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I selected 2x2-inch mosaic tile (Daltile octagon/dot) for the bathroom floor in a small bathroom. The installer pushed back. He said that no floor is level, and that larger format tiles will feel better to the feet once installed, as they can be leveled more precisely during the install.

At the tile store, they insist that it's no big deal to install mosaics and tell me to look for another installer. My house is only 15 years old and the floor looks completely level at the moment, so there's no obvious problem with the subfloor.

Should I avoid mosaic tile on principle for a larger floor area? Is mosaic really only intended to be used inside the shower?

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    If the floor feels okay to your feet now, then it is levelled(very small slope) enough. There is the matter of the floor being flat, no dips or rises. Small size tiles will handle these better, where large size will need the floor levelled/flatten first so they do not crack. The installer might be talking about this since the small tiles will go with the floor if not flat and your feet will feel it. Run a straight edge along the floor.
    – crip659
    Mar 18, 2023 at 13:03
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    Plenty of people use small tiles on their bath floor. At a minimum, I’d get a second installer’s opinion and price. Mar 18, 2023 at 13:12
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    Incompetent installer - do not use. My bathroom floor is 3/4" glass mosaic tile. It's quite easy to level - you beat it with a large flat block when you lay it down, but if your installer is too ignorant to know that, find a different installer.
    – Ecnerwal
    Mar 18, 2023 at 13:26
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    I wrote unclearly - you place a large flat block on it, and beat that with a mallet or dead-blow hammer.
    – Ecnerwal
    Mar 18, 2023 at 13:54
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    Search this site for installer effed up mosaic tile and it hurts my feet, now what? Also, Large Format Tile requires a deviation of no more than 1/16 of an inch THROUGHOUT, so the floor not being level is why you wouldn't do LFT. But if you can install it at 2sq ft at a time, and then run away because this isn't your house, then fts doing it 2" at a time. - If you hire a dude from Italy and pay them forty grand to do six sq ft of floor, then sure.
    – Mazura
    Mar 18, 2023 at 22:53

4 Answers 4

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Mosaic tile is not a poor choice for a bathroom floor.

Mosaic tile is harder to install than regular tile. Harder to cut, harder to lay out evenly, and harder to level. Find someone who is able and willing to do this work, as your tiler is apparently neither.

If your floor is not level, it needs to be leveled. Without that, larger tiles could break and smaller tiles will show the unevenness. Which of those two problems is worse? That's up to you.

Mosiac tile is not "meant for showers". You can find countless examples of mosaic tiles use in bathrooms, foyers, living rooms, entire public buildings, outdoors, and so on. Some of them have lasted quite a while.

You don't renovate a bathroom too often. Get what you want out of it!

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    I've seen mosaic tiles that have been in showers longer than I've been alive... it really depends on the quality of the tiles, skill of the installer, etc.
    – gnicko
    Mar 18, 2023 at 13:43
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    Whatever unevenness that affects small mosaic tiles will ALSO affect larger tiles. The difference is how LONG before you notice. The small tiles you'll notice almost immediately. The large tiles will probably take years before it breaks, so from the installer's perspective, it's not his problem anymore.
    – Nelson
    Mar 20, 2023 at 0:40
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Mosaic tile looks nice, but it's HARD to clean.

Mosaic tile has FAR more grout lines than large tile, and grout lines are MUCH harder to clean than the tile itself, both because the grout lines are recessed and because they are slightly porous (no matter how well you try to seal them), so they absorb dirt, mold and stains. Over time, they can become nearly impossible to get fully clean looking.

This is a key reason why many people use large tiles on floors these days, whether ceramic or stone.

I speak from 20+ years of personal experience trying to keep my multiple bathroom floors clean -- all having mosaic tiles. I love the look, but the cleaning difficulty is a MAJOR negative.

P.S. Regarding installation, mosaic is also MUCH more work to properly grout -- again because there are so many grout lines. That is why your installer tried to steer you away from it.

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    Even if done well, it still sucks, +1.
    – Mazura
    Mar 18, 2023 at 22:58
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    Epoxy grout, which is non porous mitigates most of those problems. It doesn't stain easily (It will eventually stain, but takes 50x the time)... And it also happens to be stronger. But it is more expensive.
    – Questor
    Mar 20, 2023 at 16:10
  • Yes, epoxy is stronger and non-porous, but: 1. Harder to install than regular grout. You have to do it in small batches, and most tile installers don't know how to work with it. 2. It yellows over time, at least it did last time I tried it (about 20 years ago). IDK if it has improved since then.
    – DavidBooth
    Mar 27, 2023 at 2:48
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No. Mosaic tiles can be an excellent choice for a bathroom floor. The 2x2 octagon/dot kind of tiles are popular in bathrooms.

More often than not those types of tiles are especially suited to bathroom installs. In those cases, you'll want to purchase tiles with non-slip surfaces that are designed for floors in wet environments. That can be an important detail.

You do want to have the floor as level as possible (or gently sloped to a drain in the correct way) but that's the case for any size tiles. This isn't anything excessive.

Your floor needs to be rigid enough to support a tile floor. Excessive flexing will cause the grout between the tiles to crack as people walk on the floor. Part of the usual process would include backer board or thicker plywood installed if necessary.

You need to use the proper materials that are designed for wet environments when installing the tiles, but that's not really anything out of the ordinary either. Just a matter of reading the labels, etc.

Smaller tiles often trick the eye and make a smaller room, like a bathroom, look a little larger than bigger tiles would too.

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If you make a tiled walk in shower with the drain in the center, for water to drain properly the floor needs to be sloped towards the drain. So you need the floor to be an inverted pyramid. With large tiles this requires four extra cuts (pic source):

enter image description here

If you don't like this "X" look then a solution is to use a line drain, which avoids the inverted pyramid shape: the floor can have only one slope plane. Pic source. However now you have another problem, which is this huge expensive drain which accumulates a lot more crud than a small one in the center.

enter image description here

One advantage of small tiles is they can easily follow the shape of the floor so it is possible to build an inverted pyramid sloped tub, with the drain at the proper spot (ie, the bottom) and tile it (pic source):

enter image description here

That's the main technical (non-aesthetic) reason for using small tiles.

Grout lines are always slightly recessed. This has the drawback of accumulating water and growing mold, but the advantage is that it adds texture to the floor and it is much less slippery against wet feet. In a shower, it's definitely a good thing. If you want slip-proof large tiles, it's a good idea to look into the exterior tiles.

Now as DavidBooth says the main drawback of small tiles is there's so much grout. It takes longer to do it properly and it's more difficult to clean.

Therefore if you use small tiles for a bathroom floor, it's a good idea to use non-porous grout, either epoxy or acrylic, but not cementicious grout. These non-porous products are much easier to clean due to mold and algae not growing inside the grout, but only on the surface. Even if it's moldy, it's possible to clean it back to its brand new look without too much effort.

However non-porous grout is also harder to apply and more expensive, and with mosaic you need quite a lot of it. But it's definitely worth it, it saves so much more cleaning time in the long run.

You should make sure the installer does not push too hard on the grout, because that will make grout lines too "deep" and they will fill with water then get moldy. Perhaps it would be a good idea to visit a mosaic bathroom he did previously.

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