Hardwood floor in the bathroom?
January 17, 2006 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Experiences with hardwood floors in the bathroom? I have decided I want to install hardwood flooring in my bathroom. If you have ever lived with wooden bathroom floors, please let me know if there is anything I should be aware of.

I am about to remodel my bathroom and I want to try wood on the floor. I have done a bunch of research on this subject and I'm still not sure if I want to use actual hardwood or some kind of laminate wood. I'd prefer actual wood, but I'm open to suggestions. I have lots of experience with wooden floors (my whole house, including kitchen, is floored with 100 year-old Fir and Oak) but I've never lived with wood in the bathroom.

The bathroom is relatively small, about 6'X8.5'. There is a tub, vanity and toilet. It is used every day by two adults. It is not very humid and there is never water left standing on the floor. I don't see any reason why I couldn't use wood, but I'd love to hear of other experiences before I go for it.

Also, if you have ever done this yourself, what type of wood would you recommend?

posted by evoo to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Laminates HATE water. Wood doesn't like it much, but if it's kept dry, it will work.
posted by lobstah at 7:52 AM on January 17, 2006

I'm no home improvement expert, but I've got to think that real hardwood in your bathroom is a bad idea. Wood and water are not the best of friends. I can promise you that no matter how responsible you are, more water is left on the floor than you think. Furthermore, if you've got a roommate, spouse, kids, etc - you're going to have to consider them too.

Now, that faux-hardwood stuff that looks so close to real you can't tell the difference -- I think that's vinyl based (or some sort of plastic?) and should resist water just fine.

I'm pretty sure that real hardwood will have major discoloration and warping unless it's water-sealed absolutely thoroughly.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, even if you're good about not leaving water on the floor you should consider what this may do to the resale value of your home. Most buyers will probably be concerned that hardwood bathroom floors would require too much upkeep.
posted by twiggy at 7:54 AM on January 17, 2006

As long as you maintain the integrity of the finish on the floor and clean up any significant splashes of water you should be fine. I lived for 22 years in a home with hardwood floors in the bathroom without trouble and didn't even need to refinish it.

At one point we had a bathtub overflow (long story) and a significant amount of water was spilled on the floor (10s of gallons). The flood ruined the drop-ceiling downstairs, but the floor, once properly mopped up, was no worse for the wear.

If the room is not humid due to a properly vented bathroom-fan and you don't leave standing water on the floor you'll be fine.

I'd reccomend a hardwood floor though - softwoods tend to soak up more ambient moisture and are more easily damaged due to wear and tear (but I'm biased because I love oak).
posted by sablazo at 7:55 AM on January 17, 2006

I second twiggy. It seems like an incredibly bad idea. What happens if the toilet, bathtub, or sink overflows? Not just now--but there won't be one flood, one pool of standing water ten, twenty, thirty years down the line? Will you be resealing the floors frequently?

I would only buy a house with hardwood in the bathroom if I had the cash to replace the flooring immediately.
posted by Anonymous at 7:59 AM on January 17, 2006

How will you clean it? Wood floors aren't supposed to be mopped with liquids, and bathroom accidents do occur.
posted by konolia at 7:59 AM on January 17, 2006

Something as simple as condensation on the toilet feed pipes can become a big problem.
posted by smackfu at 8:18 AM on January 17, 2006

i am hesitant to put wood in a bathroom. Here's what i can tell you from experience.

i refinished the wood floor in house that had the floor covered for 30 years. it took forever to get the old finish off--the stuff was hard as a rock.

when we got the old finish off and put the new poly down, it became clear that the new poly was like a gummy sponge compared to the old stuff. a year after it set up, it still didn't feel as solid or sealed as the 30 year old stuff.

i asked a flooring old-timer about this and he said the reason my new floor wasn't as tough as the old floor was because of the government. 30 years of regulation took some of the "best" (and, of course, potentially toxic) chemicals out of floor finish.

he said you can't get a decent (ie water sealing) finish on a kitchen or bathroom floor anymore.

I wasn't sure i believed him until i moved a wicker planter and saw that some of the dye had bled off the wicker,
THROUGH the poly, and INTO the floor.

