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Flooring for Bathrooms

Posted by Rob Banks on

Appearance is usually the main factor when choosing a flooring material for most parts of the house. With bathrooms, performance comes first. Bathroom flooring should be able to handle constant stress. And by stress, we mean a lot of moisture. Water is pervasive in the bathroom: running along pipes behind walls and ceilings and splashed everywhere. 

There are many bathroom flooring options, each of which has different moisture resistance levels. There are apparent winners if moisture is the only factor. But things can get tricky if you put appearance, durability, installation process, and cost in the equation.

Flooring For Bathrooms: Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl Planks in Bathrooms | Residential | Inspiration Flooring

Photo: Signature Floors

Vinyl is a popular choice for bathroom flooring because it’s easy to clean, long-lasting, and economical. Being scratch-resistant, it is ideal for homes with little children and pets. There are three types of vinyl flooring: sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl tile (LVT), and luxury vinyl plank (LVP). 

Sheet Vinyl

Sheet vinyl has maintained tremendous popularity for decades because it is incredibly economical. Modern technology has improved this flooring option regarding waterproof properties and visual appeal. You can find sheet vinyl that looks like wood or stone, allowing you to achieve the desired look at a much more affordable price. The installation process is also easier, although it requires a more stable subfloor than LVT or LVP.

Traditionally, sheet vinyl is set in place using a particular type of adhesive–which means extra work. Loose-lay sheet vinyl offers a more convenient option because you don’t have to glue it down. It has a heavy fiberglass underside that sets the sheet on the floor–even on surfaces on which adhesives aren’t as effective. Standard sheet vinyl is lighter and tends to curl over time. 

You can also easily replace vinyl as trends change. It’s still best to hire a professional for seamless vinyl flooring installation. Sheet vinyl is generally made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and covered in UV-cured urethane. Both compounds have tightly-bonded molecules, which make them water and stain-resistant. Softer than LVT and LVP, sheet vinyl allows you to stand comfortably for long periods. However, this trait also makes it more susceptible to scratches. 

Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)

Luxury vinyl planks (LVP) adapt to different lifestyles and decor preferences. These are long, narrow planks with wood and stone-like surfaces. Some brands add texture to make them feel more realistic. Thicker and harder than sheet vinyl, these planks can withstand greater pressure. 

Luxury vinyl planks have multiple layers: 

  • Wear layer: protects the surface from moisture, scratches, and light-induced damage.
  • Luxury vinyl print: high-quality imagery that emulates the look of hardwood or stone
  • Rigid or flexible core: provides stability, can be vinyl-only, Stone Plastic Composite (SPC), or Wood Plastic Composite (WPC)
  • Underlayment: usually made of cork or foam, protects from heat and increases sound absorption.

LVP installation is available in glue-down and tongue-and-groove (floating) options. The glue-down method offers excellent stability, while the tongue-and-groove allows expansion and contraction due to temperature changes and humidity. These planks are available in gorgeous designs at a fraction of the price of authentic wood and stone. You can enhance the visual interest in the bathroom by using unique patterns, such as chevron, parque, and herringbone. 

If the planks are stained or damaged, you may have to replace them because re-finishing is not advisable. Fortunately, getting rid of them is relatively easy, especially if they’ve been installed using the tongue-and-groove technique. 

Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

Luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) are essentially similar to LVP, but these are usually designed to imitate stone or porcelain. Like LVP, these tiles have a rigid core that’s more durable than sheet vinyl. Some brands also add textures similar to that of real wood or stone.

LVT is also available in glue-down and tongue-and-groove installation options. Compared to standard tiles, LVT installation is less laborious. You can directly lay the tiles over existing flooring. Plus, you don’t need to use grout. LVT is ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, and basements because it is waterproof. It can also withstand a lot of pressure and temperature fluctuations. LVT maintenance is minimal as moisture doesn’t seep into the deeper layers. There are also no grout lines to clean or replace.

