The Best Tile Ideas for Small Bathrooms

  • 01 of 06

    Best Brands and Types of Tile For Small Bathrooms

    Tiled bathroom
    Pieter Estersohn / Getty Images

    Tile is always one of your best bets for small bathroom floors.  

    When laid correctly, tile provides a waterproof barrier against the significant amount of water produced in bathrooms.  Because so many sizes, shapes, styles, and materials are available to mix in different ways, you can safely say that tile's design possibilities are endless.

    But the rules change when small bathrooms are concerned.  These Lilliputian rooms focus more attention on the flooring.  DIYers interested in developing their tiling skills often start with their smallest room--the guest bathroom or powder room.  Because of the reduced size, these rooms are the perfect practice area to hone tiling skills, such as laying cement board, mortaring, cutting tile, and grouting.

    Overview:  Rules of Tiling Small Bathrooms

    While these are not iron-clad rules, they do tend to produce better tilework when followed.  Aim for:

    • Diagonally Laid Tile:  Tile laid on a diagonal adds vibrancy to your small bathroom tile floor and gives the illusion of a larger room.
    • Lighter Colors:  Using white, off-white, or light colors in general, makes the room feel more spacious.  Try not to use grout that contrasts too sharply with the tile (i.e., white tile with black grout) as this produces a visually limiting, grid-like look.
    • Larger Tiles:  Laying larger tiles can make the room feel less cramped.  But there are dangers with installing overly large tiles in a small bathroom.  When the tile gets too big, it proportionally overwhelms the bathroom.
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  • 02 of 06

    Diagonal Tile Looks Super in Small Bathrooms

    Diagonal Tile In Bathroom
    Diagonal Tile In Bathroom. Getty / Cultura Travel / Phillip Lee Harvey

    Diagonals play tricks on your eyes, making them think that the bathroom is larger than it really is.

    One reason is because 90-degree-oriented tile is regimented and easy to count, even if sub-consciously.

    Imagine sitting on the toilet with nothing to read.  Bored, your eyes scan the room.  Subconsciously you can easily calculate the number of tiles on a floor that runs four tiles long, three tiles wide. It is first-grade math:  twelve.

    But when the same amount of tiles are set on a diagonal, your eyes cannot pick up on quantity as readily.

    Not only that, diagonally laid tile adds a kind of controlled chaotic nature that lends spark and vibrancy to small baths.

    The downside--and the reason why most DIYers avoid diagonal placement--is that tiles can be difficult to cut this way.  A tool called TileRight Measure Right helps you calculate cut points for diagonals.

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  • 03 of 06

    Light Colors Promote a Greater Feeling of Space

    Deco Bathroom Makeover After
    Deco Bathroom Makeover After. Home Body In Motion

    This is a basic rule for covering any surface:  lighter colors open up the room; darker colors box it in.

    Have you ever noticed that ceilings are rarely painted anything but white or other light colors?  While the reason may be that homeowners across the world truly love white ceilings more than other colors, the real reason is that white ceilings do not provide a visual "stop."

    This does not mean you should aim for white flooring tiles; this only means that you should go for a generally light shade. Even a black-and-white floor tile scheme is 50% white.

    This fantastic bathroom makeover from Homebody in Motion features white tile for maximum light reflection.

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  • 04 of 06

    Larger-Sized Tiles Make Bathrooms Feel Less Cramped

    Matrix Porcelain Bathroom Floor Tile
    Matrix Porcelain Bathroom Floor Tile From Bedrosian's. Bedrosian's

    Why use larger tiles in a small bathroom?  This seems counter-intuitive.

    For one thing, smaller tiles create a multiplicity of grout lines. Grout lines, when added up, begin to feel grid-like and boxy.

    Going Large

    Larger tiles, thankfully, produce fewer grout lines.  

    It is important to note that, when dealing with large format tile, you need to maintain a minimum grout joint width of 3/16".  There must be at least 90% mortar contact below the tiles, as their size makes them more prone to cracking.

    Featured here are Matrix Porcelain Bathroom Floor Tiles from online retailer Bedrosian's

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  • 05 of 06

    Do Mosaic Tiles Break Tile Rules?

    Mod Bathroom Remodel With Round Tiles
    Mod Bathroom Remodel With Round Tiles. ModWalls

    If larger tiles are recommended for small bathrooms, where does that leave that perennial tiny bath favorite:  mosaic tile?  

    If any tile creates grout lines, it would have to be mosaic.  Consider it:  1" square tile produces 10 times more grout lines than 12" square tile. One way to minimize this grid-like feeling is to tint the grout so that its color closely resembles the tile's color.

    Featured in this picture are round tiles from Modwalls.

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Porcelain or Ceramic Tile for Bathrooms?

    Elegant, Classically Styled Bathroom With Frameless Shower
    Elegant, Classically Styled Bathroom With Frameless Shower. MIssion Stone and Tile; used by courtesy of owner

    It can get confusing:  should you choose ceramic or porcelain tiles?

    For small bathrooms with bathing facilities, choosing porcelain tiles ensures that they have a low water absorption rate of 0.5%, as defined by American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) C373.  

    Even though porcelain falls under the general category of ceramic, in recent years a group called the PTCA--Porcelain Tile Certification Association--certifies only tiles made in a specific way as being able to use the term "porcelain."

    Featured here are floor and wall tiles from Mission Stone & Tile