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Can You Use Floor Tiles on Shower Walls?

You may have been shopping around for tile and found the perfect product for your shower wall, only to find they are floor tiles. So, you may wonder, can I just use these floor tiles on my wall?

Yes, in most cases, you can, but it will affect the look of your bathroom. There are also other essential aspects you should consider.

Some people are unaware of the differences between floor and wall tiles. Though you can usually use floor tiles on walls, you should never use wall tiles on floors.

shower tiles

Let’s discuss this topic in more detail. 

How Tiles are Rated 

Before we dive into the differences between floor and wall tiles, it helps to know a little about how tiles are rated. Tile manufacturers tend to release a wealth of information along with their products.

The first rating you will want to look at is the Coefficient of Friction rating or COF. A COF rating is created for every ceramic and porcelain tile in production. The higher the COF, the greater friction the tile has, making it safer to walk on. The COF is how floor and wall tiles are distinguished.

The second rating to be mindful of is the Porcelain Enamel Institute rating or PEI. A PEI is determined with five separate classes, with class 1 being ok for light foot traffic and class 5 being able to withstand the heaviest foot traffic.

Lastly, there is the Ceramic Tile Grading Scale. Through this grading scale, the durability of the tile is measured, with grade 1 being the easiest to scratch and grade 5 being the most durable. As with most materials, the higher they are rated, the more expensive they will be.

Floor Tiles vs. Wall Tiles: What’s The Difference?

Floor Tiles

Floor tiles are generally rated to take much more abuse than wall tiles. You can tell a floor tile from a wall tile by simply looking at its ratings. Floor tiles will always have a COF of 0.50 or higher. Floor tiles will also rate at class three or higher on the PEI scale. Floor tiles are generally thicker than wall tiles making them better for both heat and water resistance. Depending on your style preferences, you can use the floor tile of your choice on walls as well.

Wall Tiles

Wall tiles will have much lower ratings than floor tiles. Instead of putting a COF or PEI rating, the manufacturer will often just put “wall tile.” The tiles that comprise wall tiling tend to be smaller and more lightweight. Since wall tiles are thinner and lighter, they are easier to install than floor tiles. In most cases, the cost of floor tiles versus wall tiles is about the same. But since wall tiles are not rated to take the abuse that floor tiles are, you should never use wall tiles for your flooring.

Things To Consider When Installing Floor Tiles on Shower Walls

Installation

When installing floor tiles on a shower wall, you will have a little harder time than if you were using wall tiles. This is because floor tiles were designed to be installed on the ground. You will have some issues cutting and installing the floor tile as it is heavier and not as easy to maneuver as wall tiles. Regardless the installation process is similar, though you may need a power wet saw to cut floor tiles.

Look and Finish

Individual wall tiles are smaller than floor tiles. Depending on your floor tile and the rest of your bathroom, this can create an odd look. Some would say large floor tiles on your wall look gaudy. If you do not mind having large tiles on your wall or the tiles match your floor or bathroom, it shouldn’t be an issue. This will ultimately depend on your personal taste and style. There are even installation methods such as mosaic that can sidestep all these issues and give you a fantastic finish.

Maintenance

Whether you choose a floor or wall tile, maintenance will always be something to consider. In most cases, soap and hot water will work great at cleaning the tiles themselves. Cleaning the grout will take a little more work. By remaining vigilant with cleaning and maintenance, you can rid yourself of mildew and soap scum. Since floor tiles are more durable, they are considered easier to maintain.

Which Tiles Are Best Suited for Shower Wall Installation

Since floor tiles are versatile and can be used on either the wall or floor, this decision will come down to two different factors: installation and assurance.

If you are not the most skilled in installing tiles or just want a more straightforward installation, then wall tiles would suit you best. They are lighter, easier to install and maneuver, and typically don’t require heavy tools such as a power wet saw to cut. Wall tiles are rated to handle the abuse shower walls receive, which besides water is not much.

If you want peace of mind and assurance, then installing floor tiles on your shower walls is your best option. Though you may have a more challenging time installing floor tiles on your shower wall, the benefits can be well worth it. Floor tiles are more water and heat-resistant and are also more durable and better at handling scratches and other damage. By installing floor tiles on your shower wall, you give your walls more protection and resilience.

Conclusion

Using floor tile for your shower wall is not a bad idea at the end of the day. In fact, if you are up for a more difficult installation process, then I would recommend floor tiles on your walls.

There is not much of a price difference, and in terms of looks and finishes, you can find a flooring product that will look wonderful on your walls. Once you get through the installation, you are left with a product that better resists both the elements along with wear and tear.

Floor tiles can be great for walls, and wall tiles are also acceptable for walls. Just remember that they are not always interchangeable, they have significant differences, and wall tiles will always be bad for floors.

James B. Parker

I was taught carpentry at a young age by my father. After highschool I worked with my father as a Union Carpenter for six years.

Though I no longer practice carpentry professionally I still do projects at my home and for family and friends.

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