Deciding how much of your bathroom to tile can be a tricky decision. Tile can provide a beautiful, water-resistant finish in bathrooms, but tiling an entire bathroom can be expensive and time-consuming. Here are some tips on determining the right amount of tile for your bathroom remodeling or renovation project.
Focus on Wet Areas
The most important areas to tile in a bathroom are the areas that will get wet. Tiling around the bathtub, shower walls and floor, and sink backsplash will protect the walls and floors from moisture damage. Tile is water-resistant and easy to clean, making it ideal for high-splash zones.
At minimum, you’ll want to:
- Tile the walls and floor of the shower fully
- Tile around the bathtub basin up to 6 inches above the height of the rim
- Add a 4-6 inch backsplash above bathroom sinks and counters
Tiling these wet areas is useful for protecting the underlying wall material from water damage and mold growth. It also allows you to decorate with materials like wallpaper or wood trim in the drier zones of the bathroom without worrying about moisture warping them.
Consider Tiling the Entire Shower Area
It’s recommended to tile the walls and floor of the entire shower area, not just the immediate shower basin. This will prevent moisture from seeping out into the rest of the bathroom. Use a waterproof grout and apply caulk along the seams between the tile and drywall outside the shower.
If your bathroom layout allows, consider using a shower door or glass enclosure rather than just a shower curtain. This will contain water splashes and steam inside the shower area. Use small mosaic tiles on the shower floor for grip and larger tiles on the walls for easy maintenance.
Tile Bathroom Floors
Many homeowners also choose to tile the entire bathroom floor. This provides a durable, water-resistant finish. It also allows you to use a decorative tile pattern to tie the whole room together.
Small stone mosaic tiles, porcelain tiles, or glass tiles are popular choices for bathroom floors. Make sure the tile is textured or contains grout lines to provide traction and prevent slips.
If tiling the whole floor, pay attention to transitions between rooms and use trim to create clean edges. You may also want to incorporate a tile border, decorative rug, or bath mats for standing areas like the vanity.
Use Accent Tile Sparingly
While high-traffic zones benefit from tile, tiling the entire bathroom from floor to ceiling can give a cold, sterile feeling. Use accent tile sparingly to add decorative flair.
Some examples of accent tile include:
- Decorative inlay border along the wall behind sinks or toilets
- Mosaic tile edging on the inside of a bathtub basin
- Geometric or artistic mosaic tile backsplash
- Inset tile design within a shower wall
Limit accent tile to 25-30% of the total tiled area. Too much can make the room feel busy or cramped.
Tile Halfway Up the Walls
A good compromise is to tile half-height around the lower perimeter of the bathroom. This protects the lower walls from splashes while still allowing wallpaper, paint, or other finishes on the upper portion.
For a standard 8 ft ceiling, tile 4 ft high around the perimeter of the room. Adjust the height appropriately for taller or shorter ceilings.
Make sure to include the area around toilets in the half-wall tiling. Use bullnose caps or trim to create a finished edge along the top of the 4 ft tile line.
Use Greenboard Drywall in Remaining Areas
In areas of the bathroom where you won’t be using tile, use moisture-resistant drywall (also called greenboard). Greenboard is designed to withstand damp environments better than regular drywall.
It reduces the risk of drywall damage or mold growth in the upper walls, ceiling, and non-wet areas of the floor. Greenboard adds an extra layer of protection wherever tile isn’t used.
Consider Waterproof Grout and Membranes
The grout between tiles is porous and can allow water through over time. To increase water resistance, use a waterproof epoxy grout. You can also apply waterproofing membranes or compounds beneath the tile.
Look for products designed for bathrooms like RedGard or NobleSeal TS. Waterproofing creates an impervious seal to prevent leaks through the grout or into the wall behind tiles.
Focus on Personal Style and Needs
There are no absolute rules on how much tile is “right” for a bathroom. Focus on your budget, decorating taste, and functional needs. Use tile strategically in wet areas for protection, maintenance, and easy cleaning. Then incorporate preferred finishes in lower-splash zones.
Tile Bathroom FAQs
Still deciding how much tile is right for your bathroom? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Should I tile the ceiling?
Tiling a bathroom ceiling is uncommon and rarely necessary. Special moisture-resistant drywall or paint are better suited for ceilings than tile. Tile ceilings can actually increase moisture issues by not allowing adequate ventilation.
How about the walls around my toilet?
Definitely tile behind and around the toilet up to 4-6 inches above the tank level. This protects the walls from water splashes. Tile the floor under and around the toilet as well.
What about the countertops?
Tile or stone can be used for bathroom countertops, but this is an aesthetic choice, not a functional need. Many homeowners prefer easier to maintain solid surface counters or water-resistant wood.
Is wall tile needed if I have a tub surround?
If using a preformed surround around the tub rather than tile, wall tile isn’t strictly necessary. Focus tile on the floor, lower perimeter, and shower area. Use greenboard drywall above the tub surround.
Can I use large format tile in my bathroom?
Large tiles 12 inches or larger are beautiful, but the wide grout lines collect more dirt and moisture. Keep large tiles out of wet zones. Use smaller mosaic tiles on shower floors and walls.
What tile materials work best in bathrooms?
Porcelain, ceramic, natural stone, and glass tile are most suitable for bathrooms. Avoid very porous tiles or slippery stone. Check that your tile choice has a COF friction rating of at least 0.5.
How do I waterproof behind bathroom tiles?
Install cement backerboard rather than drywall then apply a waterproofing compound or membrane before tiling. OR use a waterproof adhesive mortar designed for wet rooms during tile installation.
The most important areas to tile in a bathroom are the shower, tub, sinks, and toilet surround. Tiling these high-splash areas provides water protection for the underlying walls. For full coverage, tile half-height around the room perimeter or opt for tiling the entire bathroom floor. Use accent tile sparingly to add character without overwhelming the space. Focus on protecting wet areas with durable, easy-to-clean tile while also choosing finishes that align with your personal style. With strategic tile placement, you can enjoy both function and design in your new bathroom.
How Much of Your Bathroom Should You Tile?
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