Bathroom Wood Floor – Maintenance and What to Consider
Since the dawn of modern construction and building, wood flooring has been used, liked, and loved in many different interiors, no matter if it comes to a residential house or an office and commercial premises. Wood flooring is a popular choice for so many home and business owners simply because it brings a lot of benefits. It is a sturdy, durable, and lasting floor covering that is not only easy to maintain and practically keep flawless for up to a whole century, but also a very stylish, elegant, and beautiful choice. However, it wasn’t too long ago when people started considering the beautiful look and elegance of wood for their bathrooms too. At first, it may sound a bit too strange to you, after all, you know that wood is pretty sensitive to moisture, humidity, and temperature fluctuations so what is going to happen with such a floor once you install it in the only space of the house that is usually the most humid and wet. Well, wood floor professionals have the perfect solution to this dilemma and it is called engineered wood flooring.
Engineered wood flooring is the beautiful wood floor you will be able to see installed in many bathrooms of happy owners. Thanks to its specific construction of layers of plywood or other lumber material glued together crisscrossed, engineered wood is significantly less prone to the issue and imperfections a solid wood floor can experience when fitted in the bathroom. Because of their porous structure, real wood planks are easily affected by dramatic changes in their environment, including significant temperature fluctuations, high humidity and moisture levels.
While in most cases the planks, when exposed on such conditions, will expand and contract but be able to go back to their initial condition, there are many cases, especially with aged hardwood floors, when the planks get damaged, broken, unfixed, etc. and the finish of the floor can get damaged and chipped too. However, this is not going to happen when you have an engineered wood floor installed in the bathroom. Also, engineered wood planks are topped with a thin layer of hardwood called lamella that is available in different wood species and colours. This pretty much means that you can enjoy the real beauty of wood in your bathroom and still have your floor re-sanded and refinished whenever you feel like it needs some attention and care.
While the case with how to enjoy hardwood floors in the bathroom is pretty much solved, you still have to consider the fact that once installed in this humid and wet space, the floor will still require some more attention and maintenance, no matter if solid wood or engineered wood floor. Keeping in mind this important aspect will mostly determine your final decision.
What to consider with a wooden floor in the bathroom?
Here are the main factors to consider when choosing a real wood floor for your bathroom:
• The Finish – Leaving wood flooring just as bare wood without any finish or with a worn-out old one is not a good idea, especially in the bathroom. Unprotected wood (which means without an even coat of finish applied) is very prone to the conditions in the bathroom and as a result, will warp, cup, etc. Wood is very absorbent due to its porous structure and it will be easily damaged by any spillage of water and other liquids. This is why a protective finish is a must and if your bathroom wood floor is pretty aged and worn, you should consider the re-application of fresh coats of finish. The most popular type of finish recommended for bathroom floors is polyurethane as it creates an invisible layer on top of the floor and works as a barrier between bare wood and the pretty aggressive environment in the bathroom.
The polyurethane finish and lacquer finish make it very difficult, almost impossible for other and moisture to penetrate and damage the wood, at least when maintained properly and not chipped. When it comes to the application of finishes over the bathroom floor, make sure that more than a couple of coats are applied for some extra protection and evenness. Oil finishes are generally not that recommended for bathroom floors. Although oil finishes penetrate the wood’s structure and ensure some additional protection from within, they are not that good at creating highly lasting and hard-wearing protection on top.
So make sure to invest your money into a finish that is hard-wearing, long-lasting, and designed for water-heavy environments. There are some finishes available on the market that are suitable for outdoor spaces and marine-grade, which can be a very good option for your bathroom floor. Others are designed for indoor spaces but also waterproof and suitable for damp and humid spaces.
• The Wood Species – Some sorts of wood species are naturally less prone to water and humid damages and they are a good choice for a bathroom floor. Softwoods such as pine and fir are generally recommended to avoid them as they are more sensitive to humidity, moisture, and temperature fluctuations and wrap and cup more easily due to their less dense and more porous structure. However, some of the wood species suitable for bathroom wood flooring include teak, oak, cedar, cherry, maple, ash, walnut, hickory.
