Using Hardwood Flooring in the Bathroom

Tips on Installing and Maintaining a Bathroom Hardwood Floor

By Mark J. Donovan

Ceramic tile and Linoleum are two of the most common types of bathroom flooring. However, your bathroom flooring choices don’t have to be limited to just these two choices. Hardwood flooring in the bathroom is also possible with a couple of extra installation steps and a commitment to keeping the bathroom hardwood flooring dry.

Historically I’ve not been a big proponent of using hardwood flooring in the bathroom due to the simple fact that water and wood don’t cohabitate very well.

Water spilled on a hardwood bathroom floor can easily stain and cause the wood to swell and buckle. Similarly, high humidity levels that are normally found in bathrooms can cause the wood floor to swell and buckle.

Spilled water and high moisture levels can also lead to mold and mildew growth between and under hardwood flooring boards. However, I’ve seen many historic homes that have indeed used hardwood in their bathrooms. So, using hardwood flooring in the bathroom is nothing new. It’s just that more care and thought have to go into the installation and maintenance of it.

Tips for Installing Hardwood Flooring in Bathrooms

First, if you’re going to use wood flooring in the bathroom always use hardwood flooring materials. Softwood flooring is more absorbent and sensitive to moisture. The best types of hardwood to use in a bathroom include oak, cherry, maple, and ash.

Second, when it comes to installing bathroom hardwood flooring I highly recommend using prefinished hardwood flooring. Unfinished hardwood flooring is more difficult to finish and inevitably you’ll not be able to do as good of a job as the factory in finishing and sealing the wood.

In addition, when finishing a wood floor after it is installed, it is impossible to seal the back and sides of the lumber pieces.

If I can’t convince you to use a prefinished hardwood flooring material then plan on applying several coats of Polyurethane over the bathroom hardwood flooring after it is installed. Polyurethane forms a water tight seal and will work well at protecting the bathroom hardwood flooring in all but the most humid of bathroom conditions. The polyurethane will also seal in between the board gaps to ensure no water spills down in between the boards. Polyurethane is manufactured in such a way that it will also expand and contract with the wood while maintaining a perfect seal and without cracking and peeling.

Third, install a stone or tile border directly adjacent to the tub or shower where water has the tendency to spill. Besides protecting the bathroom wood flooring, a stone or tile border can also help to complement and accent the bathroom wood flooring.

Finally, if you’re intent on having hardwood flooring in your bathroom, hire a professional wood floor installer. You’ll increase your odds of a better installation and ensure little to no gaps between board pieces. They’ll also most likely do a better job of sealing the hardwood floor, if you so choose to go with a non-prefinished wood flooring material.

Bathroom Wood Flooring Maintenance

In order to protect your bathroom wood floor always wipe it down after taking a shower or bath. In addition, make sure to install and always use a bathroom ceiling fan when taking a shower or bath.

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I also suggest using bathroom throw rugs with rubberized bottoms near the toilet, tub, and bathroom vanity to help protect the flooring and absorb any small accidental water spills.

So if you are committed to the installation of a bathroom hardwood floor fear not and go for it. As described above, with proper installation and maintenance a hardwood bathroom floor should last a long time, and provide unparalleled warmth and beauty.

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