With more tile materials than ever to choose from, designing your dream bathroom just got easier
Let’s take a look at the top 10 materials used for bathroom tiles and see how their properties stack up to the job, both aesthetically and practically.
Alexandra Kidd Design
What to consider
With the use of sealants and special non-slip applications, it is now possible for a greater variety of materials to be rendered suitable for wet area use, providing us with endless design options.The two main properties to consider for bathroom tiles are their vitreosity, which is the tile’s ability to absorb water and provide good slip resistance (for floor tiles in particular). Both are important attributes for a wet area.
“˜Non-vitreous” tiles absorb water, making them unsuitable for areas in your bathroom where there is a high saturation of water, such as the shower or even areas prone to splashes. They can, however, be used for accent areas or powder rooms where minimum water is in contact.
As well as vitreosity, it is extremely important that the floor tiles have a high “coefficient of friction”. The higher this is, the more slip resistant the tile is. Check with your supplier that the slip rating for your selected tiles meets with Australian standards.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the properties of the top 10 materials used for bathroom tiles, see where they are most suited, and what needs to be done so they can effectively be used to create a design that not only looks great but is also practical.
Metal tiles give a modern, contemporary and sleek look to your bathroom that could even be described as seductive. With innovative shapes and sizes, they can be made from solid metal where the tile is punched out from a 1.6mm sheet of high quality metal or made using a resin base with a metallic coating. Metal tiles come in a range of finishes, including bronze, copper, and stainless steel. Because they are a natural product, they will be susceptible to oxidising over time and will develop patina and tarnish. This is not necessarily a bad thing if this is the look you are trying to achieve.Alternatively, titanium-plated tiles are more resilient to the weathering effect of natural metals. Titanium is fabricated in colours similar to brass and copper as well as greys, without the natural patina.
Metal tiles are often used as bathroom accents in conjunction with other types of tiles, mosaics being the most common.
GOOD FOR: A modern city home or apartment, and for people who like a bit of “litz and glam” in their lives. These tiles are expensive and require care in cleaning and maintenance so are not really practical for a busy family bathroom. They’re ideal for a powder room or parent ensuite where care can be taken.
Christopher Polly Architect
These tiles are made from a mixture of clays that have been pressed into shape and fired in a kiln at high temperatures. The surface can be unglazed or glazed. The glazing becomes hard and non-porous, making it suitable for bathrooms. The glaze can be high gloss, matt and have abrasive slip-resistant finishes added. It’s the properties of the glaze that determine whether it is suitable for floor or wall applications.GOOD FOR: Renovators who are looking for an easy-fit, low- maintenance, practical tile. This choice can fit many budgets, styles and looks. It’s a good “all rounder”.
House + House Architects
Terracotta is a type of ceramic, and all ceramics are highly absorbent in their natural untreated state. As terracotta is fired at lower temperatures, it has low density, is non-vitreous, and generally only suitable for dry areas. However, terracotta’s porous nature can be resolved with a good quality sealant to make it suitable for bathroom use.With its earthy, orange/red tones and classic rustic look, it’s a tile that’s inviting and simply oozes warmth.
GOOD FOR: Mediterranean-inspired schemes, so long as you don’t mind putting a little effort into regular maintenance and care.
mcrae + lynch interior design
These are actually a form of ceramic tile but made from a much finer clay than ceramic. They are shaped by dry pressing the clay dust to form a ceramic material that is fired at higher temperatures than ceramic, resulting in a very tough, extremely vitreous and dense tile, ideal for bathroom floors and walls.Porcelain tiles can be glazed or unglazed. Due to their “through colour” property, unglazed porcelain tiles are available in a variety of finishes from matt to high gloss, as well as textured (made to imitate natural stone). Glazed tiles can be ground and polished to produce a completely flat surface, making them ideal for glazing with high-resolution digital images fused onto the tile surface.
Porcelain tiles can also be “rectified”, which means the tile has been mechanically cut or ground to an exact size as opposed to being moulded and fired (so will have slight dimensional differences). This allows the tiles to be laid more closely together, giving you the added benefit of thin, subtle grout lines.
GOOD FOR: Family bathrooms, and for and those who like simple, clean, modern lines. It’s a diverse, ultra-low-maintenance tile that suits any modern family bathroom, including those that take a lot of wear and tear. Also great for those who like the look of natural stone without the hassle of the maintenance.
