How to choose bathroom tiles – find the best ones to suit your bathroom space

A popular choice for walls and floors, bathroom tiles can bring color, pattern, texture, or even a bit of glamour to a functional space

Bathroom tiles
(Image credit: Original Style)

If you need to know how to choose bathroom tiles for a brand new bathroom design, or to revamp an existing room then you have come to the right place. Tiles can do many things: they can protect walls in baths and showers, even behind the basin, and the obvious benefit of tiles is that they decorate a space like nothing else can. 

A clean and modern update may be exactly what you're looking for, and whether you want to choose natural stone, ceramic, porcelain or glass (plus there's a multitude of shapes and finishes to choose from too), you'll be able to find clarity in our guide and discover the best tiles. For more bathroom ideas, don't miss our inspiration-packed hub page. 

How to choose the material of bathroom tiles

The humidity and splashing  in a bathroom rule out some tile materials, but still leave plenty of choices – stone tiles or ceramic versions are both particularly popular. While natural stone has character, care requirements are higher and the tiles will need resealing over time to maintain the protection. Generally, manmade tiles are great if you are decorating a bathroom on a budget. While they’re much lower maintenance, they can lack the depth and uniqueness of natural stone. 

tiled bathroom shower

(Image credit: Pure Bathroom)

Natural stone bathroom tiles 

As we mentioned, stone tiles possess a distinct beauty and richness that's hard to match with manmade tile like porcelain or ceramic. At the same time, natural stone is porous, making it much more high-maintenance in a wet space like a bathroom. Regular humidity means regularly sealing the tiles to ensure they don't warp (or even crumble) over time. It's a luxury option in every sense of the word. 

  • Quick tip: If you do opt for a natural stone shower that's enclosed, always leave the shower door open when you're done. This will allow humidity to escape and preserve the life of your natural stone tile.

Marble looks opulent with the veins of color running through it, giving it lots of interest. Depending on your preference, it's possible to choose from a range of color tones varying from dark to light, as well as both subtle and striking veining patterns.

Both floor and wall marble tiles are available, but polished marble should be avoided on the floor. Ensure it's sealed correctly and that spills are wiped up immediately – check out our guide to the best mops for floor tiles to help your marble floor keeps its luster. 

Travertine has warm tones. While the stone has natural pits that give the tiles individuality, opt for filled travertine to stop water from penetrating. It can be used for both floor and wall tiles, but should be sealed to protect the stone.

Neptune storage jars

Bathroom design, Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

Limestone is enduringly stylish. Pale finishes – that still look warm – are popular, but it can be dark in color, too. The stone should be sealed. Limestone is softer than other natural stones, so can be scratched. For this reason, it’s perhaps best saved for the floors of your en suite rather than the family bathroom.

Slate is a sound choice if you want darker tones for walls or floor – both at once would probably be overpowering. Once again, it needs to be sealed. It’s slip-resistant, so consider it for a bathroom used by those who are less steady on their feet. 

Manmade bathroom tiles

Patterned tiles in a turquoise bathroom with free standing bath

(Image credit: Claybrook Studio)

Ceramic tiles are an affordable covering, and easy to care for. They aren’t as hard wearing as porcelain tiles, but a bathroom isn’t a high traffic area, so they can be laid on floors as well as walls. Always verify that a particular ceramic tile you’re interested in is suitable for the floor, however. 

Porcelain tiles are denser than ceramic, extremely hard wearing and low maintenance. They’re suitable for both floors and walls.

See our guide to ceramic and porcelain tiles for more info.

Small patterned tiles in a bright bathroom

(Image credit: Original Style)

Matte tiles reflect light, and are great if you are designing a small bathroom as they make the space feel bigger and brighter. A further advantage of a gloss finish is that it’s easy to wipe down. On the downside, though, smears will show up on the shiny surface.e

Matt tiles include those that look like other materials such as cement, stone and wood, as well as simple non-shiny finishes. An advantage of matte tiles is that they don’t reveal water marks so easily.

