Pros and cons of carpeted bathrooms
By Nick Gromicko, founder of InterNACHI, and Kenton Shepard
Carpeted bathrooms are bathrooms that have carpeted floors instead of traditional floor surfaces, such as tile or vinyl. Despite their tendency to foster mold and bacteria, carpets are sometimes installed in residential bathrooms for aesthetic purposes. Carpets should never be installed in bathrooms in commercial buildings.
Advantages of Carpets in Bathrooms
They make bathrooms appear more warm and inviting.
They are softer than tile and many people find them comfortable on bare feet.
Bathroom slip hazards are reduced. It is easier to slip on hard bathroom surfaces, such as tile, than on carpet.
Installation is generally quick and inexpensive.
Disadvantages of Carpets in Bathrooms
The pad beneath the carpet may soak up large amounts of moisture. Some of the common ways that carpets may come into contact with moisture in bathrooms include:
Steam from the shower will condense on the carpet.
Water splashes from the tub or shower.
Water sheds from shower/tub occupants as they step onto the carpet.
Water splashes out of the sink.
Water drips from the vanity.
Water leaks from the toilet.
The presence of moisture in the pad will lead to the growth of decay fungi on the wood or oriented strand board (OSB) sub-floor. The sub-floor will be decayed and weakened by mold. Mold also releases spores that can cause respiratory ailments, especially for those with certain health problems. Inspectors can use moisture meters to determine if there is excess moisture beneath a carpet.
In addition to potential mold growth beneath the carpet, bacteria can accumulate in carpeting that surrounds the toilet. Bacteria are contained in urine, which can be accidentally deflected onto the carpet.
Carpeted Bathrooms in Commercial Buildings
It is against code to install carpet in commercial bathrooms. The 2007 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) states the following concerning carpeted bathrooms in commercial buildings:
In other than dwelling units, toilet, bathing and shower room floor finish materials shall have a smooth, hard, nonabsorbent surface. The intersections of such floors with walls shall have a smooth, hard, nonabsorbent vertical base that extends upward onto the walls at least 4 inches (102 mm).
Recommendations for Clients
The following are recommendations that InterNACHI inspectors can pass on to clients who are experiencing urine- or moisture-related problems with their bathroom carpet:
Clean the carpet regularly to remove any mold or urine that may be present.
Keep the carpet as dry as possible. Various devices exist that prevent water from bypassing the shower curtain.
Install a bathroom fan, if one is not installed already. If a fan is installed, operate it more often.
Inspectors can inform their clients about why they are experiencing problems.
In summary, carpets installed in bathrooms can trap moisture and urine, substances that can cause structural damage and health problems.
(Note: I regularly post articles that originate from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the world's largest inspector trade association. This original article can be found here.)
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