We’ve been talking bathroom renovations for the past few weeks. There is so much that goes into making a beautiful oasis, and so much that has to be done before a tile is laid. 

However, choosing the right tile is important, not only because of the aesthetics of the room, but also the function and labour costs associated with it. 

There are so many beautiful bathroom ideas around, and along with that so many tiles to choose from; marble, granite, porcelain, ceramic, mosaic, subway, slabs and the list goes on. 

Along our renovating journey we’ve learnt a few things about choosing tiles, mainly from making mistakes in our choices. This usually came from us rushing ahead and making our tile choices before we’d really looked at the bathroom plan. 

Here’s a few things we learnt along the way! 

1. Check the colour lot of your tiles. 

There are natural colour differences in tiles due to temperature variations that will exist in kilns. For this reason, producers will give a colour lot code so you can easily tell them apart for installation. Make sure you check the colour lot, especially if you are buying discounted tiles, or the ‘end lot’ of tiles. Variations can be quite significant once you have the tiles next to each other.  

2. Make sure you have enough tiles

This sounds so simple, but it’s easy to forget there will always be waste when tiling. Depending upon the configuration of your bathroom, the tile size and how you want the tiles laid, you should always factor in at least 10% waste. Your tiler will need to make cuts to get the right fit and finish for your bathroom which will be impacted by the shape, size and pattern of tiles you choose.  Where you are using a feature tile with a pattern or a mosaic tile, you will need to allow for more waste, around 15%, because tiles need to be laid in a way that ensures continuity of patterns. 

It's also important to allow for waste as you don’t want to run out of tiles and then find you can’t match the colour because they’re now only available in a different colour lot!

3. If you’re going to use different size tiles, think about how the grout lines will align

Often people have 2-3 different tiles in their bathrooms, usually consisting of a feature tile and then something more understated for remaining walls and the floor. Where you’re using tiles of different sizes think about how they will align when laid. If your wall tile is 60cm wide but your floor tile is 65 cm wide, the grout lines will make the room look odd and out of balance. You don’t want your eye to be distracted from that fabulous bathroom by the criss-cross of grout lines. 

4. Your tile choice will impact the amount of labour required by your tiler

Getting the right finish in a bathroom is so reliant on the skill of your tiler, and your choice of tiles will influence how long it will take them to get the finish just right. As mentioned about, the alignment of tiles will be effected by the choice you make, and while great tilers can work miracles, it all takes time and money. It’s all in the preparation.

It’s fashionable now to use large tiles in bathrooms, and they do look amazing with minimal grout lines. They are heavier and awkward to manipulate so this may take your tiler more time. Also, if you want to use them on your floor, you need to think about the floor waste you have. If it’s a strip drain, then the tile can be adjusted for the fall when being laid, however if you have a normal floor waste, the number of cuts in a large tile to allow for the fall of the floor will make the job time-consuming, and the floor look like a patchwork quilt! All of this will influence your design from the outset. 

On The Block 2019 and 2021 we selected some stunning tile ‘slabs’, and they are stunning, however as they are only 6mm thick the tiles are brittle and requires very careful handling, specialized cutting tools and expert tiling skills, all of which costs time and money. 

Wherever possible we like to have mitred joints, where two tiles meet at an external corner, like in a niche. This is more time consuming but looks amazing. Again, your choice of tile will effect the laying process. A 6mm tile can easily chip and getting a mitred finish is time consuming.

5. Consider reflected colour

Lots of bathrooms have white as their base colour. It’s fresh, clean and goes with everything. It is, however, important to think about any other colour you are planning on including in the bathroom, because a white tile can ‘pick up’ that colour. This is especially the case for porcelain tiles or gloss tiles. We once did a bathroom with a marble feature wall, and white porcelain tiles on the remaining walls. Once the tiles were laid those white porcelains looked beige, because the marble feature wall colour was being reflected! Think about how the colours work together, and what reflective surfaces, like glazed tiles, will do with those colours. 

No matter which tiles you choose, bathrooms are a major expense and one of the most used rooms in your home, so it’s best to get it right with your tiles so you can achieve bathroom bliss. 

August 02, 2022 — Mark McKie

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