Stone Plastic Composite (SPC) and Wood Plastic Composite (WPC)

Modern technology has helped flooring manufacturers expand their product range. One of the latest innovations in luxury vinyl products is the rigid core, which can be Stone Plastic Composite (SPC) or Wood Plastic Composite (WPC). The key feature of this rigid core is increased durability.

Stone Plastic Composite (SPC)

The core of an SPC is typically made of 60% calcium carbonate (also known as “limestone”), PVC, and plasticizers. It contains more calcium carbonate than WPC; hence, the term “stone.” Generally, SPC floors have additional layers to sustain high traffic volume. The rigidity of SPC makes it resistant to dents and scratches. It’s also the same reason you’d feel tired faster when standing on SPC floors. Many brands attach an underlay for extra comfort and noise reduction. 

Wood Plastic Composite (WPC)

WPC features a core filled with calcium carbonate, PVC, plasticizers, foaming agents, and wood materials. These wood materials can be bamboo, bark, sawdust, or peanut hulls. Because WPC is created from a paste, manufacturers can mold it into any shape and size to fit all design schemes. Wood is softer, so it bounces off fewer sound waves. Therefore, WPC is quieter than SPC and vinyl-only core flooring. It also provides better insulation against temperature changes, so you won’t feel chilly walking barefoot in the bathroom on cold days.WPC absorbs impact better than SPC, which means it is gentler to your joints.  

Again, SPC and WPC are simply LVT variations. If the installation is correct, you don’t have to worry about water seeping between tiles or planks. They are pricier than standard vinyl flooring but still cheaper than hardwood.

Flooring for Bathrooms: Laminate Flooring

MEISTER laminate for bathrooms

Photo: Meister

The laminate was invented by Perstorp, a Swedish specialty chemical company, in 1977. The objective was to put wood waste to good use. The result was laminate floor coverings. Laminate floors are known as an inexpensive flooring option. Over the years, these are becoming more common in higher-end residences as new technology improves their imagery and performance. Many homeowners and builders consider laminate as a practical alternative to hardwood. You’ll understand their increasing popularity once you know their physical makeup.

Laminate floors have four layers: the wear layer, pattern layer, base layer (fiberboard), and backing layer. 

Wear Layer 

This layer is cured on the topmost surface of a laminate board. It is a transparent plastic sheet resistant to pressure from furniture, heels, pets, UV rays, etc. Typically, the wear layer consists of melamine.

Pattern Layer

Underneath the protective layer is a high-quality image of real wood. Many brands also add texture for an enhanced experience.

Base Layer (Core) 

Below the pattern is the substrate which is made of pressed wood particles. Any wood product is prone to water damage because of its tissue structure. The base layer can hold its form for a certain period. Water has to be removed as soon as possible to prevent swelling.

Backing Layer

It is usually made of a heavy layer of melamine sheet to provide stability and support the locking systems between boards.

Laminate boards can be glued or snapped together. Before laying them down, you must ensure that the bathroom has a solid subfloor. The subfloor must be level to prevent unsightly gaps where moisture can get it. Professional floor installers put foam or felt between the laminate and the subfloor to make the floor softer for your feet.

The smooth and seamless surfaces of laminate floors make them easy to clean. You simply have to wipe spills and sweep dust and dirt. The wear layer is also tougher than it was a decade ago, which means you can enjoy a decent level of scratch resistance. Laminate floors are cheaper than hardwood, engineered wood, luxury vinyl flooring, stone, and ceramic. 

How to Waterproof Laminate Floors

Because it is made up primarily of moisture-sensitive fiberboard, it can be tricky to use laminate flooring for the bathroom. The fiberboard can absorb moisture and swell. Not to mention potential mould and mildew growth. So rule of thumb is, only use laminate that has been specifically produced to resist moisture. These are marketed as water proof or 72 hour (or 80 hour) water resistant.

