Creating kitchens and baths for finicky customers since 1993

backsplash features inset metal tiles for accent and texture

Friday, June 04, 2010

Bathroom floor tile adventures: "I see patterns ... everywhere?"

Forming floor tile patterns can be risky business --

Our customer's initial response was "rip it all out!" I'm not kidding. Then the homeowner thought about it overnight. This bold pattern was permitted to stay put.

12x12 floor tiles in pattern
Rarely does a ceramic or porcelain floor tile lend itself to pattern-forming as well as this one. A large majority of installations call for careful randomizing (which certainly does sound like an oxymoron). Most tile instructions insist upon box-mixing and random rotation of each tile, or conversely require that the tiles maintain a given orientation specifically to avoid patterns.

close-up of floor tile pattern
tiles combine light and dark shading
This tile was different. It's shading and pigment variation was so pronounced that it was easy to visualize a wild assortment of pattern-matching. My design may have started accidentally, but once my eye saw a way to create floor-art I had to keep going. Of course there was an inherent risk in laying the tile artistically -- the homeowner was dead serious in his original dislike of the results.

zoom-in on floor tile pattern
closer view of 8-tile pattern
Notice that it took eight full tiles to form the base image for this floor. That's a lot of tedious tile selecting. Then, in order for the concept to "work" I had to keep going -- a similar yet complementary image is formed to the left, and is partially covered by the toilet and vanity. However, if there had not been a way to continue the theme, I'd have had to abandon the idea.

I'm not sure how well this earthy sandstone tile would have looked "randomized." With such enormous variation and contrast in tone it would be tough to achieve something that looked 'unplanned.' Some of these tiles actually display a mirror-image of another tile -- a visual stunt that can ruin any attempt at non-patterned designs.

shower tile floor and walls checker-board
Large & small tiles using random mix
One of our more recent tile jobs also used an extravagantly-varied tile surface; each tile seemed to have 'grain' and this had to be taken into account. In this case, we all agreed it was important to use two methods to randomize the overall tile image -- we used 'checker-boarding' and made sure that similar tile faces were never adjacent (which might sound easier than it is in practice). Notice how crucial the lack of patterning becomes for the 2x2 shower floor tiles.

Whether your floor tile lends itself to patterning or not, it's always smart to mix boxes and dry-set a large area just to see how the finished work will look. This is also an easy way to double-check your intended layout for cutting or other visual problems. Good planning makes for great results.

copyright 2010 - all rights reserved * photo reprints with attribution, unaltered
Would you have insisted on having the patterned design removed? Would you even consider buying a tile with this much variation in shading? How do you like the wood-look tiles, laid in a checker-board pattern -- too eye-boggling? 

If you'd like to learn more about home tile applications, have a look around at the DIY Tile Zone hosted on See also:  A Hard Look At Ceramic Tile.: An article from: Flooring


  1. I'm against all the ripping out and throwing stuff into the landfills . . . but I still have 1970's yellow ceramic tile in our bathroom . . . it doesn't bother me . . . I decorated around it . . .

  2. We have it, too, Pat!
    Our tub tile is yellow 4-by-4's. Not a thing wrong with them, either. Just that they're, well, yellow. :-)

  3. Some of the yellow tiles fell off and B had to remove some when he did some work on the bathroom wall . . . and I kept saying, just take them all off and we'll get one of those plastic tub surrounds and he refused . . . so glad he did! He cleaned the back of the loose ones and replaced them . . . and all is well. I LOVE yellow, so did the walls in pale aqua and cream and made it a Florida Beach theme . . . works for me!

  4. There are a number of different materials that can be used for bathroom tile. The type of material that is right for you depends on your budget and how much the kitchen will be used.

    Kitchen Benchtops