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Can You Use Plywood for Bathroom Walls? (How To)

We know that many different materials are available to do walls. If you are doing walls in the bathroom, can you use plywood?

Plywood can easily be used for walls in the bathroom. It is durable and strong, so you can cover the walls without concern. There needs to be some thought given to sealing the wall so it doesn’t succumb to moisture, but it is an excellent choice.

Wooden plywood wall

When most people think about putting plywood in the bathroom, moisture is one of the first things that come to their minds. Although it certainly is true that moisture is evident in the bathroom, it is not always going to be directly coming in contact with the walls.

Ceiling fans and ventilation can help minimize the moisture that hangs out in the bathroom for an extended time. That being said, some thought still needs to be given moisture, and we will consider that further in this article.

I always had a long conversation with the homeowner when they asked me to install plywood in the bathroom. As a contractor, I knew it was possible, but I wanted them to be educated on the pros and cons of doing so.

A panel of plywood is very stable. This is especially true if you get a higher grade of plywood, as it is put together better and has fewer defects.

In fact, understanding the grading system for plywood can help you make an appropriate choice. Here are some of the options available:

A-Grade: This is the highest quality plywood. It has a sanded surface and is smooth without defects. There may have been some defects in the plywood, but they are fixed using a synthetic filler. This type of plywood can easily be stained or painted.

B-Grade: There may be a few more defects up to 1 inch in this grade of plywood compared to A-Grade. It is still an excellent choice for bathroom walls.

C-Grade: When you get down to this grade of plywood, it may have more defects and need additional work. It also doesn’t have a sanded finish, which is something to consider because the rough surface will show when it is finished or painted. This type of plywood is typically used for subfloors.

D-Grade: I would not recommend using this grade of plywood in the bathroom on the walls. It may show some discoloration, and the defects can be considerable, including large knot holes.

Along with these primary grades of plywood, you may find some others made from specific types of wood or may be of an extremely high grade. It is essential to choose the one that is best for you, depending on how it will be finished.

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Certain types of plywood may also be better suited for areas where moisture is a problem. They may be more expensive, but you can trust them more in a bathroom than other types of plywood.

Should You Use Plywood for Bathroom Walls?

Wooden plywood wall

Now that we have discussed that you can use plywood on the bathroom wall, it’s important to consider potential problems that would keep you from using it successfully.

Moisture: We did discuss moisture to a certain extent, but it’s good to revisit the subject. Plywood is several thin layers of wood that are bonded together with a bonding glue, and it could separate or get soft if exposed to water.

We are not suggesting that you use plywood in the shower enclosure. That would be a bad idea, although there are some ways to seal the plywood, so it may work. We’re talking about using plywood in the bathroom on the walls.

The moisture that reaches the plywood is going to be minimal. There may be some that come in from behind the board or on the surface due to steam and the fact that there is a lot of water in the area.

As long as the plywood is sealed appropriately and a good finish covers it, the plywood itself will last a very long time.

Durability: There is some question about plywood’s durability, which makes it a problem in some cases. It will last a long time if it is simply in place without any touch points, but if it is bumped, it is easily damaged.

If you bump the wall or something leans against it, it could scratch or dent. This will lead to some wear and tear over time and may need to be replaced more frequently than drywall or some other type of material.

Mold Growth: You don’t want mold in your bathroom or anywhere in your home. The problem is plywood does provide what is necessary along with moisture to grow mold.

It is best to seal the plywood from the back and the front. This will help to keep the mold from growing in the area. If mold is detected, it should be remediated immediately.

Installation: The look of plywood can be excellent in the bathroom, but installing it can be difficult. It won’t be difficult when you are doing full sheets, but there is not much give when it comes to cutting plywood.

Plywood is heavier than other types of building material, and it needs to be cut precisely to fit in place. This is mainly a problem when cutting around toilets or sinks or getting to a corner or an area where the plywood ends.

Cost: Plywood is an excellent choice for the bathroom. When finished, it provides a gorgeous look, but it will be more expensive than other types of material.

Homeowners on a budget may have difficulty justifying the extra price of plywood for the bathroom. It is much easier and less expensive to hang some moisture-resistant drywall or even hardwood slats.

In the end, however, it is really up to the homeowner whether they want to put up with these problems and try to overcome them or go with another option.

Plywood can be a lovely addition to the bathroom. It may be considered a building material for rough carpentry, but it can look great when it is finished properly.

What Preparations Do You Need to Use Plywood for Bathroom Walls?

Wooden plywood wall

If you have decided to use plywood in the bathroom on the walls, you need to plan and prepare appropriately. Here are a few things to consider:

1. Existing Wallcovering: If there is anything currently on the wall, it is better if it is removed. You should attach the plywood to the studs and not to another type of wall, such as drywall.

If you attach the plywood to the outside of another type of wall, you may be introducing mold or something else into the gap, which could eventually be a problem.

2. Damage Control: Inspecting the plywood for any type of damage carefully is important. Even the higher grade plywood can occasionally be damaged, but it is relatively easy to fix.

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The problem is, if you installed the plywood and a knot pops out, it is going to be a blemish on the overall wall. You may be able to glue it back in place, but it is best if you don’t have to deal with this once the plywood is home.

3. Install a Vapor Barrier: Several options are available as a vapor barrier for your wall. Having a vapor barrier behind the wall will protect it from any moisture coming in from behind it.

This is vital because mold can quickly grow on plywood, and even if it doesn’t, moisture will eat away at it from behind. It is better to put the vapor barrier in place to protect the plywood and the wall studs.

How to Use Plywood for Bathroom Walls

Man working with plywood

At this point, it is time to apply and finish the plywood. It is a relatively straightforward process:

1. Measure and Cut: The measuring process should not be taken lightly. You will not have any wiggle room for cutting plywood, so everything needs to be cut precisely.

This process’s most challenging part is cutting around fixtures, such as the toilet or a sink. Cutting around receptacles or light switches should also be done with care.

2. Install the Plywood: The plywood should be installed using the appropriate screws or nails for the job being done. You should also use construction adhesive to hold the plywood fast to the studs.

3. Sealing: Use clear silicone caulking to seal the panels properly. It should be put around each panel, and you can then smooth it with a wet rag.

Pay particular attention to the corners, especially where the plywood may come together in multiple locations. This will help to seal things, and so moisture is not able to get behind them.

4. Finish: The finish can be any type you like. Most people will paint the plywood, but if you install it properly, you could just as easily apply a coat of polyurethane.

The finish is more than something to make the plywood look better. It will help seal the wood, so moisture will not be a big problem.

You can use plywood for a bathroom wall, and the result can be stunning. It is durable, and, if it is sealed properly, it will last for many years.

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