Wall Tile: Choosing the Best Tile for Shower Walls

Helen Skeates
Helen Skeates
33 min read

Bathroom tile flooring is the most popular in today’s homes. The best tile for showers and bathrooms must meet specific specifications despite the fact that it may be used in any area of the house and in any type of flooring. No matter what your budget is, we’ve got you covered when it comes to flooring and the shower stall.

Do you need Floor or Wall Tile?

The location of the tile is the first thing you need to think about. Depending on whether you have a bathtub or a shower, the walls might be tiled completely or halfway up. When it comes to a shower’s flooring, there is no guarantee that what works there will also function in the walls.

Best Tile for Shower Walls - Designing Idea

In the shower, traction is essential, so a slippery tile shower floor isn’t something you’d want to install. Except if you have a rug, the bathroom floor should be left bare. Even in the wettest area of the house, you aren’t limited to ceramics because there are numerous of water-resistant choices available.

When it comes to bathroom wall tiles, there are a wide range of possibilities. Outside of the stall, the same types and finishes are accessible, but you don’t have to worry about things being watertight. If you don’t like dealing with mold and mildew, you should stick to the solutions listed below.

The Best Types of Wall Tile for Bathrooms and Showers

The greatest tiles for your bathroom’s walls, flooring, and shower stall are listed below. Despite the fact that other flooring options may “function” in your bathroom, these materials are better equipped to handle wetness and humidity. This list excludes heart pine and engineered tiles…

Ceramic

It should come as no surprise that ceramic is the greatest choice for bathroom flooring. When it comes to showers, ceramic tiles are a common choice. Ceramic tiles can also be utilized on the floor. As a result, you must always pay particular attention to their surface roughness and size.

In terms of color and design, mosaic tiles are a great option for showers, and they come in a variety of options. Because ceramic tiles can be picked up on a mat, installation is quick and simple. If you’re going to use these tiles on the floor, make sure they’re slip-resistant, and only utilize authorized materials for the walls.

Porcelain

Porcelain, a closely related material used in sinks, tubs, and other household items, comes in second place to ceramic. Porcelain is stronger than ceramic because it is kiln-fired at a greater temperature, despite the fact that both are formed of clay.

Due of its through-body design, porcelain does not show any color changes as a result of chipping. Shower stalls made of this material are just as slippery as those made of acrylic, although the range isn’t quite as extensive. Porcelain tiles are more difficult to work with, so bear that in mind if you plan on doing the work yourself.

Stone

Stone tiles should be at the top of your choice if you want something different in your bathroom. Sealing the stone so that it doesn’t slip your feet makes it suitable for use in shower stalls, walls, and floors.

Over a dozen different types of stone can be found in bathrooms nowadays, but the most frequent are marble, travertine, slate, granite, and limestone (among others). However, the variety of textures and patterns makes up for a lack of color options with ceramic tile. Bathrooms adorned with stone have a more expensive price tag and require more maintenance in the long run.

Luxury Vinyl Tile

LVT, or Luxury Vinyl Tile, is not the best tile for bathrooms in general because it was not designed for usage in showers. However, it will breathe fresh life into any dull bathroom floor, and your aesthetic options are practically limitless.

A light natural marble floor or wood-like tile can be the perfect choice for your home. When compared to more traditional materials, luxury vinyl is significantly less expensive. Sealing some of the seams will be necessary because this material isn’t as durable as stone or ceramic.

Linoleum Tile

When compared to vinyl tiles, linoleum is a classic material that, while not commonly used in shower floors, is extremely popular in bathrooms. It’s a biodegradable and environmentally friendly substance, and it’s also one of the more affordable tile options on this list.

Linoleum floor tiles are available in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures, including solid tones, patterned tiles, strong hues, and light textures. However, seams can still be a problem if they aren’t adequately sealed. You can learn more about linoleum flooring by checking out our guide.

Bathroom and Shower Tile Buying Guide

Even if you know the best types of tile for your bathroom or shower, there are still certain things you should know if you plan on using particular types of tile in your bathroom.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Do you like your bathroom’s decor? Do you plan to tile the entire bathroom or just the shower? If you don’t know what you want before you start, it can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a waste of time.

