Bathrooms are among the most hard-working areas of any home. From downstairs WCs to family bathrooms and en-suite shower rooms, they must deliver on functionality and practicality in addition to style. And nowhere is this more important than when it comes to choosing the right flooring.
Just think about what bathroom floors must withstand in the face of water spills and splashes, high levels of humidity and moisture. Is the surface resistant to water? Is it slippery underfoot when wet? Will it stain easily when you spill make-up? With this in mind, we thought it might be helpful to list the best and worst flooring choices for your bathroom, wet room and toilet areas.
Porcelain and ceramic tiles
A beautifully tiled bathroom is hard to beat – it exudes a sense of elegance and robustness with a rich, textured look. Tiles are a waterproof, stylish solution that can be cleaned up quickly and easily resist spills and even pools of water. Porcelain tiles have an even lower rate of water absorption (0.5% or less) than standard ceramic tiles.
Another advantage of tiles is that you can customise the floor to create exactly the type of look you’re after including the stone or wood effect. Tiles come in an endless array of sizes and shapes, not just square and rectangular but round, hexagonal, triangular, mosaics and even fish-scale patterns! Combine with tinted grout for an even more unique and creative bathroom scheme.
You can minimise the risk of slippery bathroom floors by choosing textured tiles, and why not consider underfloor heating or a cosy bathroom rug if you’re worried about a chilly floor.
Rubber, Vinyl & LVT
Rubber and vinyl flooring has come a very long way since the old days when it was considered a cheap (and often nasty) flooring option. Today’s vinyl floors come in a huge range of patterns and colours that look vastly more appealing than the choices available back in the day. Vinyl and rubber floors are super durable, 100% waterproof and require next to no maintenance, making it a superb choice of flooring for any bathroom.
For children’s bathrooms and laundry rooms where water spills are a routine occurrence, sheet vinyl is a good solution. Available in large sizes, you may even get away with no seams at all, depending on the dimensions of your bathroom. At the top end of the market, luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) can produce stunning results, laid as plank flooring in various widths and lengths.
Fitting sheet vinyl can be done by an experienced DIYer, which makes this a more budget-friendly solution than many other bathroom flooring choices. LVT does require professional floor preparation and installation to get a good finish. Gappy and poorly laid seams can really mess up the result.
If your budget stretches to natural stone flooring, you’re spoilt for choice with granite and slate, marble and limestone. Stone floors are not only uniquely beautiful but they are hard and durable and should last a lifetime. High-end natural stone bathroom flooring is an attractive feature that can add value to the resale price of your home.
Bear in mind that some natural stones can be quite porous and will need to be treated with a protective sealant during installation in a bathroom. Slate, marble and some limestones have lower porosity and may be more suitable for wet areas in the home.
To preserve the long-term beauty of stone floors, they need to be looked after properly with the right cleaning products and resealing every few years. Fit underfloor heating to create a cosy bathroom floor and opt for sandblasted or naturally textured stone to minimise the risk of slipping on a wet floor.
If you are choosing between solid wood flooring and laminate for your bathroom, go for laminate, although strictly speaking neither of them is ideal. Technically, laminate is nothing more than resin-impregnated paper glued onto a woodchip base. The surface of a laminate plank consists of a photograph of the wood look that is being achieved, protected by a clear topcoat ‘wear layer’ that gives the flooring strength and durability.
Laminate is quite easy to install and so long as you’re careful about protecting the chip wood base from moisture, there are no reasons why a laminate floor shouldn’t work in your bathroom. Laid properly, the tight seams in between the planks should make it near impossible for moisture to work itself downwards. Once installed, laminate is a doddle to look after.
However, if the woodchip base should come into contact with moisture, it will expand and bubble. If that happens, there’s really no alternative but to replace the floor. Whatever manufacturers may wish you to believe, there’s no such thing as a 100% waterproof laminate floor.
Carpet and wood
Carpet and wood flooring are undoubtedly the worst possible choices for your bathroom floor. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
While solid hardwood flooring is an attractive and practical solution for many areas of the home, it is tricky to make this kind of floor work in a wet environment. Wood offers no protection against moisture unless it has been sealed with a waterproof top coat – even the tiniest drop of moisture seeping into the wood will eventually cause it to rot. If you must have it in your bathroom, make sure that it is professionally installed with no gaps whatsoever. On-site finishing of hardwood flooring should effectively coat up the seams between the boards and block moisture ingress.
Finally, who remembers carpeted bathrooms? Perhaps the above picture will send shivers down your spine as childhood memories flood back? At the height of their popularity in the 1970s and 80s, bathroom carpets were advertised as the ultimate luxury feature. Fast forward some decades and we now consider carpets in bathrooms as an unhygienic and unworkable option.
Carpet retains moisture for long periods of time, taking an age to dry out and being awkward to keep clean. If you must have a carpet in the bathroom, look out for a low-pile product made from 100% inorganic materials such as nylon or polypropylene that is designed for bathrooms.
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