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Using French Oak Hardwood in the bathroom

Updated: Apr 9

French Oak solid hardwood flooring is a popular surface covering material that has been used in a variety of interior spaces since the dawn of modern construction. It is durable, low maintenance, long-lasting, and has a beautiful natural look that is prized by many homeowners.


That said, it does have issues when used in moist or humid environments, such as bathrooms. While wood can be used in the bathroom, it requires a higher level of maintenance than in other places.

Want more information about Oak in your bathroom? Talk to a French Oak Specialist

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Advantages of French Oak Hardwood Flooring In a Bathroom

Despite some drawbacks, there are distinct aesthetic advantages to using hardwood flooring in a bathroom. 


Warmth

One of the biggest drawbacks of ceramic tile is that it is quite chilly, especially in the winter. Since the bathroom is a space where you will often go barefoot, this can be an issue. French Oak solid hardwood flooring gives the room a much warmer, more comforting feel underfoot. The earth tone colors also tend to make the entire room seem more inviting and welcoming.

Beauty

The biggest advantage of French Oak solid hardwood flooring is that it is undeniably beautiful. It lends a sense of natural wonder to spaces while also providing a unique appeal—every plank is a piece of natural artwork with its individual grain pattern.

Hardwood is a classic choice that has been popular for thousands of years, and it isn't subject to the whims and vogues of interior design. A bathroom floored with solid French Oak hardwood will draw attention as an elegant space.

Longevity

Properly maintained, a solid hardwood floor is a very durable, long-lived flooring material. Making French Oak hardwood flooring second only to ceramic or stone tile for longevity. When hardwood does become scratched, it can be sanded and refinished to renew the surface.



Dangers to French Oak Hardwood Flooring In a Bathroom

The issues affecting hardwood flooring in a bathroom all involve the way that moisture can affect the material.


Spills and Splashes

This is going to be the first concern of any flooring installed in a bathroom. Showers and baths naturally tend to cause splashes. Even just rinsing your face in the sink can send droplets of water spilling out across the floor, and a bathroom with a shower or tub is almost certain to see water on the floor occasionally—especially a bathroom used by children. While the finish will protect the material to some extent, you still need to wipe up any spills immediately so that the moisture doesn’t wear away at the material's protective layer or seep down between seams.


Floor Slope

If your floor is not perfectly level, you're going to have a problem with water sliding down towards the low areas and puddling. These puddles of moisture can be very damaging to the floor, and can even weaken its structural integrity—mostly because the water seeps through seams. Proper preparation of the sub floor to create a perfectly level and flat base is essential to preventing water damage on a French Oak hardwood floor.

Lack of Moisture Barrier

Many hardwood floors are installed by nailing planks directly to the sub floor, which means that a traditional vapor barrier can't be used since the nails would puncture it. If moisture seeps down past the surface, it can get to the structural components of the floor and start eating away at the sub

floor and underlayment. For this reason, hardwood flooring products that are installed with adhesives are better suited for a bathroom setting.

High Humidity

While standing water caused by splashing gets the most attention in a bathroom, the humidity in this space can be just as damaging. When you shower, the bathroom tends to get very steamy, with the air growing warm and moist. This air will hover in the space, filling every crack, penetrating down into every tiny space, infiltrating the hardwood floors. While only a small amount will actually get in, over time the effects can accumulate.

Unfortunately, humidity can attack every side of the hardwood—even the bottom, which generally does not get a finish treatment. In the case of a heavily used bathroom, humidity can result in floorboards twisting, warping, plumping and cracking.

Bathrooms with hardwood flooring should have good exhaust fans, which should be run for a good length of time during and after a shower or bath.

Mold and Mildew

Because the bathroom is so moist, the growth of mold and mildew is always going to be a problem. These harmful organic substances love hot, wet environments, and they feed on natural organic materials such as hardwood. The finishing coating will protect the floor to some extent, but over time mold and mildew can grow in between boards, and even beneath them. Mold and mildew are problems whenever it occurs, but they can be quite serious for people who have allergies and sensitivities.

Strategies for Preventing Damage to French Oak Hardwood

Tactics are aimed mostly at preventing moisture from contacting the wood, and especially from seeping down through the seams to the subfloor.

Regular Maintenance

Keeping the floor's finish layer strong and intact is vital when you have hardwood flooring in a bathroom. This is your first line of defense, and it will need to be reapplied every few months. You can test if the finish layer is still intact by dropping a small amount of water on it and waiting to see if the water beads up or is absorbed into the wood. If it beads up, the finish is fine, but if it sinks in then you need another topcoat of finish as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to cracks between floorboards. 

Use Bath Mats

These can be placed at strategic locations, such as just outside of the bathtub or around the sink. Catching any splashing water droplets or drips from wet freshly washed feet can prevent floor damage. If a bath mat becomes saturated, make sure to air-dry it so it can't hold moisture against the floor. The best bath mats will have a solid rubber or vinyl backing the prevents moisture from passing through.

When deciding if hardwood flooring is right for your bathroom, consider these factors:

Finish

In its unprotected state, hardwood flooring will plump, expand, warp, and stain at the touch of any liquids, because wood is naturally a very absorbent material. However, the application of a finishing agent, can create an invisible surface over the wood, making it impossible (or at least difficult) for water to penetrate. This finish will generally have to be reapplied at regular intervals in a bathroom, with special attention to the seams, since this is where moisture is most likely to infiltrate.


It is very important that you choose a quality finish that is designed for water-heavy environments. There are some finishes that are marine-grade, suited even for outdoor all-weather applications. Others will be acceptable for indoor use in damp spaces, though not fully waterproof. You also have to be aware that the sealer will only protect the top of the material; any water that penetrates down through the seams can cause damage to the wood from the sides and below.


If you maintain the floor finish and promptly clean up splashes, everything should be fine. After all, there are plenty of homeowners who have gone this route and who claim not to have had any problems with their bathroom hardwood floors.


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