best flooring for bathrooms

Best Flooring For Bathrooms

Choosing the right floor for your bathroom can be challenging. It needs to stand up against a lot of water exposure and fight mold development. It also needs to be slip-resistant for safety purposes and, of course, look good!

Opinions differ on what is the best flooring option for bathrooms, but there are certainly some that are relatively good choices and some flooring you should steer clear of no-matter-what.

Below, you will find a list of the best flooring options for bathrooms, as well as a few to avoid. Plus, we’ll share some top tips for installing and maintaining your bathroom flooring.

Thanks to modern engineering and technology, there are many more choices available today in bathroom flooring than there were in the past. Today’s bathroom flooring is highly durable, water-resistant, and can stand up to most anything.

Let’s face it, depending on the size of your family and the number of bathrooms you have, this may be one of the most used rooms in the house. So, you need something that can handle the traffic, the moisture and humidity, and all the messes that wind up in the bathroom.

Dirty children, wet dogs, sweaty adults, little boys who haven’t yet learned to aim. These can all take a toll on your bathroom floors.

That’s why you need a floor that can handle anything and everything that life throws its way.

So, what is the best flooring for bathrooms? It must be a product that is durable and able to handle all the messes and moisture you’ll typically find in a bathroom.

Ceramic & Porcelain Tile

Pros:

  • Many styles and colors to choose from
  • Easy to maintain
  • Durable, waterproof, and stain-resistant
  • Moderately priced

Cons:

  • Difficult to install
  • Feels cold and hard to the touch

Why do so many people choose tile for their bathroom? With ceramic and porcelain tile, you won’t need to worry about water or moisture damaging your flooring.

Ceramic & Porcelain Tile

Plus, there are so many different options to choose from. If you’re a fan of hardwood flooring, you can even find ceramic tiles that look like wood.

They are easy to maintain and look very classy and clean. In the case of ceramic and porcelain tiles, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Yes, they are tough to install yourself, but wouldn’t you rather have someone else do it anyway?

And it’s true – tiles can feel cold and hard. So, either wear slippers or invest in a radiant floor heating system. Here’s an EPA.gov article covering its benefits.

Tile flooring generally has a life expectancy of 75 to 100 years if cared for properly, and it is one of the floors that can add value to your home if installed correctly.

This is why it is always a good idea to get a professional installer for tiles. It is not just about laying the tiles straight and evenly; it is also about arranging the tiles so the variable pattern looks good. Badly laid tiles could have a detrimental impact on the value of your home.

Ceramic and porcelain are highly durable, yet you can find options that are very moderately priced. This flooring will remain one of the best flooring options for bathrooms for many years to come.

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Natural Stone Tiles

Pros:

  • Many different kinds of stone available
  • Available texture variations
  • Highly durable

Cons:

  • Higher maintenance than ceramic or porcelain
  • Requires regular cleaning and sealing
  • Can be pricey

Natural stone provides a luxurious, high-end look to a bathroom. And it comes in many beautiful choices such as marble, travertine, granite, and slate.

You can also choose from various textures including etched, sandblasted, and tumbled. So, the possibilities here are truly numerous.

It is also a highly durable floor. However, it will require regular cleaning and reapplying sealant to keep it in its best shape.

While there are many options to choose from, and it is very durable, expect to pay more for these benefits.

Natural stone tile flooring is one of the more expensive flooring options, but if cared for correctly, it should last 75-100 years. And because it is harder to install, plan to pay for professional installation as well.

However, stone tile stands up well to the moisture and humidity in a bathroom. So, it is a good, long-term investment in your home.

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Cork Flooring

Pros:

  • Easy to install
  • Low maintenance and upkeep
  • Warm to touch and soft to walk on
  • Highly sustainable and green flooring
  • Mold and mildew resistant

Cons:

  • Unfinished tiles require multiple layers of polyurethane
  • Water-resistant, not waterproof

Cork flooring is a very eco-friendly (highly-sustainable), attractive flooring that can be used in bathrooms.

It is very easy to install, so it’s a good option for the do-it-yourselfer. And cork is low maintenance.

People like it for bathrooms because it not only looks good, it also feels good on your feet. Cork is also warm and soft when you step on it.

