As the backdrop of the entire bathroom scheme, and also vital to the way in which your bathroom functions, tiles are worth giving some serious thought to, says Natasha Brinsmead.

Although not the sole option for wall coverings in bathrooms, tiles are certainly the most popular — and have been for some time. There is good reasoning behind their popularity — they come in a massive range of sizes, price ranges, colours and materials, can often be fitted on a DIY basis, and are easy to maintain and clean.

Decisions, decisions…

Firstly, what material will you opt for? Ceramic, porcelain and natural stone being the main options.

Ceramic tiles are usually the most cost-effective option. They are also simple to fit, low-maintenance and require no sealing or polishing. In addition, they come in a huge range of colours, patterns and sizes, and are also available as stone-effect and even timber-effect.

Porcelain tiles are extremely hardwearing – more so than ceramic – and are fired at very high temperatures, meaning they are stain, scratch, shock and chemical resistant. Unlike ceramic, porcelain tiles usually need to be sealed before and after grouting to ensure they retain their appearance. The exception to this is ‘nano’ porcelain tiles, which have a solvent added when they are made to fill their microscopic pores.

Finally, to the currently popular natural stone tiles. Stones which are suitable for bathroom walls include travertine, limestone, marble, slate and granite. Stone tiles are stunning in appearance, but their downsides include their relatively high cost and the fact that most need thorough cleaning and sealing before being fitted, and again before and after grouting due to their porous nature.

Large-format stone tiles are also very heavy and so will need to be fitted by a professional skilled in this job. Some tilers are uncomfortable with fitting them and any presumed savings in labour costs (larger format = less tiles = less fitting) are often neutralised by the ‘unknown’ factor for some tilers. An adhesive such as Norcros Thick Bed Stone & Porcelain Tile Adhesive is ideal (try

Mosaic Tiles

Although traditionally made from natural stone, mosaic tiles are now available in glass and ceramic too, as well as rather more unusual materials such as shells and metals. They are most commonly supplied in sheets that can be cut to the required size or shape.


The size you choose should reflect the room you are tiling but, in general, is all down to personal preference. Very large-format tiles tend not to be practical in small spaces due to the cuts that will need to be made to accommodate awkward angles and tight spaces between sanitaryware.

100 x 100mm was once the ‘standard’ size of tile, but these days there really is no such thing.

Ordering Tiles

Tiles usually come in packs that state the coverage they will give. When calculating how many tiles you need (using an online calculator such as that at is helpful) always add on 10% to allow for breakages, cutting waste and pattern matching. Many companies will offer refunds on any unopened packs if you find you have over-ordered.

Grout and Adhesive

Check that any grout or adhesive you buy is suitable for the material you have chosen — natural stone, for instance, will require a different type of adhesive than ceramic.

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