Loo Academy

Can You Use Wood for a Tub Surround?

Using wood for your bathtubs surround can definitely set your bathroom apart. A wood tub surround adds a distinguished natural look to your bathroom. However, some people are concerned about using wood in the bathroom.

Like any material, wood has its own drawbacks and advantages. As a result, there are many decisions to make and things to consider when deciding whether a wooden tub surround would be a good choice for your bathroom.

wood tub surround
Source: Grothouse

This article will make your decision easier by going over the pros and cons of wood tub surrounds. We will also cover special considerations along with alternatives that can act or look like wood.

The Pros and Cons of Using Wood for a Tub Surround

Pros

  • Natural Unique Aesthetic. One of the main advantages of a wood tub surround is how amazing they look over typical bathtubs.

  • Installation. With some basic construction knowledge, you can install a wood surround on your own, and it’s usually easier to install than tile.

  • Longevity. When treated and stained properly, wood can last longer than other materials, and damage like scratches is easier to repair.

Cons

  • Cost. Depending on the type of wood you choose, a wooden tub surround can cost more than other materials.

  • Maintenance. Wood requires waterproof sealant to protect it from moisture and staining to maintain its appearance, both of which must be done every 6 months to a year.

  • Expansion or Warping. When wood takes on moisture without sealant to protect it, it can warp or expand, causing cracks and other issues.

Things to Consider When Using Wood for a Bathtub Surround

Type of Wood

The type of wood you choose for your surround will play a vital role in your surround’s look, feel, and durability. The most commonly chosen woods are oak, maple, walnut, hickory, ash, and cherry. These species are popular due to their looks, durability, and ability to handle moisture. The type of wood you choose will also affect the cost of your project as there are other more exotic and expensive wood species to choose from.

Need to Seal Wood

Sealing and staining your wooden surround will be crucial. Without sealant, your wood will not last long in the bathroom, and you will be left with wood that is warped or cracked. In addition, wood is affected more deeply by water than other materials like ceramic tile. Therefore, stain and sealant combinations are usually the best for protecting your wood from water and moisture.

Expansion

Even with proper sealing and staining, your wood will expand to some small degree. Due to the moisture-prone nature of your bathroom, your wood will always be fighting against the humidity. You can plan ahead for this during installation by leaving little gaps between pieces of wood, giving them room to breathe and expand.

Warranty Concerns

Many pre-packaged wood products will come with some type of warranty. This is most common with flooring, but if you’re not using raw lumber, the wood you buy will usually be bundled or packaged in some way. But when using wood in your bathroom, you usually cannot count on the warranty. Either the warranty itself will restrict bathroom use, or the company will try to challenge your warranty claim because you used their product in a bathroom.

Taking Care of Splashes and Spills Right Away 

Even when properly sealed and stained, it’s not a good idea to let water linger on your wood for too long. It is a good practice to wipe your wood down with a dry cloth and use a mop if necessary after you finish bathing. If your wooden bathtub surround is soaked in water for a long time, mold can develop.

Alternatives to Wood for a Tub Surround

Tile That Looks Like Wood

Tile that looks like wood goes by many names, including wood grain tile, wood plank tile, and wood porcelain tile. Though this tile may look like wood upon close inspection, you can tell the difference. Though wood tile will never look or feel like the genuine article, it reaches a nice middle ground by costing less than wood and being easier to maintain.

Stone

Though stone looks nothing like wood, using stone achieves the natural aesthetic of wood. A stone surround can give you the feeling of bathing in a riverbed. Stone is much more durable than wood, but it does cost more. Stone is also just as high maintenance as wood is.

Bamboo

Bamboo can be used in the bathroom and bears a striking resemblance to wood. Depending on where you live, bamboo can be an exotic and expensive material to use. But when it comes to wood look-a-likes, there is nothing that can beat bamboo’s similar look and feel. You will likely end up paying more for bamboo than wood, but its level of maintenance is about the same.

James B. Parker

I was taught carpentry at a young age by my father. After highschool I worked with my father as a Union Carpenter for six years.

Though I no longer practice carpentry professionally I still do projects at my home and for family and friends.