The need for a surface that is easy to clean and maintain compels many homeowners to install ceramic tiles in their bathrooms. Also, ceramic tiles dry faster hence perfect for surfaces that are exposed to water more often like the bathroom and kitchen.
Unlike most other bathroom installations, tubs come in different types all of which aren’t necessarily installed in the same. So, if you are working on a bathroom remodel or the first-time installation, you might be wondering if it’s functional, if not orthodox, to install tiles under your bathtub.
So, do you install tiles under the bathtub? The answer is simple: Never tile an alcove or drop-in tub no matter what. If you do, you would have made things unnecessarily intricate. You are, however, allowed to install tiles under any freestanding tub. In fact, tiles look amazing under the clawfoot tub which is just a type of freestanding tub. Basically, it depends on the kind of tub you wish to put on top of tiles.
Why Alcove And Drop-in Tubs Don’t Belong On Tiles
The only reason why alcove and drop-in tubs can’t sit on tiles is that they were not designed for it.
Instead, they were designed to rest directly on the subfloor of the bathroom via the support of mortar or feet. Alcove tubs are often made to rest on some metal shims to give them the height close to that of the tiles. These tiles can be used to secure the enclosure of the tub and prevent it from coming up later in the future.
If the tub’s front is exposed, the homeowner can add tiles below it, about 1-inch. This serves to complete the intended look of the floor and still permit the tub to sit on the subfloor. This arrangement can make future improvements easier.
Think about it: Let’s say you had second thoughts later on and wanted to make changes to the floor but not the tub, you will simply correct the tiles and leave the tub standing as it is. But if the tiles had extended beneath it, you would have had to dismantle everything.
Typically, the contractor starts the installation process of the alcove tub by putting the backer board down, tiling the floor, and putting the backsplash around the designated tub area.
Next, they install the tub, level it, and attach the necessary plumbing. Lastly, the complete the rows of tiling around the tub’s edges, on the bottom and sides.
The same applies to drop-in tubs
The tub is made to rest on the frame of wood around the tub but with a base of mortar under it. The frame’s top, often referred to as tub deck, is virtually finished with ceramic tiles. Whatever tiles you choose to add on the tub deck, they should never go beyond the edge of the wood frame. That means it should never go under the tub.
The exception (for not installing tubs on tiles) is not a reserve of alcove and drop-in tubs. Many contractors typically avoid installing acrylic and cast-iron tubs on tiles as well. They prefer stopping at the tub deck.
If they went beyond the tub deck, you still wouldn’t see the underneath of these tubs, so that means you won’t get to admire your beautiful tiles, would you? Also, tiles are the worst resistors of water, so there is no point in putting them under these tubs.
…..But you CAN Tile Underneath Freestanding Tubs
Freestanding tubs are the only sort of tubs that permit the installer to add tiles underneath them because they don’t have direct contact with the ground or, more specifically, are not fixed to the ground.
Freestanding tubs come with “legs” very much like a chair, and can be moved around the bathroom a bit easier. With such tub design, the homeowner all the freedom they need, including tiling the whole floor of the bathroom.
What about Pedestal and Soaker tiles?
If you have any of these two tubs installed, you can choose to tile or not tile the underneath. For instance, you can decide to treat your soaker tub like an alcove tub and tile the whole floor up to the area that makes the tub’s base. Alternatively, you can tile the entire floor, even the base, and just let the tub sit on the tiles!
And Clawfoot Tubs? Anyone?
Clawfoot tubs too are open to open to any choice – you can tile the base of the tub if you feel like or choose not to extend the tiles to the base.
However, many homeowners tend to choose to install their clawfoot tubs on top of an all-tile floor.
That’s actually the best thing to do because clawfoot tubs allow you to see the floor beneath the tub.
So, if you want to gaze at something cute as you take a dip in a clawfoot tub, installing beautiful tiles under it would be just the right thing to do. Better yet, you can choose to set aside a separate flooring section dedicated to the tub just to bring some missing contrast in your bathroom.
Clawfoot tubs almost always go with porcelain-based tiles for reasons no bigger than the beauty that comes with such tiles.
However, you need to be cautious when dragging your tubs around (if they are not fixed and your floor is tiled) the bathroom as you could end up leaving ugly scratches on the floor.
Tubs can be very heavy sometimes. Consider asking a few friends or family members to help you move them safely. Once your tubs are installed, there is zero chance it will exert undue pressure on the tiles and crack them unless you start to move them around the room.
If you badly need a clawfoot tub skeptical when it comes to weight, you can still find a lighter variety with the same beauty. Such a choice opens up more tiling options as you can choose to put it on top of a hardwood floor if you feel like it.
So, the bottom line is, you can tile the underneath of clawfoot and freestanding tubs, but you can’t do the same for alcove and drop-in tubs.
How to Prevent Tubs from Damaging Your Tiles
Tubs that permit underneath tiling (clawfoot tiles, for example), or any other tub that can be moved around the bathroom, can destroy your tiling with time no matter how careful you are.
If you keep shifting them over and over, the frequent changes in pressure may soon take a toll on your tiles. The problem can be more pronounced with soft or brittle flooring options, like linoleum or glass-based tiles.
3 Ways To Prevent Tub-induced Harm On Your Tiles
1. Install them properly
Badly installed tiles can fall for anything heavy. If the mortar between the floor and the tiles has a lot of air spaces, the tiles could crumble in them when pressured from above.
Sometimes, the amount and/or kind of adhesive is not right for the bathroom floor. Maybe the tiles were not laid in the correct pattern.
For these reasons, you should ensure that your bathroom tiles are installed properly by a qualified professional who understands the impact of the pressure exerted by the bathtubs.
2. Use a coaster
Coasters are generally used to add an extra edge to an object and distribute the pressure over a large area to prevent the destruction of the floor.
You are probably familiar with furniture coasters that protect the carpet from the weight of heavy furniture. Likewise, there are coasters specifically designed to protect your tiles from the weight of heavy tubs.
Coasters specifically designed for clawfoot tub feet can be obtained from your local store. They are often made of glass or ceramic to blend easily with the rest of your bathroom’s décor or profile.
If you don’t have access to coasters, you can opt for a simple circle of leather or tough plastic. But that’s going to mean you are gluing them permanently on your tiles so that they don’t slide when the floor is wet.
But if you can go past the labor of sizing them into the correct size and gluing them with the right adhesive, you are almost perfectly sorted. Better yet, you can use slim pieces of wood even though they may not look nice on the bathroom tiles.
3. Select quality tiles
It just goes unsaid that you should use quality tiles for your flooring needs. That’s why you should even be choosy when it comes to the manufacturer and material used to make the tiles. If you end with tiles that are too thin or don’t meet the standards of a perfect tile then your floor could have trouble support your tubs.
So, yes you can tile the underneath of clawfoot and freestanding tubs, but you can’t do the same for alcove and drop-in tubs. It has something to do with the way tubs are installed before you even consider adding tiles. For those tubs that can have tiles beneath them, you might need to accompany them with coasters or any other material that will reduce the pressure on the tiles.