Cork also has antimicrobial properties, and it resists both mold and mildew. So, it is a very healthy choice.

There are a few drawbacks, however. Cork is water-resistant, but it is not waterproof.

You must liberally seal your cork floors with multiple layers of polyurethane to protect them from water and other damage. Otherwise, your flooring can crack or warp.

But, cared for correctly, cork flooring should have a lifespan of about 25 years before it needs replacing. For this reason, it probably won’t add much value to your home in terms of the resale price.

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Engineered Hardwood

Pros:

  • Made of real wood
  • Withstands heat and moisture
  • Variety of options
  • Can be installed over existing flooring

Cons:

  • Tough to repair damaged boards
  • Water-resistant, not waterproof

If you have your heart set on hardwood flooring throughout your home, even the bathroom, then engineered hardwood is a great option.

Engineered Hardwood

It is real wood, but because it is made of multiple layers with a veneer top, it can often go places that solid hardwood planks cannot.

Engineered hardwood can hold up in rooms with higher humidity and moisture. And like its solid wood counterpart, there are countless species, colors, and styles to choose from.

This type of flooring can also be installed as a floating floor over existing flooring. So, it works well for remodeling jobs.

It is one of the more expensive flooring options for bathrooms. Expect to pay as much as you would for solid wood, and in some cases, you may even pay more.

Also, keep in mind that engineered hardwood is another option that is water-resistant but not waterproof.

If there is a leak in the bathroom or the boards are not properly sealed, water that finds its way between or under these boards can cause damage. And damaged planks are difficult to replace.

Cheaper engineered hardwood might last 20-30 years, while higher-quality lines can last 50-60 years. The floors can also be refinished once or twice if they need refreshing during their lifetime. Engineered hardwood generally does add value to your home, as wood floors are still one of the most prized features among home buyers.

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Luxury Vinyl

Pros:

  • Water-resistant and waterproof options
  • Looks like higher-end products
  • Feels good to walk on
  • Can be installed over existing flooring

Cons:

  • (Probably) Does not improve property value
  • Looks ‘cheap’ if not installed right
  • May emit VOCs

Luxury vinyl tile or plank flooring can give a bathroom a high-end look for a fraction of the price. It often comes in beautiful wood and natural stone-look options.

You can find both water-resistant and waterproof planks – a plus in bathrooms where moisture is always a factor.

Luxury vinyl also feels soft and warm. So, you will enjoy stepping on it, even on cold days.

This is another bathroom flooring that can be installed directly over an existing floor. So, it is another good option for remodeling projects.

However, while it is great for your budget, bear in mind that these floors only have a life expectancy of 10-20 years. Also, it will not likely improve the property value of your home. If you are remodeling for the purpose of selling your home, keep this in mind.

Whether you install it over another floor or not, make sure the subfloor is absolutely spotless. Luxury vinyl will show every dust particle and speck of dirt left beneath it.

Also, keep in mind LVP or LVT may not be the eco-friendliest choice. Many of these tiles and planks emit VOCs that are bad for your health and the environment.

However, you can find some manufacturers who offer greener, safer options. So, check the manufacturer policy before you buy.

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Floors To Avoid For Your Bathroom

While we can recommend the above flooring options for bathrooms, there are also a few flooring types that should generally be avoided, mainly because they are easily damaged by water, moisture, and heavy foot traffic.

Carpet

Perhaps this goes without saying, but carpet is a terrible choice for wet areas as the moisture can easily damage the carpet. Even if you go for short fiber, tightly woven carpets that do a little better with water, they are breeding grounds for mold and can let water seep through and damage your sub-layer.

Also, why you might think that carpet will feel nice underfoot, imagine how nice it will feel when it is damp between your toes. (No, thank you from me!)

Solid Wood Floors

Though they might be the most attractive flooring on the market, solid wood floors (including Bamboo floors) are not a good choice for bathrooms. They tend to buckle and warp when they are exposed to water, so yes, you will have squeaky floorboards in a matter of no time.

As a natural material, they can also be a breeding ground for mold when they are exposed to constant moisture in the air.

You might be able to get away with these floors for a few years, but they will need constant care, and the life of the flooring will be more than half of what it would be in better conditions.

