Tile trends for bathroom and powder room flooring
Bathroom flooring can make a big statement, whether it’s a large master bathroom or a small powder room. It provides the foundation and tone for the room. Generally you want it to be pretty, stylish and practical…practical for cleaning and for safety.
Bathrooms can be expensive to renovate, so most of us don’t upgrade that often. So, it’s important to get tiles you love…and that will stand the test of time.
In this article, I will share the top 7 tile trends for bathroom floors, some important considerations when choosing the type of tile and a few alternative surfaces for bathroom floors…and the flooring choices you’ll want to avoid for full bathrooms.
Please note that this article contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
Bathroom tile trends
1. Wood look tiles
The biggest trend in tile flooring, including bathroom is tile that looks like hardwood. These wood looking planks come in a variety of styles and colors. With the upgraded inkjet technology, these look super realistic.
You can have a more modern look or a wirebrushed style which has subtle intentional scratches that bring out the grain, or a more rustic handscraped wood look. You can get high or low color variation based on your preference.
The most popular shades seem to be light grays and whites, as well as other cool tones. One of the great things about porcelain wood look tiles is that they start with a white base…so it’s much easier to get a true gray or white washed look vs. what you would get with real hardwood. Ironic, right?
One of the other advantages of these tiles is that they are easier to clean. They have less grout and thinner grout lines, and the graining makes the dirt a bit less obvious.
Some homeowners decide to continue the same color style on the walls; others choose to contrast the colors. The wood look tiles are so versatile and neutral, so they really work.
Here are some of my favorite wood looking tiles.
Related article: Best places to buy wood look tiles online
2. Black and white stenciled tiles for a retro, vintage and farmhouse style
If you’re looking for a modern farmhouse style or retro decor, these black and white vintage styles are super chic. You’ll find them everywhere you look on Pinterest. They work so well with white bead board, wainscoting, or better yet shiplap.
These tiles are mesmerizing as your eyes follow the patterns. You can find many black and white stenciled tiles as well as gray and white. The pattern emerges as you fit the tiles together.
Here are some great examples of black and white stenciled tiles. Just click on the pictures to get more info on size, prices, etc.
And, to touch everything off for a modern farmhouse style, check out this white clawfoot tub.
Related article: 15 stunning black and white vintage tiles
Mosaics are so hot these days, especially white marble ones (as well as black and white patterned ones). You will see that they come in a variety of shapes these days including subway tiles, small squares, herringbone, chevron, hexagons, basket weaves, and even moroccan tile shapes.
Many are opting for using the same white marble tile throughout the bathroom, but mixing up the shapes on the floors, walls and shower area. This keeps the space light and bright while providing visual intrigue by mixing up the shapes and textures.
Here are some great example of mosaic tiles. Just click on the pictures to find out more info on size, price, etc.
4. Light and cool toned shades, especially white and grays, and other light neutrals
Neutral colors, especially light ones are the most popular. Bathrooms tend to be smaller than other rooms in the house (and often have fewer windows), so going lighter tends to work better. Lighter colors make the space look larger.
Whites, creams and light grays are the most popular. Neutral beiges are also a top choice, but as yellows and warm colors have become more dated in the home, you will tend to find more neutral beiges…in fact greiges…which are a combo of gray and beige.
For hardware, brushed nickel is the most popular, followed by chrome. These are both stylish and timeless (vs. gold and bronze which bounce in and out of style). For paint colors, whites, grays and pale blues are most popular both as they go with the most popular tile colors and also because they are light and neutral.
While lights are most popular in bathrooms, be sure to invest in some great lighting…and make sure the bulbs are on the whiter side (and not too yellow).
5. Radiant heat floors
Heated floors have been on the rise for the last 10 years, especially in cooler climates. This can be quite the luxury, especially in the winter and they heat up super quickly, so if it’s chilly morning, your feet will thank you for this.
As the technology has improved and demand increased, manufacturers have made great strides in making these simpler to install. And, of course the prices have decreased making this luxury very attainable.
There are 2 types of radiant heat – electric and hyrondic (i.e. water). Generally, the electric ones are easier and less expensive to install. In fact, some DIYers can do this themselves. One of my favorite brands for radiant heat is Nuheat and you can buy this here on Amazon.
Note: While radiant heat can be used under a number of flooring surfaces, it tends to work best (i.e. deliver the most heat efficiently) with tile, as tiles conduct heat better than other surfaces.
6. Matte and honed finishes (rather than glossy)
Matte finishes have been rising in popularity among most surfaces including tiles, counter tops and hardware (think about the preference of brushed nickel over chrome). When it comes to tiles, matte finishes are easier to maintain (they show less dirt and avoid water marks) and importantly, they are just safer.
Manufacturers are getting more creative with matte finishes where they will show more wood grains or fabric-like textures as well as changing up the patterns and dimensions on the walls.
If you’re still really into glossy, consider using this on the walls, not the floors.
7. Geometric and linear shapes
I’m seeing more and more patterns and shapes. Sometimes I see them on the floors, and sometimes on the walls, and sometimes both. This really depends on the size and shape of room.