A vibrant tile available in a variety of bold colours. Its reflective quality provides a dramatic, unique and distinctive appearance, lending itself to feature walls or accent panels or strips. Because of its luminous quality, it comes to life and creates a lovely effect when featured with strip lighting. No sealing is required as it is naturally impervious to water and is stain resistant.GOOD FOR: Contemporary bathrooms. For use on feature walls, panels and shower recesses. Also great for those who want that wow factor without the maintenance.
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There are many different types of natural stone tiles available, all of which are less dense than porcelain tiles, so will absorb water. This means they require sealing to make them water and stain resistant for bathroom use.Natural stone tiles are cut to size. Therefore, like rectified porcelain, they can be laid close together, creating a thin grout line.
A sophisticated, classical smooth stone that works beautifully in both modern and traditional bathrooms. Its distinctive natural veining adds interest and drama to your bathroom with colours ranging from black, grey rose and blue to white. It’s available in polished (gloss, high gloss) or honed (satin, smooth with little or no gloss) and comes in a range of sizes in both slab, tile or even mosaics, which are becoming increasingly popular. Marble tiles can be used for floor and wall applications but are most commonly used as a feature due to its high price.GOOD FOR: Those for whom budget is not an issue, are looking for a classical, sophisticated look, and don’t mind the extra care and maintenance required. Not a practical tile for the everyday family bathroom.
Stockett Tile & Granite Company
7. River rock/pebbles
If you are looking for that “natural” look, you can’t go past the river rock and other pebble-type tiles. They can look great in bathrooms and feel great underfoot.They usually come in sheets and it is advised that you get a reputable tiler to lay them. The last thing you want is to see the outline of the individual sheets.
These have more grout than standard tiles, and with the rounded rocks, there will be slightly more resistance to water flowing across the floor to get to the drain. If used on the floor, consider increasing the pitch of the floor a little to aid in the water draining.
GOOD FOR: Bringing a bit of nature into your bathroom. Fits in well with coastal homes. Its informal, casual look makes it a popular material for holiday home bathrooms. You can’t go wrong using it in a family bathroom, as it is hard-wearing and easy to care for.
D’Cruz Design Group Sydney Interior Designers
Another popular choice for bathrooms. It has a lot of character, with its creamy golden and reddish colours, along with its naturally occurring pores, holes and veins. Great for that classical or rustic look, depending on the tile’s finish.The two main finishes used in bathroom applications are honed and tumbled. Honed tiles undergo extensive grinding and sanding during manufacturing to create a uniform surface that has a smooth marble-like finish, but aren’t as shiny as polished. Tumbled tiles have a highly textured surface with the least amount of shine. Their rounded edges and textured surface give these tiles a rustic, aged look.
Regardless of the finish, these tiles must be properly sealed to make them impervious to water and easier to maintain. The holes can be filled with grout during the grouting process to help stabilise the stone, help keep it clean and give it a finished appearance, or left unfilled to provide a more natural look.
GOOD FOR: Those who like a classical tile with character. Suits those with a higher budget who don’t mind the maintenance required.
mcrae + lynch interior design
This is a volcanic stone formed from cooling lava. It is extremely dense, durable and scratch resistant, but requires sealing. It lends itself to a modern, contemporary, sleek look as well as blending well into a classical style.Its colouring, as the name suggests, is generally varying degrees of bluey grey. It comes in a selection of finishes ” honed, flamed, polished, chiseled, shot blasted or split faced. Its rich, deep grey colour looks striking as a backdrop against white bathroom fittings.
GOOD FOR: Those who like the clean, sleek modern look as well as the warmth and feel of natural stone. Its consistency and depth of colour works well in any modern bathroom.
10. Cement tiles
Unlike ceramic tiles, which are made from clay and fired, cement tiles are a cured sand and mortar mix, made by hand using traditional manufacturing processes requiring several steps. The colour mixture is hand poured into moulds, then a layer of cement is sprinkled ontop to provide a bond between the colour layer and the cement and sand-tiled body. It is then hydraulically pressed and cured under water.Note: They are non-vitreous, so definitely require sealing.
GOOD FOR: Those after durability with design flexibility. Also great for people who want an industrial look or design feature for their bathroom.
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