Bathroom renovation without tiles

Theano bath from Villeroy & Boch

Tiles tend to be a standard feature in bathrooms, but they are not absolutely essential. If you want to design tile-free walls or flooring in your bathroom, there are lots of alternatives: natural materials such as wood and cork, modern wall coverings made from plastic and, of course, plasters. If applied correctly, these will provide just as effective protection from moisture and mould.

Do you want to renovate your bathroomwithout removing tiles or laying new ones? We present here a selection of suitable materials and techniques, and explain what is involved in their application.

Renovating a bathroom without tiles by Villeroy & Boch
Renovating a bathroom without tiles by Villeroy & Boch
Renovating a bathroom without tiles by Villeroy & Boch

What advantages do joint-free bathrooms offer?

There are some good reasons for designing bathroom floors and walls without tiles.

  1. No tiles means no joints that you need to clean regularly to prevent discolouration and mould. This saves time and money.
  2. The seamless look of floors or walls without joints creates a more restful impression. A new bathroom without tiles also looks bigger.
  3. Alternative materials can be less expensive to purchase and apply. This will reduce the overall costs of renovating a bathroom without tiles.
Theano free-standing bath from Villeroy & Boch

What alternatives to tiles are there?

If you are thinking about refurbishing a bathroom or a shower without tiles, there are various alternatives you can consider. For example, you can cover walls with decorative panels, plaster or wallpaper.

Plaster in the bathroom: Which plasters are most suitable?

Renovating a bathroom without tiles MyView by Villeroy & Boch

Plaster is one of the oldest and most versatile building materials and is also ideal for the bathroom. You can even plaster the wall of the shower cabinet if you want your bathroom to be completely tile-free. The most common types of plaster can easily withstand moisture: They absorb excess water from the ambient air and later release it, which helps to regulate the room climate and ensure a healthy atmosphere.

Plastering creates a jointless surface which can be either rough or smooth and that can be decorated by painting any colour of your choice on top. However, to gain maximum benefit from the excellent properties offered by plaster, it is important that its pores or capillaries remain as clear as possible. So when mixing plaster with paint and when painting over it, make sure you use diffusion-open (“breathable”) plaster and diffusion-open paints or suitable pigments.

Mineral plasters and loam rendering for the bathroom

Under normal conditions of use, according to DIN V 18550 (Plastering/Rendering and Plastering/Rendering Systems - Execution), bathrooms are not classed as wet or damp rooms. As moisture levels are raised only temporarily in bathrooms in the home, these are classed as “rooms with usual humidity”. Mineral plasters based on chalk, cement or gypsum are very suitable for this. You can even use loam rendering in the bathroom. Because although this material is not naturally very moisture-resistant, special loam rendering dry mixtures are now available for bathrooms. And with an additional properly applied surface treatment, for example waxing or coating, you can significantly improve the moisture proofing and stability of the plaster layer.

Renovating a bathroom without tiles O.Novo by Villeroy & Boch

Gypsum plaster must not be allowed to become soaked or left constantly damp as this will make the gypsum unstable and brittle. But if it is just occasionally damp and always has time to dry thoroughly, the water won’t harm it.
Its composition allows it to very effectively absorb steam and moisture and later release this into the ambient air.

Renovating a bathroom without tiles Loop&Friends by Villeroy & Boch

Lime plasters offer very good protection from mould as their alkaline composition means their surface provides no source of nutrition on which mould fungus can thrive. However, it is important to keep the surfaces very clean. Deposits of grease, dust or dirt will obstruct the pores. Furthermore, the mould resistance of mineral plaster will be no use if an organic nutrient medium forms on top of it.

Some of the most beautiful but demanding lime plasters include stucco, Veneziano and Tadelakt. These traditional lime pressing techniques are renowned for their resistance to water and atmospheric conditions and have also been used in bathrooms and steam rooms for centuries. However, they require very skilled application so this work should be entrusted to a professional.

Bathroom renovation without tiles by Villeroy & Boch

Cement plasters are particularly strong. Many professionals with experience in creating tile-free bathrooms happily use cement plaster for shower walls. If the plaster is perfectly sealed, smoothed and/or coated, there is no risk of injury from any rough areas if your skin comes into contact with the wall later when showering.

What plastering work can I do myself?

