Shower Tile Types: Not Every Tile Can Be Used in The Shower

Just because you’ve got a plethora of tiles to choose from at your local tile shop doesn’t mean you can use any and all of them in your shower.

Due to the very high amount of moisture, only certain tiles can work in the shower.  Couple that with the need for skid resistance (for the shower floor pan) and you’ve got a number of factors to satisfy before you can find the right type of shower tile.

Best Shower Tile Material

For showers, you’re looking for any type of glazed ceramic or porcelain tile.  “Vitreous” means that water absorbs into the surface of the tile very relucatantly–if at all.  So, with truly glazed, vitreous tile, the surface is completely waterproof, and the grout seams are the only potentially non-vitreous area you will need to worry about.  Not to worry, though, grout lines can be sealed.

What About Slate For the Shower Floor?

Slate Shower

Slate looks great, and can be used to some degree on shower walls.  But slate and other non-vitreous natural stones will need to be sealed.  Never use these materials for shower floor pans.

But if you’re dead-set on slate in your shower, use tile that looks like slate.  These are regular waterproof porcelain or ceramic tiles that tile manufacturers have mimicked to look just like slate.

The Best Size of Shower Floor Tile

In addition to the composition noted above, shower floor tile works best in smaller sizes.

  • Large Tiles – Large tiles such as 12″x12″ or even larger (16″x16″) are the absolute worst for shower floor tile.  They are slippery and, to put it frankly, they look weird on shower pans.  That’s because you will only be able to fit 4-8 of these large tiles on the shower pan, and this causes the eye to note the grid pattern.  Not only that, this necessitates lots of cutting of tiles.
  • Medium Tiles – Medium tiles such as 4″x4″ or 6″x8″ can be used.  As noted above, the smaller the better.  But the best of all are…
  • Mosaic Tiles – Mosaic tiles are excellent on shower floors for two reasons.  First, they create lots of grouted seams, which provide great slip resistance under your bare feet.  Second, these smaller tiles allow you to better form the tiles to the slope in the shower pan, needed to drain water.

Pictured Above: Slate shower from CJ’s Custom Tile, a company owned by Damon Johnson servicing the Oklahoma City/Edmond areas.

Tile That Looks Like Slate

Is there any tile that looks like slate?

If you want to get down to brass tacks, not really.  In terms of texture, slate is a highly unique substance.  No doubt you have seen slate up close before and witnessed its multi-layered effect.

As a sedimentary rock, layer upon layer of slate are compacted together to form one cohesive material.

It’s hard to duplicate that layering in ceramic tile.  Even highly textured ceramic or porcelain tile tends to fairly smooth and rounded–rather than sharp and angular like real slate.

DalTile Continental Slate

So, the best you can hope for is, literally, a tile that looks like slate. Rather than a tile that feels like slate.

DalTile and American Olean are two of the biggest tile companies around.  They also happen to be sister companies, both owned by Mohawk Industries.

DalTile has a line called Continental Slate Colorbody Porcelain.  These are tiles that look relatively close to slate.  Of the eight Continental Slate tiles, one of them looks the most like slate:  Asian Black, CS53.  That’s the product pictured here.

These tiles come in four sizes:  6″x6″, 12″x12″, 12″x18″, and 18″x18″.

Not perfect, but as close to slate as you will get in a ceramic tile version.

What is Agglomerated Stone?

I’ve long been wondering about the proper name for this stone.  Engineered stone?  Fake granite?  I finally found it.  This is the kind of alternative to natural granite and marble that is less expensive, and here’s why.

Agglomerated stone is made up of stone dust and particles mixed together with epoxy and resins.  Then it is allowed to harden and is polished to a smooth glossy surface.

Agglomerated Marble
Agglomerated Marble

Why Agglomerated Stone?

Terrazzo is one example of agglomerated stone.  It’s a soupy mix of marble poured on-site and allowed to harden.

No, agglomerated stone isn’t natural stone, but it has lots of clear advantages over quarried stone:

  • Less expensive.
  • It uses up materials that would otherwise be trashed (more eco-friendly, perhaps?).
  • More structurally stable.  You don’t have to worry about hidden cracks or fissures developing.

What’s the Catch?

Ah, a catch you say?  Any good thing has a catch.

Agglomerated stone, because it’s a slurry of dust and particles, tends to have a uniform, consistent appearance.  This isn’t a bad thing, if you’re looking for that.  But do not expect to see striations and the so-called “beauty” of natural, quarried marble or granite.