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Community and Q&A

Bathroom flooring options

joenorm | Posted in General Questions on

Wondering if anyone has good suggestions for a bathroom flooring product?

I’m not doing any floor heat mainly because I believe it to be a waste. But without it, tiles are pretty cold. 

Then there is wood, but it’s not the greatest in a potentially wet area.

I have considered luxury vinyl but I have a hard time with the “cheapness” of it.

Any other suggestions?

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  1. Expert Member
    Akos | | #1

    If you put down a membrane, you can treat at as an exterior deck and float a wood of your choice on some sleepers. Some nice oiled teak would really pop. I've been in places with this type of setup for showers, but you can do the entire bathroom this way as well.

    I've had a friend do epoxy over river rock. Looked fantastic and was definitely nicer on the toes than tile. You do have to be careful with this, lot of labour and easy to mess up. His had to be done twice as first time around the epoxy didn't cure properly.

    Tile+floor heat is the way to go though. Way more selection and cheaper. With a properly set up thermostat the electricity use is pretty small.

    1. this_page_left_blank | | #2

      I'm getting ready to lay down heating cable. I've gone back and forth on whether it's worth it or a good idea to extend the heating cable into the shower base. Any opinions on that?

      1. Andrew_C | | #3

        Trevor - you've obviously had second thoughts. For good reason. Unacceptable risk, for little gain. The floor of the shower will heat up from the hot water. Seriously, when did you have cold feet in the shower for more than 15 seconds? Opinions, obviously, but I would not do it.

      2. Expert Member
        BILL WICHERS | | #8

        I’d do it. I plan to do it myself in my upcoming master bath renovation.

        Don’t buy into the “risk” here. There is no danger from the heating cable, the cables are generally built with an outer metal shield, so if anything happens to the energized internal heating wire, it will short to the metal shield and trip the cable offline without endangering anyone. You also have the tile layer for protection.

        My own shower is over a crawlspace and on an exterior wall (no way to change that, unfortunately), so cold shower floors are an issue for us.

        I would consider putting the shower heat cable in as a separate zone, and be sure to run plenty of extra sensors since they all seem to die occasionally and you WILL need the spares at some point. I’d put in more than the recommended two sensors too. Sensors are cheap, new floors not so much. Run 4-5 sensors or more, leaving the spares disconnected until needed.


        1. this_page_left_blank | | #10

          Thanks for the tip on the extra sensors. I never would have considered that. I was planning on using Ditra-Heat. Do any thermostats support multiple zones, or would it mean having two thermostats? The thermostats seem ridiculously overpriced to me.

      3. Expert Member
        Akos | | #11

        I've only done this with hydronic and running the heat for the shower area was simple. I does make a big difference on how quickly the shower dries up, much less chance of having moldy grout.

        With floor heat sensors, what I like to do is run them inside small pex pipe. This way you can just pull the sensor out if it ever dies without having to touch the floor.

        1. Expert Member
          MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #12

          That's a great idea.

        2. this_page_left_blank | | #15

          I was thinking about this, and I see a couple of potential problems. Is this compatible with uncoupling membrane? I can't see how it could fit. Have you actually replaced a sensor yet? Pulling it out surely is easy, but how about pushing a new one in?

          1. Expert Member
            Akos | | #16

            I had no problems pushing the sensor in 3 or 4 feet using its wire. I guess you can use a fish to get it further. Bellow is a picture of the install for an concrete slab, the fitting there is just a long PEX elbow, easier way to do sharp turns without kinking the PEX.

            The other way I've done it is running the pex through the floor joists then drilling a hole into the bottom of OSB right over the floor joist (can also notch the floor joist with 2x lumber). A nail plate on the top over the area, this way there is no chance of putting a nail through the sensor.

            Since everything is bellow the OSB, there are no issues with the decoupling membrane. If you don't have access to the joist area, you can probably use a router to cut a groove. You don't have to go far, just a bit into the heated area.

            You do have to be careful with planning ahead so that the sensor ends up between the heating elements.

            With tile, I've found the sensor is within 2C of the floor temp read by an IR gun.

  2. GBA Editor
    Brian Pontolilo | | #4

    Hi Joe,

    Tile must be the most common bathroom floor in custom homes (it's been in just about every bath I saw while visiting houses for Fine Homebuilding), and for good reason--it stands up to the rigors of a bathroom and keeps looking good with a little occasional maintenance. I don't necessarily agree with your premise that tiles are cold, maybe they feel cooler than other flooring options, but they are only cold if the house is cold. So, my opinion is that tile is the best choice for a bathroom floor, with or without in-floor heat.

    1. this_page_left_blank | | #5

      It depends on how you define cold. Is the tile at a lower temperature than another flooring material would be in the same location? No. Will it transfer heat from your body faster? Yes. It's more thermally conductive. It's almost universally agreed upon in common parlance that "cold" and "hot" are defined as how they are perceived rather than an absolute temperature.

      1. GBA Editor
        Brian Pontolilo | | #6

        Hi Trevor.

        I agree with you. However, I think tile floors are more often perceived as cold by people who are considering flooring options than by people who are actually living with them. At least in my experience, this is where this conversation takes place, when choosing flooring. I can't recall anyone living with tile floors telling me that they didn't like them because they were too cold, and I've interviewed a lot of people about their houses. That said, I'm all for in-floor heat as a comfort measure, if people are willing to use it responsibly.

        1. this_page_left_blank | | #9

          My personal experience is that I find unheated tile floors very uncomfortable in bare feet. In the kitchen, with socks on, it's not an issue. When I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, it is.

  3. George_7224612 | | #7

    We like tile with area rugs. The tile is durable and the area rugs are soft and warm underfoot. They can be easily removed for cleaning and are not expensive to replace when the time comes.

  4. irene3 | | #13

    We put in marmoleum in the kitchen and one bathroom, and hope to redo the other bathroom in it when we can. Much nicer than vinyl.

  5. walta100 | | #14

    I put LVT luxury Vinyl Tile in our bath. I find it much warmer and softer than ceramic. Some will not find it to be a green choice as they are mostly oil. I real like this gorilla brand tile.

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