Over the last decade, the popularity of pebble tile shower floors has skyrocketed as people search for the ultimate bathroom aesthetic that’s both functional and beautiful.
This unique and natural-looking floor style is one we have herding about constantly.
One of the biggest draws of this flooring style is that it’s pretty easy to do yourself, making it extra appealing for those on a budget who are willing to get stuck in themselves.
But should you consider decorating your beloved bathroom with this unique flooring style, there are some problems that you can run into which you should be aware of.
The most common problems with a pebble tile shower floor
There are plenty of benefits to decorating your shower floor with pebbles beyond just affordability.
It feels incredible under your feet with the added benefit of being extra non-slippy and it’s strikingly beautiful, giving you the feel of being at the beach in the comfort of your bathroom.
You can get creative with it, too, picking the pebble colors, shapes and sizes you wish to make it unique to your style and preference.
But there are some drawbacks that anyone considering this flooring style should be aware of before you go and refit your whole shower with it.
So in this article, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at all the problems that can occur with a pebble shower floor.
We’ll also discuss how to maintain them so you can decide if this flooring style is ultimately worth it.
1. Drainage problems
There is a reason why we tend to lean towards the ultra-smooth porcelain tile with nice and even gaps to fill with grout filling.
It’s mainly so all the water can drain away nicely.
One unfortunate problem that can occur with a pebble shower floor is that due to the even nature of its surface, water can collect in the crevices and between the pebbles, which makes it difficult for all the water to drain away correctly.
In colder temperatures, it’s not such a big deal, but anyone who lives in hotter and more humid climates will know that water sitting around for too long will quickly turn into mold or develop a thin white fungal coating called mildew.
Not only is this troublesome because it requires more upkeep and scrubbing to keep clean, but it can also make the floors slippy, leaving you at risk of injury.
There are a couple of methods people have cooked up to get around this.
The first is not to have raised pebbled and to use enough grout to create a flat surface.
But this comes at the expense of that nice pebble texture, meaning you’d only do this if you want the aesthetics of the pebbles, but not the pebbled texture feel on your feet.
Alternatively, you can purchase ‘sliced’ or flangled pebblesre angled to help the water run off them.
Not only do these look good, but they do a great job of allowing the excess water to drain.
It’s also worth keeping in mind the type of rock you are using, as some are more prone to retaining water than others.
River Rock, for example, is particularly notorious for this.
A rock type that retains water will develop mold much faster and therefore requires significantly more upkeep to keep clean.
2. Requires a floor inspection beforehand
While it is true that a standard pebble floor has a low barrier to entry in terms of skill needed to lay the pebbles down and grout them, one of the issues it presents is that both the grout and pebbles themselves are never truly 100% waterproof.
This is just an unfortunate reality of these floor types.
Because of the uneven nature of the floor as you walk on them, the pressure exerted from your body weight can slightly wiggle the pebbles creating micro gaps between them and the grout.
All this leads to the inevitability that water will make its way through to the floor, so it’s always recommended to have a professional check your underlying floor to ensure it can accept pebble flooring to avoid the risk of water damage on your floor and potentially even the ceiling underneath!
3. Not ideal for hard water areas
If you commonly notice a white, powdery buildup in your kettle or around the faucet tip, there’s a good chance you live in a hard water area.
This means that there is a high amount of minerals in your water which, over time, leave behind a white deposit that will slowly build up on your bathroom floor.
This can cause several problems, from adding to the already present water retention issue, potential slipping and generally unsightly as your nice pebble flooring starts to turn a murky white color.
This is not a deal breaker in and of itself, but it means you’ll need to put in some additional work and maintenance to keep it clear.
This can include cleaning the floor surface regularly with something like vinegar, which is a time-consuming process they would rather not deal with for many.
4. Very high maintenance requirement
In addition to the previously mentioned hard water maintenance, there is a great deal more that you will need to accommodate with this flooring.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as spraying it down with your favorite cleaner, giving it a quick wipe and rinse and calling it a day.
