The Trouble With Terracotta in Bathrooms

Terra cotta flooring

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Terracotta is a beautiful red clay fired flooring material. It has a lovely rustic quality, that feels natural and welcoming, while also being eye-catching in its unique permutations. Terracotta is also a porous flooring choice, and it requires regular sealing to keep it free of stains. This can make it a problematic choice for many bathrooms.


Terracotta is a type of ceramic, and all ceramics are highly absorbent in their untreated natural state. This is a problem because bathrooms are environments filled with water, as well as numerous staining hazards, all of which can threaten to destroy your flooring installation daily.

There are a few things that can be done to try and combat this. The first is a process known as surface burnishing, which fires the clay in such a way that the pores in the finished piece are somewhat smaller.

This can then be combined with the application of a quality ceramic sealing agent, which will clog the material's pores while creating an invisible layer of protection over it. The use of rugs in strategic places near bathtubs and shower stalls can also help to some extent.


That surface sealant will not last, and over time it will fade in places across the room. That will require you to re-apply it regularly. In the bathroom, this can be particularly hazardous as any thinning of the veil of the seal can lead to immediate and permanent damage to the floor.

Glazed Terracotta Flooring

Glazing is a process where glass is melted over the surface of a porous terra cotta tile, creating an impermeable layer across it which is proof against moisture, stains, molds, and liquid penetration. The glaze used can be printed to look like anything you desire, but it does cover the natural appearance of the tile, removing the point in using them to some extent.

The glazing process does make terracotta suitable for usage in a bathroom. The difference between these pieces and regular ceramics will often be a slightly softer texture, and a more rustic natural shape, resting beneath the decorative melted glass glaze that sits above.

Decorative Styles

The reason that terracotta is prized as a flooring material despite its functional drawbacks is the unique look it can lend to a space. This is a rustic, ruddy red and earth-hued appearance that is warm, inviting, and comforting. For some people, achieving this look in the bathroom will be worth the extra time and expense caring for and maintaining the floor.

One loophole that you may be able to exploit is trying to find ceramic glazed tiles that are fired to replicate the look of natural terracotta. They aren’t 100% perfect yet, but ceramic manufacturing techniques are getting more sophisticated every day, allowing you to achieve a similar look without the maintenance issues.

Appropriate Installation Locations

Terracotta tile flooring isn’t ideal for direct installation in most bathrooms, but if properly sealed it can be used in locations around the bathroom. This can include spaces such as a powder room, changing room, or even in part of a half bath arrangement. You may also get away with using terracotta in seldom used bathroom environments such as those attached to guest bedrooms.

Ecological Considerations

Terracotta tiles are made entirely from natural clay materials and are completely biodegradable as long as they remain unglazed. These tiles are only made in specific locations around the world, which means that the carbon cost of shipping such heavy tiles to a job location should be factored in as well.