How to reduce porcelain tile slipperiness

kudzu9February 9, 2014

We have found a nice, large-format (18" X 18") porcelain tile for the walls and floor of our new bathroom. We are using a linear drain in the shower, so the large size is not an issue in laying the shower bed. However, the tiles are really slick, and I am worried about the fact that the coefficient of friction for them is marginal. My other half does not want to do the floor in another tile, so I have been investigating no-slip products for the shower floor. They seem to be of two varieties:
1. A transparent coating that gives traction, but may need to be renewed every couple of years.
2. A solution that does a permanent, microscopic etching of the top surface of the tile, but supposedly does not alter the appearance noticeably.
I do not want to use a mat on the shower floor, or those ugly, adhesive anti-slip strips.

If anyone has experience with either of the two approaches I've described, or has another idea, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks.

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Babka NorCal 9b

Cut them down to 6x6, or 3x3. Keeping them square will make them look like baby versions of your larger tile. ;-)

The added grout lines will give your feet more grab. Porcelain is so wonderful as you can used just about any cleaning product on it w/o worry. Once you mess with the surface you change that quality.

-Babka

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 1:22PM
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kudzu9

Babka-
Thanks, that's a great idea with regular, grouted tiles. However, I have rectified tiles, which means that they are produced with a very straight edge and are laid with almost a non-existent grout line. I should have been clearer about that when I posted.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 1:29PM
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raehelen

I would prefer Babka's solution. I honestly think you don't want to create a slipping hazard in your shower. Keep in mind, not only will the floor be wet, it will have soap/shampoo bubbles on there most of the time too, you want to be safe. You could get quite creative with the cuts, ie 3 X 3 in center, 6 X 6 around outside edge... whatever worked best with your dimensions.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 1:32PM
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raehelen

Just saw your response. I think that even solidifies my opinion. I think by cutting the tiles and creating grout lines it will definitely make it safer. You can keep the non-grout line look outside the shower. Form follows function!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 1:35PM
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enduring

Are you laying them yourself? You can cut them very precisely with a good tile saw with out problems. I agree with Babka that you should use smaller tiles to take advantage of the grout to add traction.

(edited out my insulting comment). There is real danger in having slippery tile floors, it can kill you! Looks should not trump safety at any time!!! I am a nurse that has worked in a variety of hospital settings since the early 70's I am very strong in my conviction with safety. Early on in my career, I had to help with a neurological procedure on a 10yo boy who had a head injury while riding a moped in his yard with no helmet. He was probably not going to make it. I was so sad for the loss of a child. I have worked with head injured adults from time to time, years after their head injury, and it is very sad to see the neurological damage that impacts, not only their lives but, their loved ones too. If you plan your shower with a hazard, that is what I call ridiculous plain and simple.

I understand that you are asking for information on products that help with the slipperiness and I don't have any ideas on that. Unless you can find a large tile that is rated for shower use, my only idea is to not build it the way you have planned in the first place.

This post was edited by enduring on Sun, Feb 9, 14 at 17:23

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 1:49PM
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kudzu9

To everyone who has given input so far, thank you...I'll try to use it to sway my other half. But I know she also would like input from people who have experience with anti-slip treatments, so I want to keep this thread alive a bit longer.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 1:49PM
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kudzu9

enduring-
Yes, I posted because I know it's a potential issue. But before I decide that it's ridiculous and half-witted, I'm hoping to get input on possible solutions.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 2:12PM
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Anna_in_TX

If you want to stay large, select another tile that is designed to have more traction. There is an industry standard for skid resistance in tile. There are commercial tiles that are good for that. You can also stagger the tile which will make the grout lines more available to stand on. This is beyond a function over design issue - it's a safety issue like wearing a helmet or buckling a seat belt. It sure would be awful if you two were to fall, or even a guest to fall. Preventing falls are difficult enough even with the right materials and fixtures.

Sounds like you haven't done enough shopping. There are always similar looks in different types of tile.

