ceramic tile in shower stall with steam
October 5, 2013 7:07 PM   Subscribe

I am redoing my bathroom, which will have a stall shower with steam. One tile store said that I have to use porcelain tiles because ceramic can't withstand the high heat of the steam. Another tile store said that ceramic tiles would be OK for at least many years to come, since the steam feature will likely be used only a couple of times a week. The reason I don't want to go with porcelain is I can't find a single one I like -- they're all icky shades of tan and gray with a faux marbling look, and most are really big or funky modern shapes. I just want plain old white subway tiles for the walls and something colorful (like blue mosaic tiles) on the floor. So ... does anyone know whether I will be OK with ceramic?
posted by wisekaren to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your ceramic tiles will be 100% fine. Indeed, porcelain can withstand higher temperatures, but ceramic tiles are approved even for fireplace surrounds. Assuming that your steam shower operates within temperatures that a human being can withstand, the tiles will be unaffected.

The most important parts of success with shower tile are the type of installation materials used, the installation method, application of sealant, and general upkeep.

That said, plain white subway tiles in porcelain are common, and if you'd feel more comfortable with a porcelain tile, I'd be happy to help you find what you need.

Sincerely, your friendly neighborhood tile importer's product manager and tile enthusiast
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:19 PM on October 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: We've had a steam shower with ceramic tile for over 7 years. We use it about twice a week all winter each year, maybe once a month in the summer. No problems at all with the tile - I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by summerstorm at 9:23 PM on October 5, 2013

Best answer: Yep, ceramic tiles will be totally fine. (I am an architectural designer who has specified tiles both ceramic and porcelain many times.)
posted by Specklet at 10:06 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since your question has already been answered I just want to chime in to remind you that for slippery floors the smallest mosaic you go with = the greatest grippiness.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 2:36 AM on October 6, 2013

Best answer: "One tile store said that I have to use porcelain tiles because ceramic can't withstand the high heat of the steam."

Gah. And guess which are the more costly. They are lying. I was a remodeler for years and I had to deal with this type of misinformation regularly.

Tiles, both ceramic and porcelain are essentialy rocks. They expand and contract little in response to heat and unless you shower in molten lava it shouldn't be a problem.

Pick the tiles you want. The installation is the key to longevity. Get several bids for installation. Bids are a part of the process - so don't be afraid here. Ask them to show you some work they have done. Ask for recommendations from long term satisfied customers.

Any installer that does quality work won't balk and try to charm you at this point.
posted by vapidave at 4:20 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would also recommend you get a Karcher glass vacuum. I have a bathroom which is tiled floor to ceiling, and with a large glass shower enclosure - so it gets a lot of condensation build-up, which can encourage grout mould. A quick once-over the shower enclosure, window and mirrors with the glass vac after every shower makes a huge difference to the bathroom drying time and I haven't had any grout mould since I got it.
posted by essexjan at 4:52 AM on October 6, 2013

Buy porcelain tiles online. I did, for my kitchen, and got some super unique plaid marble tiles.
posted by squirbel at 9:16 AM on October 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. It sounds as though I can use ceramic without worrying. For those who suggested porcelain options (online or elsewhere), I'd be interested to know where I can find plain white subway tiles (3x6"). I've Googled myself silly and can find only ceramic.
posted by wisekaren at 10:22 AM on October 6, 2013

Another hint I learned from years of designing full-tile showers: if you specify the ceiling tile to align with the perpendicular wall tile they'll not align properly no matter how good the installer. Instead, choose a layout 45 degrees from perpendicular.
posted by mightshould at 11:16 AM on October 6, 2013

Here are three options, oddly enough, only one of which is actually 3"x6" exactly. I suppose I overestimated the presence of porcelain options in the 3"x6" category.

1. Mosaic Tile Supplies 3"x6" Porcelain Subway Tile

2. Daltile Match Point 2"x4" Porcelain Subway Mosaic Tile

3. Merola Tile Metro Soho 2"x7" Subway Porcelain Tile

Disclaimer: I work for the company in suggestion #3, am not trying to push sales, but it came to mind as a possible match for your project because I'm familiar with it.
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2013

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