Stumped on Your Bathroom Flooring? Start Here

cement bathroom floor
credit: Stephen Paul

Your bathroom floor handles a lot of abuse — from foot traffic to dirt to water. Lots and lots of water. Picking the right bathroom flooring material is essential, but with so many options, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Do you care more about function or about style? And how can you afford the glorious flooring of your dreams on a budget bathroom remodel?

Before choosing your bathroom flooring, you'll need to consider a number of variables. Don't step into a flooring supply store without thinking about:

  • Budget: High-end materials, like marble or cement tiles, can be super pricey. If budget is a concern for your bathroom renovation, choose an inexpensive option, like ceramic or cork.
  • Maintenance: How much time are you willing to put into keeping your bathroom squeaky clean? Cement flooring, for instance, will need regular sealing; standard ceramic tile won't require nearly as much work.
  • Durability: How much use does your bathroom get? A small half-bath that rarely gets used can handle a softer tile than your master bathroom.
  • Aesthetic: What's your decor style? Your bathroom flooring should make sense in the context of your wall color, your fixtures, and your cabinetry. Choose a style that speaks to your soul.

What are my bathroom flooring options?

Ceramic Tile

This classic option is beloved by many homeowners, and it's easy to see why. You can find options to suit any home — whether you're seeking a standard subway tile or something with more flair. It's also extremely easy to clean and keep clean, so you can skip the regular maintenance. And don't fret about durability — these hardy tiles can take a lot of abuse. Another huge bonus: Ceramic tile is cheap. Expect to pay between $15 and $20 per square foot, installation included.

There are a couple of downsides to ceramic bathroom flooring. First, the tile is chilly. While most of us have bathmats, making this con a nonstarter, if you're stepping barefoot on ceramic, you might feel a shiver.

Cement Tile

Cement tile is undeniably gorgeous — but that stunning exterior can require a lot of work. Because this bathroom flooring option is cured at room temperature and not glazed, like ceramic, it stains easily. That means you'll need to be very diligent about cleaning and regular sealing. And despite what you see on Pinterest, these beauties aren't terribly common — your installer may charge more to tile your bathroom. (Don't forget the tiles alone are quite pricy, easily costing $8 or more per square foot.)

But cement bathroom flooring looks beautiful and classic. It might be the perfect way to add the va-va-voom you seek — especially since the tiles come in a number of patterns and colors. Just make sure you're ready to take on the maintenance before installation.

Concrete

Love a modern, Scandinavian look? Concrete flooring may be the bathroom pick for you. Unlike cement tile, concrete is extremely durable and easy to clean. Prone to spilling water after a bath? (Who isn't?) Fret less with this bathroom flooring option. However, you will need to reseal or wax the floor every year or so. And here's another great pro: If you eventually want to change up your bathroom's look, it's easy, as tile can be installed on top of your concrete floor.

Naturally, concrete floors are extremely hard. Just like ceramic tile, that can hurt your feet. (They're cold, too.) Concrete can also be slick after polishing. Because of their natural hardness, you could end up with pretty nasty, damaging falls. Make sure to have several grippy surfaces for your post-shower towel-downs. All that maintenance can be stressful, too, and the consequences are severe: Moisture can cause the floor to crack or lead to mold or mildew problems.

Cork

Cork is untraditional flooring, but maybe it's time for a renaissance. It's a surprisingly versatile bathroom flooring option with great benefits. First: Cork is super easy to install, and if you get bored, replacement is simple, too. This eco-friendly flooring comes in a number of varieties as well. If you're thinking broad expanses of cork are your only flooring option, think again. Cork is available in tile format, too, from penny tile to geometric shapes.

Cork can struggle in super-humid environments, like a bathroom, without proper care. Steam can cause expansion or contraction, so make sure your installer keeps that in mind while laying the floor. Water can also lead to warping, so expect regular maintenance and don't skimp on the bath rugs.

Marble

This ultra-glam bathroom flooring option will make you feel like you've stepped out of a Roman spa. Not only is marble tile elegant and unique, but it's entirely natural — so if you want to incorporate earthy elements into your decor (or ensure your bathroom floor is one-of-a-kind), marble is a good choice. It's also an excellent pick for bathrooms with radiant heating systems, since it conducts heat.

But marble isn't problem-free. It's expensive, so if budget is a concern, this might be an option to nix. The cost per square foot can easily hit $40, depending on the fanciness of your chosen tiles. This brittle material is more likely to break, too, and susceptible to water stains so you'll need to take care to keep it beautiful. And just like concrete, it can be slippery.

Mosaic Tile

Mosaic tile comes in a number of materials, from ceramic to marble, so it will share the same pros and cons of the material you've chosen. These small tiles are the perfect bathroom flooring pick for creative homeowners. Want to create an elaborate design? Or go all-white but with a unique texture? Draw a heart on your bathroom floor? Choose mosaic tile. It comes in a variety of colors and sizes to help you create your dream space.


Jamie Wiebe

Jamie Wiebe

Jamie is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado, who writes about real estate and interior design.