Q: We are planning a bathroom remodel. We like the hardwood floors in the rest of our house very much and are considering hardwood in the bathroom too.
Contractors who are bidding the job have given us mixed responses. One said he thinks hardwood would be great, but two others strongly recommend against it because of potential water damage.
We are pretty neat and tidy people–no wet towels on the floor, etc. What are your thoughts? Are hardwood floors a good idea for the bathroom?
A: To put it bluntly, no. Regardless of how neat and tidy you are, water will wind up on the bathroom floor. We’ve said it before–wood and water don’t mix.
After taking a bath or shower it’s nearly impossible to exit the tub or shower perfectly dry. Water will drip on the floor.
And the tub and shower aren’t the only potential problem. Few things will take the finish off hardwood faster then urine. Face it; sometimes a guy’s aim is not what it should be.
Bathroom flooring should be impervious to water and easily washed and disinfected. Wood is neither.
Traditional hardwood is installed in single-board strips that are blind-nailed or face-nailed to the subfloor. This means lots of seams. Each seam is a potential avenue for water.
Over time, the joints in a hardwood floor will separate and allow water in. This is especially true in a bathroom, a humid and wet environment. The wood will absorb the moisture and warp. After a short time, relative to other types of flooring, you will be looking at refinishing or replacing the floor.
We agree that hardwood looks great, but in our opinion it is not meant for bathrooms. There are many other elegant options ranging from ceramic tile, to marble, to vinyl or linoleum.
We should say here that we’re not big fans of vinyl in bathrooms. Vinyl flooring is usually laid over particleboard, which soaks up water like a sponge.
The seam where the floor meets the tub or shower is virtually impossible to seal. Water seeps through the seam and compromises the underlayment and the floor is ruined.
We prefer the harder surfaces of marble or tile, both of which come in a variety of colors, textures and patterns and when properly installed look great.
If tile or marble seems too cold, consider looking into the possibility of radiant heat in the mortar bed when laying the floor. That way you would have the best of all worlds–a hard floor that not only is impervious to water but also is warm.