Linear patterns seem to be the most popular and you see these in many ways including wood look tiles, striations in tiles (and sometimes in vanities) and also on the walls, especially in listello borders that may wrap around the room or highlight the shower walls.
Hexagons, herringbone and chevron patterns have become very hot as well. While I’ve seen hexagons more often on floors (especially shower floors), they can work on the walls too. Moroccan tile shapes have also made a comeback.
Here are some great examples of geometric patterned tiles. Most of these are mosaics. Just click on the pictures to get more info.
Quick Guidelines for types of tiles that are best for bathrooms
Textured and slip resistant:
When it comes to the flooring, make sure that you select tiles that have a bit of texture in them and are specifically designed for floors. You want to avoid anything slippery…or that can become slippery when wet.
Check the PEI rating (you want at PEI rating of at least 2). The PEI scale was developed by the Porcelain Enamel Institute to indicate hardness and durability of tile so that you use the right types of tile in the right types of locations. (e.g. wall rated tile should never be uses on the floors as floors get more foot traffic…obviously.
Matte and honed finishes are more popular these days anyway, but the last thing you want is to slip on your floors after getting out of the shower or bath tub. So make sure the tile isn’t too smooth.
Smaller, often mosaic tiles for showers:
Many people forget that showers need to drain properly, and that means the installer needs to slope the floor (slightly) so that the water will funnel towards the drain. This means that for the shower floor, you need tiles that are small enough to angle and create a small decline. (like this one)
Mosaics and small tiles work best for this, allowing the installer to properly slope the flooring. Often, it looks great when the tiles in the shower are the same color as the rest of floor (or wall), but just a smaller size (and/or shape).
Porcelain/ceramic vs natural stone:
Generally porcelain and ceramic tiles are easier to clean and maintain. Natural stone is porous and requires sealing…and you need to reseal every few years. Porcelains and ceramics are usually less expensive – both in material and labor costs.
Make sure your tile isn’t too large for the space
While larger tiles are more stylish for many areas of the home, be sure to consider the size of your space. Most bathrooms are smaller, so if you have tiles that are too large, they can over power a room and look awkward.
Also, when tiles are too large, they may cut off at the wrong place along the four walls. Consider this both when selecting floor and wall tiles.
Seal the grout
Most people don’t realize that they should seal the grout…and do this annually. This will prolong the life of the grout as well as prevent mold growth. Thankfully, this is a job you can do yourself. See: Why it’s important to seal your grout an how to do it yourself.
Alternative bathroom flooring choices
Personally, I would recommend using tiles on bathroom floors whenever possible. They tend to hold up the best, are easiest to clean, improve your home’s value, are most preferred (especially for more upscale homes) and last the longest.
If tiled floors are outside of your budget, then I would recommend some sort of luxury vinyl that can be glued down or linoleum floors. Sheet vinyl can also work. Please note that I would NOT recommend luxury vinyl planks that are floated (see below).
Bathroom flooring options to avoid
- Laminate flooring – Laminate flooring is NOT waterproof. In fact, it absorbs moisture like a sponge…even more than hardwood floors do.
- Hardwood flooring – Wood and water don’t mix well, so don’t even try it. Wood and moisture don’t work either. Note: hardwood is fine in powder rooms, but don’t attempt to add it to any room that has bathroom or shower.
- Floating vinyl floors/Engineered vinyl planks (EVP/LVP) – If you haven’t read about Engineered vinyl plank flooring or Luxury Vinyl plank (often abbreviated EVP or LVP) you should check it out if you’re looking for a waterproof alternative to hardwood. While I absolutely love this product and have installed in many kitchens, basements and other areas prone to water or moisture, I would NEVER recommend it for regular bathrooms.
Why? 1) It’s a floating floor, so it often has sloppy edges when it abuts to tile surfaces (e.g. bathtub, shower, tile walls/bullnose) – so it just looks cheap and 2) you run the risk of getting mold. Because it’s a floating floor, water from the bathtub or shower (or even toilet can get BENEATH the flooring and get trapped there. While the top part of the flooring is waterproof, if water gets below, bacteria and mold can get in there and eat the cork underlayment and/or damage the plywood floor underneath.
It’s very tricky and misleading because several manufacturers and retailers are promoting this product for bathrooms. I’m here to warn you against this. You are MUCH better off using tile flooring or any form of glue down vinyl. Note: there are luxury vinyls that look like hardwood and they glue down, and these are great options. But, the floating versions are not smart for regular bathrooms.
- Carpeting – I think this one goes without saying…can anybody say yuck? It’s a breeding ground for mold and other bad things. While most people find the idea of installing carpet in a bathroom as unsanitary, I still see it from time to time.
Conclusion for bathroom tile and flooring trends
So those are my top selections on trending tiles…tiles that are popular and stylish, as well as tiles that should stand the test of time. Hopefully, this will help you as you select bathroom tiles for the floors and walls. And, don’t forget to look at the bathroom holistically. Think about the vanity, paint colors, lighting and other elements that will make the space look it’s best.
Related bathroom decor articles:
- Bathroom vanity trends for 2018-2019
- Wood look tiles and the best places to buy them online
- Black and white vintage tiles for bathrooms
- Why you need to seal your grout…and how to do it yourself
- Bold powder room paint colors