If you wanted to try and use traditional laminate for a high moisture area like bathrooms the best way to waterproof laminate flooring is to ensure that the boards are entirely joined with a high quality locking system. Choose a premium brand with an excellent locking system. Professional installers apply waterproof silicone caulk right after installation. Unlike standard grout, silicone is impenetrable which can absorb moisture. Furthermore, silicone caulk expands and contracts, filling the gaps between laminate boards. Discuss this detail with the retailer or contract before installation. This is not a recommended installation method for a DIY installation.

Another trick to waterproof laminate flooring is to wax any cut edges of the planks, and then line the edges with tiles. The tiles can seal off the outer edges against moisture. Without specifically directing you to not use laminate, the added effort and risk of the core board swelling is really not worth it. There are easier to use products for bathrooms vs using a traditional laminate plank.

Flooring for Bathrooms: Tiles

10 Bathroom Flooring Alternatives To Tile - Home Decor Bliss

Photo: Home Decor Bliss

You can’t go wrong with tiles in a bathroom. It is commonly used in bathrooms due to its moisture resistance and minimal care requirements. Homes in other warmer regions also use them widely for the bedroom, living room, and other parts of the house. This is because tiles have low thermal conductivity, so they feel cool all year.

Tiles have a hard surface that doesn't hold onto moisture, dust, dirt, etc. You can clean them easily with a rug or mop. Unfortunately, the hard surface is also why ceramic tiles can quickly strain your feet and legs. There’s an infinite number of choices when it comes to designs. You can also find ceramic tiles that look like hardwood and natural stone. Modern techniques also make it possible to emboss the surface.

It’s worth knowing that ceramic tiles have a glazed surface. Damage to the surface can reveal the colour/pattern of the base. Porcelain tiles, on the other hand, have the same colour/pattern throughout. The main drawback of ceramic tiles is probably the laborious complicated installation. You also need special tools to cut the tiles to fit around the bathroom's features.

Water can get through the tiny pores of ceramic tiles. Fortunately, the water infiltration is minimal and unlikely to cause water damage. You may apply a sealer for added protection depending on the surface type. Porcelain tiles are denser than their ceramic counterparts. However, these are usually more expensive. If you have the budget and enjoy the tile look, then porcelain tile is the superior choice.

Flooring for Bathrooms: Natural Stone

How to Clean Natural Stone Without Damaging It | LoveToKnow

Photo: Love to Know

Using natural stone in dwellings has been a symbol of wealth and power. The intensive labour that comes with quarrying, transporting, and shaping a natural stone costs a fortune.

Even with modern equipment that makes natural stones more accessible, they are still far from affordable. These building materials have unique aesthetics. Slabs from the same quarry site can have different shades and vein patterns. A property with natural stone flooring tends to have high resale value because this building material has a limited supply. 

However, some natural stone types are not the best option for bathroom flooring because they are porous. There are effective sealers available today, but that means additional cost and maintenance. Natural stone doesn’t retain much heat. Walking on it with bare feet can be uncomfortable. Professional installers would automatically advise homeowners who opt for stone flooring to install a radiant floor heating system. Natural stone is also less durable than ceramic or porcelain tile. Consider traffic volume and temperature fluctuations before making a decision. 


Choosing the best flooring for bathrooms should be based on several factors. These include moisture resistance, budget, installation, feel under foot and style preferences. The visuals of stone and wood can make the bathroom feel more relaxing. Tile is very durable. Vinyl or laminate flooring are practical alternatives. Study the different attributes of vinyl and laminate products to help you make an informed decision. A professional installer and a trusted retailer can also provide much-needed guidance.

Other flooring blog articles you may want to read:





flooring Flooring for bathroom Laminate laminate flooring luxury vinyl flooring Luxury Vinyl Plank Natural Stone Tiles Sheet Vinyl SPC Vinyl Flooring vinyl flooring Vinyl Plank Vinyl Tile water resistant flooring Waterproof waterproof flooring WPC Vinyl floor

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