Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ten tips for bathroom tile selection

Choosing bathroom tile is a special form of torture.  I mean, if you're choosing for a kitchen, you can waffle between white subway tile and colourful statement tile for hours and really enjoy yourself, but a bathroom?  Especially if you have to pull together floor, wall, backsplash, counter, and shower floor - well, that's a lot more complicated than anybody wants.

Luckily, Biscuit has been quietly watching me explore just how complicated, and is ready to share ten tips to make your life easier.

1. Pick white subway tile for any vertical surface.  Gloss or matte, who cares?

White subway tile is timeless, it goes with everything, and everybody likes it, so it's perfect for a house you're going to sell in a few years or if you get bored and redecorate a lot.  Throw in a contrast grout colour if you want to spice it up.

2. Pick a mosaic tile in a hexagon shape for any horizontal surface.  Any colour will do if it's paired with white. 

Like subway tile, hex tile is also timeless and you can't go wrong.  Or you could have this cute geometric which is tantalizingly unavailable from lots of manufacturers but can be had from Centura Tile.

Retro pattern, black and white neutrals - tile like this never goes out of style.

3. Look at home decor magazines while curled up somewhere comfortable with the beverage of your choice, find a tiled room you love, then buy all the tile listed in the sources section. is another good place to look.  Either vehicle is basically a product showcase.

Warning: the most beguiling pictures have marble in them, which is expensive and hard to maintain compared to porcelain tile, so don't forget that you can buy marble-look porcelain tile, and also don't expect it to look like real tile up close when you're showering beside it.  It might, and that's a bonus - it's not guaranteed.  But don't worry.  You can always put a real marble subway tile backsplash over your counter and under the giant mirror you will enjoy ever so much more than the small, prettily framed one you'll see in all the magazines.

You are so right, Biscuit, I'm swooning over the marble subway tile too. I draw the line at falling over onto it, but you have a lot more padding and a few less bones than I do, so swoon at will, my friend.

4. Worried about slipping on a wet floor?  Forget what I just said about horizontal surfaces and find yourself an unglazed porcelain mosaic tile.  If you have the option to choose matte or shiny finish, pick matte.

Unglazed tile has more traction than glazed tile, which has a layer of melted glass over the top to make it prettier, and the extra grout lines in mosaic tile give extra traction too.  Sometimes you have the choice between 1" square tiles:

or 2" square:

and I expect the 1" will offer more traction.  Or of course, there's hex tile.

Hello again!  It's true, I'm everywhere, even in this post.

5. Hate cleaning grout?  Forget what I just said about subway tile because OMIGOSH grout.  So much grout!  Large-format tiles - 12x24" and 24x24" tiles were made for people like me, who give grout a very wide berth (unless it's absolutely necessary to have mosaic tile, and the extra grout is in aid of installing a 1" square tile, because 2" square tiles are beyond ubiquitous and it's nice to have a change.)

6. Easily overwhelmed by pattern and texture but need wall tile that will reach eye level?  See #5 and pick a large format tile in a matte pattern with minimal colour variation.

7. Want colour, but plan to sell your place in a few years?  Put the colour into something easily removed, like a towel or a toothbrush jar.  Stick with white subway tile and hex.  Or, larger format tiles in plain white with no colour variation.  Or pick a gorgeous glossy red, in a deep shade, on porcelain instead of glass!  Those were never a trend, and will therefore live forever, sparking joy and a consistent decision for white paint.  Assuming you can find any for sale because: not a trend.  (I'm kidding, obviously.  Just stick with white.)

8. Want to stick to a neutral non red room, but can't find larger format plain white tiles with no colour variation because every tile store in a twenty mile radius is pushing grey, travertine, or some variation on charcoal (but never actual black)?  Pause to cry, then consider other neutral colours which are not brown or grey, trend colours that will date your home and limit paint choices until the day they are finally ripped out.  Start with the tiles that are labeled 'white' in the tile store because 9 times out of 10 they will be a stone or grey-beige colour that nobody would ever mistake for white.

See those two light-coloured tiles?  The smaller one is white.  The larger one is just called white.

9. If you do find large format plain white and can't bear the thought of it, because you know from experience it shows up every long brown hair that falls off your head (how come it's never the grey ones??), see #8.

10. If you are tiling a bathroom with a walk in shower that requires a nonslip mosaic tile, but you hate cleaning grout and can't imagine putting the same mosaic down over the rest of the bathroom floor, simplify things by using one other (large-format) tile for both the walls of the shower and the floor and walls of the rest of the bathroom - or at least, one other colour, spread across two different tiles of the same size. If the shower floor colour of your choice is very different from your wall and floor tile - for example, a postage stamp of black in a sea of stony greige, repeat the shower floor colour in your mirror frame or countertop.


Except for the countertop choices.

Sorry about that.

(and good luck!)

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