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This vs That

Tile School: Ceramic Tile vs. Glass Tile Shower

By Shannon Malone |

3x6 green kelp shower tile design

Tile shown: 3 x 6 in Kelp

One of the most popular and practical shower solutions, tile offers a lasting, water-resistant surface for your shower from the ground up.  However, choosing the right shower tile for your project is one the most important decisions you will make when designing or remodeling a bathroom.  There are a variety of factors to consider including slip resistance, architectural details, even how water can affect your tile.  To help make the decision process a little easier, we've put together the pros and cons of using both a ceramic tile and glass tile shower, as well as some shower tile design inspiration from some of our favorite projects.

Lets start with Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is a classic choice for shower tile design.  Whether you're covering a floor, a shower wall, or even a tub surround, ceramic tile offers a timeless look that will make your shower the center of attention.  Although ceramic tile is considered a traditional shower tile choice, your tile design style doesn't necessarily need to be traditional.  A classic subway tile is always a great choice, but if you're looking for a more contemporary or modern look, mix things up a little and try a bold splash of color, or an interesting specialty shape.  No matter what style you choose, ceramic tile offers your shower space a surface material that will last a lifetime in both durability and style.

Pros of using ceramic tile in the shower

– Price is one of the biggest pros when it comes to ceramic tile.  Ceramic tile comes in a variety of price ranges, offering something for every budget.  This also makes it a great choice for larger surface areas such as the floor, ceiling, and a walls. 

– Ceramic tile is one of the most durable materials you can choose for your shower.  It will stand the test of time against daily wear and tear, and with the right grout and regular care, ceramic tile it will be fairly low maintenance.

– There are hundreds of tile colors to choose from, each one offering unique texture, finish and color variation.

– Ceramic tile is available in our largest selection of shapes and sizes, offering more options for customization.

– Ceramic tile has a variety of trim and architectural moldings to choose from, allowing you to add the perfect finishing touch to your tile design. Bullnose pieces create the perfect clean edge to a shower surround and quarter rounds help finish edge details such as an inset shelf or a shower pan.

- Ceramic tile is a classic and timeless, making it a sustainable design choice.

The bathroom below uses one of our favorite shower tile trends, a sleek, vertical 1/3 offset layout in a soft neutral hue.  The lighting highlights the slight crackle of the glaze, making the shower tile the focal point of this bathroom design.

vertical 1/3 offset neutral shower wall tile patterns

Tile shown: 2 x 8 in Ultra Cream with Black Patine; Image: Malcolm Fearon Photography

Cons of using ceramic tile in the shower 

– Ceramic tile is handmade which means slight irregularities should be expected, this adds character and an artisanal feel but generally means it's best to hire a pro to handle an intricate bathroom installation.

- Certain ceramic tile in the shower is prone to staining from water after long periods of time.  To prevent this we suggest opting for our glaze colors that are not acid sensitive.  These glazes tend to have less crackle, which leave tile vulnerable to stains.  You can find this information listed on our color detail page. If you do choose an acid sensitive glaze, be sure to seal your tile on a regular basis.

The shower tile design below sticks with tile only on two walls, one of which features a Hexagon accent.  the tile is paired with stone floors, and crisp glass doors.

hexagon pattern shower wall tile design

Tile shown: 3" Hexagon in Boundary Waters, Azurine, Basil, and Sea Foam; Image: Brittany Runyan

Now lets talk about glass

Glass tile showers offer a  contemporary look that is refreshing and unique.  Our vibrant, jewel tone glass hues create a unique opportunity to create an eye-catching statement with your shower.  Try our soothing blue and green tones for coastal cool look, ideal for rest and relaxation, or opt for our neutral hues for a sophisticated, spa-inspired oasis. A glass tile shower is an ideal choice if you are looking to add something a little different to your shower design.

Pros of using glass tile in the bathroom

- Glass tile is available in mosaic sizes which are ideal for shower floors, the additional grout joints add traction to your slippery shower floor.  For additional traction you can opt for our mosaic sizes in a matte finish. (Our tile is now available in Mosaic sizes). 

– Glass tile is relatively low maintenance, all you need to keep it clean is window cleaner and a cloth, making it an ideal choice for the shower where you will experience soap build up that needs to be cleaned regularly.

– Glass tile is impervious to water, and will not stain.

– Glass tile is beautiful and offers your bathroom a unique visual appeal, and with an enormous selection of colors and mosaics to choose from, your design options are literally limitless.

– Glass reflects light, making your shower appear larger

– Glass tile is translucent, therefore, unlike any other surface material, that beautiful color you picked out will show all the way through the tile, providing an additional sense of depth and dimension.

The bathroom below is full of shower tile design ideas.  Glass and Tile work together to create a seamless blend of the two styles.  A vibrant Glass mosaic shower tile wall adds visual interest to the space, while tile trim and a white subway tile bath surround help balance the overall design.

vibrant blue glass mosaic shower tile design ideas

Glass shown: Hexagon Mosaic in Dew Drop, Forget Me Not, Dusty Olive, Island Flower, and Plankton; Image: Malcom Fearon Photography

Cons of using a glass tile shower

–Glass tile in the shower requires more care during Installation, especially if you have architectural details in your shower that require special cuts.  This is why we always recommend a professional tile installer.

– Glass tile can be higher in price than some of our ceramic tile options.  If Glass is over your budget, you may want to consider using glass as accent, rather than covering large surface areas.  Using glass as an accent will also help colorful mosaic blends from overwhelming the room.

– Although glass is easy to clean, its reflective surface highlights imperfections.  This means it will require regular maintenance to keep it looking its best.

– Glass's slippery smooth surface may not be appropriate for all floor applications.  If you really want to use glass on your floor, use a matte finish tile in a s smaller size for more traction, and try adding a non-slip sealant for increased slip resistance.

The shower below chooses a blend of cool glass hues in a matte mosaic layout, creating a slip resistant floor.

hexagon shape blue matte glass mosaic shower floor tile

Glass shown: Hexagon Mosaic in Hydrangea Matte, Morning Glory Matte, Wallflower Matte, Dew Drop Matte, and Blue Bonnet Matte; Image: Malcolm Fearon Photography

This bathroom pairs glass tile with ceramic tile.  The shower walls are line with glass, while the floor offers a contrasting pattern with our Moroccan-inspired specialty shape, Ogee Drop.

2x6 glass and ceramic shower wall tile with ogee drop handpainted bathroom floor tile

Glass shown: 2 x 6 in Queen Anne's Lace Matte, Hydrangea Matte and Blue Grass Matte

This contemporary bathroom creates a moody aesthetic with our cool gray Glass hue, Ash Matte in a dramatic, vertical offset layout.

cool gray 2x6 ash matte vertical offset shower tile pattern

Glass shown: 2 x 6 in Ash Matte

Still need help figuring out which Fireclay Tile product is best for your shower?  Simply call, chat, or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.