• The Warranty – Not a single wooden floor is safe and guaranteed completely that no issues and fails will happen soon or later, not even the most expensive one, this is why we highly recommend you purchasing wooden floors only from reputable and reliable manufacturers and suppliers and only when a warranty is available. Most of the wooden floors you buy from reliable suppliers some with a set of warranty that guarantees a replacement of materials over a certain time in case of failure. However, wooden floors installed in a heavily damp environment such as a bathroom may be available with other sorts of warranties or no warranty at all so make sure to check that aspect before you invest your money. Always read your contract carefully and don’t rush a purchase, take your time to consider all aspects and cases possible.
How moisture can affect the hardwood floor?
• Spills and Splashes – The first and most common concern of every owner of a wooden floor in the bathroom is how spills and splashes will affect the condition and look of the floor. There is no doubt, spills and splashes will happen in the bathroom, no matter how careful you are. Sometimes even rinsing your face and hands will cause some water splashing outside the sink and drops falling on the floor, not to mention using the shower and the bath. It is important to remember that no matter how fresh and strong your finish is, it will protect the floor to some extent but the rest is your job if you want to keep your floor in good condition for decades. First of all, try to really be careful and minimize the spills and splashes as much as possible. However, when spills and splashes happen, it is important to wipe the floor dry as soon as possible so the moisture won’t penetrate through the finish and affect the bare wood.
• Sloped Flooring – It is very important to make sure that the floor and the subfloor are perfectly levelled before and after installation, otherwise you may stumble upon some issues. If the floor is not levelled and even, water and moisture will slide down towards the low areas and puddle. The puddles of water are damaging to the floor and will lead to many issues and problems that are complex, hard, expensive, and time-consuming to resolve and repair. Water puddles underneath the floor can even weaken the entire structural integrity of the floor, so keep an eye for unlevelled floorboards and have them repaired as soon as you notice the issue.
• Lack of Waterproof Underlayment – One of the most important factors that affect the moisture levels of wooden floors is the subfloor and how low or high its moisture levels are. Especially when it comes to a concrete subfloor, moisture can be a huge problem and you should make sure that the concrete is completely dry before installing the floor. Also, it is important to have an underlay installed under the floor so it can work as a moisture barrier and protect the floor from water damage.
• The Wrong Method of Installation – Generally speaking, nailing down the floorboards is not necessarily the best installation method for a bathroom floor. Glueing down or a floating method are more suitable since the nature of the nailing down method. By nailing down the floorboards directly to the subfloor the moisture barrier between the subfloor and the floor will be punctured and moisture will easily penetrate through it and affect the condition of the floor by making the moisture levels significantly higher.
• Flood and Leaks – Flooding and leaks are, generally, one of the most serious threats when it comes to wooden flooring installed in the bathroom. The potential risk of leaks and water damage is pretty serious in a room with piping. So in case, a pipe starts to leak or you notice a fixture malfunctioning, make sure to treat and repair the problem as soon as possible to prevent more serious damage of the floor. Even if properly sealed and a high-quality wooden floor, leaks and flooding can damage wood in a very short time and destroy the floorboards to an extent beyond repair.
• Staining and Damages from Products and Chemicals – We tend to use so many different products in the bathroom, all the variety of soaps, shampoos, hair masks, and everything else we use on an everyday basis. Also, there are the heavy-duty cleaning products and chemicals we use quite often enough to keep the bathroom sparkling clean. However, most of these products can easily affect the condition and appearance of your wooden floor and leave a permanent stain that is impossible to remove. Make sure to keep away acidic products that can easily penetrate through the finish of the floor and have an impact on bare wood. The same it is with the cleaning products you are using for cleaning wooden floors – you are looking for products with a neutral pH that won’t affect the condition of the finish and the floorboards.
