Using backsplash tile on the floor can be an attractive and practical option in some cases. Here is a detailed look at the pros, cons, and considerations when deciding if backsplash tile is suitable for flooring.
What is Backsplash Tile?
Backsplash tile refers to the decorative tiles often installed on kitchen backsplashes behind countertops and sinks. Backsplashes protect the walls from splashes and stains while adding visual interest.
Some common materials used for backsplash tiles include:
- Ceramic or porcelain
- Stone like marble or granite
- Mosaic tiles
Backsplash tiles are typically small in size, ranging from 1×1 inches to 6×6 inches. They come in all sorts of colors, textures, and patterns.
The main purpose of backsplash tiling is decorative. The tiles don’t need to withstand heavy impacts or abrasion. As a result, backsplash tiles tend to be thinner and more delicate than standard floor tiles.
Key Considerations for Using Backsplash Tile on Floors
There are a few important factors to weigh when deciding whether backsplash tile will work for a flooring application:
Floors need to withstand daily wear and tear from foot traffic that backsplashes don’t experience. Backsplash tiles are usually not rated for floor use in terms of hardness, thickness, and strength. Porcelain or ceramic tiles made specifically for floors are denser and less prone to chipping or cracking.
Using backsplash tile on a floor increases the risk of cracks, chips, and premature damage. Extra care is required to avoid dropping heavy objects that could easily shatter the tile.
Backsplash tiles often feature glossy, smooth finishes. While attractive, these surfaces can become extremely slippery when wet. Standard floor tiles have textured surfaces and ratings for coefficient of friction to prevent slips.
Special consideration is needed if backsplash tile will be used in bathrooms, laundry rooms, or other areas prone to getting wet. Selecting a tile with an anti-slip finish or coating is highly recommended.
Backsplash tiles are typically much smaller in size than floor tiles, with most ranging from 1×1 inches to 4×4 inches. This small size can create a few potential issues when used on floors:
- More grout lines – Small tiles mean more grout lines, which are more prone to getting dirty and requiring extra cleaning.
- Uneven surfaces – Small tile size can exacerbate any unevenness or imperfections in the substrate, making the floor feel bumpy and uneven.
- Higher installation cost – The small tile size means installing backsplash tile on floors takes more time and labor compared to larger floor tiles.
Backsplash tiles lend themselves well to creating intricate patterns, mosaics, and eye-catching designs. Using them on floors may result in a busy, distracting look in what is typically a neutral space.
Simple, subtle patterns or solids are best for flooring. Make sure the visual look of small backsplash tiles translates well when scaled up to floor size.
When Backsplash Tile Works for Floors
With proper precautions, backsplash tile can make for attractive and functional flooring in certain low-traffic situations:
Backsplash tile holds up reasonably well on bathroom floors that don’t see excessive moisture or heavy impacts. Make sure to choose a tile rated for floor use and opt for non-slip finishes. Keep grout lines narrow.
Using backsplash tile to tile a small accent floor area can add a pop of color and visual interest. For example, tiling just the area under a kitchen table or around a fireplace. Choose durable porcelain or ceramic tiles and limit the accent floor to low-traffic zones.
Laundry Room Floors
Like bathrooms, home laundry rooms tend to be on the smaller side with mostly light foot traffic. Backsplash tile works well here, just be sure to account for potential moisture. A tile with a PEI rating of 3 or above is recommended.
Backsplash tile can hold up better on low-traffic floor spaces that don’t see heavy daily use and abuse. For example, tiling a seldom-used guest room or storage closet. Durability is less of a concern but slip resistance still matters.
To give backsplash tile the best chance of survival on floors:
- Use a high quality, flexible thinset mortar adhesive designed for bonding tile to floors. This helps prevent cracks.
- Carefully follow all manufacturer’s instructions for subsurface preparation. Any imperfections can crack tile.
- Consider applying a grout sealer once installation is complete. This helps prevent staining and damage to delicate grout lines.
- Select a grout color that matches the tile. Contrasting grout on small backsplash tiles can look busy and dirty quickly.
- Use a penetrating sealant made for natural stone if installing marble, granite, or other porous backsplash tiles on floors.
The Bottom Line
Backsplash tile can work well on floors with the right tile choice and careful installation in low-traffic areas. For heavy-use zones like kitchens or hallways, stick to floor-rated ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles for best durability.
Consider your own lifestyle, traffic patterns, and the look you want before deciding if backsplash tile makes sense for your particular flooring needs. With some smart precautions, backsplash tile can add unique style even underfoot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it OK to use backsplash tile on bathroom floors?
Backsplash tile can work reasonably well on bathroom floors, provided some precautions are taken. Opt for a durable porcelain or ceramic tile with a slip-resistant finish. Keep the area dry, limit heavier impacts, and take care to prevent chips and cracks.
What kind of backsplash tiles are best for floors?
Porcelain, ceramic, or natural stone backsplash tiles are most suitable for floor use. Avoid fragile glass backsplash tiles. Look for tiles rated for floor use with PEI rating of 3 or higher. A coefficient of friction above .42 prevents slips. Mosaics can look busy.
Can you put backsplash tile in a shower?
Most standard backsplash tiles should not be used directly in shower enclosures where they will be subject to extremely heavy water exposure. Special consideration is needed for grout and adhesives that resist moisture damage. Use porcelain or ceramic backsplash tiles rated for wet areas.
Is it cheaper to use backsplash tile on floors?
Sometimes, but not always. While backsplash tiles tend to be smaller and lower in cost per square foot, significantly more tiles are required overall to cover the same floor area. Added grout lines and labor may increase total installation costs compared to larger floor tiles.
How do you prep floors for backsplash tile?
Preparing floors for backsplash tile is the same as for larger tiles. The substrate must be structurally sound, level, and meet deflection standards. Smooth, durable surfaces may only need cleaning before applying tile mortar. Existing tile or wood may need scarifying or additional underlayment panels.
While backsplash tile can make for an eye-catching flooring option in the right setting, careful consideration of the tile’s durability, slip resistance, size, and aesthetics is needed before committing. With smart tile choice and installation practices, backsplash tile can add unique style to accent floors, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and low-traffic areas. For high-traffic zones subject to heavy impacts, stick to thicker floor-grade tile.