Is wood flooring suitable for bathrooms? The experts explain

Advice for selecting a handsome timber floor, plus attractive alternatives

wood bathroom flooring
(Image credit: Future)

Over the centuries wood bathroom flooring has formed a beautiful foundation for homes across the world. Timber's timeless elegance and natural characteristics continue to make it a popular choice for your bathroom ideas.

Now more than ever, wood bathroom flooring ideas has come to the fore, with modern technologies enabling a plethora of patterns and textures that weren't readily available in the interior design world before.

Is wood floor in a bathroom a good idea?

In the quest to soften the look of bathrooms, wood flooring ideas are becoming something of a designer favorite. ‘Floorboards in a bathroom add warmth and natural texture,’ explains interior designer Nicola Harding of Nicola Harding & Co, while James Lentaigne, creative director of Drummonds, focuses on its character. ‘Using a real wood floor is a wonderful way to bring personality into the bathroom, making it feel like a “real” room and one with a soft, rich feel,’ he says.

Wood bathroom flooring

(Image credit: Nicola Harding & Co)

Can you have wood flooring in a bathroom?

Fluctuations in temperature and humidity in a bathroom and shower room may make boards prone to warping, so consult your supplier before purchase: not all companies supply product recommended for bathroom use, while others offer specific options. 

‘Engineered wood is better for a bathroom setting, because of its construction and tolerance of different environments,’ advises Lisa Persse, director of Trunk Floor. Unlike solid boards made from a single piece of timber, engineered wood is made with solid wood layers over layers of ply for a stable and robust result. Engineered wood can also often be used with underfloor heating – your supplier can advise on the best bathroom and shower floor ideas.

wood bathroom flooring

(Image credit: Future)

Where should I use wood flooring in a bathroom?

‘You do have to be more mindful of a wooden floor in the bathroom, as water left sitting on its surface will ultimately mark or discolour the timber over time,’ says interior designer Victoria Gray of Olivine Design. Do not use in wet rooms, and best avoid wood floors in family bathrooms used by young children and anywhere else prone to lots of splashing or where damp towels tend to linger on the floor.

That said, the joy of its natural beauty can make wood flooring a good choice for bathrooms with careful users, especially since it makes an excellent antidote to the sometimes clinical feel of a ‘tiled all over’ scheme. Nicola Harding suggests teaming floor tiles in the shower area with wooden flooring in the other zones of the room. ‘Complementary but softly contrasting surfaces on the floor can make the room flow beautifully,’ she says.

wood bathroom flooring with marble

(Image credit: Future)

How do you maintain wood flooring in a bathroom?

Recommendations tend to be product specific, so always check with your supplier before purchase. Some wood floors are protected and sealed with a hard wax oil and given a final oiling upon installation. ‘We also supply maintenance oil, which can be applied one or two times a year as necessary, to feed the wood and enhance the finish over time,’ Lisa explains.

wood bathroom flooring

(Image credit: Future)

What to use instead of wood flooring in a bathroom

For the look of wood without the maintenance requirements, consider wood-effect porcelain tiles. ‘Unlike natural wood, porcelain tiles are fade, scratch and moisture resistant, making them suitable for use in modern bathrooms and even wet room ideas, and they are also recommended for use with underfloor heating,’ advises Jo Oliver, director of The Stone & Ceramic Warehouse. ‘Advances in digital printing have allowed porcelain tiles to be produced with a “natural” variation from tile to tile, creating the same visual warmth that you get with real wood – and a reproduction so accurate that they are often indistinguishable from the real thing.’

Wood lookalikes for bathroom flooring

If you’ve ruled out a wood floor for your bathroom because it isn’t appropriate for your bathroom’s location, your household, or your budget, there are alternatives which can create a similar look.

Luxury vinyl bathroom flooring ideas can have an authentic wood appearance thanks to today’s technology and manufacturing, and some vinyl tiles even have a wood-like texture. It is also an excellent non-slip bathroom flooring idea.

Consider bathroom floor tile ideas, too. Both ceramic tile and porcelain can replicate the appearance of wood and prove easier to care for in a busy household. 

Amelia Thorpe
Contributing Editor

Amelia Thorpe is a specialist interiors and design journalist, covering every topic to do with homes from fabrics, furniture and lighting to surfaces, kitchens and bathrooms. 

As the daughter of an antique dealer and a lifelong collector of old cookery books and vintage graphics herself, she also has a particular expertise in antiques, mid-century and decorative arts of all kinds.

Drawn to homes because of their importance in the happiness of our lives and the enjoyment they can bring, Amelia has been writing about the topic for more than fifteen years. She has interviewed some of the most influential designers of our time, from Piero Lissoni, Antonio Citterio, Jaime Hayon and Arik Levy to Nina Campbell and Robert Kime.