Homeowners often shy away from diagonal tile layouts (also called bias layouts) in a bathroom. While a diagonal pattern might seem logical if you are using big tiles for an expansive space such as a large kitchen or great room floor, many people worry that diagonal tiles can look too busy in a smaller bathroom. And if you are a DIYer planning to install the tiles yourself, you might worry that getting the layout right and cutting all those small pieces of diagonal tile might be more than your skills can handle.
But the truth is that diagonal (bias) tile layouts can be an excellent choice in a bathroom and are not particularly hard to execute.
Advantages of Diagonal Tile Layout in a Bathroom
A diagonal tile layout is not just acceptable but can be preferable in a bathroom or another small room. While it may not seem possible, diagonal tile can actually make your small bathroom look bigger. It's true that cutting on the diagonal will always be a little more difficult than cutting parallel to edges, but there are tools and techniques to help you do this.
- A diagonal layout can't be easily"counted." Whether you know it or not, your brain automatically calculates the size of spaces. If you're a compulsive sort, you might do this fairly literally while using a bathroom, multiplying the number of tiles in a row by the number of tiles in a column. Or you might do this calculation somewhat subconsciously. Either way, square tile layouts allow the brain to rather easily gauge the size of the space, and thus a small bathroom will instantly seem just as small as it is. But with a diagonal tile layout, the brain does not easily make this area calculation, and thus it's not instantly apparent that the room is small. Diagonals can be an excellent strategy to make small rooms seem larger.
- Diagonal layouts "open up" a room. Parallels and squares are prison-like. Diagonals have a more open, dynamic look. The "V" shapes afforded by the diagonal tile layout create an "opening" effect. You only need to look at wall tile laid harlequin style to see how vibrant and fun diagonals can be. It's particularly helpful for a bathroom floor to use a contrasting diagonal pattern if the walls have a straight grid pattern, such as subway tiles arranged in a traditional running bond.
- Diagonals can hide out-of-square walls. With square tile layouts, a room that is out of square will be quite evident from the shape of trimmed tiles along the walls. But diagonal layouts make room imperfections less visible.
Layout and Installation Is Easier Than You Think
One criticism of diagonal tile layouts is that you need to cut tile for all four walls—there will be triangular tile segments along all four walls of a tile floor. But when you think about it, many square patterns also require trimming of tiles on all four edges of the wall.
Related to this is the concern that it is harder to cut individual tiles along the diagonal that it is to cut them parallel to their edges, as you would with a square pattern. While it's true that most manual tile cutters and wet saws are better suited for making parallel cuts, there are a number of tile templates available to help you mark diagonal cutting lines on tiles. Once marked, it's relatively easy to cut the tiles along the marked lines with a manual score-and-snap tool or with a motorized wet saw. One such template guide is the TileRight TR0004 for 10- to 17-inch tiles, or the TR0002, for 12- to 20-inch tiles.
Finally, there is a perception that it's somehow more difficult to lay out a diagonal pattern on the floor than it is to lay out a square pattern. In reality, though, a diagonal layout begins by simply snapping diagonal layout lines across the floor from each pair of opposite corners. At the intersection of the lines in the center of the room, you'll begin by installing full-size tiles, using the lines as a guide. As you work out toward the walls, you'll be installing full-size tiles until you reach the walls, at which point you'll begin trimming tiles along the diagonal to fit against the walls. Except for the cutting, a diagonal pattern is no more difficult to execute than a square pattern.
A Wet Saw Is a Great Idea
Although it's possible to cut ceramic tiles on the diagonal with a score-and-snap tile cutting, it will be considerably easier with a motorized wet saw. And if you are installing natural stone tiles, or porcelain tiles, which are harder than standard ceramic tile, a wet saw is really your only option. There are plenty of affordable wet saws available for around $100, and they are a good investment if you do occasional tile work. Or, they are available for lease by the day from tool rental outlets and big-box home improvement centers.
Once you learn the techniques for laying out diagonal tile and cutting, you may well want to try the technique for other applications, such as walls, showers, or kitchen backsplashes.