5 Materials to Avoid in Your Bathroom Design (and what to use instead)

5 Materials to Avoid in Your Bathroom Design (and what to use instead)

When designing any space it is important to remember both aesthetics and function. Everyone wants a beautiful design but function should always be a priority, especially in the bathroom. The activities that happen in the bathroom ultimately revolve around water, and moisture is the enemy of many building materials. These are some materials we recommend our clients avoid using in their bathroom design to have a functional space that will stay beautiful and problem-free. 

1. Wallpaper

Wallpaper has definitely made a comeback. There are so many beautiful patterns, textures, and different looks for any homeowner to love. Unfortunately, steam from a shower can cause enough humidity that the edges will bubble up or curl and negatively effect the look. What to use instead: If you must go for a wallpaper in your bathroom, there are some brands that are water resistant. Otherwise, we recommend using it in a powder room or half bath where there will not be humidity from bathing which can reduce the risk of exposure to too much moisture. Stenciling on paint can add a designs similar to what you will find in wallpaper and is often less expensive! 

2. Carpet

People may have a variety of reasons for using carpeting in their bathroom: to avoid slipping, the look, warmth, etc. The reality is that if carpet is getting wet it is a prime place for mold to grow. The adhesives in carpet may also desintigrate and cause rapid deterioration of the material. What to do instead: If a cold bathroom floor is too hard to face, we recommend buying cozy washable rugs for the bathroom floor and possibly installing in-floor heating. 

3. Hardwood Floors

It may seem like an easy and attractive solution to run hardwood flooring from a hallway or bedroom into a bathroom. The risk of doing this is that water is the enemy when it comes to wood. Additionally, the harsh cleaners often used in a bathroom could dull or damage the finish of the flooring. What to do instead: A good alternative would be vinyl flooring that has a wood-look or ceramic tile that looks like wood planks. Either of those options would be a more durable choice long-term and also give a similar aesthetic feel. 

4. Wood Paneling

We love wainscoting but would caution against putting wood paneling in a bathroom. Even if it looks great right after installation, with time the panels could warp as a result of the humidity. The moisture trapped in the panels can also cause mold to grow which can he a health concern. What to do instead: If you want the look of a wood wainscoting without the risk of real wood there are tile panels that resemble bead board, otherwise opt for subway tile for a clean, classic look. 

5. Cement Tiles

We know this may be a controversial item on the list being that all over on TV and Instagram there are images of bathrooms with cement tile floors. We get it, cement tiles are a cool look and add a ton of style. What you don't often hear about is that they need lots of maintenance because of the nature of the tile. It is porous, etches easily, and does not hold up well to the water staining. What may look good for a few months will quickly start to look worn and unattractive, especially in a high traffic area like a bathroom. Tile in general is a big cost and a lot of work to replace. Avoiding a tile that will not wear well will be beneficial to the long term enjoyment of your space.  What to do instead: Today you can find many similar patterned tiles that are porcelain and will wear better long term. You could also opt for a vinyl flooring that looks like cement tile which is also much more cost-effective! 


Do you have experience with a material you would never use in a bathroom again? What would you add to this list? We want to hear from you!