom, or include a rug-like feature area to break up the expanse of a larger area.

Photo credit: Porcelain Superstore/James Broome Photography
Photo credit: Porcelain Superstore/James Broome Photography

Intricate patterns or a contrasting crackle-glaze effect are good for such ideas, says James Stevenson, creative director at Imperial Bathrooms. 'Our customers are also using atypical shapes like chevron, herringbone, octagonal, mosaic and elongated tiles in a variety of styles and arrangements to create a distinct pattern on the floor.'

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