Here is a link that might be useful: Skid Resistance Scale for Tile Flooring

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Sun, Feb 9, 14 at 15:59

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 3:56PM
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enduring

Kudzu, I was fairly strong in my remarks and I don't really want to be offensive, so I apologize for the 1/2 wit comment, that was uncalled for.

I do feel so strongly about these safety issues.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 4:24PM
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lotteryticket

What about a teak mat to put over the tiles? I know how it is when you find just what you want and are trying to make it work. I know I saw one that had a rubber grip on the bottom. I think it was on wayfair.com and not too expensive.

I do not have one so can not attest to their performance but perhaps others can chime in.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 4:37PM
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Anna_in_TX

But if I read the first post, they are planning to use this slippery tile for the flooring outside of the shower too.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 4:56PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

I think the OP said "marginal". Very different from glossy ceramic. We have 24 x 24 porcelain tiles on our bathroom floor. (the 2x2 's are in the shower), The large tiles are rated for use on bathroom floors, but IF you made one wet and soapy with bare feet, you would go flying. (as you probably would with ANY flooring). A bath mat outside the shower and a few throw rugs under the sinks and you won't be slipping around outside the shower. (Unless you eat bananas and drop peels around...;-)

-Babka

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 10:40PM
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Trebruchet

kudzu9:

Ship the floor tile to a shop that has a lazar engraving CNC machine. They can put any pattern on the tile; the more engraving, the less slippery it will be.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 11:10PM
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kudzu9

Trebuchet-
How deep does laser engraving go? Would it degrade the pattern of the tile?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 2:13AM
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live_wire_oak

I'm not familiar with any chemical solution that can successfully etch porcelain tile other than muriatic acid. That would not be something you would want to apply in an enclosed home, nor would you want that to go down your pipes. That would be an apply it before it gets laid type thing. It does change the texture of the tile, but it will also change it's appearance to be more matte and less shiny, so the whole floor would need to be done in order for the tiles to match. With the added labor and risk of someone damaging the tiles beyond acceptability (it's REALLY tricky to use) you will be much better off to choose a different tile.

The topical coatings are meant for an entry way or traffic path, not a shower location. They aren't cheap, and they won't last long. It also makes the tile harder to clean and will hold on to the dirt. Then, if you scrub the dirt, there goes the coating.

What IS the COF of the tile that you chose? (Both dry and wet?) Under 5 wet isn't marginal, it's unacceptable. 5-6 is marginal, and if paired with a different tile in the shower, could still work outside the shower.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 9:29AM
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mongoct

Since you're looking for alternative ideas, I'll toss one out that may or may not work for you or your tile.

Several years ago I had a similar situation. Walk-in curbless with large format tiles.

The large format tiles were through-body and while they had a very adequate CoF the homeowners wanted more traction underfoot. They didn't want any sort of applied coating, cutting the tiles smaller was not an option.

Despite not wanting the tiles cut smaller, they approved the following idea:

I ended up scoring lines on the surface of the tile with my wetsaw. I have a "sliding table" wet saw, the blade can be raised or lowered above the sliding table and the table with the tile upon it slides under the blade. I set the blade height to just score the surface of the tile, about 1/16" deep. Ran the tiles through to get a nice little pattern of score lines on the tiles.

The grid lines were cut deep enough to afford more traction, but not so deep as to catch suds or weaken the tile. The pattern was laid out on a bias with relation to the floor slope to help the cut lines shed water.

It was tedious to do, bu it did work out very well.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 10:55AM
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lazy_gardens

If you are doing a bathroom, make the performance of the tile the very first requirement ... ahead of looks. Restrict your candidates to those tiles with a COF of greater then .6 and approved for use in wet areas.

Learn to say, "I like it, but do you have anything with a higher COF so we can use it on the shower floor?"

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 11:07AM
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Trebruchet

As an aside, years ago I went to the Corian training when they ventured (briefly) into the tile business. DuPont found that Corian was less slippery when wet. It is counterintuitive, but I'd check the COF of the tile wet and dry.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 7:13PM
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lori_inthenw_gw

Last time I asked about dynamic COF at the tile store, I was met with a blank look. Here's what the website said about the one I was looking at: "A DCOF value of > 0.42 is the new standard for tiles specified for commercial application in standard A137.1-2012, Section 9.6. It replaces the SCOF value of > 0.60 referenced in ASTM C1028.

