Can't Decide? Here's the Best Types of Tile for Shower Walls and Floors

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated December 22, 2021
large gray bathroom with stone tile
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Shower in style with these functional, durable tiles

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When you find yourself drowning in tile types, stop scrolling and read this guide. Simple subway or multicolored mosaics? It’s tough to decide which tile is best for your shower. To narrow your options down, we’ve amassed a list of the best type of tile for shower walls and floors, including information about cost, durability, and safety.

Tile Options for Shower Floors and Walls

white and beige bathroom with subway tile
Photo: KCULP / Adobe Stock

Shower tiles are available in an endless number of colors, shapes, and sizes; here are the main material types and the key factors to consider about each of them.

1. Porcelain

Best for: Resisting moisture

Porcelain tiles are extremely moisture-resistant, boasting a water absorption rate of under 1%. The material is also very durable and less likely to chip. These tiles are reasonably priced, costing $3 to $10 per square foot, and come in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes. Be wary of larger-sized tiles, however, as fewer grout lines could increase the slippery surface of your tiled shower floor.

2. Ceramic

Best for: Budget-friendly style and function

Ceramic tiles are another affordable option, around $.50 to $15 per square foot. Like porcelain, they are available in many different colors and sizes and are very easy to clean. These tiles tend to be less durable than porcelain, and the glaze on the ceramic can crack, which can lead to moisture seeping in.

3. Travertine

Best for: Textured finishes

Travertine is a type of limestone formed by mineral deposits in natural springs. The “tumbled” variety boasts a more rough and rustic exterior, making it a great non-slip shower tile. When sealed regularly, it’s extremely durable and moisture-resistant. Expect to pay $3 to $15 per square foot for travertine tiles.

4. Granite

Best for: Uniquely-shaped spaces

Another strong natural stone option, granite can be cut into various sizes to match the shape of your shower floor or wall, often without the need for grout. A porous material, it must be sealed every year to prevent moisture problems and is better suited to the shower wall as it can be quite slippery. Granite is a bit pricey, ranging from $5 to $15 per square foot, but many deem its streamlined, no-grout look worthwhile.

5. Slate

Best for: Durability

Slate is a unique bathroom choice, with variations in each tile. Because it is naturally textured, slate is non-slip and can safely adorn shower floors. However, the color options are limited—you really have to love gray—and you’ll need to seal it every year. The cost to install slate runs about $5 to $15 per square foot.

6. Pebbles

Best for: Spa-like experiences

Pebbles create a spa-like ambiance to every shower; their natural, subtle rounded texture can feel like a light massage on your feet. They are slip-resistant but require more intricate cleaning within the grout lines, given their size and shape. They are also quite expensive, ranging from $30 to $40 per square foot.

7. Glass

Best for: Easy cleaning

Simple to clean and ultra stain-resistant, glass mosaic tiles come in every color, style, and size imaginable. Smaller, tumbled tiles are better for shower floors as they aren’t as slippery as larger ones. Glass can be cleaned easily using a mild vinegar solution and will run you about $5 to $15 per square foot.

Considerations When Selecting Tiles for Shower Walls and Floors

bathroom with gray shower wall tiles
Photo: Javani LLC / Adobe Stock

While aesthetics and the latest bathroom tile trends will likely be what sways you, make sure you consider the bigger picture before choosing a tile for your shower walls and floors. 

1. Your Budget

While distinctive, natural stone is costly and not as moisture resistant as ceramic or porcelain tiles. However, it offers excellent ROI on your bathroom remodel, as slate, granite, or travertine are considered luxurious upgrades to many. If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with glazed ceramic or porcelain tiles—they are timeless choices that are designed to work well in high-humidity rooms. For advanced-level DIYers, you can also follow steps to DIY tile a shower.

2. Tile Size

The tile sizes you choose depend on your personal preference and the existing design in your bathroom. Small, simple subway tiles offer a classic look, while larger tiles make smaller bathrooms bigger. Popular tile sizes are ​​12-by-12, 16-by-16, and 12-by-24. Of course, there’s no reason you need to stick to one tile size; you can play around with larger tiles framed by small tiles or round square tiles to create diamond patterns.

3. Tile Spacers

Depending on the kind of tile you select, you might have to consider which tile spacers to choose as well. Some tiles include lugs—or built-in spacers—but for those that don’t, you’ll need to select which spacer type you want, and the choice impacts the size of the grout lines between each tile. Factors that affect the choice of tile spacer include the size of your tiles, your intended design and overall look, and the evenness of your floor and wall.

4. Shower Use 

Will this shower be used by every family member, including an older person with limited mobility and kids who might spill or drop things often? In these instances, you need to consider tiles that meet your family’s needs, such as non-slip options (travertine or slate) or super durable choices. 

5. Maintenance

Some tiles are easier to maintain than others. Slate is one of the easiest, while pebble tiles will require extra cleaning with their many irregular grout lines. The wider your grout lines, the more grout cleaning you will have to do (and the higher likelihood that mold and mildew might grow). On the other hand, slate and other natural stone tiles will be more expensive to repair. Expect to spend between $280 and $340 to repair your bathroom tiles.

6. Installation

Unless you have detailed tile experience, we recommend hiring a tile installer to handle this project. The cost of installing tiles can vary based on the job’s complexity, with special shapes taking longer to lay and install than simple square tiles.

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