Tiling a bathroom floor is a great DIY project that upgrades your bathroom instantly. Tile floors are ideal for bathrooms since tiles are tough and stain-resistant, and they can withstand the everyday moisture and heavy foot traffic that are so common in these busy rooms. One of the first decisions you'll face is whether the new tile should go under or around your vanity.
Either option is acceptable, but here are some key factors to consider when deciding which option is best for your project.
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Will You Replace the Vanity Soon?
Whether or not you plan to keep your bathroom vanity is one of the biggest factors in deciding the best method for laying tile. If you like your vanity and intend to keep it where it is long-term, you don't need to remove it for the tile installation. You can simply tile around it.
On the other hand, if you're planning a bathroom remodel or if your vanity is old, damaged, doesn't fit your design and you want to replace it, consider tiling under it. Replacing a bathroom vanity is a much more flexible proposition when the tile covers the entire floor. You not only gain flexibility with choosing the best location for the new vanity; you also can change up the size or style from your old vanity. For example, you might go from a standard vanity cabinet to a vanity with legs or even a wall-mount vanity.
Cost to Install Tile Floor
Removing the vanity before tiling a bathroom floor gives you more room to work in the bathroom with the vanity out of the way, but it also means you'll need more tile and related supplies. These costs might not add up to much in a small bathroom with a small vanity of if the bathroom floor tile has a low square-foot price. But if the vanity is large and/or the tile (and labor) is expensive, this can be an important decision factor. If you're working with a tiling contractor, you can simply ask them to adjust their tile project bid for each scenario so you can get an accurate picture of the cost difference.
Cutting Tile Around Cabinets
Whether or not you remove the vanity when tiling a bathroom floor affects how much cutting and detail work you need to do. Removing the vanity minimizes on the amount of tile and backerboard trimming you have to do as you work around the installation.
When you're not working around a vanity, you can simply install the tile wall-to-wall, which often involves less work with a wet saw or tile cutter, assuming you can use full tiles. And since the vanity covers up the tile along the wall, it can hide blemishes or uneven cuts that might happen. When you cut tiles to go around the vanity, any cracks or uneven cuts will be visible, so you'll need to take extra care in cutting the tiles precisely.
Tiling around the vanity usually requires more sealant (in this case, caulk) as well. Since the tile stops at the edge of the vanity, you need to ensure a good seal between the tile and the vanity. If you don't, water can seep down into the gap and cause damage to the flooring and vanity.
Installing a Vanity Over Tile
Vanities don't need to be anchored to the floor, like pedestal sinks do. So if you tile under the vanity, you don't have to worry about drilling through the tile or grout — and potentially damaging the tile or tile joints — to screw the cabinet to the floor. However, because tiled surfaces often are not perfectly flat, you may need to shim the cabinet in places so it rests uniformly on the floor. Once the vanity is in the desired location and is level across the top, anchor the cabinet to the wall studs with screws. This will keep the vanity plenty secure, without the need to screw it to the floor.
If you tile around the vanity now but in the future you end up moving the vanity or replacing it with a vanity of a different size or style, you’ll have to follow the same step-by-step process of installing tile in the vanity space: installing cementboard, applying thinset mortar with a notched trowel, using tile spacers to ensure the grout lines are consistent with the old tile, grouting the tile with a grout float, and finally applying a sealer. You also want to use the exact same type of tile, preferably from the same batch as the original, to ensure the patch of tile blends in.
Bathroom Vanity Height
Floor tile, whether it's ceramic tile, natural stone, or porcelain tile, is a relatively thick flooring material. You have the tile itself, the layer of thinset mortar under the tile, and a sheet of cement board (plus mortar for the cement board) or other tile backer on top of the subfloor. All of this can easily add up to 3/4 inch or more extending above your subfloor. If you tile around the vanity, the tile will, in essence, make the vanity shorter. It will also make the toekick space at the bottom of the cabinet smaller; if this space gets too narrow, you'll be constantly kicking the cabinet with your toes — a very annoying (and sometimes painful) problem. That said, if you're starting with a standard toekick space and standard-height vanity cabinet, loosing less than an inch in vanity height might not be a big deal.
Tile Under Vanity Pros & Cons
- More options when replacing vanity
- Fewer cuts and joints to seal
- Can move or replace vanity without repairing flooring
- Higher materials and labor cost
- Requires removing and reinstalling vanity
Tile Around Vanity Pros & Cons
- No need to remove vanity
- Lower materials cost
- May save time
- Must patch tile if you want to move the vanity or replace it with a different size or style
- Vanity counter height and toekick space reduced by thickness of tile