Are you in the process of picking out tile for your bathroom? This a tough decision to make, and it can be overwhelming. I’ve created a simple guide to help you navigate through the process that you can be confident with your choices!
Know Your Budget
Although this is the least fun part of it all, you definitely need to know your budget first. You don’t want to fall in love with a tile that you can’t afford, and you want to make sure you can actually complete your project.
To come up with a budget, you will first want to estimate the cost of your entire project (tile, materials, and install.)
First, calculate the approximate square footage of your bathroom. (If you are doing multiple bathrooms in a new home, you will want to plan them all separately.)
You will also use the square footage to help you determine the cost of installation. This is important because tile installation can be very pricey. Certain tile materials (like ceramic) are very labor-intensive to install.
You will also want to estimate a few hundred dollars towards grout, and other installation materials.
Once you know your approximate budget (whether it’s $2k or $10k), you can move forward.
Get a Vision for Your Bathroom
If you already have most of your bathroom finished and are just replacing the tile, then this step is certainly easy. But if you’re designing a brand-new bathroom, you definitely need a clear vision for the space.
Choose a Style
Your bathroom tile should coordinate with the rest of your bathroom. To do that, you need to know your style or pick one. This is the foundation of your bathroom design and will give you the necessary boundaries to make good decisions!
Do you want a modern bathroom? A traditional bathroom? French country? Pick a style, and stick with it as much as you can when making decisions about your bathroom.
Also keep in mind that bathrooms can be their own entity and don’t necessarily have to be the same style as the rest of your interior. For example, in my home we have a modern farmhouse powder room, but the rest of our home is traditional.
If you’re having trouble narrowing down a style, pictures will certainly help you. Even if you know your style well, you should still be on the hunt for your favorite bathroom images. This is another step towards picking out the best bathroom tile for your space.
I don’t know what I would’ve done without Pinterest during my home-building journey. This was especially helpful with designing my four bathrooms.
Find images you absolutely love with inspiration for fixture finishes, color schemes, flooring, vanities, and décor. Save these images and study them carefully. You will be amazed at how this will ultimately lead you to your own vision.
Choose a Color Palette
As you are creating a vision for your bathroom, choosing a color palette is crucial.
Some will tell you to choose your wall color first, then your tile. Others will say the opposite. In my experience, it really just depends on the situation. If you fall in love with a particular tile first, you may just want to choose a paint color to go with it.
Or if you know you want a tranquil blue master bathroom, you will want to pick a tile that will go with the blue. Either way, both design decisions need to work together in harmony.
My number one tip? Make sure there is a dark, medium, and light tone in your bathroom. Meaning, if you choose a dark paint color for the wall, make sure your bathroom tile is lighter than the wall.
Other Bathroom Elements
Don’t forget that items like vanities, plumbing fixtures, décor, etc. are all an important part of your vision. These design elements need to be always considered when picking out your floor tile.
Create a Mood Board
Finally to bring your vision to life, I suggest creating a mood board. A mood board (or inspiration board), is like digital collage of your ideas. I created my mood boards in Canva, and I did this for all four of my bathrooms with much success. It is so helpful to see how all of your design ideas work together (or not), before any money is spent.
Think About Foot Traffic
There’s a big difference between a second floor master bath (that’s meant primarily for 1-2 adults), versus a first floor half bath that gets all of the family foot traffic.
Foot Traffic = Dirt
When picking your bathroom tile, cleaning should always be a consideration. Use your best judgement – if it’s a busy bathroom, you’re not going to choose a shiny white tile. That would be a cleaning nightmare!
There are so many tiles available that are not only easy to clean, but are also great for hiding dirt in between cleanings. You may want to revisit this thought later, when I talk about different texture options for bathroom tile.
Foot Traffic = Wear & Tear
Not only does foot traffic bring in more dirt, but it also takes a beating. You can think of this from both sides — you may want to budget for a high-end tile (like stone that is basically indestructible), or you may want to choose something fairly cheap (like a wood laminate), that you can afford to replace in a few years.
This is something we had to consider in our own home. We have three active boys, and when we chose the tile for their bathroom, we went with a cheaper ceramic so that we could afford to replace in 5-8 years.
Chose Tile Material, Finish, & Size
So far I’ve discussed knowing your budget, choosing a style, creating a bathroom vision, and thinking about foot traffic. All of these thoughts have led us to now deciding on tile specifics: material/color, finish, and size.
Tile Material & Design
If you’ve already thought about your budget, vision, and everything else I’ve discussed, your material/color choices are probably narrowing down.
If you don’t know much about the different tile materials, give yourself a little tile education and visit the Tile Shop. Tons and tons of inspiration, tips, and more. I spent hours on this site when planning my bathrooms.
My number one tip for choosing your tile material? Get yourself to a flooring store! It’s important to actually feel the different materials with your own hands. You will be able to think about things like, how will it feel to walk on in your bare feet? Does it have a texture to it that will hide dirt? Does it seem fragile?
Your choice of material will naturally lead you to selecting a color/design, and this is when you will want to revisit your color palette and mood board for your bathroom.
Just when you thought you were done making decisions, here is another! Once you’ve decided on a tile material that you like, that same tile will typically be available in a few different finishes.
For example, when we selected our Carrara porcelain tile for our master bathroom, we had the choice of a matte or a polished finish. We chose the matte finish for a more natural look and a few less smudges to look at!
Tile finishes are very specific to each type of tile material and what the manufacturer has available. You can read more about different tile finishes here.
The main consideration for choosing the right tile size is thinking about your bathroom size. If you have a super small half bath, you will not want to select large 24×24 squares for your floor. You want the tile size to be in proportion with the room. The bigger tiles are definitely trending right now, but just use your best judgement when thinking about your own space.
Also as I mentioned with tile finishes, size availability will depend largely on the manufacturer of the tile. Each company has their own set of sizes to choose from. And if you don’t want the extra labor expense from overtime with the wet saw, you may want to have a plan B for a different tile that has the size you want.
I hope you feel more confident about how to pick tile for your bathroom! It can be really fun and exciting if you give it plenty of time and patience.
Know your budget, get a vision, think about foot traffic, and carefully choose your tile material/color, finish, and size. Don’t forget to make a bathroom mood board, do some online tile research, and get yourself to a flooring store!