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What’s the best floor for your bathroom?

Vinyl Plank is the best bathroom floor


The best floor for your bathroom is vinyl, whether in sheets or planks. Waterproof vinyl planks will handle tracked water and steam humidity better than wood, while remaining warmer underfoot than ceramic or porcelain tiles. Favor the planks because of how well they handle being pulled up and relaid if the subfloor needs attention. The biggest concern with a bathroom floor is water, in two forms: spills & splashes, and steam & humidity.

Relative Humidity in the Home

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 particular moment, there is only 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, 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, it’s 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.

Vinyl Plank Flooring

Vinyl plank is the best, and we have a lot of styles to see. That's a button. Try it!

Good Options In Humidity

When considering humidity, there are some good options and some I don’t recommend. At the top of the good 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 or loose lay. The planks themselves are 100% waterproof, so they won’t absorb the vapor. Also, if moisture traps underneath, vinyl would provide the mold or mildew with nothing to “eat”, as would hardwood. The planks won’t 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, then you would simply put your dried off floor onto your dried off subfloor. Inconvenient? Oh yeah, a flood always will be, but inconvenient and fixable is a cool breeze on a hot day next to the threat of having to rip up hardwood and a subfloor, and replace both anew.




The latest development in plank flooring is called Wood Plastic Core, which could be described as an engineered vinyl, or a 100% waterproof laminate floor, though the former is more accurate. In terms of material, it’s closest to a vinyl plank, but it’s also much thicker, and pretty rigid, so it functions like a laminate.

WPC and Vinyl Plank Flooring

Here’s a standard piece of vinyl planking atop a sample of Wood Plastic Core. The WPC has that yellow core topped by a layer of vinyl with the style of floor you like, and then a cork underlayment.

We carry COREtec™ and other brands, with more styles and options coming in almost monthly. Both the thickness and the material with which it’s made make it even warmer than vinyl plank. While not technically true, it really is the answer to the request for a 100% waterproof laminate floor.

100% waterproof flooring - WPC & Vinyl Plank

It can look very nice too. Vinyl doesn’t have to look like a plasticky, patterned kitchen floor from the 1950’s. Personally, I like those, but you shouldn’t have to be stuck with them.

Vinyl plank flooring can look like this!

Vinyl plank flooring can look like this! (Mountain view sold separately)

If your only concern is 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, shouldn’t happen with either the engineered hardwood or bamboo.

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 it won’t 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, to remove and replace it 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.) While cork doesn’t 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 it’s 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 can’t let spills stay down for too long, or the water will seep through cracks between the planks. They’re on the positive side of the list, but they aren’t the best. Working upward, our best options remain the stone and ceramic tile options, then vinyl plank flooring and sheet vinyl at the top. 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.


– – – –
David is a Writer at Floors To Your Home (.com), as well as the PPC Manager, a Marketing Strategy Team member, a Researcher, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jitō. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’) and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on W. David Lichty’s Google+

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Vinyl Flooring



David is a Writer at Floors To Your Home (.com), as well as the PPC Manager, a Marketing Strategy Team member, a Researcher, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jitō. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in 'play with Beatles multi-tracks') and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on W. David Lichty's Google+

Posted in Laminate Flooring, waterproof, Which Floor for Which Room?
17 comments on “What’s the best floor for your bathroom?
  1. searching flooring for bathroom and what is the way to go. thanks for your concern and reply.

  2. SHARI says:

    Is it better to glue down loose lay waterproof vinyl planks in a bathroom or is it preferred NOT to glue them down? I’ve had professionals advise me both ways so I’m confused. Will mold/mildew grow under the planks from shower steam? I’ve purchased the vinyl planks from Floors to Your Home already but not the pressure sensitive adhesive yet. Thanking you in advance…

    • David says:

      Shari, I’m going to side with not glueing, and here’s why:

      1. The way the planks are designed, to fit snugly together, and with edges that press the tops of the planks to each other, steam should not penetrate through to the subfloor. We can’t call them 100% air tight, but if they’ve been installed correctly, you’ll have a pretty good, tight surface, even at the seams.