For plenty more beautiful bathroom floor tile inspiration be sure to check out our information page.

How to choose tiles for bathroom walls and floors

The same tile can often be used on the floor and walls of a bathroom – most frequently natural stone or porcelain. The effect is spa-like and sleek and, when pale colorways are used, it’s space-enhancing. 

If you want a gloss tile on the wall and a continuous appearance, look for a range that offers the same tile in a matte finish for the floor to avoid slip hazards without sacrificing continuity. Slip resistance is an important factor no matter what type of tile you choose. Tiles with a naturally matte or coarse surface, or ones that are small-scale enough so there are plenty of grout lines to create friction are ideal.

For style purposes, consider also using the same tile but in a different format for subtle variation. For example, you could choose a square version for the floor and rectangular for the walls, or vice versa.

patterned floor tiles in bathroom with roll top bath

(Image credit: Original Style)

If you like the idea of contrasting wall and floor tiles, there’s a world of opportunity. Try color on the walls and a quieter finish on the floor; make cleaning easier with a dark floor tile and light walls; pick pattern for one surface and plain for the other, and so on.

The tiles shapes can contrast as well as the finishes. Subways tiles are a trend that shows no signs of going away and these can work happily alongside square tiles on the floor, for example. Likewise mosaic tiled walls can harmonize with a different format on the floor.

Don’t forget either that porcelain tiles that look like wood can make a warming addition at floor level alongside a conventional tile finish on the wall.

Create decorative effects with bathroom tiles

bathroom tile

Textile Hex White 8-5/8 in. x 9-7/8 in. Porcelain Floor and Wall Tile

(Image credit: The Home Depot)

Using the same tile on all the tiled walls of the bathroom is only one possible strategy. A shower wall could become a feature in a patterned tile, or one that contrasts in color or shape – or make a feature of the wall above the vanity.

bathroom tile

Jeffrey Court Dolphin Tail Blue Interlocking 9.75 in. x 12 in. x 6 mm Glass Mosaic Tile

(Image credit: The Home Depot)

Mosaics can also be fixed to zone particular areas of the bathroom, or used as eye-catching borders. Choosing a different color of the same tile above and below chair-rail level can also look sharp.  Textured or textured-effect tiles can also create another dimension to bathroom design set against all the smooth surfaces of the room. 

bathroom tile

MSI Blume Encaustic 8 in. x 8 in. Glazed Porcelain Floor and Wall Tile

(Image credit: The Home Depot)

Tiles for small bathrooms

Tile size shouldn’t be determined by bathroom size, despite what you may hear. A small bathroom can actually benefit from a large tile. With fewer grout lines the walls and floor are less cluttered and the room visually expanded. Of course, smaller tiles shouldn’t be ruled out either and can dress up even the tiniest of bathrooms.

Do think light-reflective tiles for small bathroom walls. That’s not only a matter of gloss rather than matte, but also going for light colorways. Find more tips in our guide to choosing the right size tiles for a small bathroom.

Bright tiles in a small bathroom

(Image credit: Original Style)

Select the best grout for bathroom tiles 

Gone are the days when white grout was the only options for bathroom tiles. Choose it for a clean and sparkling look, but consider also colored grouts, such as grey, which can hide dirt and wear. Check out these ideas, too:

Contrast but complement grout color with tile color to make a more complex pattern on the wall.

Use very dark grout around light-colored tiles to emphasize their shape and create a graphic effect.

Perk up an all-white bathroom with an energetic grout hue such as yellow or pink. 

Remember to go for mold-resistant grout when you’re installing bathroom tiles to prolong its life and make bathroom cleaning less of a chore. 

Use our guide to choosing the best grout and adhesive for your tiling project.

a mirror with added storage options set above a sink

(Image credit: Hurn & Hurn)

Who can install floor and wall tiles?

A competent DIYer can install wall tiles and tile a floor, but keep in mind that porcelain is much harder to cut than ceramic, while natural stone is costly, so a professional installer can be well worth the cost.

Looking for more bathroom inspiration? 

Sarah Warwick
Freelance Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.