Many bath surfacing materials have a rich look, but none of them can compete with the gleaming and familiar warmth of wood. Conventional wisdom has long dictated that wood and the moisture in the bath shouldn’t mix, but there are ways to make it work.
Underfoot, wood is friendlier and more resilient-and warmer-than cook, hard natural stone or ceramic tile. Any wood species successfully used for flooring is appropriate for the bath provided it is installed and prepared properly. However, do keep in mind that certain woods resist moisture, and the decay that results from it, better than others, notably cedar, redwood, and teak. Narrow floor boards-2 inches wide, fore example-work better in the bathroom than wide boards. The skinny strips absorb less moisture and swell and shrink slightly less than wider boards. To protect any wood floor from the effects of moisture and humidity, apply several coats of polyurethane, or try one of the new sealants called watershed protectors, all of which repel water better than and oiled or waxed finish. However, even a protected floor can be damaged by standing water, so wipe up spills right away and use a bath mat when you step out of the bathtub or shower.
Finish wood countertops with the same sealants you would use on the floor or invest in a ready-made, pretreated butcher-block counter. There is some evidence hat natural substances in wood prevent the buildup of bacteria, a bonus for a bathroom countertop. Resist the impulse to cover the shower in wood-the constant exposure to water takes a serious toll, even on moisture-resistant species that have been sealed.
Vacuum or sweep wood floors and wash regularly with a barely damp mop and mild cleanser or special wood soap. Stay ahead of moisture damage by renewing protective finishes every few years and installing a ventilation system to whisk away humidity.