Types of bathroom paneling

When it comes to your bathroom walls, you may assume that you have only three covering options: paint, wallpaper or tile. However, you can create a distinguished look for your bathroom walls by adding decorative panelling. There are several types that work well in a bathroom, and the selection allows you to find the ideal fit for your home's style and your budget.


Wainscoting is one of the more decorative panelling options for a bathroom. It features raised panels that add texture and depth to the wall. With its traditional look, it works well for a bathroom in a Colonial or any home with a formal style. Wainscoting is typically sold in individual frame and panel components, but they are pre-cut and designed to fit together in a tongue and groove fashion. You attach them to your wall using construction adhesive and nails, which are available in colours that match the panelling so they are not visible. You may opt for refinished wainscoting that comes stained in standard wood shades or opt for unfinished panelling that you can paint to match the rest of the bathroom.


If you want to give your bathroom a charming, country look, beadboard panelling is the ideal option. Beadboard is composed of individual boards that a provide rustic, textured look. You can find both wood and composite material beadboard, which may be a better choice in a bathroom. If you opt for wood beadboard, you can stain it for a natural look or paint it a shade that matches the rest of your bathroom, However, traditional beadboard panelling is usually painted white and applied only a third or half of the way up the wall. You can top it with a chair rail or other decorative moulding for a finished look. You can also install beadboard so it covers two-thirds of the walls and cap it with a plate rail to provide additional storage space in your bathroom.


Hardboard is a type of panelling composed of engineered wood fibres bonded together by intense pressure and heat. Additional materials may be added to the fibres to make the finished product harder, stiffer and better able to resist moisture and scratches. Standard hardboard has two smooth sides and is ideal for painting. You can also find hardboard that has one smooth and one rough side, which is better suited for wallpaper or a covering that requires adhesive. Hardboard is available in two grades: standard and tempered. In a bathroom, tempered hardboard is the best option because it is treated to better resist moisture.

Melamine Paneling

Melamine panelling is composed of decorative paper material infused with melamine resin, so it adheres to particleboard or hardboard. The resulting panelling is extremely hard and withstands stains and scratches. Because it has a rather plain look, melamine panelling is typically used on shower walls and surrounds. However, it is low maintenance and easy to clean so it works well in a bathroom.


You can also purchase melamine panelling that is embossed so it resembles ceramic tile. It is much less expensive than actual tile, so it is a budget-friendly alternative for your bathroom. It comes in a variety of colours and styles.

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About the Author

Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.