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Tile-free bathroom renovations

[Translate to english:] Bad renovieren ohne Fließen Theano von Villeroy & Boch

Tiles in bathrooms may be the norm, but they aren’t necessarily a requirement. If you are looking to decorate the walls or floor in your bathroom without using tiles, there is range of alternatives. These include natural materials such as wood and cork, modern wall coverings made from plastic and of course plaster. With the right workmanship, such alternatives offer equally sufficient protection against damp and mould.


Do you want to renovate your bathroom without having to remove old tiles or lay new ones? Look no further: presented below are some alternative materials and techniques you can use and tips about how to use them.

[Translate to english:] Bad renovieren ohne Fließen von Villeroy & Boch
[Translate to english:] Bad renovieren ohne Fließen von Villeroy & Boch
[Translate to english:] Bad renovieren ohne Fließen von Villeroy & Boch

Plaster in bathrooms: Which types are most suitable?

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Plaster is one of the oldest and most diverse building materials and is also perfectly suitable for use in bathrooms. You can even use plaster for the walls of your shower cubicle if you envisage a bathroom without any tiles whatsoever. The most common types of plaster cope very well with damp, by absorbing excess water from the air and releasing it later. This regulates the air quality and maintains a healthy living environment.

Plastering provides a seamless surface that can be either textured or smooth, and it can be decorated with whatever colours you have in mind. Nevertheless, to ensure that its positive qualities are not inhibited, the plaster’s pores or capillaries must not be blocked. As such, when mixing plaster with pigment or painting over it, you should ensure that if you are using permeable plaster, you also use permeable (breathable) paint or suitable pigments.

Using mineral plaster and clay plaster in bathrooms

According to the German Institute for Standardisation’s standard DIN V 18550 (regarding the implementation of plaster and plaster systems), a normal bathroom does not qualify as a wet or damp room. This is because the increase in moisture only occurs at certain times, making bathrooms “rooms with normal humidity”. Lime-based, cement-based and gypsum-based mineral plasters are particularly suited to this purpose. Even clay plaster can be used in your bathroom; while this material isn’t naturally moisture-resistant, there are special clay plaster dry mixes that have been developed especially for bathrooms. By adding an expertly applied surface treatment such as wax or waterproofing, you can significantly improve the stability and humidity protection of the plaster layer.

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If gypsum plaster is soaked through or is constantly exposed to damp, the gypsum becomes unstable and crumbly. However, water does not damage it if the plaster is only temporarily damp and is left to dry out between uses. Its composition means it can fully absorb damp and moisture, releasing it into the air at a later point.

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Lime plaster offers excellent mould protection because its alkaline properties prevent mould from finding sustenance on its surface. However, these surfaces do need to be kept clean because deposits such as grease, dust and dirt block the pores. What’s more, the mould resistance properties of this mineral plaster are rendered useless if an organic breeding ground is left to form on it.


Venetian plaster and tadelakt are two of the most attractive and sophisticated types of lime plaster. These traditional lime pressing techniques are renowned for their resistance to water and weathering and they have been used in baths and steam baths for centuries. These techniques require masterful workmanship, however, so they should be carried out by a specialist tradesman.

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Cement-based plasters harden to become particularly firm, and many professionals with experience in creating tile-free bathrooms like to use cement plaster for shower walls. Assuming the plaster has been perfectly compressed, smoothed, and/or coated, there is absolutely no risk of injuring yourself on rough spots if you brush against the wall when showering.

Plastering – what can I do myself?

The basics of how to work with plaster can be found in the manufacturer specifications on the product packaging. These include, for example, how the substrate should be prepared, whether primer is required and how long the plaster takes to dry. If you have any questions or are uncertain about anything, seek expert advice so that you don’t buy the wrong thing.

Neither lime, gypsum nor cement are used in their pure forms when plastering bathrooms. Instead, ready mixes such as lime-cement plaster or gypsum-lime plaster are used. With these dry mixes, which are easy to mix, apply and spread, you can even do the plastering yourself to save on the renovation costs for your tile-free bathroom. To do this, you will need plastering tools including a paddle mixer, a plastering trowel and a finishing trowel – as well as some experience. If you have never plastered before, it is better to entrust this work to a painter or plasterer.

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Rollable plaster is ideal for DIY plastering. Waterproof versions are available and it is applied using a roller or brush. Bonding gypsum plaster is another option for DIY enthusiasts because of its creamy consistency and ability to be used as smooth plaster or roughcast. You can also get creative with your plastering by using marbling or colour techniques. You can even press a few sparkly stones, glass marbles, or shells from your last holiday into the damp plaster and sprinkle fine sand or gold or silver dust over the whole thing, transforming it into a homemade mosaic or customised atmospheric landscape!

What should I do with the old tiles?

[Translate to english:] Bad renovieren ohne Fliesen von Villeroy & Boch
[Translate to english:] Bad renovieren ohne Fliesen von Villeroy & Boch

The old tiles don’t necessarily have to be removed – they can be plastered over. This is perhaps best entrusted to a specialist company because solvents are often used, so special precautions must be taken to ensure safety. The result will be a lovely, seamless wall.

Of course, this only works if the old tiled sections are still intact and stable. Damp or mouldy walls must first be left to dry out, or treated and refurbished if necessary. Again, this is a task best left to a specialist tradesman who can examine the substrate and recommend specific courses of action. If you decide against removing the old tiles when renovating, the room will of course become smaller. The loss may seem minimal on paper, but you will notice it, especially if your bathroom is very small or oddly shaped. When plastering or pasting over the old tiles, you should also keep in mind that the transitions between the tiled and untiled parts of the wall need to be levelled out.

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More alternatives for a tile-free bathroom

PVC flooring: This material is available with a stone, wood or metal finish.

Special plastic panels: They are waterproof, UV resistant and can be attached to the wall or tiles using silicone. With custom-made panels you can also conceal corners or build pre-wall installations.

Wood: Wooden flooring, panels and the like create a beautiful effect in modern and rustic bathrooms. They should be seamless, professionally installed and appropriately sealed.

Cork: This robust, warm material is also available as panels and tiles. With suitable edge protection and correct sealing, cork will maintain its appearance for many years – even in a bathroom.

Stone carpet: Available in various colours and thicknesses, this floor covering is made from natural stone embedded in epoxy resin or acrylic. The old floor must be primed first.