Basic information for application – for example, how to prepare the surface, whether you need a primer or how long it should be left to dry – can be found in the manufacturer’s instructions on the product packaging. Seek expert advise if you have any questions or doubts to avoid buying an unsuitable product.

Lime, gypsum or cement are not applied in pure form when plastering the bathroom. Ready mixes are used instead, e.g. lime-cement plaster or gypsum-lime plaster. These dry mixtures, which are easy to stir, apply and spread, allow you to do plastering work yourself to save costs when renovating a bathroom without tiles. You will need plastering tools too – for example, a whisk, trowel and finishing trowel – and should have previous experience.
However, if you have never plastered before, it would be better to entrust this work to a painter or

Renovating a bathroom without tiles O.Novo by Villeroy & Boch

Roll-on plasters, which are also available in waterproof versions, are ideal to apply yourself. These are applied using a roller or a brush. Bonding gypsum plaster is also suitable for do-it-yourself enthusiasts. This has a creamy consistency and can be given a smooth or rough textured finish. Marbling and colour techniques open up creative options for plastering. Or you could press a few sparkling stones, glass marbles or shells from your last holiday into the damp plaster and dust the entire surface with fine sand, gold or silver dust to transform your bathroom with a self-designed mosaic or individual atmospheric effects.

Decorative panels

Squaro Infinity shower tray from Villeroy & Boch
Squaro Infinity shower tray from Villeroy & Boch

The tiled backsplash in the shower or directly above the bath can be replaced by large attractive decorative panels made from glass, acrylic or aluminium. If you are refurbishing a bathroom or a shower without tiles, large natural stone panels are another option. Granite and marble are particularly popular. You can, of course, cover any other wall with decorative panels too if you are refurbishing a bathroom without tiles.

The great advantage of flat wall designs is the elimination of all joints and easy installation. The panels can be installed on almost any surface and there is a huge selection of designs. Glass or acrylic decorative panels can be decorated with very individual effects. For example, what about a photo from your last beach holiday or a picture of a rainforest? Using decorative panels for walls in the bathroom will open up completely new design horizons.

Moisture-proof wallpapers

Special wallpapers for damp rooms are a practical alternative if you are renovating a bathroom without tiles. These wall hangings create an impressive new look and are also inexpensive. Special damp room wallpapers offer the advantage of easy cleaning. You can simply wipe them down. No ripples form in damp room wallpapers either as they are waterproof. Manufacturers offer countless patterns and decors that you can use to create unusual designs for your bathroom walls. Dots, stripes, flowers, graphic patterns, wood decor, stone decor, paisley pattern or lettering – there is a whole world of choice.

Loop & Friends washbasin from Villeroy & Boch

What should you do with old tiles?

Bathroom renovation without tiles by Villeroy & Boch
Bathroom renovation without tiles by Villeroy & Boch

Rather than removing the old tiles it is possible to plaster on top of them. Or you could ask a professional to plaster over them, as in many cases solvents with special health and safety requirements are used. You will then have a beautiful, smooth wall.

This will, of course, only work if the old tiled backsplash is still intact and stable. Damp or mouldy walls need to be drained and possibly refurbished. In this case, it is better to ask a professional for advice. A professional can assess the surface and make practical recommendations. If you renovate the bathroom without removing tiles, this will make the room smaller. Although the loss in space is mathematically not great, you will still notice it – particularly if your bathroom is very small or has an awkward shape. Remember too that when plastering over tiles or laying new tiles on top of old ones, the transitions between tiled and untiled areas of the walls will also need to be bridged.

Renovating a bathroom without tiles Metro Flair by Villeroy & Boch

Other alternatives for a bathroom without tiles

PVC floor: This material is also available in a stone, wood or metal look.

Panels made from special plastic: These are light-fast, waterproof and can be stuck on walls or tiles using silicone. You can also use custom-made sheets to cover corners or build installation systems.

Wood: Wood floors, panels, etc. look beautiful in both modern and rustic bathrooms. They should be produced without joints, laid professionally and sealed appropriately.

Cork: This robust, warm material is also available in the form of sheets or tiles. With appropriate edge protection and correct sealing, cork will look beautiful in the bathroom for many years.

Stone carpet: A natural stone floor covering available in different thicknesses and colours that is embedded in epoxy resin or acrylic. The old floor must be primed first.