Everything you need to know about bathroom tile

Tile can completely change the look of your bathroom. But if you don’t do your research, it can also completely ruin your schedule, your budget, and your day.

We surveyed nearly 500 contractors, handymen, tile specialists, and designers to boil down what you need to know about why tile is so popular, how much tile installation costs, what styles are trending, and how to get installation done right.

Related: Pro survey: the best bathroom brands, value boosters, and cost-saving tips

How much bathroom tile costs

The pros Thumbtack surveyed say bathroom tile is the number one place homeowners should plan to spend extra money in a remodel — and that’s not just because materials can get pricey.

Half of the pros also said the right tile is a top home value booster, ahead of updated fixtures, a new bathroom vanity, fresh cabinets, and new paint or wallpaper.

How to select bathroom tile

The trickiest thing about tile is picking the right tile for your space, says Michael Big of Big Brothers Development. “HGTV doesn’t show how much thought goes into picking the shape of the tile. How tile will sit on your floor or wall depends entirely on [its] size or shape. Sometimes clients will order tile expecting it to be laid one way, and we have to tell them it just isn’t possible.”

To keep costs low, avoid intricate designs and smaller tiles, recommends Brian Ernest with Ready to Sell Renovations. Bigger tiles in simpler patterns cost less to install labor-wise.

Related: Where to spend (and save) on your bathroom remodel

Designing tile for a small bathroom

There are two ways you can use tile to create the illusion of more space in a bathroom. One approach is to use larger pieces of tile, which also simplifies installation and keeps costs down. Another popular way to design bathroom tile in a small bathroom is to lay tile at a 45-degree angle, creating the illusion of more space as you enter the room. Ask a tile installation specialist what works best for your bathroom.

Where bathroom tile can go wrong

“A quarter of an inch makes a big difference if you’ve measured or cut incorrectly,” says James Tapia of Global Housing Contractors. “Even tiling pros with over 10 years experience run into challenges if the wall is not plumb.”

Big says most problems can be avoided if you start by measuring your bathroom’s square footage to map your layout options. “Then, take measurements for the specific kinds of tile you want to use. Pick a handful of tiles you like and keep a list of how big they are, how many you would need, how they would lay, and the different places they go — such as floor or wall.”

Bathroom ideas if you’re not ready for new tile

If you want to avoid tiling altogether, a good intermediate step is to put a fresh coat of paint on dated ceramic tiles. “Carefully clean and prep the tiles then apply an epoxy primer,” says Tapia.

“Be sure to wear a safety mask and ventilate the area well. Epoxy colors are limited to shades of ivory and white,” he adds. But you can paint a semi-gloss or high-gloss paint overtop to finish the look. “Then you just need new accessories and you’ll have a whole new bathroom.”

No matter what approach you choose to update your bathroom, finding a contractor near you for an on-site consultation is a good first step.