The uneven nature of the pebbles and the high amount of grout you need to use with this flooring type take much more upkeep than people may anticipate.
Firstly cleaning the uneven pebble surface is more challenging than a regular porcelain tile because you need to get into all the nooks and crannies.
Yet, their rough surface needs cleaning more than usual as it can build up soap, hair or mold over time.
The other issue is that the high amount of grout that needs to be used and the inherent instability of the pebbles means that the grout may work its way out over time.
Or a stone may move, allowing water to get under the floor, both very bad things.
So almost constant vigilance is needed to ensure the floor is maintained and kept in tip-top shape.
5. Large volume of grout needed
No matter how much you try to pack the floor and jigsaw the pebbles together, there’s no way around it.
You’ll need a lot more grout than a regular tiled floor.
While there’s technically nothing wrong with this, grout, after all, isn’t limited to filling in only small spaces.
But there are a couple of negatives that come with this you should keep in mind, particularly when it comes to picking the right brand of grout.
The first thing to consider is the additional cost.
A pebbled floor uses roughly 2.5x more than a regular tiled floor.
That’s a lot of grout you need to work with and make look even!
This also creates quite a high amount of installation pressure as the improper application of grout can lead to numerous issues, from letting in water to the pebbles not being secured in place and becoming a potential hazard.
Plus, just the overall difficulty in getting the aesthetics and look right.
For someone who doesn’t have any experience using grout, this can present a lot of pressure!
6. Incorrect installation can hurt your feet
One of the big appeals to this flooring type is that you can install it yourself, picking your perfect pebble sizes and arranging them in a way you think is nice.
But this is a case where the visual look and how it feels under your feet can be two different things.
If you are not quite careful and intentional about your pebble placement, it can quickly cross that line from being comfortable and therapeutic for the feet to straight-up painful.
Also, some people are not well suited to walking on pebbles.
For example, they may have very soft skin.
So you need to be very careful to avoid sharp pebbles and make sure they are all of a relatively even level so there isn’t one protruding abnormally high which could poke your foot.
7. Doesn’t last forever
If you want flooring that won’t need to be refinished often, then perhaps a pebble tile floor is not the ideal choice.
One of the main reasons these floors tend to wear faster than others is the high exposure of grout and sealer.
This means all the pressure from the pebbles, cleaning chemicals and hard scrubbing that you’ll be performing to maintain the floor all wear away at the grout, reducing overall longevity.
While we recommend keeping some grout, sealer and spare pebbles around to make any required swift fixes, there will come a time when the overall floor is wearing away to a point where it will simply need to be replaced.
While we hope this doesn’t discourage you from trying this flooring type out if it’s something you like, being cognisant that it will not last as long as a regular tiled floor is essential.
While this can vary a little depending on which type of grout and sealer you use, people who have pebble-finished their shower floors have commonly reported experiencing discoloration of the grout and pebbles over time.
One of the possible causes of this is water getting underneath the sealer and turning a cloudy white color over time.
Another may be the cleaning chemicals you use and how they interact with a given type of grout.
Of course, hard or overly aggressive scrubbing can reduce the floor’s longevity by damaging the grout and sealer.
So keeping the proper cleaning chemicals around to keep the pebbles and sealer in good shape is vital to maintaining the aesthetic.
Pebble tile shower floor problems: Are they a deal-breaker?
After taking all the common problems you will have to deal with should you decide to finish your shower floor with pebbles, we feel this is for a particular kind of user.
While the installation itself might not be too much work, the amount of upkeep and reduced lifespan compared to a traditional floor tile can make it somewhat unappealing unless you are ready and willing to keep up with the cleaning and repairs as the floor ages.
If you are looking for more of a ‘set and get’ kind of flooring, we encourage you to avoid a pebble-tiled floor and instead opt for the tried and true ceramic tile or floor tile.
However, even if, after reading all the problems and maintenance requirements mentioned in this article, you are still ready and willing to utilize this kind of flooring, then it will be a great project to undertake and you will be delighted with the results.