23 December 2021

Ask the Expert

Fully-tiled Vs. Half-tiled Bathrooms

One of the most common questions when it comes to decorating the bathroom is: “Should the walls be fully tiled or half tiled?” The answer is that there is no “right” way. It’s not a matter of fully-tiled being better than half-tiled. Rather, both are different but equally good ways to decorate your bathroom walls. What approach is best for tiling your bathroom depends on many factors, which we will explore below.




Bathroom décor considerations: Fully-tiled Vs Half-tiled

Cost is not the only, or even the most significant, factor when deciding between a fully-tiled or half-tiled bathroom. In fact, the half-tile bathroom is an excuse to spend more money on a feature tile. However, one thing is for sure: the wet areas of the bathroom need to be tiled to protect the walls. This usually means the shower cubicle or enclosure, the bathtub and the area around the washbasin (WHB). The following criteria should be considered when deciding on fully-tiled or half-tiled bathroom walls.

  • Overall budget available for decorating.
  • Style of interior you want to achieve for the bathroom.
  • Which items of sanitary ware to include and their layout.
  •  Size of the bathroom, i.e. family bathroom or a courtesy toilet.


▶ Tip: Follow this link for advice on how to tile a bathroom.


The Pros and Cons of the Fully-tiled Bathroom

One of the main advantages of fully tiling the walls in the bathroom is their waterproofing qualities, especially porcelain tiles. There is simply no better way of protecting the walls from damp. But there are several other reasons why the fully-tiled bathroom is recommended, both practically and aesthetically:


Pros of Fully-tiled Bathroom

  • For smaller bathrooms, the fully-tiled look can make the space appear larger.
  • By fully tiling the walls from floor to ceiling, the smaller bathroom can more easily be converted into a wet room at a future stage.
  • Provides a cleaner junction between tiled walls and floors with less fussy detailing.
  • Niches, alcoves and window sills can all be tiled to match the walls, creating an integrated décor with added dimension.
  • No further wall treatment is required, so the decoration work can be undertaken and completed more easily.



Cons of Fully-tiled Bathroom

  • There is a cost implication, tiling the entire space involves more outlay initially for the tiles, adhesive, grout, specials and labour.
  • Extra maintenance and a more robust cleaning regime will be required to keep the grout in tip-top condition.
  • Walls must be perfectly level and even before they can be tiled. Otherwise, breakages will occur.
  • Too many tiles can be visually overwhelming, especially if busy patterns are used throughout.


Tip: Combine plain and patterned or feature tiles in a balanced scheme to avoid visual overload.


The Pros and Cons of the Half-tiled Bathroom

By combining tiles with other wall coverings, you can delineate different areas in the bathroom or simply create a focal point. This combination can be configured in a number of different ways. In selected areas, protecting the wet areas (within shower enclosures and behind the WHB), as a wainscot effect (up to approximately 90cm over the finished floor level) or as a feature wall that contrasts with other finishes. There are endless possibilities, so let your imagination run wild.


The Pros of the Half-tiled Bathroom

  • Decorating a half-tiled bathroom will be cheaper, generally speaking. There are savings with fewer tiles to buy and less labour.
  • With fewer tiles decorating the bathroom will take less time.
  • There is more room for individual creativity with the combination of paint colours, wallpaper and other cladding options.



The Cons of the Half-tiled Bathroom

  • Different trades ( builder, painter,…) will have to work together or sequentially within the bathroom. The process of plastering walls in non-tiled areas will take longer, as they need to dry completely before painting.
  • Walls that are not tiled must be skirted for protection. This can look patchy in a small bathroom.


Fully-tiled Half-tiled

  • Has waterproofing qualities
  • Make the space appear larger
  • Can more easily be converted into a wet room
  • Provides a clearer junction between walls and floors
  • Create an integrated décor
  • No further wall treatment required
  • Cheaper
  • Takes less time to implement
  • Allows for more creativity 


  • There is a cost implication
  • Extra maintenance
  • Walls must be perfectly level
  • Can be visually overwhelming
  • It requires hiring different trades
  • Not-tiled walls must be skirted


Fully-tiled and Half-tiled Bathroom ideas

Here are some design ideas to help you make the most of your bathroom, whether it’s fully tiled or half tiled:


Devon Riviera 19.3X180 / Devon Riviera 29.4X180 / Liem Black 59.6X150

Fully tiled bathroom ideas

The bathroom is different from any other room in the house, both in its function and in the way we decorate it. This could mean looking at the family bathroom as if it were a Home Spa with beautiful floor to ceiling tiles. The fully-tiled bathroom recognises the bathroom’s potential as a space of wellness, pampering and ablution. Tiles can be mixed and matched to create a contemporary, innovative décor. Add plants and other elements that thrive in a damp environment to get the most out of the fully tiled environment.

Half tiled bathroom ideas

The combination of tiles with painted plaster, wallpaper or timber cladding can provide greater creativity and works well for many styles. The trick is to think of the bathroom as a room rather than a utility room in the home. This approach is very typical of Victorian bathroom design: tiling to wainscot height with wallpaper above. The Art Deco bathroom created tiled frames within which mirrors, polished plaster or wallpaper were featured.

Similarly, a more rustic style bathroom can be achieved by tiling only the areas of a shower cubicle and treating the other surfaces with marine grade ply or painted tongue-and-groove cladding. A cutting edge contemporary half-tiled bathroom décor can also be achieved by combining floating shelving, mirrors and painted surfaces above a dado height tiled wall treatment.


Noir Top 45X120 / Noir Topo 120X120 

Half tiled bathroom with shower

Whatever the choice of half-tiled or fully-tiled walls, the shower enclosure or cubicle will require tiling to the height of the showerhead. If the shower is integrated into the bathtub, the height of the tiles should be higher than the standard 190 cm. By choosing a different tile for the shower area you can create more visual interest in the bathroom.


No, tiles are only necessary where, because of damp or splashes, the wall must be protected from water ingress. The toilet is a self-contained bathroom artefact and, as such, presents no risk to adjacent walls of spreading damp. Floors, underneath and beside the toilet pan, on the other hand, should be tiled.

It is generally recommended to bring the tiles to 190cm above the finished level of the shower tray, not the bathroom flooring. The showerhead should be approximately one tile below the top tile level.

Bathtubs sit approximately 51 cm off the ground. It is recommended to provide a height of 2 tiles above the bathtub perimeter, about 30 cm. For the wall adjacent to the edge of the bath, about 15 cm beyond is recommended. Tile borders or profiles are advisable to provide a neat finish that helps prevent water penetration where the tile sits on the painted plaster finish.

Tiles are highly recommended for bathrooms because of their resistance to dampness, which prevents mould and mildew from growing. Paint cannot match those properties, although anti-condensation paint (with fungicide) is much better than regular paint in this respect. However, the investment in a quality tile will pay for itself over time, with a cleaner finish that is easier to maintain.

Flooring the small bathroom with large format tiles with minimal joints or gaps will achieve a continuous flooring effect. This helps the space to look larger. For smaller bathrooms, a rectangular tile laid horizontally will help make the walls appear wider than they are. Fully-tiled small bathrooms tend to look larger than half-tiled, especially if the tiles are gloss or have a reflectance.

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