You are better off choosing an engineered hardwood, which looks just as good and also adds value to your home but holds up better under water exposure.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is made from wood, so it has the same tendency to warp, though some newer models have features that make them more water-resistant.

But laminate flooring also has a tendency to chip at the edges, and these small chips can allow water to enter the flooring planks, where it can do significant damage from the inside out.

Linoleum Tiles

While linoleum tiles are water-resistant, they don’t tend to be durable enough to hold up under heavy foot traffic, and when they are damaged, they are significantly more susceptible to water damage.

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Most Important Factors To Consider When Choosing Bathroom Flooring

With numerous options to choose from, how do you narrow down the field to the best option for your bathroom? First, determine your priorities.

Most Important Factors To Consider When Choosing Bathroom Flooring

– Why are you in the market for bathroom flooring? Is it for a new home, to restore an existing bathroom, or are you remodeling for resale? Each scenario can potentially impact the type of flooring you choose.

– Budget and personal preferences also play a role. Your options may be limited by what you can afford.

– Finally, stick to bathroom flooring options that can handle the moisture and humidity of a bathroom. If you decide to go with hardwood, choose engineered hardwood over solid hardwood.

And, be sure to choose products that are both durable and easy to maintain.

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Which Flooring Options Are The Easiest To Maintain?

Each of these bathroom flooring choices has their benefits. However, if low maintenance is what you are looking for, then there are two that stand out from the crowd. Ceramic tile and luxury vinyl.

Ceramic tile is not only waterproof but stain-resistant as well. So, virtually any messes or spills can easily be cleaned up.

It is also extremely durable. Bathrooms get a lot of traffic, but with ceramic tile, you’ll never have to worry about scratches or dents in the flooring.

Luxury vinyl is also very low maintenance. It comes in both water-resistant and waterproof options.

So, water or any other spill cleans up easily. And regular sweeping & mopping is all you need to maintain these floors.

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What Is The Best DIY Flooring For Bathrooms?

If you want to install a new bathroom floor yourself, there are plenty of options to choose from. And, of course – some to avoid.

First, unless you are a big fan of This Old House and know how to use a wet saw, stay away from any kind of tile flooring.

Your three best DIY bathroom floor options are cork, engineered hardwood, and luxury vinyl. Why?

Cork flooring (cork plank flooring, in particular) is very easy to install. Just snap planks together to create a floating floor.

Cork planks do need a thin layer of underlayment. However, you can find some cork tiles that come with this already attached to their base.

Engineered hardwood is another relatively simple flooring to install. Choose prefinished planks and attach over a foam-rubber underlayment to create a floating floor.

For the look of natural stone tiles without the hassle, luxury vinyl tiles are a much simpler option to install yourself. They are easy to cut, and you can even grout the tiles for a realistic stone tile-look in your bathroom.

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Tips For Installing And Maintaining Bathroom Floors

Installing a new bathroom floor is about more than just choosing the right flooring option. You also need to appropriately prepare your subfloor and also maintain your flooring once it is in place.

The subfloor is the structural floor that sits beneath your chosen flooring. The flooring you lay on top is not just for aesthetics; it is also to protect the structural integrity of this subfloor.

In most houses, subfloors will be made from wood or concrete. Considering how vulnerable wood is to water damage, appropriate protection for your subfloor is easy to understand. But concrete can also be problematic. If the concrete is porous, it can easily soak up water. If the water then gets trapped in the concrete, the concrete can be damaged and crack over time.

So, in both cases, you want to add additional water protection to your floor; this generally means applying a waterproofing membrane appropriate to the flooring type. With concrete, any cracks should be properly patched before you lay your new floo, and the concrete sealed to stop it from absorbing water.

And regardless of what the subfloor is, make sure it is clean and free of debris before you lay your new floor on top.

When it comes to maintenance, while your floor should be waterproof, or at least highly water-resistant, that doesn’t mean you want it to be constantly wet. Mop up spills rather than let them sit, and try and minimize the amount of water in the air in the bathroom by ensuring the space is ventilated with windows or an extractor fan. You might even invest in a dehumidifier if the air is very moist.