All of us have our own unique sense of style. If you’ve just installed white porcelain wall tiles, a wood-grain cabinet may look out of place next to your new bath mat. If you decide to go with a conventional tile, you’ll want to think about future renovations as well. Linoleum and vinyl flooring removal and installation is far easier than removing or installing ceramic tile or stone.

Maintenance

When it comes to starting your day or winding down for the night, nothing beats a hot shower. The steam from a hot shower can also cause problems in your bathroom if you don’t have adequate ventilation.

With pink mold, a bacteria that thrives in wet shower stalls, mildew is a common problem in bathrooms. Ceramic tiles are quite easy to clean, and grout joints aren’t too difficult either. Grout is easier to clean of mold than caulking, which often needs to be re-caulked unless you’re meticulous about cleaning up after yourself.

Consider how much you enjoy or despise cleaning before making a flooring or wall tile decision. For some materials, such as stone, you’ll need to seal them or replace them from time to time. You’ll need to seal any vinyl or linoleum bathroom floor tiles and caulk the joints where the tile meets the tub or toilet.

Traction

This part is unnecessary if you plan to use wall tiles. Shower stalls, on the other hand, necessitate careful consideration of the flooring’s grip and texture.

If you’re looking for “slick tiles,” ceramic or porcelain are the obvious choices. You can use them for flooring if you go small or textured, as they are the most common choice. More traction is provided by mosaics and smaller tiles in general. When walking on wet stone or ceramic tile, the more grout lines, the better.

Slip resistance can also be measured using the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) or DCOF rating. For a tile to be called slip-resistant, it must have a score of at least 0.60 on this rating system. Without a mat, you run the danger of damaging your shower or bathroom floor if you use anything less than that. Small or mosaic tiles have more grout lines, so you’ll have more success with them.

There are similar rating systems for luxury vinyl, laminates, and other types of flooring. Scales like SCOF, rather than DCOF or ASTM E303-93, may be used by manufacturers, although the ultimate result is the same. In your bathroom, you want a tile floor that is highly resistant to slipping.

DIY or Hire a Pro

For those who don’t mind a bit of a smear, though, laying tile may be a gratifying but time-consuming process. Preparation of the surface is necessary, and new boards may be necessary depending on your intentions. Many problems can arise when it comes time to take down the old bathroom flooring such as paneling and linoleum or tile.

There aren’t many tools required, and the ones you do need are simple to use. In order to install ceramic tiles, you’ll need a tile cutter as well as cheap tools like a level and a mortar mix. In the case of vinyl and linoleum, you don’t need sealer for the seams; stone, on the other hand, requires sealing.

For some, the biggest drawback of installing tile in a bathroom is the time and effort involved. Because of the limited space in most bathrooms, it might be difficult to get any work done. In addition to the physical strain, it can take a novice several weeks to complete a job that can be completed in a couple of days by a contractor. Check out our price tool if you’re thinking about hiring a professional.

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Wall Tile vs. Floor Tile: Major Differences

Floor and wall tiles are distinguished by their slipperiness and hardness ratings.

  • When it comes to choosing which sort of tile to use on walls or floors, one consideration is the coefficient of friction (COF). There is a COF grade for each ceramic or porcelain tile. Tiles on the floor must have a certain amount of friction to be safe for pedestrians. 1 Higher values of this measure are referred to as the Coefficient of Friction, or COF. When traction isn’t an issue, wall tile can be honed to be as smooth as glass. In fact, it’s often as smooth as glass.
  • The second factor in determining hardness and durability is the PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) rating. Companies in the tile industry have the option of using the PEI ratings, which are given out by the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI). Classes range from Class 1 (no foot traffic) to Class 5 (high traffic), which is typically found in commercial environments.. PEI ratings may be found in each tile’s specs and are a good indicator of where a tile can be used.

Being a nerdy shopper when it comes to buying wall or floor tiles pays off. Any data-conscious shopper can typically find a wealth of information about the characteristics of potential tile purchases on the websites of tile manufacturers and retailers. The specs portion of the majority of websites will break out COF and PEI ratings.