And the tile I"m considering is rated ">0.42." But as someone (probably Mongo) pointed out on another thread, it would be nice to know just what it is. There is still a difference between 0.41 and 0.81 (which might be sandpaper, for all I know).

I still plan to haul my 12 x 12 sample up to my shower and stand on it while wet and soapy, but I haven't done that yet. Maybe you want to try that!

Here is a link that might be useful: info on the Dynamic COF test

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 5:01PM
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Trebruchet

"How deep does laser engraving go? Would it degrade the pattern of the tile?"

Probably less than 1/32" I'm guessing. I think it could enhance the pattern of the tile if you picked the right design. I have no idea what that may be.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 9:06AM
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kudzu9

Ok...you guys made me neurotic enough that I came up with a solution. I found, by accident, that this tile comes in a 2"X2" version, and after much research was able to find a place to ship me some. I am going to do most of the floor in the shower with the 2"X2" tile and the grout lines should take care of the potential slip risk.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 1:12PM
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enduring

All in a GW's day's work :)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 1:19PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Enduring... ;-D

Kudzu- You will NOT be sorry. I went thru the same thing. Here's mine:

-Babka

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 2:28PM
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kudzu9

Babka-
Thanks for the photo...that's exactly what I want mine to look like.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 3:45PM
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Anna_in_TX

kudzu9 - Make sure you post a reveal thread because we put a lot of work into your intervention!

babka - what a beautiful shower.

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Sun, Feb 16, 14 at 11:06

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 11:39PM
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Trebruchet

There are several topical treatments to reduce slipperiness. Some have been recommended by people I highly respect, but I have no experience.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 10:40AM
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kudzu9

Trebuchet-
I think we will install the 2"X2" on the floor and add a topical treatment after if there are any more concerns.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 2:19PM
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divotdiva

Anna in TX and Enduring - LOL! Kudzu we're so happy to be part of your "intervention".

I went through this too, argued with my GC, DH, etc. that I wanted the larger tile in the floor. People here on GW educated me to look at the options to make it safer. I don't have pictures yet as the floor tiling will begin on Mon, but our tile contractor cut my large format into smaller rectangles to match the scale of the large ones, kind of like a miniature version of them. Obviously the labor will be more to place those as they are not on mesh sheets, but they are very meticulous even with the large tiles, so even if I bought the 2x2 matching tiles, it might not have gone any faster. The 2x2s available in our tile also reversed the pattern on each tile and I didn't care for it.

I doubt you will need any topical treatment after the smaller tiles are in.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 2:56PM
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snookums2

I'm surprised to hear people are cutting those larger tiles down. The edges wouldn't be finished; and others would be. They are actually filing all those edges smooth? I also wonder about having unglazed edges on a clay tile in such a wet location. I would check with the manufacturer before modifying their product.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Sun, Feb 16, 14 at 15:54

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 3:50PM
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kudzu9

Tile edges are typically not finished in the first place. You want a surface that will bond with the grout. Tile gets cut all the time just to make it fit the space one is tiling. Using a diamond saw leaves a very clean edge on an area that will be covered by grout anyway so no "filing" is required.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 3:56PM
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snookums2

The cut edges in my bath were not filed and are rough. They technically should file them nice and smooth. They can also get little chips that need filing. Maybe with a new blade it looks better so not always necessary. The profile is also different, being a sharp flatter unfinished looking edge unlike the manufactured one. I would think some filing would minimize that somewhat.

I mention the exposed unglazed edges because glazing wraps slightly over the top of the tile and the grout sits back, up to that point, on the unglazed portion. It's a very wet area and clay bodies are absorbent. Of course cuts have to be made along edges to fit but for a whole floor in a wet area I would check with the manufacturer on their tile.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 4:52PM
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