Hardwood and bamboo flooring can be installed in powder rooms ( half-baths) containing just a washbasin and toilet. However, don’t be fooled by their stunning good looks and warm feel underfoot – bamboo and wood floors are not recommended for use in full bathrooms for a variety of reasons. The most notable of these is that wood is not a waterproof material and bathrooms are pretty much guaranteed to be a very wet environment! These natural woody materials makes them unsuitable for rooms with high water content and humidity.
Bamboo is a type of hardwood flooring that’s a versatile, stylish and attractive flooring material for your home. It’s a beautiful product that comes in a wide range of colors and designs. It gives personality to a room and creates a natural, ethereal feel. It gives a warm and comfortable feel underfoot – perfect for bathrooms where you often go barefoot. It’s also known as a rapidly renewable raw material as some species of bamboo can grow up to 3 feet a day!
7 Reasons Not to Install Hardwood or Bamboo Floors in Full Bathrooms
1. Hardwood floors aren’t waterproof
While bamboo flooring is more water-resistant than hardwood, it’s not waterproof, and wood/bamboo and water don’t mix. The organic structure of wood and bamboo means it can warp and become unstable if it takes in excessive moisture. Bathrooms are privy to all kinds of water – standing water, humidity (steam) and often condensation on shower screens or windows. All of these can cause damage to wood flooring.
2. Damage from standing water
If excessive moisture is allowed to remain on the floor, you should expect some discoloration to occur. We define excessive moisture as any large amount of water extending over the edges of the planks that is left on the surface of the flowing for more than 20 hours. This could come from a puddle on the floor (perhaps hidden away behind a washbasin) or from wet towels or bathmats being left.
3. Humidity damage
Many manufactures recommend maintaining a humidity level of between 40-60% to ensure longevity. Unless you fancy taking short, cold showers for the rest of your life, your bathroom is going to be regularly exceeding that 60% upper limit.
Steam and condensation in the air goes down into the cracks between the flooring and penetrates into every space. Only a small amount will enter the flooring, but over time this builds up and can result in the planks buckling, warping or cracking.
4. Chemical stains from bathroom cleaners
Most cleaning products have some sort of acid in them to aid the cleaning process. Even natural products are often acidic in their make-up. If these frequently come into contact with the wood floor and aren’t wiped away completely they can cause discoloration, and damage the protective finish.
5. Mold and mildew damage
Mold and mildew are a common problem in bathrooms due to the combination of high temperatures and moisture that occurs. Both of these compounds love organic materials such as wood, as it provides them with a rich base on which to grow. Mold and mildew can eat away at the protective layer of the floor and seep into the cracks, growing between the planks and underneath them., and you may not even realize it’s there. Over time, untreated mold and mildew can not only damage your flooring but become a health hazard too.
6. Leaking appliances or floods can ruin the floor
If your vanity, toilet, bath or shower has a leak, watch out. With more traditional bathroom floor materials such as tile, you may be able to take them up, replace the underlay material and then put the tiles back in place. However, the sheer amount of water will saturate the wood and cause it to expand and warp, and most likely damage the finish.
7. No product warranty for bathroom installation
Many wood flooring manufacturers have clauses in their terms and conditions that state the warranty on the product is void if you install the flooring in a bathroom that has a shower or bathtub. You will be liable for any damage that incurs and will need to self-fund any fixes or replacement materials.
What to do if you want bamboo flooring in your bathroom
Many of our clients have installed our bamboo flooring in their full bath, however, this takes careful consideration and upkeep. Here are some of the top tips for using bamboo flooring in a full bathroom. Note that none of these tips can guarantee that your floor will remain undamaged.
- Install a tile or stone apron around bathtubs and by showers. This limits the amount of standing water that could be present on the bamboo flooring.
- Use cotton rugs or bath mats around your bath, sink and shower to absorb moisture. When you’ve finished in the bathroom, hang the mats on the side of the tub (or better yet, outside the bathroom) to dry. You don’t want wet or damp mats sitting on your bamboo flooring for hours as that could cause permanent damage. Make sure that the mats/rugs are breathable, or have a breathable rubber pad underneath. Trapping moisture under a rug will ruin a wood floor surface. Some rug material itself such as jute needs a pad underneath as repeatedly walking on a jute rug will wear away the flooring finish.
- Use natural, non-acidic bathroom cleaners. When washing the floor, dry wipe where possible – do not use a mop and bucket of water as that will be far too wet for the floor.
- Dry the apron in front of the shower and tub after every use with a towel or water scraper to limit the amount of moisture left in the room. You should also thoroughly dry the rest of the floor.
- Install a ventilator in the bathroom and keep the window open regularly. Note that this is not enough to guarantee your floors will not be affected by moisture and humidity but it may help to slow the damage.
- Regularly inspect the flooring for signs of damage. Seek immediate remedial action if you notice any issues with the floor. This may include adding another protective layer on top of the floor or replacing a piece of bamboo that’s become damaged.
Here’s a cool video a homeowner made of bamboo flooring in their bathroom:
As previously mentioned, bamboo and hardwood flooring isn’t the ideal flooring for bathrooms so you should expect signs of wear-and-tear and damage to show after a time. That being said, bamboo flooring can look stunning in bathrooms so we understand why many of our clients decide to take the risk and install it.