Clean floors regularly based on manufacturer’s guidelines, and don’t let dust and debris sit. When mixed with water, this can easily become mud, which is much more labor-intensive to clean than a quick sweep.

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Pricing Guide On Best Bathroom Flooring

With all these different options for bathroom flooring, what can you expect to spend for each one? The answer depends on how big your bathroom is and whether or not you plan to hire someone for the install or do it yourself.

Here’s a guideline based on average prices around the country. Your specific cost may be more or less depending on where you live, the brands you choose, and the level of difficulty of the installation.

  • Ceramic and porcelain tiles – Ceramic and porcelain prices range from less than $1 to over $8 per square foot, plus $4 to $8 for installation. On average, ceramic and porcelain flooring is $5.50 per square foot, $11.50 installed.
  • Natural stone tiles – Depending on what natural stone you choose, prices range from $5 to $10 per square foot, plus $7 installation. On average, natural stone flooring is $7.50 per square foot, $14.50 installed.
  • Cork flooring – Prices vary from $3 to $8 a square foot, plus $1 for installation. On average, cork flooring is $5 per square foot, $6 installed.
  • Engineered hardwood – The price really depends on the quality of the engineered hardwood flooring you choose, and prices range from $3 to over $14 a square foot, plus another $3 to $8 for installation. On average, engineered hardwood flooring is $7 per square foot, $13 installed.
  • Luxury vinyl – Prices are based on the level of quality luxury vinyl you choose, and range anywhere from $2 to $5 a square foot, plus around $1.50 for installation. On average, luxury vinyl flooring is $6 per square foot, $7 installed.

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FAQs For The Best Bathroom Flooring

What Is The Best Type Of Flooring For A Bathroom?

While it is debatable which type of flooring is best for bathrooms, and what is right for you depends on your home and personal preferences, tiles are probably the overall best bathroom flooring option. Tiles are waterproof and will both protect your subfloor and resist water damage. They are also highly durable, so they won’t be easily damaged by heavy daily use.

These days there are a lot of different tile designs available, so you can achieve pretty much any look you like, including a solid wood floor look if you so desire.

Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Good For A Bathroom?

Water-resistant and waterproof vinyl plank flooring options are appropriate for bathrooms as they will not be easily damaged by water exposure or warp due to high moisture levels. There are also lots of design options available, so you can achieve a number of different looks with ease.

However, bear in mind that while vinyl plank flooring is marketed as an affordable flooring alternative, to get fully waterproof planks, you will need to get the more expensive planks, minimizing your savings. Also, vinyl flooring is very unlikely to add any value to your home in the long run.

What Is The Best Type Of Tile To Use In A Bathroom?

Porcelain tiles are the best options for bathrooms as they are denser and less porous than other tiles, which means they are better at keeping water out, and they are less likely to stain. Most porcelain tiles are also compatible with underfloor ambient heating, though check the manufacturer’s guidelines for your particular choice.

Are Woods OK In Bathrooms?

It is generally not advised to install wood flooring in bathrooms as wood tends to expand and contract with water exposure and drying, and over time, they can warp and become unstable. As a natural material, mold also likes to grow on damp wood.

If you have your heart set on wood, look at engineered hardwood planks. These are specially made by layering thin cross-sections of wood at angles to make them resistant to moisture warping. However, it is a good idea to dehumidify the bathroom with these floors to avoid mold development.

What Is The Best Color For A Bathroom Floor?

As bathrooms tend to be relatively small and have few windows, it is generally recommended to use light-colored flooring to make the space appear bigger and lighter. Whites, grays, and creams are by far the most popular color choices on the market.

Do You Put Flooring Under The Shower?

Whether your flooring should extend underneath your shower and other areas, such as the bathtub, depends on the flooring. Tile flooring can go underneath the shower as it is fixed flooring, but floating floors, such as vinyl plank, should not extend under the shower as the floor does need to be free to float.

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The Verdict

Today, there are so many more flooring options for damp spaces like the bathroom that homeowners finally have a choice when it comes to decorating the throne room.

But the best flooring options need to be waterproof, or at least highly water-resistant, and also durable enough to put up with the heavy foot traffic that most bathrooms see.