The COF and PEI ratings are also used by some companies to further categorize their tiles for customers. In certain cases, these categories are broken down even more by the companies themselves. One vendor of tile, Bedrosian’s, sells not only wall and floor tiles, but also tiles for swimming pools, shower walls, shower floors, and countertop surfaces.

Wall Tile

The PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) or COF (coefficient of friction) grade of a ceramic or porcelain wall tile is completely subjective. These are commonly referred to as “wall tiles” by manufacturers.

Floor Tile

Internal floor tiles can be used as long as the COF rating is 0.50 or more. The COF value of 0.60 is achieved by the external paver tile. To qualify as a floor tile, the PEI rating must be between 3 and 5. “Wall and Floor Tile” is a common label for this type of tile.

Appearance

Wall Tile

Ceramic and porcelain wall tiles are identical in look to floor tiles, although it is common practice for wall tiles to be smaller than floor tiles. Wall tile is typically smaller and lighter because of its prominence and the difficulties of putting it on a vertical surface. For example, an 18-inch square floor tile is unlikely to function on a wall since it would be overbearing and garish.

Floor Tile

It is possible to get floor tiles of 18 by 18 inches that are suitable for the home. Bigger sizes are becoming more common because of the popularity of super-large format tiles. Small tiles that are glued to mesh backings are the only exception. Bathroom floors have long been decorated with classic 1-inch hexagonal mosaics.

Best for Appearance: Tie

As there are so many alternatives for both wall and floor tiles, there is no clear winner. Floor and wall tiles have a similar appearance, although thinner wall tiles may have a wider range of colors and patterns.

Water and Heat Resistance

Wall Tile

Wall tiles made of ceramic or porcelain have the same water resistance as floor tiles. However, wall tiles are thinner in countertop installations and may be less resistant to the heat of hot pots and skillets.

Best Tile for Shower Walls - Designing Idea

Floor Tile

Countertop installation may benefit from the added heat resistance provided by floor tiles, which are typically thicker than wall tiles. However, this is not applicable to wall and floor installation.

Best for Water and Heat Resistance: Floor Tile

When it comes to heat resistance, floor tiles have the edge over wall tiles in applications like kitchen counters. The water resistance of wall tiles and floor tiles is almost same.

Durability and Maintenance

Maintaining wall and floor tiles is identical. Soap and water are all that is needed to clean the tiles. Cleaning and replacing cracked or discolored grout between tiles should be done on a regular basis.

Wall Tiles

Thinner wall tiles should not be used on floors due to the risk of cracking from heavy foot usage. For wall applications, on the other hand, they are incredibly durable and easy to care for.

Floor Tiles

Because floor tiles are thicker and more durable than wall tiles, they can be used on either the floor or the wall.

Best for Durability and Maintenance: Floor Tiles

Thick, sturdy, and long-lasting floor tiles are a benefit for floor installations exclusively. Both ceramic and porcelain tiles are equally long-lasting when installed on a wall.

Installation

The installation of both floor and wall tiles follows the same steps. A cement backer board underlayment is first laid against the flooring or studs of the wall. A notched trowel is used to apply thin-set adhesives to the backer board. A paste-like mortar-based grout is used to fill the spaces between tiles and is sealed after drying and hardening.

Wall Tiles

Simple score-and-snap cutters work well for cutting wall tiles because of their thinner thickness.

Floor Tiles

Floor tiles are a little more difficult to cut than wall tiles since they are thicker and therefore more difficult to saw. When dealing with heavier tiles, it’s a good idea to utilize a power wet-saw.

Best for Installation: Wall Tiles

Wall tiles are easier to cut and install since they are lighter and thinner. Wall installations benefit most from the use of them, even though floor tiles can be used vertically on walls. Floor tiles should only be used on those surfaces.

Cost

Ceramic and porcelain wall tiles are often comparable in price to floor tiles in terms of quality and durability.

Wall Tiles

It is possible to spend as much as $50 per square foot for the expert installation of imported designer tiles, while the cost of basic tile is less than $1 per square foot. To save money, wall tiles can be purchased in basic colors rather than in patterns. Costs tend to even out because of the variety of styles and accent tiles available for walls.

