Bathroom tile comes in a wide variety of materials, shapes, and colors, but not all are suited for wet spots. One important factor to consider when installing bathroom tile is vitreosity, which is the tile's ability to absorb water. Nonvitreous tile, such as terra-cotta, absorbs water and is appropriate only for accent areas. Vitreous tile, on the other hand, works well in spots prone to splashing, making it a more appropriate choice for shower walls and other bathroom areas. A tile's finish also matters, as glazed tiles are impervious to water but unglazed ones are not. In general, all bathroom tiles should have a high coefficient of friction to prevent slipping. Use this overview of 14 common bathroom tile choices, including maintenance tips and bathroom tile ideas, to help you choose the best material for your space.
Cement Bathroom Tile
Cement-bodied tile, a cured sand-and-mortar mix, is a nonvitreous tile with excellent durability. Some cement tiles look rough-hewn, while others sport smooth finishes. You can also find a large variety of colorful, graphic patterns that make a statement on floors and walls. When sealed, cement tiles can be cleaned with non-acidic cleaning products, such as those designed for natural stone.
Average Cost: $14-$25 per square foot, uninstalled
Ceramic or Porcelain Bathroom Tile
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are created from a mixture of clays that have been pressed into shape and fired in a kiln at high temperatures. When glazed, this material is ideal for bathrooms. These popular tiles, including the classic 3x6-inch subway tile, come in an array of colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes, so the tile design ideas are nearly endless. They can even be glazed with high-resolution digital images fused onto the surface to create patterned designs. Glazed ceramic or porcelain tiles are easy to keep clean and can be mopped or wiped down with a mild detergent and water.
Average Cost: $3-$25 per square foot, uninstalled
Decorative Bathroom Tile
Decorative tiles can be made of a range of materials and embossed or decorated with a variety of images or patterns, such as leaves, birds, or stripes, for example. These look particularly striking when collected in a mural or mosaic, in a border, or as an accent. Proper upkeep and cleaning will depend on the tile's material and finish, so refer to the manufacturer's instructions for best practices.
Average Cost: prices vary widely depending on material and style
Glass Bathroom Tile
Glass tile has an elegant, reflective surface, and it comes in a range of stock colors as well as custom hues. Glass tile in a bathroom is often used in mosaics or as a focal point on walls. Because of the breakable nature, glass tile is best used on walls or low-traffic floor areas. This material is impervious to liquids and resists staining, but because it's often used in small formats, you might spend more time scrubbing the grout lines in between.
Average Cost: $4-$50 per square foot, uninstalled, or up to $160 per square foot for more intricate shapes or designs
Granite Bathroom Tile
Granite, available in a range of colors and textures, is harder than most other natural stones. It works well on bathroom countertops or floors in high-traffic areas. To avoid streaks or discoloration, clean granite tile with a mild detergent that is pH-neutral.
Average Cost: $15-$140 per square foot, uninstalled
Limestone Bathroom Tile
Limestone, a natural stone, typically has a honed surface and is most often found in brown, beige, and yellow hues. It is appropriate for countertops and flooring, but the surface should be resealed about every two years. For maintenance, avoid acid-based products and use a tile cleaner that's designed for natural stone.
Average Cost: $2-$11 per square foot, uninstalled
Marble Bathroom Tile
Marble is a natural stone created from limestone that has been crushed and heated by the earth for millions of years. Sophisticated and traditional, marble tile can be highly polished and comes in a range of sizes. Marble can be patterned or veined, adding interesting color to a bathroom. To prevent staining and etching, the surface will need to be resealed regularly and should only be cleaned with non-acidic cleaners.
Average Cost: $15-$85 per square foot, uninstalled
Metal Bathroom Tile
Metal tiles can be made from solid metal or from resin with a metallic coating. Available in a range of finishes, including bronze, copper, and stainless steel, these tiles are often used as bathroom accents in conjunction with other types of tiles.
Average Cost: $50-$200 per square foot, uninstalled
Natural Stone Bathroom Tile
Typically rough and imperfect, tile made from natural stone, including granite, slate, limestone, or travertine, can be equally at home in rustic or contemporary bathrooms. Because these materials are not typically impervious to water, this type of type requires a waterproof membrane to withstand moisture in a bathroom. Stone tile should be resealed at least once a year to protect the surface from water.
Average Cost: prices vary widely depending on the type of stone
Quarry Bathroom Tile
Quarry tile, extruded and fired at high temperatures, can be semivitreous or vitreous. It is fired unglazed with bisques in many colors, sizes, and shapes.
Average Cost: $8-$13 per square foot, uninstalled
Saltillo Bathroom Tile
Saltillo tile is dried but not fired, creating a low-density, nonvitreous product with a rough texture. Its natural imperfections can add rustic charm, but this tile also absorbs water readily. The surface should be sealed well to protect it from stains. You can clean the tiles with a mixture of white vinegar and water or a natural stone cleaner.
Average Cost: $1-$8 per square foot, uninstalled
Slate Bathroom Tile
Slate is a fine-grain stone created from shale and clay, transformed by heat and pressure. Featuring a textured surface that's naturally slip-resistant, slate is typically used on floors, walls, and countertops in large-format applications. The surface needs to be resealed regularly to maintain a shiny or matte finish.
Average Cost: $4-$15 per square foot, uninstalled
Terra-cotta Bathroom Tile
Terra-cotta tile is fired at low temperatures. It is low-density, nonvitreous, and suitable only for dry areas. However, if glazed, it can be used in other bathroom areas such as floors or walls. Terra-cotta tiles, which are often seen in square or hexagon shapes, should be cleaned with mild dish soap and water and resealed regularly.
Average Cost: $1-$6 per square foot, uninstalled
Travertine Bathroom Tile
Travertine is a limestone formed from minerals that have been dissolved in groundwater and pushed through the earth's crust by water. This multilayer stone is available in a variety of earthy colors and offers a sophisticated choice for walls and floors. Travertine tiles, often installed in larger 12-inch or 16-inch squares. can be cleaned with non-acidic soap and water and should be resealed every few years.
Average Cost: $3-$10 per square foot, uninstalled