The Best Tile for Small Bathrooms

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated December 16, 2021
shot of small bathroom with white tile, white sink, bathtub and toilet, and tan accents
photosbysabkapl - stock.adobe.com

Choose the best bathroom tile sure to make a big splash

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Though a bathroom’s size inevitably affects your design choices, bigger doesn’t always mean better. Tiles come in every imaginable shape, style, color, and pattern, and choosing the right combination for aesthetics and practicality will ensure your bathroom achieves a stunning look that will last you a long time. This guide presents the best tile options, from the floor to the wall, for small spaces.

How to Choose Bathroom Tiles for Small Spaces

In addition to personal design preferences, you’ll want to account for these factors when choosing which type of bathroom tile to select.

  • Budget: Prices can vary widely, based on material as well as size and shape, so it’s important to plan knowing precisely what you can afford

  • Frequency of Use and Family Situation: Some tiles are more durable than others and can stand up to spills, muddy paws, and epic bathtime splashes much better than others

  • Area to be Tiled: If you’re only tiling the walls, you have plenty of options, but if you’re thinking of designing the shower, including the floor, you’ll likely need to consider which materials are the least slippery

  • ​​​​​​Installation Requirements: If you’re into DIY home renovations, look for simple-to-install options

Types of Tile Materials

Ceramic

Ceramic tiles are always in style, partly because they come in so many different shapes, colors, and sizes. You can choose from solid tones or striking patterns, like a floral print reminiscent of Tuscany—the options are vast. It can last 50 or more years with regular maintenance, which includes resealing the grout every year. 

Cost: $0.50–$35 per sq. ft.

Porcelain

Slightly more expensive than ceramic tiles, porcelain is on every list of best bathroom tiles for one main reason: they’re extremely moisture-resistant. In addition, most varieties are manufactured with through-body color, making chipping difficult to notice. You can even opt for faux-wood style, which gives the look of wood without its propensity to water damage.

Cost: $3–$35 per sq. ft.

Glass Mosaic

Glass tiling is growing in popularity thanks to its striking iridescence, artistic look, and versatility. Because it can crack, glass tiles should not be installed as flooring, but because it isn’t porous, it’s an ideal choice for shower walls.

Cost: $5–$15 per sq. ft.

Natural Stone

Many people love natural stone for its uniqueness—no two tiles will be exactly the same—and the organic, spa-like feel it can lend to your bathroom. It does require significant maintenance, however; you’ll need to clean and seal it regularly.

Cost: $5–$35 per sq. ft.

Vinyl

Vinyl floor tiles can be a solid choice if you’re working with a small budget, as they can easily be self-installed and cost less than most other options presented here. Another plus is that many styles are extremely water-resistant, making it a solid option for your flooring.

“Luxury vinyl tile is affordable, easy to install, and looks fantastic,” says Eugene Colberg, architect and founder of Colberg Architecture. “This is a waterproof material that's getting better every year. Traditional tile itself is not expensive, but there is mixing involved with the adhesive and grout, and you need to know how to install it.”

Cost: $4–$10 per sq. ft.

Tile Sizes and Styles

Matte vs. Glossy Finish

Shiny tiles, such as glass mosaics, are reflective, allowing light to dance around the room and creating the illusion of openness. Matte tiles might hide smudges better, but they’re more challenging to clean.

Large vs. Small Tiles

Generally speaking, unless you are only tiling an accent wall, opt for larger tiles. Fewer grout lines will be less distracting and offer an overall cleaner look. 

White vs. Color

Lighter shades, such as whites, beiges, and pale greys, will make your bathroom look larger. If you’re bored by the idea of an all-neutral space, consider adding accent tiles in the shower or designing with a lighter natural stone, such as marble, to create texture and pattern.

Shower vs. the Rest of the Bathroom

If you have a transparent glass shower door, consider installing tiles with horizontal stripes that extend from the shower area into the adjacent wall. This design will draw the eye across the room, creating the illusion of space.

The Walls vs. the Floors

Similar to considering the delineation between the shower and the rest of the room, consider where the floor meets the walls. Using the same decorative tiles to cover the floor and the walls will blur the line between the two, creating an optical illusion that makes the whole room feel much larger than it is.

Uniform vs. Accent Walls

Accent walls can be a secret weapon when designing a small bathroom, adding a pop of color in what might be an otherwise uniformly neutral space. Try using bright, circular tiles from floor-to-ceiling on your accent wall to mimic the look of wallpaper.

a white and mint green bathroom with modern fixtures
Diana Rui - stock.adobe.com

Comparison of Bathroom Tiles

Best for Kids and High-Traffic Homes

Both porcelain—an affordable option—and natural stone are tough materials that can handle the daily brunt of footsteps and spills.

Best for Small Budgets

Porcelain and ceramic are evergreen, popular choices because they are gentle on the wallet. Luxury vinyl is another inexpensive choice.

Best for Underfloor Heating

If you have underfloor heating, install hard surfaces on the ground area of your bathroom, such as ceramic or natural stone; these materials transfer heat very effectively. Slate is an especially conductive material. 

Easiest to Install

Luxury vinyl is the winner here, as it’s simple to cut, does not require bonding to the subfloor, and can usually be installed in only a few hours.

Easiest Maintenance

Glass is one of the easiest to clean options, requiring only a gentle cleanser to wipe down any grime.

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