Floor Tiles

For as low as $1 per square foot, you may buy simple floor tiles. Decorative edge treatments and accent tiles are less common on floors than on walls, despite the fact that floor tiles are larger and heavier. The cost per square foot for both floor and wall tiles is around the same.

Best for Cost: Tied

Per square foot, floor tiles and wall tiles are about the same in price.

Lifespan

Wall Tile

Well-done tile work can endure up to 75 years with regular maintenance. Replacement of tiles is more likely due to aesthetic reasons than than wear and tear. But if wall tiles are erroneously used on the floor, they will swiftly fracture.

Floor Tile

Generally speaking, floor tiles are heavier and more durable than wall tiles. In reality, both materials are likely to last a long period.

Best for Lifespan: Floor Tile

Wall tile and floor tile are both long-lasting materials when used for their intended functions. Floor tile, on the other hand, has a distinct advantage whether used as a flooring or countertop material.

Choosing the Best Tile for Shower Walls

Selecting Tile Material for Shower Walls

Each material has its own distinct qualities that make it appealing to homeowners, and natural stone, glazed porcelain and ceramic are among the most popular. While this is true, some varieties of wall tile are not suitable for the shower. Mosaic sheets and metal tiles, for example, shouldn’t be used in damp or wet places since they create a lot of grout lines. The following are the most popular varieties of tile for shower walls:

It’s a terrific choice for homeowners who want a tile that’s easy to work with: Glazed ceramic tile. Although some of the more sophisticated designs can be a little pricey, basic designs are among the most cost-effective tile options. Ceramic is a long-lasting tile that comes in a wide variety of designs and sizes. With adequate care, it can chip and/or break during installation if it’s not handled carefully.

Shower walls benefit greatly from the seal provided by the glazing on these ceramic tiles, which prevents water from penetrating the surface. The finish on these tiles makes them scratch- and stain-resistant and minimal maintenance at the same time. Mold and mildew can’t thrive in places that aren’t properly sealed.

Shower walls can benefit greatly from the use of glazed porcelain tile, which the Tile Council of North America claims has an absorption rate of less than 0.5 percent. These tiles, like ceramic tile, come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and designs, but they are made of a harder, longer-lasting substance. In addition to being more pricey, they have grown in popularity as a bathroom fixture.

Because it is harder than ceramic tiles, the glaze on glazed porcelain does not crack or break as quickly as ceramic. Color baked into the tile means that chips will be difficult to spot if they do occur. Unlike ceramic tiles, porcelain’s glazed surface provides the same level of protection as ceramic, making it an excellent choice for a shower. Porcelain is the most dense and heat-retentive tile material, making it an excellent choice for a steam shower.

It’s a popular tile material because of its unique beauty, and it’s ideal for shower walls because it’s easy to clean. In general, stone is more porous than porcelain or ceramic tiles, which necessitates a higher level of care and maintenance. For some of the lighter-colored stones, this can be especially true, but this isn’t a universal rule. Despite these disadvantages, stone remains a popular high-end tile option.

In terms of bathroom showers, some natural stones are better than others, so keep that in mind while comparing the pros and cons of different materials. Granite and marble, which are more porous than glazed ceramic tile and porcelain, should be sealed in damp regions, according to the Natural Stone Institute. Another natural stone option for shower walls is travertine. It is also necessary to seal it in order to preserve it from dampness.

Consider the Tile Size

Choosing the right tile size will depend on the dimensions of the bathroom. It’s important to consider the preferences of the particular homeowner, as well as their financial situation and the most recent design trends. See what’s hot in tile design right now, either in person or online, then narrow down your choices from there. Some people prefer a basic white subway tile, while others prefer a large-format tile with a variety of designs. Bathroom size and layout should also be taken into consideration when making a decision.

The most common tile sizes are 12 x 12, 16 x 16 and 12 x 24 despite the fact that there are no hard and fast restrictions. Three-by-six subway tiles are also extensively employed. Using huge tiles to elongate a space and little tiles to streamline it are two of American Olean’s design recommendations. For those who plan on doing the work themselves, this is a factor to keep in mind. Large-format tiles are common, but putting them on a wall can be a challenge because of their size. Small tiles necessitate extra cutting and/or grouting.

