The Three Best Materials For Your Bathroom | Blog Post #21
What are the best materials for bathroom interiors? Can your toilet floor handle the daily moisture abuse and damp conditions? Today’s post looks at the top three materials for protecting and beautifying your bathroom.
While every material has its pros and cons, the most important consideration is the individual homeowner’s needs – the material with the most suitable properties should then be chosen. For the bathroom, we’ve narrowed the most popular options down to the best three – vinyl, marble, and metallic epoxy.
Yet, the term best is highly subjective. Hence, in the context of a bathroom, we propose judgement by these specific criteria: hygiene, bathroom-specific damage, and general suitability.
Hygiene – The bathroom is a special place – you go in dirty and come out squeaky clean. There’s no explaining that, it’s just magic! But the amount of organic debris, dirt, and bacteria you leave behind are anything but magical. Hygiene is a measure of how much non-magical grossness your interior material traps, and how easy it is to clean.
Bathroom-specific Damage – The bathroom does not see as much traffic or physical stress as the living room or kitchen, but it’s exposed to more chemicals and water than every other room in the house combined. This category includes near-constant exposure to cleansers and abrasives (exfoliants, anyone?), water of varying pH levels, and good old overzealous scrubbing.
General Suitability – The last category is a catch-all for any remaining aspects of material suitability, such as changes in material integrity or appearance over time, or how slippery it is when wet.
Vinyl has been a popular material for a very long time, thanks to its low cost, durability, and multitude of design options. Ordinarily, vinyl is installed in tiles to take full advantage of its low cost of replacement. However, bathroom installations typically demand large sheets of vinyl, since vinyl tiles have seams that let water enter on the surface and pool beneath the tiles. Considering this, just how well do vinyl sheets fare in the bathroom?
Vinyl is non-porous and doesn’t trap organic debris, meaning bacteria and scum find it difficult to take root. It’s also relatively tough and can be cleaned well, but mind what you use – stiffer brushes could scratch the vinyl. Vinyl is chemical resistant as well and can be cleaned with normal household cleansers. Very suitable for the bathroom.
The two biggest sources of damage in the bathroom are water and chemicals from hygiene or conditioning products. Vinyl is waterproof and chemical-resistant, making these matters a non-issue. However, depending on how well your vinyl is laid, water may pool beneath and cause a different set of problems. Natural rubber products like non-slip surfaces will also permanently discolour your vinyl, especially in the bathroom where wet surfaces abound.
Overall perfectly suitable for the bathroom, but no rubber products.
Smooth vinyl gets slippery when wet and present a huge problem in the bathroom. Thankfully, textured vinyl is widely available, but may be more difficult to clean. Vinyl also doesn’t age well and may warp or crack as it degrades, trapping water beneath it.
Alright for short- to medium-term usage, not ideal for long term.
Marble is an old-world material used in posh hotels and luxury homes. While it has notably terrible durability and poor economy, it is treasured for the beauty and character of its natural grain and colours. Since marble doesn’t do well in wet conditions at all, it is often paired with water-proof ceramic tiles in locations that you’d expect to get wet. If you choose to line your bathroom solely with marble, you’d have to use a sealant to waterproof the marble.
Marble is a porous stone that traps organic debris easily and promote bacteria growth, while not allowing thorough scrubbing since it scratches easily. This means frequent cleaning with soft rags and brushes are necessary to keep your bathroom in a habitable state. You may also be restricted to certain specialised cleaning chemicals, since the sealant may react with normal household cleansers. Marble tiles also mean gaps and grout, which trap more debris and bacteria.
High effort involved in maintaining hygiene.
Marble is highly reactive and is easily stained by many liquids, including non-pH-neutral water. In addition to chemicals from bathroom products like hair dye or cleansers, there are many ways that bathroom marble can get permanently disfigured. The high level of moisture in a bathroom also rusts iron deposits in some types of marble, resulting in permanent discolouration.
Overall, terrible for unsealed marble, potentially dangerous for sealed marble.
Sealed marble is slippery when wet. Ideally, ceramic tiles which match the marble could be used to line the floors, providing better grip while preserving the theme of the bathroom. High maintenance is required, since any breach in the marble sealant could result in permanent and widespread discolouration.
High maintenance required, some compromise on material is advised.
Being non-porous, seamless, and chemical-resistant make metallic epoxy a dream to keep clean. It doesn’t trap any grime or house bacteria, while allowing regular and vigorous scrubbing – all with the help of the strongest household cleansers.
A no-brainer here, perfect.
Waterproof, chemical-resistant epoxy shrugs off chemicals in the bathroom. A seamless surface means no openings that might allow leaks and pools beneath your floors.
Probably the best material money can buy here.
While smooth epoxy or polyurethane is slippery when wet, the metallic epoxy installed in the bathroom is often finished with a rougher, slip-proof surface for safety. This finish is also tougher than a perfectly smooth epoxy finish, giving you extra protection. While sunlight naturally discolours the epoxy’s protective coating over time, it’s durability remains entirely functional.
Slight discolouration over time, no shortcomings.
Water Off A Duck’s Back
Unsurprisingly, metallic epoxy is the overall winner. Vinyl is highly competitive, but ultimately loses out in the long run. Marble is only ever chosen for its aesthetics, but since there’s no accounting for taste, we felt marble deserved a place on this list – if only for its rarely matched beauty. Metallic epoxy can be customised to your desired theme, while offering you a whole array of protection that no other single material can. To find out more about what makes metallic epoxy so effective, head over to this blog post.