This means the best options are tiles and porcelain or natural stone, which are waterproof, durable, and have lots of options to achieve a unique look.

However, if you have your heart set on wood, which holds notoriously badly in moist conditions, you do now have options. You can invest in engineered hardwood, which is real wood manufactured to be water-resistant, or vinyl plank flooring, which is an artificial flooring designed to look and feel like real wood.

Another great option is cork flooring, which is not only water-resistant, but also a sustainable and environmentally-friendly choice.

Whatever you choose, appropriate maintenance is the key to making sure your floors last and look good for years to come. Just because a floor is “waterproof” doesn’t mean it should be sat in water for hours on end. Regular cleaning and good ventilation are key.

What kind of flooring do you have in your bathroom and what do you think of it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

Jennifer Lester

About Jennifer Lester

Jennifer Lester is a freelance writer, blogger, and home improvement finatic. She loves to write about things that will transform your house into your dream home. Jennifer is a graduate of Texas A&M University. LinkedIn.

14 thoughts on “Best Flooring For Bathrooms”

  1. Avatar

    We are doing a remodel and considering NOT replacing the floor tiles with ceramic. We had a leak from the bottom of the shower door, and it damaged the wood under the tile, causing the floor to sag a bit, and the tiles began to crack. At some point in the next 10 years we may sell, but I doubt this bathroom having a high quality vinyl floor will negatively affect the value. The tiles were white, and just looked dated, especially those in the shower. Planning on having the shower re-tiled, and a vinyl floor put in, new vanity with a granite counter as well. The tiles are cold, can be slippery when wet, and I just don’t like the look. When we redo the master and upstairs baths we will likely do ceramic tiling but not in the downstairs bathroom, which is high traffic.

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    Eleanor Turner

    Very valuable info. Porcelain tile is the best of all worlds for bathroom flooring, as it is waterproof, stylish, and cost-effective. Like stone, porcelain tile can achieve a rich, textured, solid feeling. Like vinyl, it is waterproof and is fairly inexpensive.

  3. Avatar

    My bathroom floor took a lot of water damage from tub flooding over the years and I’ve finally decided that it needs to be replaced. Ceramic or porcelain sound like great, versatile materials to protect against that happening in the future, as you said, and I’ll definitely have to talk to a flooring contractor to get an estimate for that. Getting ceramic tiles that look like wood sounds gorgeous, and that is definitely the type I’m going to aim for when comparing styles.

  4. Avatar

    Thanks for your excellent assessment. I don’t like tiles because of its hard feeling when stepping on it. But I have an option to choose the luxury vinyl planks. Warmer, softer and easier to install.

    However, I have to check what I am worrying now. It’s a water leakage problem thru the seams between the floor and the walls.

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    I really liked your blog. I am just planning to decor my home with beautiful flooring. I have chose hardwood flooring for bedroom, but I am not sure about laminate flooring for bathroom and kitchen. Thanks to you for sharing the pros and cons of each flooring material. I loved the Ceramic and Porcelain Tile. If I call best contractor for installation then it will be the best for bathroom flooring.

  6. Avatar

    We’re looking at ceramic tile to be installed. My husband said toilet and sink has to be removed first? Thoughts?

  7. Avatar

    Considering how wet a bathroom gets you really do have to be careful when choosing bathroom floors. However, I love that the article brings up some examples like engineered hardwood or cork flooring. After all, there are a ton of options out there, you just have to make sure that they’re waterproof and fit your style.

  8. Avatar

    I seriously appreciate how this listed the pros and cons for each of these materials. Natural stone tiles are something I’ve been thinking about having installed. It’s nice to know that it’s a highly durable material. That’s one quality that I always look for.

  9. Avatar

    It’s good to hear that porcelain tile not only looks classy but is also easy to maintain. My husband and I are remodeling our bathroom, and I need to pick out the flooring. I should find somewhere that has lots of porcelain tile options for me to pick from.

  10. Avatar
    Tomas Killington

    My sister recently moved into an older home. She is having the bathrooms remodeled, so she’s looking at different flooring options. I didn’t realize ceramic tile is waterproof and stain resistant while being extremely durable. I’ll be sure to share this information with my sister.

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