Large Tile Presents Installation Challenges in Small Bathrooms

One of the current trends in bathroom remodeling is to use larger tile. In the past, 12”x12” tiles were considered large tiles. Today, many bathrooms are featuring tiles 16”x16”, 24”x24”, or even larger. While these large format tiles look great and offer easier maintenance due to fewer grout lines, installing them can also cause headaches, especially in a small bathroom.

Large tile can overwhelm a small bathroom, looking unbalanced and out of proportion. But more than aesthetic drawbacks, installation can be a challenge. In a small bathroom, you may end up having to cut a majority of the large tiles to get them to fit properly and achieve a pleasing layout. This can result in a lot of waste, as well as a higher proportion tiles that get broken during the cutting process. In addition, cutting larger tiles is more difficult than cutting smaller tiles. It requires a cutting tool that can accommodate large, heavy tiles, as well as an additional person to help handle the tiles during the cutting process.

Even in a larger space, large tiles create a number of installation challenges. When installing large tile, the subfloor must be perfectly flat. Large tiles can’t flex over raised areas or dips in the subfloor like smaller tiles can. If the substrate is not perfectly level, using large tiles can result in lippage, which is when the edge of one tile is higher than an adjacent tile. This causes an uneven appearance and highlights the imperfections in the subfloor. Correcting the subfloor to be perfectly flat is a considerable expense but needs to be done before installing large format tile.

Another challenge in installing large format tile is ensuring that appropriate adhesive mortar is used. A lack of thin set mortar coverage can cause the tiles and grout to crack and cause tiles to come loose. This is another area where an uneven subfloor can cause issues. Space voids caused by dips and raised areas in the subfloor make it more difficult to apply the appropriate amount of mortar. It is crucial that you use the proper type of adhesive, the appropriate amount of mortar, and the right tools to ensure adequate coverage for larger format tiles.

Large tile also affects curing time. Mortar cannot cure as quickly under large, dense tile, requiring more time to cure than smaller tile. This means a longer period of time before contractors can enter to complete additional work or before your bathroom can be used.

While installing large tile in a small bathroom is not impossible, and can actually make your bathroom look larger, it does require special considerations and attention to detail to ensure beautiful results.