What is the Best Flooring for Bathrooms?

Believe it or not, your bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your home. A basic necessity for everyday convenience, bathrooms are a key feature of any home whether you’re in it for the long haul, or considering resale. So, it’s no surprise that when it comes to remodeling, even more so than when initially purchasing a home, bathrooms are typically near the top of the priorities checklist list. 

These important spaces, however, come with some special considerations when it comes to finishes – in particular the flooring. And the main consideration is water. That’s right, water in all of its various forms can wreak havoc on the home, and bathroom flooring often catches the majority of errant water.

Whether from overspray, spill, leak, drip, or just kids being kids, the simple fact is that water will inevitably end up on your bathroom floor, and the walls, and even the ceiling! It’s utterly unavoidable, and your bathroom must be able to stand up to that barrage of fluid. 

For that reason alone, when considering a bathroom remodel, it’s a good idea to research your options to determine what really is the best bathroom flooring for your project. There may be more to it than you think!

Bathrooms Need Waterproof Flooring

In this post, we will cover mostly waterproof flooring options. Not sure what is the difference between waterproof and water-resistant? Water-resistant flooring can, as the name implies, resist water, but water can, and eventually will, penetrate and damage the flooring.

When selecting flooring, water-resistant flooring is a great option for a number of rooms in the home where water is a consideration.  For example, kitchens, basements or laundry, and mudrooms. Water-resistant flooring is generally less expensive than waterproof flooring, due to the plywood or MDF core materials used in its construction being less expensive. But these porous inner materials are also what contributes to swelling, warping, and peeling when exposed to moisture. Picture a wood veneer top glued to a sponge that has been left to soak up water.

Waterproof flooring is completely impervious to water. Water can sit on it or even penetrate the surface of the flooring without damaging the material, or (arguably more important) the subflooring beneath. Waterproof flooring is considered impermeable to water or moisture. And the materials used to construct the flooring to make it waterproof also prevent mold and mildew development as there is no moisture permeation.

Don’t Add This Flooring To Your Bathroom

Carpet

Carpet is great for softness underfoot. It comes in a variety of loops, weaves, patterns and colors. It’s inexpensive. It adds style and beauty to many rooms. It’s dated and horrible for the bathrooms. 

If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s, you may remember carpeted bathrooms. Carpeting soaks up moisture from the air, or water from dripping, and overspray holds it and turns it into mold and mildew. Mold and mildew can lead to respiratory issues and damage to your subfloor. We won’t even go into the germ factor, but as most of us are aware, bathrooms are a nasty place. Do you really want a bathroom floor that you can’t wash thoroughly?

Hardwood

Hardwood floors are a great choice in many spots in the home. Timeless looks. Durability. Can be refinished, offering decades of great flooring in nearly every room of the home. Nearly – not all. 

Don’t put them in the bathroom. In order for hardwoods to work in a bathroom, they would have to be perfectly installed and perfectly sealed from moisture. Otherwise, water will penetrate, and they will rot eventually. Plus, they will need to be re-sealed with a polyurethane-type coating more frequently than if they were in another room without the moisture challenges presented by a bathroom. 

Best Bathroom Flooring

When it comes to making a good selection for bathroom flooring, waterproof materials are critical, as we established. Typically, this means harder surfaces, rather than soft ones that will trap water. Remember absorption is the enemy – looking at you, carpet. 

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

The most popular choice for bathrooms is tile. Specifically, ceramic and porcelain tiles are great options for bathrooms. Tile flooring is resilient, waterproof, available in a variety of colors and designs, and generally less expensive than other hard surface options. Porcelain tiles specifically absorb less water than any other ceramic product. Ceramic and porcelain can handle even pools and puddles of standing water, which makes them great options for shower tile. 

Tile does have some features that are often perceived as “cons” by some buyers. Tile is a hard surface, so it’s often called “hard” or “cold” or even “sterile”.  While it’s true that standing for extended periods of time on tile can be uncomfortable, that is true for any hard surface, and the temperature of the floor can be addressed as porcelain and ceramic both work well with radiant flooring systems. As for sterile, that’s great! Tile doesn’t absorb water and germs and cleans easily, which makes it a great option for sterile environments. 

Natural Stone Tile

Another great bathroom flooring option is natural stone. There are a wide variety of natural stone options from granite to marble and even limestone. Natural stone tile offers many of the same positives as ceramic and porcelain tile. Resilience to wear, waterproof, variety of naturally-occurring colors and patterns, the stone is offered in tiles, planks, and even mosaics backed with mesh to hold the smaller tiles together. 

There are a few things to consider when looking at stone as an option for bathroom flooring, however. Stone can be difficult to install for the do-it-yourselfer. Be aware of this if you attempt this project on your own. Stone can be slippery like tile, but grout patterns and finishes applied after to “rough” the surface can minimize this. It can also require more regular maintenance than other options, as some stone products require periodic applications of sealant to maintain the stone finish and prevent penetration of dirt and debris, or absorption of moisture.

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