Bathroom flooring has to work extra hard. It needs to handle moisture, be kind to bare feet and be easy to clean, all while looking effortlessly gorgeous. So which material should you choose?
Start by considering who will be using the bathroom, and therefore how robust the flooring needs to be. Then think about what kind of look you’re aiming for — rustic or contemporary; striking or simple; wow or wonderfully practical? To help you pinpoint the perfect flooring for you, check out the pros and cons of these 12 options.
Porcelain tiles are one of the most popular choices for bathroom floors, and for good reason. “Porcelain is a mix of quartz, clay and feldspar fired at a high temperature, making it very dense and nonporous,” Katherine Campbell says.
“The tiles come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and textures, so you can create a traditional, modern, natural or luxurious look as required,” she says.
“Porcelain tiles can mimic natural materials, such as marble [as pictured here] or wood if you want a certain look for a lower price,” Michelle Johnson adds.
Pros: Super-tough, scratch- and stain-resistant and nonporous, so it’s hygienic, compatible with underfloor heating and doesn’t need sealing. Color runs through the whole tile, so chips are less visible.
Cons: Cold and hard underfoot. “Dirt can build up in the grout joints too,” Campbell says. Johnson adds, “I often use dark grout on the floor, so it doesn’t show the dirt.” Tiles can chip, though this is unlikely, and they’re unrepairable if they do.
Maintenance: “Remove dust and dirt with a broom or vacuum cleaner,” Campbell says, “then clean with a damp mop using a multipurpose household cleaner.”
Generally made from clay with a glaze on top, ceramic tiles are softer and more porous than porcelain, so they’re usually cheaper. “They still come in a huge range of styles, though, and can also mimic other materials [as seen in these wood-look ones], so it’s easy to get a good look on a budget,” Campbell says.
Pros: Durable, stain-resistant, low maintenance and compatible with underfloor heating. Softer than porcelain tiles, so easier to cut.
Cons: Cold and hard underfoot. Less durable and more likely to chip than porcelain, and chips are more obvious, as the color doesn’t go all the way through.
Maintenance: “As with porcelain, sweep or vacuum, then clean with a damp mop using a household cleaning product,” Campbell says.
Usually featuring beautiful patterns and rich colors, encaustic cement tiles have a handcrafted, authentic look. They’re made from mineral pigments mixed with cement pressed into a mold.“Be aware that cement tiles are porous, though,” Campbell says, “so it’s important to seal them to avoid damage. They need two coats of penetrating sealer before grouting.”
Pros: Slip-resistant, scratch-resistant, durable and compatible with underfloor heating. They’re unlikely to crack as long as they’re on an even surface. “If chipped, it won’t be obvious, because of the thick color layer,” Campbell says.
Cons: “The tiles can be pricey and they can change color over time,” Campbell says. “Even if well-sealed, spills should be mopped up immediately.” Because the tiles need to dry thoroughly before being sealed, and the sealer needs to dry before grouting, the entire laying process can be lengthy. “Typically 10-plus days,” Campbell says.
Maintenance: “Clean the tiles with a pH-neutral soap — no ammonia, acidic or alkaline cleaners — then use a wax (for marble), which enhances the colors and protects the tiles,” Campbell says. “Difficult stains will need to be removed using oxalic acid, then the tile resealed.” It’s also possible to lightly sand stains away, as the pigment runs deep.
“Travertine is a natural, luxurious stone with a high-end look,” Campbell says. “It comes in numerous textures, including etched, sandblasted, honed and tumbled, but for a bathroom, make sure you choose a slip-resistant finish.”Pros: Hard-wearing, easy to clean, compatible with underfloor heating, and cracks can be filled.
Cons: “Natural stone is expensive and generally higher maintenance than other floorings,” Campbell says. It’s heavy, so it needs a strong subfloor, requires frequent sealing, can scratch, and can feel hard and cold underfoot.
Maintenance: “Use a neutral cleaner and plain water — no ammonia, acidic or alkaline cleaners,” Campbell says.
Dark, velvety slate creates a beautiful base, particularly for a white bathroom. Variations in tone and markings make each tile unique. Choose from honed or polished finishes.“These [pictured] are Brazilian honed slate floor tiles, and they each have an individual natural pattern,” Johnson says. Some slates, such as Brazilian and Welsh, are more durable than others.
Pros: Easy to clean, hard-wearing, long-lasting, and compatible with underfloor heating. Cracks can be filled, though this should be done as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
Cons: “Slate needs to be resealed every 12 to 18 months,” Johnson says. It’s also susceptible to scratches and is hard underfoot. It needs a strong subfloor, as slate is heavy.
Maintenance: Sweep or vacuum to remove grit, then mop with plain water or a mild neutral detergent.
If it’s a touch of glamour you’re after, marble is your friend. “Marble gives a timeless, modern luxe feel that emanates natural beauty,” Sharon Lillywhite says. “It continues to be the stone of choice to create a dramatic finish in a bathroom.“Paler marbles such as Carrara are good for flooring and make smaller rooms look lighter and more spacious,” she says. “Large slabs are best, even in small bathrooms, to give the illusion of more space.”
Pros: Compatible with underfloor heating, easy to clean, cracks can be filled, available in a wide range of patterns and colors, and each tile is unique.
Cons: Marble is porous, so it should be sealed before grouting and again afterward. “Marble is very susceptible to stains, even with sealing,” Johnson says. “It can also scratch and chip, especially during installation. It will need sealing frequently.”
“In a wet area, it can be a slip hazard,” Lillywhite says. “It’s a high-value item, not just in terms of the cost of the stone, but because you need specialists to install it, otherwise it can crack.”
Maintenance: Frequent dry sweeping with a soft mop helps to remove any dirt that could scratch the floor. Mop with plain water or a specific, pH-neutral marble cleaner.
Engineered wood flooring brings in the natural look and warmth of solid wood, but, as they’re made from layers of hardwood sandwiching a layer of ply, they’re more stable in a moist environment. They come in a variety of widths, wood species, styles, colors, and finishes.“Engineered wood works nicely with underfloor heating, as it performs well in changes of temperature,” Johnson says. “However, it cannot exceed 80 degrees. I’d go for a mid-level thickness, as the thicker ones will obviously take longer to heat up.”
Campbell agrees, adding, “With underfloor heating, boards should be no more than 14mm thick.”
Pros: “Boards look warmer than other floorings,” Campbell says, plus they feel softer and warmer underfoot. They can be sanded and refinished several times, depending on the thickness of the veneer. Easy to clean.
Cons: “Water damage is always a risk from spills over time,” Campbell says. Lacquered boards are sealed and robust but lack some of the beauty of raw, unfinished wood.
Maintenance: Don’t leave standing water. Sweep or vacuum before mopping to remove any particles that could scratch the surface. Wash with a mop that is damp, rather than wet. You can buy special engineered-wood cleaner — simply add a few drops to water. Don’t use wax-based cleaners or harsh detergents.
“Laminate is one of the most affordable bathroom flooring materials, so it’s a good choice if your budget is tight,” Johnson says. Made from a fiberboard core topped with a photo covered in a tough, transparent wear layer, laminate can mimic the look of wood, stone or ceramic tiles.“Some laminate can be prone to scratching,” Johnson says, so look for a good-quality product with a scratch guard. “You can have 10 years warranty on the protective layer,” Campbell adds.
Pros: Fiberboard laminate is moisture-resistant, easy to clean, doesn’t need sealing and comes in many color choices.
Cons: “With wear and moisture exposure, the layers can peel,” Johnson says. Not suitable for most underfloor heating, though there are exceptions.
“Laminate won’t resist standing pools of water,” Campbell says. “It can’t be refinished, it adds less value to a property than porcelain tiles or engineered wood, it can warp from direct contact with water, and it can feel hard underfoot.”
Maintenance: “Use a vacuum or broom, then clean with a slightly damp mop using water or laminate floor cleaner,” Campbell says. Make sure you dry the floor after mopping.
A budget-friendly option, vinyl can give you the look of wood, stone or tiles, or bring in the pattern, such as geometrics or polka dots.Pros: “It’s waterproof and stain-resistant, and it feels warm and soft underfoot,” Campbell says. It’s compatible with underfloor heating (but check any temperature restrictions with your supplier), and is durable.
Cons: It can scratch, mark or fade over time, though the surface can be refinished. “It can feel plasticky,” Campbell says.
Maintenance: “Sweep frequently with a soft broom, and mop with warm, soapy water or a recommended floor cleaner. Never use anything abrasive,” Campbell says.
“Cork is a versatile material that’s been transformed since the days when those little orange tiles were used in 1970s bathrooms,” Lydia Robinson says.
“It now comes in an engineered board form too, with the option of a moisture-resistant core, and there’s a host of different colors and looks available,” she says.
“It can be used in wet and dry areas seamlessly, from a bedroom through to an en suite, for example, without the need for thresholds,” she adds.
Pros: Resistant to mould and mildew, making it hypoallergenic, good sound insulation, recyclable, warm and soft underfoot, durable and sustainable.
Cons: Cork is light-sensitive, so it’s likely to fade in strong sunlight. “It’s also quite expensive … and difficult to repair,” Robinson says. It needs sealing and isn’t suitable for underfloor heating.
Maintenance: Frequent vacuuming and light cleaning with a damp mop. Should be resealed every two to three years.
For a modern, slightly edgy look, you can’t beat concrete. “Concrete is a robust and durable material and provides a more industrial look,” Robinson says.Make sure, however, that it’s laid correctly. “Installation can vary, both in terms of quality and cost, depending on the level of finish you want to achieve,” Robinson says. “It’s important to fully consider this — a specialist contractor will usually give you a more refined result. The color, finish and overall look are very dependent on the installation.”
Pros: “Concrete is extremely versatile: it can be cast in any shape and custom-tinted any shade you wish,” Johnson says.
“It’s durable and compatible with underfloor heating,” Robinson adds. It’s also easy to clean, won’t harbor pests, and actually gets tougher over time.
Cons: “Because it’s porous, concrete can stain without frequent sealing,” Johnson says. “With time and settling, small cracks can develop. It’s extremely heavy and will need strong support beneath it.”
Maintenance: Wash with a damp mop and plain water, or a mild, non-acidic detergent.
Rubber is sleek and modern, but with a softer look than concrete. It’s available as tiles, but a seamless sheet will ensure it’s neat and waterproof — meaning you don’t have to worry about spills. “It’s perfect for families with young children,” Campbell says.
Pros: “It’s a good value for the cost, durable, sustainable, comes in a wide color choice, is comfortable to walk on, and is hygienic because it’s seamless,” Campbell says. It’s also compatible with some underfloor heating but check first with your supplier.
Cons: “Not very scratch- and mark-resistant, can fade in sunlight, hard to repair, and polished rubber can be slippery,” Campbell says.
Maintenance: “Remove dust with a broom or vacuum cleaner and wash with a damp mop using the detergent recommended by the manufacturer,” Campbell says.