Bathroom floors are damp most of the time and wet occationally. in an age where some kinds of mold can literally kill you, I would hate to discover long black strands of the stuff growing beneath my feet.
posted by ransom at 8:29 AM on January 17, 2006

Stay away from wood flooring + bathrooms. The flooring outside of our downstairs bathroom has subtle warping (after 1 or 2 accidents with the kids), and will need to be sanded down in order for us to get it looking nice again. After the money we spent on this house a little over a year ago, it's all I can do not to scream when I walk over it.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:36 AM on January 17, 2006

i uncovered the hardwood floors in my bathroom about 2 years ago under some awful vinyl tiles. i am sure the tiles had been there for at least 20-30 years and they were not really sealed well so i imagine some water seeped through the joints. anyway, i sanded and scraped down to the wood and put about 25 coats of sealer down and have had NO issues at all, even with many friends walking about with wet feet and getting water outside the shower accidently. just wipe it up as soon as you can and have a rug with a rubber backing outside the tub and under the sink and toilet and you should be golden.
posted by annoyance at 8:42 AM on January 17, 2006

Go for it. Bathroom fixtures just don't overflow all that much, unless you're not careful. The only thing to worry about it toilet condensation. The only real way to deal with this is to install a mixing valve that fills the tank with lukewarm water -- no condensation, guaranteed. Or, air-conditioning all summer long. Tank liner kits don't do a 100% job. Mixing valves seem to be against the plumbing code in some jurisdictions, so you may have to bribe the plumber or do it yourself. Or buy a manufacturer-insulated toilet.
posted by beagle at 9:02 AM on January 17, 2006

Before you put in a hardwood floor, or a wood floor of any kind, determine if your bathroom floor is level. Ours was not, and as a result, we replaced rotted sections twice in five years because water naturally dripped over the edge when someone was taking a shower.

I agree that it looks nice and there's a certain novelty factor to it, but I hated having something in the bathroom that either had something wrong with it, or was going to have something wrong with it.
posted by deliriouscool at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2006

I saw pricey slatted wood "spa bath mats" and loved the idea but didn't want to, ahem, splash out for them. So I got some some cheap decking squares from Ikea and they work beautifully. They are well sealed and just sit on the tile floor.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:33 AM on January 17, 2006

For a bathroom, real hardwood sounds nuts to me. I'd use Pergo.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:35 AM on January 17, 2006

Pergo isn't a good idea at all. Laminates do not fair well with moisture. It expands and bubbles -- especially if you do not catch it right away. To me, it'd be a lot of work to make sure you caught every drip, every splash. I checked Pergo and even wood out for my kitchen a while back, and the kitchen doesn't even see the amount of moisture a bathroom does.

If you're in love with the "wood look" for the bathroom, go with something like this. Cost wise, it's likely comparable with what you're looking to do, if not cheaper.

We saw it in person at Home Depot. What we were looking at had a PEI rating of 5 (suitable for commercial areas) in regards to durability and wear resistance and it looks beautiful. We're considering using it on our entire [open plan] first floor for uniformity, plus we have pets and their accompanying water bowls, and the previous reasoning regarding use in the kitchen and general moisture.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:55 AM on January 17, 2006

Look into ipé wood. It's a Brazilian hardwood, sustainably harvested. It's incredibly hard, dense, and water-resistant. It is mostly used for outdoor decking, in which application it is rated for 30 years unfinished. I've seen it used as a shower floor. Finished, it's very attractive (IMO).

It's a little bit of a specialty item. You'd need to find a vendor that A) stocks it, and B) can mill tongue-and-groove into it (since it generally isn't milled that way), but I suspect that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Note: I haven't done this myself, but I'm pretty confident it would work well.
posted by adamrice at 10:01 AM on January 17, 2006

I don't know where all this "laminates [Pergo] hate water" comes from. We put down Pergo in the kitchen of our last place when we moved in. Seven years later, it looked like new. Sure, if you leave a wet rug on it, it can absorb moisture and swell (because its core is wood), so don't do that. A wood floor will swell, too.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:43 AM on January 17, 2006

Sure, if you leave a wet rug on it, it can absorb moisture and swell (because its core is wood), so don't do that. A wood floor will swell, too.

