How to Make Carpet in the Bathroom Work

Wood-toned bathroom with carpeted floor
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These are the words that fill realtors' hearts with terror: carpet in the bathroom. They know that wall-to-wall carpet in the bathroom is instant death for a house's selling potential. Full bathrooms are considered to be high-moisture environments because they have bathing facilities. Once moisture gets in and under carpeting—and especially the padding—mold and mildew can develop.

Professional Tips

If something was a trend once, it might rear its head again in the next 20-year trend cycle. Professional carpet installers recommend following this advice if you really want to install carpet in a bathroom:

Manmade Materials

Look for 100% nylon, polyester, PTT (Triexta Polyester), or polypropylene (olefin). Avoid carpeting that is made from organic materials such as wool.

Low Pile

Lower pile (thickness) means fewer problems because less moisture can be absorbed. Lower pile carpeting also dries faster.

Appropriate Style

Look for loop or needle-punch styles. While not exactly the lap of luxury—resembling a hotel conference room, more than anything—these styles ensure that the pile remains low and flat.  

Needle-punch is essentially 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 berbers. They are thick enough that they feel like real carpeting, yet thin enough that they dry out quickly.

Water-Impermeable Subfloor

Install on a concrete subfloor. If that is not possible, lay down cement backer board such as Wonderboard over your existing subfloor, and then install your bathroom carpet.

Carpet Squares

What happens when your wall-to-wall carpeting gets moldy beyond repair? You find yourself renting out a rolloff dumpster because all of the carpeting needs to be removed and replaced.

Carpet square tiles represent the perfect storm of bathroom carpeting but in a good way. They are:

  • Modular, so that they can be removed and replaced individually as needed.
  • Low pile, so they dry fast.
  • Easy to self-install. Peel off the backing to reveal the adhesive.
  • 100% nylon.

Best Adhesives

Make sure you use indoor/outdoor carpet adhesive. A good, solvent-free, commercial-grade adhesive may advertise that it is resistant to water.

Care and Maintenance

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.

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. A wet-vac is your best friend for getting up moisture from carpet quickly.

Lay down a bathmat on top of the carpet. While it may seem odd to put carpet over carpet, this first layer will catch most of the water from bathers exiting the shower or bathtub.