Q: In a recent column, a reader’s peel-and-stick bathroom flooring was coming up and you recommended putting down tile in the bathroom. My experience with tile has been that it gets very slick when wet, which would certainly be problematic in a bathroom.
Is there a type of tile one can use in a bathroom and/or kitchen that would allow you to have the beauty of tile but not the "ice rink" effect when it gets wet?
A: We’ve had the same experience with tile floors. Step out of the shower and va-va-voom — on your tail you go.
Often, bathroom tile is glazed, shiny and smooth. A simple solution is to use rubber-backed bath rugs over the tile to keep your footing. But we understand that covering most of a tile floor with a rug is not very practical. So here are a couple of alternatives.
First, if you choose a tile floor, avoid glazed tile or marble. Instead, pick a material that’s either textured or has a matte finish. They provide more traction and a better chance to keep you upright.
Kevin recently visited a friend in San Mateo, Calif. She had just completed a total remodel of her home. She installed textured ceramic tile in both the master and guest baths. She was very aware of the slip-and-fall factor, thus the textured finish. Kevin test-drove the shower in the master bath and found that a rug was necessary when stepping out of the shower, but when the rug soaked up the water from his feet, the textured finish performed fine.
Another tile alternative is Saltillo. This is a porous terra-cotta tile from Mexico that requires regular sealing with a quality acrylic sealer. The plus is that it’s got a skid-resistant surface. The minuses are the maintenance factor and the tile’s irregular shape. If you’re looking for uniformity, this option is not for you. But if you’re after a rustic look, this may be the ticket.
Now, don’t fall over in a dead faint, but another alternative you might consider is an engineered wood floor. It’s not for everyone, but it might work for you.
The negative, of course, is that this type of floor doesn’t withstand large amounts of water well. If this is the only bathroom and there are kids, wood is not an alternative. But if the bathroom is adults only, the beauty of wood is a definite alternative.
Engineered wood consists of a top layer of hardwood — bamboo, for example — that is pressure-glued to alternating layers of plywood. The cross-grain construction gives the flooring good stability, unlike its solid wood counterpart. Also, the factory-applied finish is water-resistant. Notice, we did not say waterproof.
Because Kevin’s wife, Heidi, is absolutely against a tile floor (she says if he lays it, she’ll take a hammer to it), engineered wood is starting to look like an alternative. We suggest you go with a "floating floor" to mitigate the moisture changes in the air and allow the floor to move a little with changing humidity.
A wood floor will provide more traction than smooth tile, but will still require a rubber-backed bath rug for entering and exiting the tub or shower and to reduce the amount of water on the floor.
The bottom line is that there’s no perfect solution. Water will have its way. For our money, a matte, textured tile is the best solution followed by a top-quality sheet vinyl or linoleum.