Bathrooms are typically smaller rooms than most other spaces, and thus the choice of flooring material can have less budget impact than it does for more spacious rooms. For example, 70 square feet of good porcelain tile on a bathroom floor is more practical than it might be in a 400 square-foot-kitchen. Still, a bathroom remodeling project can be a major expense, so any money you can save is important. Your project might include only the bathroom flooring in order to freshen up the space. You might be surprised at how much you can improve a bathroom with one of these five flooring options.
Standard Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl is inexpensive, durable, resistant to water, stains, and damage—and is relatively easy to install. It’s available printed with nearly any color or pattern you can imagine. This makes it the perfect choice for budget-conscious consumers looking to touch up the style of their bathroom without breaking the bank.
There are however a few drawbacks to vinyl. While it can be very inexpensive, low-quality materials may contain ingredients that can off-gas volatile organic chemicals into the air for a period after installation, especially if they are installed with a full-spread adhesive. Vinyl is not a long-term floor, and installation of this material, even properly maintained, typically lasts no more than about 10 years.
Standard vinyl flooring comes in two types: sheet vinyl, which often can cover an entire bathroom floor in a single, uninterrupted sheet; and vinyl tiles, which are glued down in individual pieces 12 to 16 inches square. Sheet vinyl is a better option for bathrooms, since it has few, if any, seams through which water can seep. But even vinyl tiles perform quite well in a bathroom.
- Cost: $0.50 to $4.00 per square foot for materials alone. You can expect to pay an additional $3 to $10 per square foot for installation, depending on labor costs in your area. Because bathrooms are relatively small spaces, your per-hour labor costs may be higher than for larger spaces. Typical hourly labor costs are between $30 and $50 per hour, and you can minimize the time required by good preparation of the installation area.
Linoleum is an older form of resilient flooring. Although it was at one time largely replaced by vinyl flooring, linoleum has made a resurgence. Since it is a natural material made mostly from linseed oil, in appeals to homeowners who are eco-conscious. Linoleum has most of the same benefits as vinyl, but it may emit a somewhat unpleasant odor for a few weeks after it is installed.
Like vinyl, linoleum is fairly impervious to water, but sheet forms without seams are a better choice for active bathrooms.
- Cost: $2 to $5 per square foot for materials; an additional $3 to $10 per square foot for professional installation.
Luxury Vinyl Flooring
A step up from standard vinyl flooring, luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) is a thicker form of semi-rigid vinyl that usually comes in planks that are assembled with a "click-lock" tongue-and-groove system. Because there are seams between planks, there is the possibility of water infiltration to the subfloor, but the flooring itself is entirely waterproof.
The advantage of luxury vinyl is that it is available in many different types, many of which are convincing copies of natural wood, stone, or ceramics. This is a relatively easy flooring to install, which makes it a good choice for DIYers.
- Cost: $2.50 to $6.00 per square foot for materials only; an additional $3 to $10 per square foot for professional installation.
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile
Ceramic flooring is made mostly from natural clay mixed with sediments. In its raw form, these tiles are very susceptible to water, stains, and many of the dangers that a bathroom can pose. However, glazed ceramics have a melted glass coating that is poured over them. This makes the tile impervious to water and stains while allowing manufacturers to print them with a wide variety of colors and patterns.
Ceramic or porcelain tile is often considered an expensive, premium flooring material but it can be remarkably affordable for a small space such as a bathroom, especially if you choose a standard stock tile from a big-box home improvement center. Specialty tiles, such as wood-look porcelain or glass tiles, cost considerably more.
Remember, however, that installation of ceramic tile requires practiced skill, and professional installation can be somewhat pricey, especially for small spaces where many tiles must be cut and fitted.
- Cost: $2 to $10 per square foot for materials; an additional $4 to $14 per square foot for professional installation.
Although it is sometimes thought to be an overly cold, industrial-looking flooring material, poured concrete is appearing more and more, especially in homes with a modern style. It is surprisingly affordable, especially for small spaces. And depending on your home style and the location of the bathroom, you may already have concrete lurking beneath old sheet vinyl or ceramic tile on the slab foundation or a basement floor. If you remove the old surface flooring, you may well find a surface that can be patched and finished to become a beautiful polished concrete floor.
Concrete is hard but it is also porous; in a bathroom, it will need to be treated with some kind of sealing agent that can protect it against stains and water penetration. However, once it is properly protected, concrete is easy to keep clean with regular sweeping and damp mopping.
- Cost: If the floor is above-grade, on a non-concrete subfloor, the contractor will need to install a cement-board underlayment before pouring the concrete, which will add $2 to $3 per square foot. You won't have these costs on an existing concrete floor. The basic pour and finish for the floor costs from $3 to $6 per square foot for a basic polished finish. Expect to pay an additional $2 to $5 per square foot for moderate decorative options, such as dying or acid staining. Elaborate artistic work can cost as much as $15 per square foot.
Patching an existing concrete floor after removing a surface flooring is a different project and is usually more affordable.
- For surface patching of existing concrete plus a surface polish, expect to pay about $2 per square foot.
- If a complete resurfacing layer of concrete is needed, expect to pay $2 to $4 per square foot.
- A dye or acid-stain treatment costs an additional $2 to $4 per square foot.
One advantage of a concrete floor is that it is fairly easy to integrate with below-floor radiant heating systems, which can be a very attractive option in a bathroom.