Full guide to a smooth bathroom flooring replacement

Full guide to a smooth bathroom flooring replacement

A bathroom remodel isn’t complete without a beautiful floor. That’s the best laid plan, but—as is true with many home remodeling projects—sometimes a rotten subfloor gets in the way. With all the water that can be spilled or leaked on the floor, it isn’t that surprising that many bathrooms have rotten wood hiding under the floor.

New bathroom floors can’t—and shouldn’t be—laid over rotten wood floors. This guide to a smooth bathroom flooring replacement can get a bathroom remodeling project back on track so everyone can enjoy a new, remodeled bathroom.

Bathroom flooring replacement steps

Remove ALL rotted wood and old flooring during demolition

The first step of replacing bathroom flooring is to remove the old flooring. Once it is removed (and disposed of), every inch of the subfloor should be inspected for soft or crumbling wood. Special attention should be given to the area around the toilet and tub; these areas are prone to rotting because of their location. Any rotted wood should be cut out and removed.

Replace damaged wood subfloor

Once the rotten wood is removed, the wood should be replaced with new plywood. This step should also include prepping the subfloor for the new bathroom flooring. The subfloor should be level and thick enough for the new floor. Most subfloors should be two layers thick; ask a flooring pro for the required subfloor thickness under the new floor. If the new flooring is tile or is going to be installed over a radiant heating mat, backerboard should be laid over the subfloor.

Plan for bathroom floor install

During this step, it’s time to find the center of the pattern, the flooring should be laid out (without applying any adhesive or grout). Some bathroom floors also require expansion gaps to allow for expansion and contraction. This is the do-it-yourselfer’s chance to make sure the flooring pattern and colors are laid out correctly, and to ensure that there is an expansion gap and adequate spacing (if using grout). Doors and door trim also may need to be trimmed up.

Install bathroom flooring

The last step is the actual bathroom flooring replacement. During a tile installation, this involves applying the mortar, grout, and sealer and cleaning off the tile. Luxury vinyl plank floors piece together. Sheet vinyl flooring is installed with an adhesive. When completed, wall trim should be reinstalled.

Best bathroom floors


Tile is a top choice for bathroom flooring replacement because tile is water-resistant and durable. This flooring can handle water spills and high humidity. Tile is also a natural conductor of heat in bathrooms with underfloor radiant heating. To top it off, tile comes in a variety of styles, shapes, and colors that match any décor.

While tile comes with quite a few pros in a bathroom, there are also a few cons. Tile flooring is hard underfoot. While tile is fairly easy-to-clean, tile grout does need an occasional good scrubbing.

Vinyl plank

Vinyl plank is one of the top flooring options for bathrooms, both because of its water-resistance and close resemblance to wood. This floor is a homeowner’s chance to put in flooring that looks like wood but without the risk of water damage. Vinyl plank is also easy-to-clean and maintain; it requires only a regular sweep or vacuum and an occasional dry mopping.

There are only a few concerns that come with this flooring. Vinyl plank floors may scratch, though any damage can be prevented with felt pads on the bottom of furniture and a regular sweeping or vacuum. Because vinyl plank can be installed without grout, there is a chance that water can get in between the seams.

Sheet vinyl

Sheet vinyl closely resembles tile and wood flooring, but without the concern of water damage and grout scrubbing. The biggest benefits of sheet vinyl are that it is waterproof and usually one of the most affordable options for bathroom flooring replacement. Sheet vinyl is an affordable option that looks great.

Vinyl floors do come with the risk of scratching. If there are deep lines in the sheet vinyl, this bathroom flooring may require a good scrubbing.

Vinyl tile

Vinyl tile can be installed with or without grout, making it a versatile choice for bathroom flooring. These floors come in a variety of colors and styles that can fit with any bathroom décor. Vinyl tile is incredibly durable and water-resistant so it can withstand the moisture and water spills in a bathroom.

Like other vinyl floors, vinyl tile can be scratched. If the vinyl tile is installed with grout, they may need a good scrub to clean the grout.