Materials to use (and avoid) for a bathroom remodel

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | July 11, 2014

When it comes to bathroom remodeling ideas, all those big plans come down to one very important element: the materials. Materials used in your bathroom remodel can make or break even the best design plans. But how do you choose between hardwood or tile? Between paint or wallpaper? Fortunately for you (and unfortunately for them), many homeowners have already made the big mistakes with bathroom materials, so you can learn from their missteps.

The worst materials to have in a bathroom

Some materials have proven time and time again to be a serious problem in a bathroom. Learn from those who have gone down the remodeling road before you and avoid these materials if you possibly can:

  1. Carpet. No, no, no. Even if you are putting the carpet in a sitting area that is separate from the shower/tub area, if there isn't a door between the two spaces, you are setting yourself up for mildew, mold, and all sorts of other icky problems. If you must have carpet, choose a nice area rug that can be removed and aired out on a regular basis. And make sure your ventilation is fantastic.
  2. Marble. Though marble looks gorgeous in almost any room, putting it in your bathroom can turn a luxury into a worry. Why? Marble can be etched by various bathroom items and beauty products. Your bathroom is supposed to be an oasis, so don't include materials that you will have to fret about.
  3. Very thin flooring. Though laminate floors can look fantastic, make sure to invest in thicker laminate that can stand up to the steam of a daily shower. Very thin laminate can gradually separate, buckle or discolor -- and any water that gets between the boards can lead to serious damage. Ask your contractor about which laminate is specifically recommended for the bathroom.
  4. Wallpaper. This is a hotly debated topic among many home improvement gurus, but the general consensus is that if you choose wallpaper for your bathroom, make certain it is the right type. Regular wallpaper can't stand up to the steam and humidity of the everyday bathroom. Wallpaper that is created especially for these environments is the only option that will give you the longevity you need.

The best materials to choose for your bathroom

Some materials are tried and true in the bathroom space. These are materials that can stand up to the water, humidity, and wear and tear that your bathroom takes on a daily basis.

  1. Tile. Small porcelain accent tile, wide subway tile, you name it -- tile is the name of the game when it comes to your bathroom. Tile has been used for thousands of years in a variety of home applications, so it makes sense that it stands up in your bathroom like nothing else. It's also inexpensive, waterproof, usually easy to install, and requires little maintenance over the years. Hello, Perfect.
  2. Laminate countertops. Have you checked out laminate lately? There are so many options today, including laminate looks that mimic things like marble and granite, that the material is at home in even high-end bathrooms. Those good looks are made even more tempting by the fact that laminate is on the inexpensive side.
  3. Low-maintenance finishes. The last thing you want to do is clean your bathroom every single day. So when choosing faucets and fixtures, look for finishes that require very little attention. For instance, brass tends to show every little fingerprint and water spot, but antique finishes cover up a lot of flaws.
  4. Paint. Unlike wallpaper, which can bubble and buckle in the steam of the bathroom, paint is much more forgiving. Look for paint that is designed to be used in a bathroom, and apply it properly in order to ensure no moisture lingers when the job is done.

Finally, it is important to remember that when you buy materials, you get your money's worth. If you choose to go the cheaper route, expect that the bathroom might look good for a while, but soon the wood could start to warp or the faucet might start to leak, necessitating the outlay of even more money to make it right. Buy quality materials and have them installed by a reputable professional in order to ensure the best bathroom remodel.

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.