A bathroom being a splishy splashy place prone to condensation, humidity and possible leaks isn't a good match for a laminate. It's the same reasoning as you stated with a wet rug causing swelling. Why wouldn't a laminate, over time, absorb the humidity and bathroom moisture the very same way?
posted by jerseygirl at 10:47 AM on January 17, 2006

ransom, your experience isn't typical, from what I gather. it's possible you got a bad batch of poly. if it's exposed to temperature extremes it can prevent it's ability to cure properly.
posted by electroboy at 11:02 AM on January 17, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all your responses.

I really don't like the idea of pergo laminate (and laminates in general). I've read too many places that they are not for a bathroom. However, I have come across something called "Elesgo" laminate that supposedly has a high gloss finish and special interlocking edges to prevent water from getting through the seams. I cannot find this type of flooring in the US, though. (I'm in the Boston area.)

Like I said in my question, I already have hardwood in the kitchen and it's sealed with 4 coats of urethane. Whenever water is spilled, I just wipe it up. There are strategically placed rugs under the dog bowls and (outside) entryway door to catch daily drips and drops. I'm not afraid of getting it wet because it's so sealed with the finish that water just sits there and can be wiped up with no trouble.

I'm aware that the bathroom is a wetter place than a kitchen, but it will be well vented (for humidity) and of course there will be area rugs next to the shower (enclosed with a glass door) and the vanity/sink. I would make sure to carefully seal the wood with several coats of urethane and keep an eye on splashes.

I hadn't thought about the condensation on the toliet bowl, but I do know there are fixes for that, as mentioned above. And if it ever got really bad in the summer, I could always throw a rug under there, too, I guess.

jerseygirl, I also appreciate your suggestion of the wood-looking tile. Next time I go to Home Depot, I will definitely look into it.

Any other experiences you can share are appreciated. I'd love to hear all points of view. Thanks.
posted by evoo at 11:15 AM on January 17, 2006

Response by poster: Whaddaya know... I just posted above that I could not find "Elesgo" flooring in the US, but jerseygirl's link had it! I was googling for a while last night and could only find distributors in the UK. Cool... I just ordered some samples.
posted by evoo at 11:31 AM on January 17, 2006

Hardwoods (or wood laminates) just aren't a good idea in a bathroom floor. I shudder to think what the upkeep/maintenance of a wood floor in there would be. Certainly a lot more than a similar floor in a high-traffic area of the house. Those "wood like" ceramics look pretty cool, if you really want the look of wood in there.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:12 PM on January 17, 2006

We have a wooden floor in one of our bathrooms. We had a leak one time and it damaged the flooring. But we only had to replace the damaged part, not the whole floor, so it wasn't that big of a deal. Make careful note of the exact kind of wood or laminate you are using. If there is damage, you will need to match it exactly.
posted by richg at 5:01 PM on January 17, 2006

Look into Karndean flooring ( www.karndean.com ) I also have a small bathroom that needs a new floor. I wanted wood, but knew that it would not work around water. A local lumberyard has a display area with installed samples of what I thought were wooden floors. I went there and asked about using wood in a bathroom on the odd chance that they had something. When I pointed to a sample of the "wood" that I liked, I was told that it was vinyl, not wood. It is pricey, your floor would be about $200 and would need to be installed with their special epoxy at $60/gal. I can not tell the difference between this stuff and real wood.
posted by Raybun at 5:07 PM on January 17, 2006

Response by poster: Raybun,

Thanks for the Karndean tip. That stuff looks interesting. I went to their site and ordered some samples from them. I'm not really turned on with the thought of vinyl, but if it looks as good as you say it does, I may think about it. The web site had some nice photos, but I need to touch the stuff in person to be sure. Who knows what's possible with today's technology?

I'm not against spending a bit more money for the right product. It's such a small space that I can afford to splurge a bit. I really only need to cover about 36 sq. feet.
posted by evoo at 7:13 PM on January 17, 2006

I grew up in a house with oak flooring throughout, including in the front bathroom. The only time there was a problem was when the toilet had a small undetected leak, and my parents were able to just replace one or two boards (you can't tell where). We mopped the floors with Murphy's Oil Soap and water and never had any other problems, even though it was the kid's bathroom.
posted by cali at 7:04 PM on January 18, 2006

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