K+BB’s managing editor, Erinn Waldo, recently asked our K+BB Designers Network on LinkedIn about using wood elements in wet environments like the bathroom.
Here are some of the responses she received from the experts in the group:
Peggy Golden, ASID, Interior Designer, Golden Interiors Inc.
I see many magazine photos of wood floors in bathrooms, and I suspect that most of these floors are vinyl composite flooring materials. There are so many today that look stunning installed; they are soft underfoot so there is no breakage when you drop something, and they are much easier on the knees over tile flooring.
David Stimmel, Owner/Senior Designer, Stimmel Consulting Group
We use wood elements in the bath on a regular basis. In fact, in my own home we designed a mahogany shower. My bathroom also features birdseye maple flooring, American cherry wall panels and Mahogany cabinetry.
There are several good finishes for wood in this application, however the key is using the correct species. I believe the wood finishing products available on the market today make the wood as good as any product available, including flooring.
Vintage barn woods are very hot in the home now – especially the gray-weathered look. These aged woods have been exposed to the elements naturally, so most home interiors – even baths – are gentle compared to where they’ve originated. Plus, who hasn’t used the ceramic tile hardwood look-a-likes now? They are everywhere.
Nar Bustamante, President of Nar Fine Cabinetry
I love wood in bathrooms. Make sure all wood has a factory finish and a large exhaust fan.
Jud Dinsmore, Owner, The Southside Woodshop
As a wood guy, it is more about the finish and less about the inherent properties of any given wood species. The design can also affect how well a wood surface will fare. The less glue joints, the better, and allowing room for wood movement is key to the longevity of a piece.
We finished a shower floor and bench for a client many years ago. It was built from Red Grandis (a hybrid wood, designed for exterior applications), stained and finished with our permanent finish. It still looks great to this day and I’m sure these clients perform almost no maintenance (you can just tell with some people, and there really is no maintenance with this product).
Almost all wood finishes are labeled as non-toxic when fully cured (usually after 30 days). There will likely be zero off-gassing after that time, and the amounts of off-gassing and types of chemicals being released vary per product. There are regulations and guidelines finish manufacturers follow, so unless you have a hyper-allergic client – it should be a non-issue.
Photography by Nar Fine Cabinetry
Joseph Freenor, Principal Writer at CFT411.com
I’ve not used wood elements myself, but there are finishing products that seal wood completely. One was tested by a guy who applied it to a piece of wood and then ran it through several cycles of a dishwasher! I have also seen wood used for spas INSIDE the spas and have to believe they’re using a similar product.
Cynthia Murphy CKBR, Owner of Murphys Design
Many sealing products and the old-fashioned varnishing that made wood so attractive for the classic wet-boating applications have VOC concerns. A lot of the applications we are seeing in bathrooms feature the porcelain tile made to look like wood in plank styles. Teak is acceptable for bathrooms without tremendous maintenance and is even used on the shower floor over tile. It brings beautiful warmth and an exotic feel.
Cindy Sherman, AKBD, Owner/Designer Sherman Design
Bamboo does well as long as it’s well ventilated…such as a stepping area out of the shower.