Choosing a Bathroom Floor

6 factors to Help Choose Your Bathroom Floor

When it comes to choosing the perfect floor for your bathroom, there are many factors to consider, from health and safety through to good design. Because the bathroom is the wettest area in the house and heavily used, you must ensure the floor is properly installed, waterproof, safe, durable and comfortable (i.e. not too cold for bare feet!).  

Here is our guide to choosing the perfect bathroom floor:

Waterproofing and Sealing

The New Zealand Building Code (NZBC) clause E3 Internal Moisture states that all finished floors in bathrooms must be impervious, in other words, unable to be penetrated by water. Water leakage can cause considerable damage if leaks are left untreated. No matter what finish you use (for example, tiles or vinyl), make sure there is a waterproof membrane under the floor to prevent leaks (this is a legal requirement if you are laying tiles).

2/ Drainage

Wet area floors (i.e. wet rooms) should be sloped to enable water to run off into a drain in the floor.

Bathroom floor drainage. Image source:  Style Park

Bathroom floor drainage. Image source: Style Park

3/ Adding insulation

Reduce subfloor moisture and keep your bathroom warmer and drier by installing insulation. Polystyrene is an effective thermal barrier for bathroom floors. Depending on your budget, you may want to consider installing underfloor heating.

4/ Easy maintenance and durability

Maintenance, durability and performance of your bathroom floor are all important criteria when selecting your bathroom floor finish. Make sure the bathroom floor finish you select can be cleaned easily and withstand constant washing and walking.

5/ Safety traction

Choosing the right flooring surface is important to avoid water damage and slips. Your supplier will be able to give you recommendations on the best type of material you should use for your specific requirements.  

If you have use glass or glazed ceramic floor apply an anti-slip finish to provide superior traction. Image source:  Robert and Jani .

If you have use glass or glazed ceramic floor apply an anti-slip finish to provide superior traction. Image source: Robert and Jani.

6/ Floor finishes

There is a wide range of floor finishes available for bathrooms. Each wet area flooring finish has its pros and cons. We have listed the floor finishes that comply with the NZBC.

Ceramic Tiles

Pros:  

  • Can be easily waterproofed. See our Guide to Waterproofing for more information.  
  • Can be cleaned frequently without any wear or tear (water and stain resistant)
  • Not damaged by water  
  • Come in a variety of materials, from porcelain and glass to stone and ceramic  

Cons:  

  • Costly (materials and labour)  
  • Will require a sturdy subfloor  
  • Require regular grout maintenance to ensure the seal is watertight
  • Sounds bounces off and do not retain heat because they’re a hardened and dense surface
  • Moisture can make tiles slippery but a textured surface can provide more traction.
Ceramic tiles. Image source:  Wayfair

Ceramic tiles. Image source: Wayfair

Tile laying patterns

Interior Designer Hamish Dodds shows you simple laying patterns that you can use on your bathroom floor (or in his case, a bathroom kitchen).

Vinyl / vinyl planks / vinyl tiles

Pros:  

  • Can be easily waterproofed and is an impervious, water-resistant material  
  • Soft cushioning effect can reduce breakages  
  • Cost effective alternative to tiles  
  • Durable and easy to clean  
  • Provides better sound acoustics than tiles  
  • Doesn’t support bacteria or fungi growth  
  • Slip resistant if has profiled surface  
  • Available in a wide range of colours, styles and finishes  

Cons:  

  • May leak if floor isn’t angled properly
Wood effect vinyl planks. Image source:  Karndean

Wood effect vinyl planks. Image source: Karndean

Timber

Pros:  

  • Waterproof if sealed with a waterproof applied coating
  • Aesthetically pleasing  

Cons:  

  • An expensive option  
  • Damaged by water. Timber floors are susceptible to moisture and water damage if not applied with a waterproof coating  
  • Supports bacterial and fungal growth when wet
  • Timber strip flooring may lead to board joints opening up and cracking the finish of the floor  
Timber floor. Image source:  Wood Floor Solutions

Timber floor. Image source: Wood Floor Solutions

Stone tiles

Pros:  

  • A hardy and durable floor finish  
  • Not damaged by water and does not support the growth of bacteria or fungi  
  • Slip resistant when tiles have a textured surface  

Cons:  

  • Some stone is very brittle and can crack easily  
  • Natural stone is porous so the floor will need to be applied with a sealing agent periodically to protect its surfaces
Stone tiles. Image source:  Tile Space

Stone tiles. Image source: Tile Space

Cork tiles

Pros:  

  • Warm, natural and soft feel  
  • Sound-absorbant  
  • Doesn’t support bacteria and fungal growth if correctly coated  
  • Cool in summer, warm in winter  
  • Available in a wide range of colours  
  • Durable  

Cons:

  • Reasonably costly but considering its lifelong value, is worth the investment  
  • Slippery if has a gloss coating.
Cork floor. Image source:  Houzz

Cork floor. Image source: Houzz

Concrete

Pros:

  • Very tough surface not damaged by water  
  • Requires little maintenance  
  • Modern  
  • Slip resistant due to its textured surface  
  • Comes in a variety of finishes – can be polished, stained, painted or carved  

Cons:  

  • Can be very cold under foot  
  • The rough surface may support bacteria and fungi growth unless cleaned regularly.
Concrete floor. Image source:  Wow Bathroom Ideas

Concrete floor. Image source: Wow Bathroom Ideas

Further Reading

NZBC Compliance Documents

New Zealand Standards  

Recommended Retailers for bathroom floors

Feature image: Homestyle Magazine

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