Tile is one of the most popular and versatile materials to use in your bathroom shower. Many homeowners update their bathroom shower tiles every 10 to 15 years to keep up with the latest trends in home design, as well as keep their shower looking clean and bright.
Shower tiles comes in a variety of different materials ranging from naturally occurring products to manufactured ones. Common features homeowners look for is a tile that is slip resistant, water resistant, and sized appropriately.
Ceramic tile is made from a mixture of natural clay, sand, water, and sometimes feldspar or quartz. It is durable and resilient to water. It can be glazed or unglazed, but glazed usually isn’t best for a shower. Unglazed tile is more slip-resistant in wet areas.
Porcelain tile also is made from a mixture of natural clay, sand, water, and sometimes feldspar or quartz. The big difference between ceramic and porcelain tiles is that the natural clay in porcelain tile is much denser. It makes the tile impervious to water absorption. This additional resiliency is particularly important is in outdoor applications because porcelain tiles are frost resistant.
Natural stone tiles include marble, onyx, granite, slate, limestone, or travertine. They have varying degrees of porousness, so some will require regular sealing for use in a damp environment. Faux stone materials, such as cultured marble, are another popular option for showers as they require no grouting or sealing.
Glass tiles are glass formed into consistent shapes. Some glass tiles are made of sand and recycled glass, making them eco-friendly. Glass tiles reflect light, which is why homeowners love them for making a small shower feel bright and airy. Glass tiles are resistant to water but can be slick, so aren’t commonly installed on floors.
Tile shapes and patterns
Shower tile shapes and patterns are limited only by your imagination these days, and your budget.
Rectangular subway tile is a familiar shape that has stood the test of time and is still extremely popular in home décor today. Rectangular tiles can be arranged in all types of patterns to create dramatic and beautiful shower-scapes. Tile patterns include brick, straight stack, basketweave, or vertical. Rectangular tiles with a parallelogram cut also are popular to create herringbone or diamond patterns.
Square tiles are beautiful and straightforward. Square tiles can be arranged in a vertical stack or offset pattern. Square tiles also can be set on a 45-degree angle, allowing the creation of a harlequin pattern, which can make a small space seem larger.
Hexagon-shaped tiles are a trend that designers and homeowners love. These six-sided tiles create texture and, by contrasting the grout with the tile, can create a pattern that mimics the look of a textile. Hexagon tiles often are mixed with square tiles to create beautiful accents in the shower, but they also can be used on an entire wall for a dramatic effect.
Penny round tiles are small, rounded tiles usually installed on a sheet. Their small size makes them suitable for curved walls or shower floors.
Plank tiles are rectangular but longer than traditional rectangular tiles. Generally, plank tiles are 24”, 36”, or 48” in length. They look more like a plank of wood in their shape, though not necessarily in their finish. Plank tiles work well in horizontal, offset, herringbone, and chevron patterns.
Specialty tile includes tiles cut in shapes like diamonds, triangles, fan or fish scales, arabesque cuts, ogees, and much more. Specialty tiles are more expensive, so use them to create a dramatic shower accent if you can’t afford to tile your entire shower with them.
You also can mix-and-match tile shapes and sizes to create patterns such as pinwheel, windmill, basketweave, and Versailles, which all create eye-catching designs using varying sizes and shapes of tiles.
Tile sizes for each shape also can vary widely. Using larger tiles means fewer grout lines. Some homeowners prefer this look in small spaces. Other homeowners feel like the larger tiles are out-of-proportion with a smaller space. There is no right or wrong answer, so it’s best to bring home some sample tiles to make sure you are happy with the final look.
Another design decision you need to make when tiling your shower is how high you want the tiles to extend up to the wall. Building codes often require tile (or the waterproof wall covering of your choosing) to extend around six feet above the finished floor. The trend today is to go higher. Both three-quarters height and floor-to-ceiling are popular.
Some homeowners have even gone a step above and started tiling their ceilings. Tile on the ceiling can prevent mold from forming above the shower and is a dramatic accent feature. Just make sure you have an expert installer to ensure the tiles stay in place.
Get an Expert's Advice
Your bathroom shower is one of the hardest working areas of your home, and one you spend a lot of time in. Browse through the pictures and renovation ideas on our site, visit our showrooms for inspiration, and talk to one of our bath project managers to help you create the tiled shower of your dreams.
Contrary to popular belief, tiles and grout joints are not inherently waterproof. To provide you the highest quality possible, we utilize Schluter products for full waterproofing and shower customization. As an alternative to tile bullnose, we also use Schluter profiles. These come in many shapes, sizes, and colors and give a modern look for those looking for something other than traditional bullnose options.