Wood Planked Walls In A Bathroom (and My Crisis Of Conscience)

If you’ve been following along on my small bathroom makeover, you know that I decided to plank the walls with tongue and groove wood slats that I found at Home Depot.

Small condo bathroom makeover - wood plank walls 3

The reason I chose to do that was because I wanted a solution that was quick and easy to cover up the wallpapered walls, and I did NOT want to remove the wallpaper.

Well, as it turns out, this process has been easy enough, but it’s turned out to be the very opposite of quick.  After I got all of the wood planks installed, I happened to look at the directions included with the packaging, and what did the very first sentence say?  Something like this:  “Not recommended for areas with humidity, such as bathrooms.”


I could just imagine the planks being all warped and hideous in a few months from the humidity that builds up so easily in this tiny little closet of a bathroom.

I tried to convince myself to just press on.  I held off on working on the bathroom for several days while I tried to convince myself to just get it done.  Just prime, paint, and let the future owners deal with it when it warps and turns ugly.

But quite frankly, my conscience wouldn’t allow that.  So I decided that in order to protect the slats from any danger of moisture damage, I would caulk every single crack, crevice, and joint.  EVERY.SINGLE.ONE.  That way there’s no chance of water or steam getting trapped behind the slats.

I worked on it for several hours yesterday, and got about halfway done.

Wood planked walls caulked - 1

I’m actually really glad I decided to take the time to do this.  I’ll feel much better about it, and much more confident that it’ll hold up to humidity once everything is caulked, and then the planks are primed (and sealed) with an oil-based primer.

In hindsight, the method that I used in the other bathroom, using 1/4″ hardboard cut into strips, was much easier.  At least those planks would lie flat against the wall, and any little cracks were small enough that they could easily be filled just with a coat of primer and paint.

These tongue and groove wood planks are not so perfectly flat, lots of the joints are too big to be easily filled with a coat of primer, and they also have knots.  Some of the knots are right along the joints.

Wood planked walls caulked - 3

Those areas most definitely need to be caulked, because water and humidity could easily get behind there, especially around the shower and sink area.

But fortunately, they’re quite easy to fill.

Wood planked walls caulked - 2

Truth be told, it’s a pain, but it’s not difficult at all.  In fact, it’s going much faster than I had anticipated.  So I’m hoping that by the end of the weekend, these walls will finally be primed and painted.

So just in case any of you were wanting to try this in your own bathroom makeover, I wanted to give yo the heads up.  These slats aren’t recommended for bathrooms, and if you do decide to use them, I’d suggest taking these extra steps to be sure that they won’t be damaged by the humidity.

Hope you have a great weekend!  I’m off to caulk!  🙂



Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. A lot of extra work but I think you’ll be happy you did it, in the long run. With the primer and paint it should last a good long time. You are a trooper!

  2. Your tongue and groove planks should be fine, Kristi. We use cedar tongue and groove throughout our home back in Maine. This included two bathrooms. We never had any problems with warping. We did have some of the knots fall out throughout the years. None of our cedar had any poly or anything on it. We chose to keep it natural so that we could bleach it when it started yellowing too much. We sold the house after living there for 28 years and the wood looked just as pretty as it did when we put it on. Don’t fret too much-your bathroom should be just fine.

    1. Thanks for your comment Gladys! We’re thinking of doing raw wood on the walls of our bathroom, but it’s a small space and it gets quite steamy. Did you ever detect (see or smell) any mold or mildew in that bathroom?

  3. Kristi,
    I can’t tell you how much you inspire me with your creativity, generosity in sharing your ideas, your industriousness and enterprise, your good conscience, and your loving heart. Really, I feel as if you are a friend! I wish I lived in Waco. I have 3 children living in Texas (Austin & Dallas) and I visit them. If you ever have workshops, especially for people who’ve never drilled or sawed before, I’d LOVE to come to one.
    Keep up the great work!

  4. We purchased this same paneling at Lowes and installed it in our bathroom 27 years ago. We did wainscoting and even the awkward space above the tub/shower unit (I’m sure that’s a no-no). We put clear poly over it and left the cracks and holes. We painted everything over about 10 years ago with a latex paint. We had a family of 5 showering every day with a less than adequate ventilation system. Nothing has warped, held up wonderfully. Can’t really change without re-doing sheetrock underneath, and heaven knows I’ve wanted to. I love changing decor.

  5. Good for you, Kristi! I’ll wager that there are plenty of homeowners who have pulled off wainscoting to find that there is a bit of BLACK MOLD behind it! Holy expensive Mold Remediation Team! I am a witness to my own problem in an Old Victorian I bought in Marble Falls back in 1984. Pulled off the wainscoting to find – yes – lots of mold.

  6. thanks for being so honest. I’m sure your going the extra mile will save the next owner a lot of pain and suffering. Too bad you’re not getting paid by the hour.

  7. Hi Kristi! I just found your blog and I lurve it! Who is the manufacturer of the tongue and groove panels that you used? I’m looking to do something similar in my office. Thanks so much for all of the inspiration. I hope all is going well in the new house! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse (Just a piece down the road from you in Houston).

  8. Kristi, I know you no longer live in the condo, but while you were there, I am curious about the planked walls. I seem to think of things in relation on how easy they would be to clean. Did a lot of dust accumulate in the crevices between each plank? Not trying to be nay sayer, I really would like to know. Thanx!

  9. Using cedar will certainly help prevent wood rot, but moisture and water vapor will penetrate even a good coating of latex paint. Sealing the surface of the wood planks will slow the moisture down, and perhaps keep the wood dry enough over time to prevent mold if the bathroom has good ventilation and the overall humidity is kept low (really need to have a good fan or other humidity control). .
    The best coating to prevent moisture transfer is actually a coating of shellac. However, what I would do is to make sure to back-prime the strips before installation. This is how siding should be installed on the exterior and involves painting or priming the back of each piece of paneling before installation. This way there is no bare wood to absorb moistur, it reduces the chance of warping, and the paint will help prevent the back side from growing mold or mildew. Most furniture is also built this way.

  10. I love the look! What kind of caulk did you use to seal it? There are so many different kinds it’s hard to know which
    one you need.

  11. Kristi,
    Thanks for the post!
    I keep dragging my heels on the wood planks I want to put up in my bathroom. How’s it going!?