DIY enthusiasts with a sense of adventure might wish to play around with other layouts to spice things up a bit. When it comes to the layout of smaller subway tiles, for example, there are a variety of options. When square tiles are turned in a circle, a diamond pattern is formed. Strips or even entire walls can be decorated with mosaic or smaller tiles. It is possible to use layout in a variety of ways to enhance the visual appeal of the design. Make sure you allot some extra time for planning.

Tile floors make it easy to create a model of the plan, but the walls of a shower are a little more. Measure carefully and remember that there are multiple walls to consider, and they are often interconnected. Any built-in elements, such as a shower niche, that would be difficult to achieve with a particular type of tile should be taken into consideration. Before making a shower tile purchase, take into account the area’s dimensions and layout to determine which material is most suited for the job.

Investigate Tile Ratings

It was necessary to construct ratings for both strength and durability in order to show how well a given tile would work in various contexts. The Porcelain Enamel Institute devised the scale used by these measurements. On a scale of one to five, one represents the lowest level of durability, while five represents the highest level of durability, this rating system indicates how long a particular tile will last.

Despite the fact that this figure is typically more essential for flooring than shower walls, it may nevertheless play a role in the decision-making process. Consider, for example, the amount of people using the bathroom. Is this a daily shower in the master bathroom? Are you referring to it as a guest bathroom? Light to moderate traffic locations should have a three rating, whereas areas with less traffic should have a two rating.

The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association has created a rating system for color variation. Ceramic and porcelain tile’s wide range of color and tint variations inspired the creation of this term. There are four categories of ratings, with the lowest number indicating the least degree of variation and the highest number indicating the greatest. Useful information can be gained if this number is available. Natural stone is not graded on a V-scale due to its inherent variability, which adds to its allure.

Test Out the Tile in the Space

Making a selection is easier when you can actually see the tile in its intended location. You can pick something out at the store or online, but seeing it in the shower is a completely different experience. In order to have a sense of how the tile will fit in the space, it’s important to examine how the colors are reflected and if they’ll work with the overall color scheme. This is a crucial stage in the painting process, and it also works with tile.

Although this is less of an issue with white or simple tiles, differing colors and patterns may make a big difference in how a space feels. A few sample tiles are an excellent investment to ensure that the tile chosen is compatible with the overall design concept. To achieve the best tile match, look at the tiles in the room with all the different combinations of illumination, both during the day and at night.

Another element to consider is the tile’s color and texture. The general rule of thumb in interior design is that lighter colors elicit a sense of space, while darker hues tend to convey a sense of intimacy. As one of the smallest rooms in the house, the bathroom has a unique set of challenges when it comes to storage. As a result, textured tiles, such as those with a wood-like appearance, may not be as easy to clean in the shower area, where moisture quickly forms mildew and buildup.

Five Tips for Choosing the Perfect Bathroom Tile - Washingtonian

Don’t Forget the Grout

Grout isn’t the first item that comes to mind when selecting bathroom tiles, but it’s something that requires frequent maintenance and should be taken into account. The glazing on porcelain and ceramic tiles makes it easy to clean, but grout adds a new level of difficulty to the process. Especially in a wet environment like a shower, dirt, filth, and soap scum can build up in the grout lines.

Anyone contemplating a do-it-yourself bathroom tile installation should keep the grout line sizes in mind while making their selection. There are times when broader grout lines are easier to work with in terms of spacing tiles and making things appear good, but that also increases the amount of grout surface area, which requires more cleaning and maintenance. As a result, narrower grout lines have a smaller amount of grout surface area but are more difficult to accomplish. Before making a final decision, consider the big picture, such as tile size, installation competence, and grout lines.

