Carpet in a Bathroom: Benefits and Downsides

Is a carpeted bathroom ever a good idea?

Wood-toned bathroom with carpeted floor
moodboard / Getty Images

Carpeted bathrooms emerge from time to time as micro-trends but they have never gained real momentum. Bathrooms, especially those with bathing facilities, are high-moisture environments. Moisture can cause mold and mildew to develop when the moisture seeps in and under the carpeting, especially under the padding. And it is inevitable that moisture will find its way in or under carpeting.

Carpeting even in below-grade applications like basements is debatable. Trace moisture in a basement can accumulate over time to ruin the flooring. But a homeowner might decide to risk functionality in the interests of comfort. For bathrooms, though, flooring is primarily about function. Not installing carpet in the bathroom is usually the safe default choice and the best approach.

If you really do want to install carpet in a bathroom, consider a few aspects and take some precautions before you jump into this project.

Pros
  • Warm to the touch

  • Quieter than hard surfaces

  • Non-slip surface

  • Unique visual appeal

Cons
  • Mold and mildew

  • Slow to dry

  • Resale may be difficult

  • Frequent replacement

7 Tips for Installing Carpet in a Bathroom

Use Synthetic Materials

Avoiding organic materials like wool is critical if you can to install carpet in a bathroom.

Look for 100-percent nylon, polyester, PTT (Triexta Polyester), or polypropylene (olefin). Avoid carpeting that is made from organic materials such as wool. Synthetic materials dry out much faster than do organic materials. Plus, synthetics don't smell as bad as wool, if they should get wet.

Use Low Pile Carpeting

A lower pile (thickness) carpet means fewer problems because less moisture can be absorbed.

Lower pile carpeting also dries faster. Thick-pile carpets trap moisture and can be very difficult to dry out. Low-pile carpeting can still develop mold and mildew, but it growth will be easier to see and stop than with thicker pile carpeting.

Tile the Wettest Areas

Scale back the project in the interest of keeping everything drier and easier to maintain by adding tile to the wettest areas.

Though you may want to carpet the entire bathroom, create a section of tile or another hard flooring in front of the bathroom sink and along the shower or bathtub. Sequestering these areas will go a long way toward keeping the bathroom carpet cleaner and rot-free.

Choose the Right Type

Look for loop or needle-punch styles. While not exactly luxurious—used more for public or other high-impact areas—these styles ensure that the pile remains low and flat.  

Needle-punch is often used for outdoor carpeting. But if your notion of outdoor carpeting is stuck in the past, you may want to update these notions by looking at contemporary outdoor berber carpeting. These carpets are thick enough that they feel like real carpeting, yet thin enough that they dry out quickly.

Install a Waterproof Subfloor

If possible, install your carpeting on a concrete subfloor. If that is not possible, lay down a cement backer board such as Durock or Wonderboard over your existing subfloor, and then install your bathroom carpet. In any case, make sure that your carpeting's substrate is solid and water-impermeable.

Use Carpet Squares

When wall-to-wall carpeting is wet and ruined beyond repair, the only option is usually to rent out a roll-off dumpster because the carpet needs to be removed and replaced. What if you had a way to excise a section of the carpeting without ripping out large sections?

Carpet square tiles represent the perfect balance of bathroom carpeting because they give you the carpeting but in sections that can be removed and replaced. Most carpet squares are synthetic materials, such as 100-percent nylon. Most carpet squares are low pile, so they dry fast.

Tip

Carpet squares are very easy to self-install: simply peel off the backing to reveal the adhesive and press down.

Use the Best Adhesives

Make sure you use indoor/outdoor carpet adhesive. Look for a quality solvent-free, commercial-grade adhesive that is resistant to water.

How to Maintain Carpet in a Bathroom

Unlike other types of bathroom floor coverings that you can largely install and ignore, bathroom carpeting requires a bit more effort to make it work, such as:

  • Vacuum frequently: Frequently vacuum your bathroom carpeting. When it comes to mold, water is not the only culprit. Lab studies have shown that clean carpeting is less prone to developing mold than dirty carpeting, even when both carpets are subjected to the same amount of moisture. In short: dirty carpeting plus water equals mold.
  • Waterproof the stall: Avoid excessive water by ensuring that your bathtub or shower stall is leak-free. Just as you would mop up puddles of water from impervious surfaces, do the same with your bathroom carpet.
  • Own a wet-dry vacuum: A vacuum capable of picking up water is the only way to remove moisture from the carpet quickly. Do not let wet carpeting stay wet for very long, as the moisture will eventually migrate to the padding underneath.
  • Use bathmats: Lay down a bathmat on top of the carpet. While it may seem unusual to put carpet over carpet, this first layer will catch most of the water from bathers exiting the shower or bathtub.
  • Leave one side loose: If there is one edge that bears the brunt of the moisture, such as next to a bathtub, leave a strip along the tub unglued or untacked. This allows you to pull back the carpeting when needed. If the carpeting is very wet, pull back a corner or side of the carpeting to expose the padding. Vacuum up the water with the wet vac and aim fans on the area until completely dry.
Article Sources
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  1. You Can Control Mold. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention