Do You Need Baseboards in a Bathroom?

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do you need baseboards in the bathroom

If you are DIYing or upgrading your home, or if you are building it from scratch, when you get to the bathroom walls, you might take pause. Do you need baseboards here, just like in the rest of the house? Let’s go over the options and help you make the best decision.

Why Baseboards Are Used

Baseboards are used to create a tight-fit joint between the wall and floor. Depending on the construction, you often need them so that there isn’t visual space at the corner and so that creepy-crawlies and water don’t ruin your home.

The average home construction project uses baseboards to make sure that the home, and every room in it, last for years to come. Sometimes baseboards are not necessarily… well, necessary. You can leave them off if the room finishes are done exceptionally well. However, this isn’t typical, and after reading this article, we have the feeling you might choose baseboards over naked joints.

But it’s always best to arm yourself with all the information and make an informed decision that’s right for your particular situation.

Bathroom Baseboards

Bathrooms are hothouses of moisture. Almost everything you do in a bathroom uses heat, water, or a combination of both. Baseboards prevent water and vapor from getting into the rest of your house. They also keep dents from making your walls and floors look ugly with regular home wear and tear.

Water Damage

If you’ve watched any HGTV home remodeling reality show, you know that walls are first made of a product called drywall. Drywall is a mix of plaster and other fibers that blend together for a strong yet lightweight piece of wall. Although drywall can stand up to a great deal of weight and pressure, moisture is its mortal enemy.

Imagine that you have a child (or a lazy partner) that splashes water everywhere in the bathroom, drips on the floor after the shower, leaves their towels on the ground, and doesn’t clean any of this up. (Insert eye roll.) This pooling, seeping water can damage your finishes and the structural integrity of your walls if it comes into contact with the drywall. Drywall can handle tiny amounts of moisture here and there, but long-term exposure will ruin it eventually.

Baseboards keep water from entering into the wall through the joint (where the wall and floor connect). If this happens and water gets onto the drywall, it’s not just the bottom area that initially came into contact with the water that you need to worry about. Water seeps fast and sneaky up the wall—imagine putting a tip of a paper towel into a bowl of water… you know how quickly that will rise to the top of the towel.

Hiding Shoddy or Average Workmanship

When building a home or an addition onto a house, walls should have perfect 90-degree angles. However, with the rise in DIY projects (more power to you if you’re taking this on on your own!), a rise in not-quite-perfect projects is happening, too.

It might look like your walls are sitting perfectly flush and cornered, but mistakes happen, and eyes don’t always see things exactly as they are. Taking the extra time and putting the investment into baseboards can give you peace of mind that your work will hold up. Baseboards are a perfect buffer to hide an awkward corner or protect a minuscule open space.

Keeping Your Walls Safe from Wear and Tear

Life happens. Walls get kicked, furniture and bags get tossed against them, things get splashed and spilled (even in a bathroom). Baseboards work as an easily wipeable barrier against life’s little mishaps. They clean up easily and give an extra amount of protection to the walls… just like a bumper does on a car, protecting the paint job and keeping fender benders from ruining the actual body.

You’re going to need to clean your bathroom walls and floors intermittently, anyway, and remember that water damage? That would be awful if your cleaning with a damp rag actually ruined the inner structure of your walls!

Keep Your Home’s Construction Safe and Sound

Your home is your family’s protection. You want to be able to take pride in the fact that it is keeping all of you warm, safe, and living in comfort.

Even the smallest of gaps in between your walls and floor leave room for bugs, dirt, and debris to enter into your home or get trapped to fester. Yuck. When things get stuck in the walls, and you can’t get them out, they will warp, discolor, and cause other expensive damage that often costs more time and money than just applying baseboards would have done at the beginning.

Hardwood Issues

If you have hardwood in your home, you know not only how beautiful it is but how expensive and high-maintenance it can be to deal with. It’s usually worth it, but you want to care for your floors in a way that the investment in style and design is going to last for decades to come.

Hardwood moves and “breathes,” similar to the living trees from which they came. The wood contracts and expands with changes in temperature and humidity, and there probably isn’t a room in the house that changes temperature and moisture levels more than a bathroom. When the temperature or moisture level is up (like when you’ve taken a 45-minute-long scalding shower), the floors enlarge, and then when the room is cooled down again, they shrink back up.

This applies to the edges of the floor, too. And if you think back to what we said earlier about gaps in the floor-wall joints, you can imagine what this will do. Summertime might see perfectly fitted joints if that’s when the floors were laid, and then all winter, there’s a big gap (making for even colder bathroom trips if your walls are on the outside of the house!).

With baseboards at the edges of your hardwood floors, you’ll always have a perfect seal.

What About Caulking?

Okay, after all this, you might be thinking that baseboards are a safe, smart bet in your bathroom. But do you need to use caulking?

Caulking is the process of adding a glue-like substance in between the baseboard and the wall to keep it secure and steady for many years and against much contact. Caulking also works as a second layer of protection against water damage.

You can think of it like this: baseboards protect your walls, and caulking protects your baseboards.

Can Tile Replace the Need for Baseboards?

But what about tile? Tile is a very popular choice for bathroom flooring, as it’s not only gorgeous and gives off an elegant feel, but it’s easy to clean and feels nice under bare feet, which you often have in the bathroom.

Tile flooring against tile walls needs to have almost perfect 90-degree angles as well. If you add tile on the wall, it can give you some room to breathe, if you will. Tile always needs caulking to set it, though, so if you are doing your bathroom completely in tile, you can get the benefits of a baseboard.

This caulking line at the joint will keep the room waterproof, protect your inner drywall from dirt and bugs, allow for “movement,”, keep the tiles secure, and create a smooth visual transition.

If you really don’t like the look of baseboards in your bathroom, tile is going to be your next best choice. However, if you are looking for extra protection, know that some people choose to do baseboards and tile at the same time. (Choosing baseboards that match the tile color is going to give this the most aesthetically pleasing effect.)

Pros and Cons of Baseboards in the Bathroom

Baseboards keep moisture, dirt, and debris from getting into your bathroom through flawed design or the natural movement of hardwood floors. Adding them at the joints keeps mold, stains, and dents from damaging the internal structure of your walls.

Leaving baseboards off not only saves money but can keep the design of a bathroom (or any room, rather) sleek and clean-looking.

Baseboards, however, can save you money in the long run if you have water or other damage, and you can simply replace these as opposed to needing to put in all new drywall. This will save time, too, and possibly keep you in your home while the work is being done instead of having to spend extra out at a hotel or Airbnb while your (possibly only) bathroom is being remodeled.

If remodeling your bathroom often is in the budget, and it doesn’t make you stressed, then feel free to leave baseboards off if it’s more pleasing to your visual sense. However, for the average homeowner, putting on baseboards is going to make you feel that your bathroom can better stand up to the wear, tear, moisture, and temperature changes that a bathroom endures.

As with all home projects, the choice is up to you! But with all the right information, you can feel confident in your decision, which will make you more comfortable in your home.

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