Grout line spacing isn’t standardized, although common values include 1/16, 1/8, and 3/16. Grout lines smaller than 3/16 inch become quite impossible to work with, and larger tiles (those larger than that) begin to look unattractive. Don’t forget to consider the grout color while selecting tiles, either. A grout that is the same color as the tile creates a uniform look, while a grout that is a different color draws attention to the individual tile. Lighter grout is more susceptible to the growth of mold, mildew, and other contaminants.

7 of the Best Ceramic and Porcelain Tile Trends for Bathrooms

1. Large format ceramic and porcelain tile

Floors and walls look great with large-format ceramic and porcelain tiles. Large refers to 1818, 1530, 1836, 2424, and 2448 format sizes.

10×30, 15×30 and 8×24 are the largest ceramic wall tile formats.

Keep in mind that 8×10 and 8×12 tiles were the standard sizes of wall tiles in the past. The size of wall tiles is increasing at the same rate as the size of floor tiles. Larger tiles not only make a room appear larger, but they also use less grout.

As you can see in the image below, large format tile looks great when combined with smaller format tile.

2. Concrete looks in tile

The concrete tile style intrigues us, and the Tampa Home of Distinction showcased it beautifully.

Concrete has a pleasant, modern appearance in a bathroom. With more busy wall tiles, the tonal contrasts look great. The concrete (large format) tile has been incorporated into the shower floor in the image below to give a cohesive aesthetic.

This following image shows how the concrete tile has been dragged up one wall and contrasts well with the white subway tile on the other side..

Incorporating subway tiles or brick-like tiles with concrete creates a clean and contemporary effect.

3. Distressed, reclaimed and metallic looks in tile

Concrete and wood plank tile styles are becoming more damaged and reclaimed. This combination of texture, visual patterns, and larger tile sizes creates a stunning impact as shown in the following photographs.

Hemisphere Copper in 12×24 is shown here.

For perspective, Cevisama 2017’s Five Strong Tile Trends Cevisama 2017 featured a number of metallic designs. Below is one of those photographs.

While the parallel striations in the image above give it a distressed metallic look, the layered patterns and colors on top of the concrete in the image below give it an old-world feel.

4. Brick, Subway and hexagon tiles

Brick and subway tile mimic the large-format rectangular ceramic and porcelain aesthetics on a smaller scale.. They might appear both traditional and modern at the same time.

Porcelain subway tiles in Stone Collection White can be seen in the image below.

As you can see in the image below, they are also available in a variety of colors, including white.

Hexagons, like other shapes, come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and materials, including wood, concrete, and everything in between.

5. All white looks in tile, including marble

The basic bathroom color scheme is white on white. Classic looks can be given a modern twist by adding textures and even 3-D effects to the mix.

The master bathroom of the Tampa Home of Distinction is depicted in the image below.

This bathroom features white penny rounds on the floor and 3×6 subway tile on the walls.

Tampa Bay Home of Distinction also provides the shower below. You’ll see that the walls and floors are both covered in Eneas Blanco 12×24 tile.

6. Wood plank ceramic and porcelain tile

No matter if they’re white-washed, weathered, or reclaimed, wood-like plank tiles always look great in a bathroom.

Look at all the ways you can use wood plank tile in your home! Pebbles and wood planks come together in this bathroom feature wall. These stones and board form a bathtub surround that is quite unique.

This shower vignette from the Builder Show in Orlando, Florida, rounds out our collection. It shows that wood plank tile may be combined with other tile shapes and colors on both floors and walls.

7. It’s in the details: drains, mosaics, decorative tiles, benches and niches

In the bathroom, even the smallest of details may make a big difference. You may have a lot of fun with your tile options, whether you’re looking at drains, storage niches for shampoo bottles and soap, or benches, floors, or walls. You have the option of matching or contrasting, as well as including beautiful tile accents.

Shower niches are vital for storing all of your shampoos and other shower necessities..

Why not include a shower bench at the same time? To add more seats or a place to store your shower supplies, you’ll find prefabricated benches (and niches) that you may tile over.

The Verdict

The main thing to keep in mind is to make certain that the floor tiles are installed with the right hardness (PEI) and coefficient of friction (COF) ratings. There are many different types of tiles that can be used on a wall, but it is crucial that floor tiles are rated for that function.

Helen Skeates

Helen Skeates

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