• Humidity – While we tend to pay the most attention to the damaging power of water and liquids on wooden floors in the bathrooms, we often tend to neglect or simply forget about the damaging power of humidity too. However, humidity can be as bad for your hardwood flooring if not even worse at it can penetrate to every nook and corner of the floor and even in between the finest creaks and scratches. Unfortunately, humidity can even attack the bottom of the floor that is impossible to control and prevent. While not as much humidity will penetrate through all parts of the floor and affect its condition immediately, with time the effect will accumulate and can be damaging, often beyond repair. So if your bathroom gets very steamy, make sure to consider all the options you have for improving the ventilation of the room.
• Mould and Mildew – Mold and mildew are part of every bathroom because they love hot, steamy, and moist spaces. However, mould and mildew also love organic products such as hardwood and this is why they can become a serious problem when you have a hardwood floor installed in the bathroom. Once again, make sure to prevent the growth of mould and mildew in the bathroom by ensuring good and regular ventilation of the space. Also, you should make sure that the condition of the finish is ok and it guarantees enough protection and preservation of the bare wooden floorboards.
Prevention of serious damages – how to?
• Regular and proper maintenance – Whenever you decide on having a real wood floor installed in the bathroom, you should be aware that it will require a bit more maintenance, attention, and care compared to the wooden floors in any other space of the house. Good maintenance and thorough care do not just include regular cleaning and thorough prevention from the most common issues and risks for the floor in the moist environment of the bathroom, but also regular re-sanding and refinishing services. Make sure to contact the sanding and refinishing professionals anytime you feel like your floor needs a refreshment of the finish. You can easily test the current condition of the finish by placing a few droplets of water on the surface. If the drops are quickly absorbed by the wooden floorboards, the finish requires renewal.
• Place bath mats strategically – Do not underestimate the power of mats and how much they can prevent the floor from water damages. So make sure to place bath mats strategically under and near all places in the bathroom where spills and splashes tend to happen, this includes around the bathroom and the sink or near the shower.
• Tile surroundings – Another good idea for preventing splashes and spills from damaging the hardwood floor in your bathroom is by installing tiles around the bath. Besides very practical and functional, this can be also a great way to decorate your bathroom even more and make it's interior more intriguing and stylish. You can play around with colours, patterns, and textures and achieve a really beautiful and unique style and interior.
• Maintain all piping and fixtures – Don’t forget to not just regularly maintain the floor in good condition but also all piping and fixtures in the bathroom to prevent flooding, leaks and more serious issues and problems.
• At the end of the day, consider your choice – Yep, it is easy to see why so many people love and enjoy hardwood flooring so much that they want to have it everywhere, even in the bathroom. However, not all bathrooms are suitable for such a choice. Heavily used bathrooms and bathrooms used by children who love to have fun and make splashes are generally not the most suitable space for hardwood flooring, no matter how high-quality the floor is, no matter that is engineered wood, no matter the protective power of the finish.
Why choose hardwood flooring for the bathroom?
It may sound like a lot of stress and hassle to have a hardwood floor installed in the bathroom but once you make sure to ensure regular and suitable maintenance it is not more difficult than having a wooden floor in any other space of the house. At the end of the day, the advantages of the benefits of having a real wood floor are more than the disadvantages and all the maintenance and care are worth it. The warm and cosy atmosphere that real wood floors create anywhere where installed is one of their biggest advantages.
There is no other flooring material that has the same beauty, elegance, and style of hardwood and no other material can achieve such a unique and inviting atmosphere. In comparison with the standard tiles that keep the space looking and feeling very cold and minimalistic, wood can achieve this homey and welcoming feel that simply makes you feel good and help you relax. Besides, real wood floors ensure a lot of functionality, lasting and hard-wearing power, durability, and stability. Once you make sure to maintain them properly and regularly, real wood floorboards can survive up to a whole century and still look and feel amazing.
So simply make sure to have a good cleansing routine with the right products, prevent leaks and splashes, keep the humidity levels in the bathrooms as low as possible with good ventilation, and, of course, always ask for professional help and assistance when you feel like your floor is in need of a bit of renovation and expert care.