Whats the best floor for your bathroom Hardwood & Laminate Flooring Blog Floors To Your Home

Whats the best floor for your bathroom Hardwood & Laminate Flooring Blog Floors To Your Home

Whats the best floor for your bathroom?

Posted on April 4, 2012 by David

Obviously, the biggest concern we have when putting a floor into a bathroom is water, but some only think of the spills and splashes, and there is another issue to consider. Steam. Steam and humidity.

The air is able to hold onto a certain amount of moisture at any time. Warmer air can hold onto more than colder air, but at any given time, there is a specific amount it can handle. If the air has 75% of that amount in it, the relative humidity is 75% relative, again, because temperature (and air pressure) change the capacity. Once the air has more than 100% of the moisture it can handle being entered into the atmosphere, we get condensation on surfaces, and steam in the air. At least in a house we get steam, outside we get rain.

This actually can matter to floors more than pools of water do, because so many flooring materials absorb moisture. Even if their surfaces are covered with spill resistant finishes. the atmosphere and its humidity will flow around gaps, into little cracks, and under boards. However slow the process, natural materials like wood will gradually absorb the moisture, especially in a room where high humidity is a regular occurrence. Also, its likely that the floor is going to be cooler than the air in the room. If moisture filled air cools near the floor, it can release its moisture as condensation even if the room is otherwise unsteamy.

Good Options In Humidity

When considering humidity, there are some good options and some I dont recommend. At the top of the list would be vinyl flooring. Installing your exact floor-shape out of a full sheet will be your best way to keep moisture from getting underneath, though if something tragic happens, a tear or a break in the seal where floor meets wall, taking care of the resultant problem becomes difficult, because you basically have to rip this kind of floor out.

Vinyl plank flooring is probably better. It installs as a floating floor. so you would be able to lay a moisture barrier underneath, something you cant do when you glue down an entire sheet. The planks themselves are 100% moisture proof, so they wont inhale the vapor. If moisture traps underneath, mold or mildew would have nothing to eat, as they would with wood. Being also waterproof, the planks wont be hurt if your bathtub overflows. In that circumstance, you could pull the planks up and dry them, then having quick and better access to your subfloor. you could fully dry that, if any water made it past the moisture barrier. Then you would simply put your dried off floor onto your dried off subfloor with a new moisture barrier. Inconvenient? Oh yeah, it is, but this was a flood. Inconveniently fixable is a cool breeze on a hot day next to the threat of having to rip up both hardwood and a subfloor and replace both new.

Vinyl plank flooring can look like this!

If your only concern was the humidity, ceramic tile and stone would be great options, but they can be cold on the feet, very slick when wet, and the grout must be maintained. The stones and tiles themselves, though, would be impervious. Also just considering the steam, you could get away with either bamboo flooring or engineered hardwood. The very substance of bamboo is naturally resistant to moisture. Think about it – it can grow in ponds. Engineered hardwood flooring is specifically and well designed to be less responsive to the environment in general. Swelling, warping, cupping, rotting, all things which would threaten a solid hardwood floor. shouldnt happen with either the engineered hardwood or bamboo.

Whats the best floor for your bathroom Hardwood & Laminate Flooring Blog Floors To Your Home

Bad Options In Humidity

The aforementioned solid hardwood is not your friend on a bathroom floor. It is very responsive to humidity and temperature changes, is a great food source for any mold attempting to grow underneath, and wont have a moisture barrier beneath it to protect the subfloor because solid hardwood is nailed down. That also means that if there is a flooding catastrophe, remove and replace will be more than a chore. While less responsive to these issues, at the moment, laminate flooring is not a great choice either, for the same reasons. It will have less of them, but they do apply. (I say for the moment because laminate technology tends to leap forward in surprising ways. Its the Apple Computer of the flooring world.) While cork doesnt rot and is more resistant to moisture than wood, it is still not impervious to the humidity issues. Carpet? In a bathroom? Just say no.

Good for Sitting Water

The splashing issue is less complex to sort out, as its almost pass/fail. Carpet will soak, hold and be ruined by spills. Mold loves a lot of carpeting material. Solid hardwood is almost as bad of an option in high spill areas, with laminate just behind it. Properly finished or sealed, engineered hardwood, bamboo and even cork can be made to work. With each, you cant let spills stay down for too long, or the water will seep through cracks between the planks. Theyre on the positive side, but they arent the best. Working upward, our top options remain the stone and ceramic tile options, vinyl plank flooring and sheet vinyl. With the tiles we still have to worry about soaking the grout, but otherwise a spill is a non-issue. Vinyl plank is beaten here by sheets only because sheet vinyl has no cracks through which water may seep. Otherwise, both are great with spills.

Whats the best floor for your bathroom? I say vinyl. Whether sheets or planks, go with vinyl, and I lean towards the planks because of how well they handle being pulled up and relaid.


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