      2. On top of that, vinyl tends to be considered mold resistant because mold will not grow onto the planks. It can’t eat what vinyl is made of, like it can the wood material in a hardwood or laminate floor. The mold’s only option is to grow onto the subfloor itself. So you’ve already got some mold resistance, even if humidity does break the barrier.

      3. The subfloor itself needs to be allowed to ‘breathe’. A resting plank will give it more freedom to do that than a glued down one, which will help the subfloor itself not develop conditions conducive to mold growth.

      4. The main way moisture is going to get below that vinyl is by something flood-like, like overflowing the tub. A regular spill, or post shower foot drippage, should sit atop the planks for quite a while before seeping through, giving plenty of time to be toweled up, but a dumped bucket, or an overflow, is probably going to get around these planks. If that happens, then the floor will need to be dried, both your vinyl planks and the subfloor under them. If these are glued down, you’ll have to rip them up. If you go the loose lay route, then you can just pull them up – which can be done quickly, no less – and take fast care of your subfloor. Then the planks themselves can be wiped dry and put right back down once the extra moisture has evaporated away.

      I wouldn’t rule either option out, and I can see why professionals could swing either way. Neither option is a catastrophe, but I see the sway being toward laying the planks loose and well snug, rather than gluing them.

      I hope this helps!

  3. C.P. says:

    Hi David,

    I also see SPC (stone plastic core) evolving from LVP. Is it any better than WPC?

    I like to put vinyl planks in my bathrooms. You have addressed above my concern about the seams. How about the edges of the floor? Are there vinyl-plank-compatible sealants that can be applied along the edges to stop water from going over the edges?

    • David says:

      No, C.P., there aren’t such sealants. The click-together planks are floating floors, and they’ll have a little gap between the edges of the flooring and the walls to allow the floor as a whole to expand and contract with environmental changes. Even if a sealant was applied, it would likely be destroyed over time by that action. Loose Lay fits snug against the walls, and is designed not to expand and contract, but since the planks are pushed up snug against each other, but not actually locked together at the seams, you’ve already got a permeable seam. Both of these are designed to hold spills and water on the surface for quite a while, but neither claim to have impermeable seams (though we have not been able to get water to pass through a click-together vinyl yet). The flooring is waterproof, but the floor does not waterproof your subfloor. I don’t think there is such a floor – even sheet vinyl would allow water to pass around the outside edges in the case of any flooding.

      Thanks for asking here, C.P.!
      – David

    • David says:

      Oh, sorry! And, regarding stone plastic core, we haven’t had any in, so I can’t speak knowledgeably about it yet. Sorry I didn’t include that above.

      – David

  4. Judy Schenk says:

    Can you put vinal planks under a new shower unit? We are remodeling our bathroom and need to know if the flooring can go under the shower unit and the new vanity.Thank you

  5. Rachel says:

    We are remodeling our bathroom and want to do the vinyl plank floors but we’ve seen where you are not supposed to put cabinets on top of the flooring. How do you make this work with the new style vanity that has four legs, not a solid cabinet base?

    • Meredith says:

      Great question, Rachel! The answer lies not in your furniture choice, but in how you install your flooring. You don’t want to install furniture like that onto a floating floor, but if you glue your vinyl down you’ll be just fine.

      • rob says:

        I have the same question about putting a vanity with legs on top of floating floor. Would you recommend gluing the entire floor or just the area under the vanity?

        • Meredith says:

          This depends on the the type of vinyl you’ve got. You can glue individual loose lay planks for the area under your vanity and float the rest, but if you’ve got click-together vinyl we recommend gluing it all.

  6. Rebecca says:

    I’m thinking of using vinyl planking as my bathroom ceiling. Any suggestions or comments on how it will fare?

  7. Maria says:

    We are looking into installing vinyl plank flooring in the bathroom because of the waterproof feature. We have two little ones who have been known to spill water right out of the tub onto the floor. Are there suggestions as to an underlayment that can be used for this specific area? I know the planks themselves are waterproof but how much, if any, should we account for spills seeping through between the planks? I’ve read somewhere of someone who’s installed cement backerboard as an option.

    • Meredith says:

      Hi Maria, yes, you can use underlayment, including cement backer board. In terms of choosing an underlayment for vinyl, you’ve got some good wiggle room in options! This post will walk you t through the ins and outs of underlayment.

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