Decorative paneling for bathroom

10 creative ways to dress you walls |

(Image credit: Catchpole & Rye/Drummonds/BC Designs)

Bringing with it centuries of history, bathroom paneling ideas offer a straightforward way to instantly elevate your bathroom's design. Whether laid in tongue and groove, square panels or shiplap, bathroom paneling can work to exaggerate the size of your home's smallest room, as well as adding interest and warmth.

Bathroom paneling is the perfect partner for a whole host of bathroom ideas, from traditional and high-end, to rustic, vintage or even beach themed decor. Go full height and embrace period charm, or opt for the paneling at wainscotting height –up to the dado rail – and pair with patterned wallpaper for a more contemporary edge. 

‘Adding wood paneling to a bathroom is a great way of adding texture and color, which in turn can add a warmth to what otherwise can be quite a clinical and cold room,’ explains Barrie Cutchie, designer at BC Designs .

Bathroom paneling ideas

Historically, paneling ideas for walls were a functional addition to the home, a way to help insulate wattle-and-daub or brick walls against the chill. However, as with all functional additions to the home, it quickly became a decorative feature too, with carving and patterned layering coming to the fore. These earlier additions were often made of dark wood, typically oak, and impose the grandeur you would expect from a stately home. For the majority of us, this look does not suit our more humble properties, and if it does, it is unlikely to suit our bathrooms.

Modern bathroom wall paneling is usually less ornate than historic examples, typically made from MDF or other affordable woods. 'MDF is ideal for bathroom paneling as it does not expand and contract anything like as much as softwood does so none of the endless redecoration every time the heating is switched on in the fall,' advises Jon Madeley, founder of The English Paneling Company. 'It is crucial, however, that a high quality board is used and it must be moisture resistant.' 

While modern homeowners typically plump for bathroom wall paneling ideas for their aesthetic look, the bathroom paneling also still bring with it insulating properties . 'Bathroom paneling can be fixed to battens and the space between insulated (always incorporate a vapour barrier on the warm side). This may be particularly useful in an older house with solid walls as even 25mm of insulation can make a dramatic difference to the warmth of a room,' continues Jon.

1. Opt for classic tongue and grove for an elegant look

(Image credit: Bc Designs)

Tongue and groove paneling is the classic choice when considering bathroom paneling ideas. Installed as individual panels, they get their name from the fact that each plank features a the small tongue that fits into a corresponding groove on the next plank. Whether installed to full-height or to wainscotting height and paired with paint, wallpaper or tiles, bathroom paneling offers an affordable way to decorate your space while also adding warmth and character to your bathroom. Laid in vertical panels it elongates a room, emphasising its height, yet if laid horizontally it lengths the space, ideal for pairing with other small bathroom ideas or powder rooms ideas.

2. Create a geometric feature with square paneling

(Image credit: Future/Polly Eltes)

Square panels are another popular choice of bathroom paneling ideas, creating an elegant focal point. Unlike tongue and groove, they are best kept to one or two feature walls or used exclusively below the dado rail as, if used on all four walls can feel overwhelming and create a claustrophobic atmosphere in smaller rooms. Traditionally, square paneling was created as wooden panels that would be attached to the wall, however, the look can equally be achieve by laying strips of timber in a square pattern. 

'It is also important to consider your paneling color and style, and how you will contrast it. For example, if you are going with a darker or busier wallpaper or paint , contrast it with simple and clean white tongue and groove. Alternatively, if you are keeping the walls bare and white, you can have a bit more fun with intricate paneling, such as square paneling designs – you could even paint the trim a contrasting color,' says Jennifer Markowitz, founder at JNR Designs .

3. Pair with wallpaper for photo frame look

(Image credit: Future)

Combining bathroom paneling ideas with wallpaper is a great way to add sophistication to a bathroom – and there are so many different wallpaper ideas to choose from. Here, the gaps in the paneling have been infilled with wallpaper to create integrated works of art. 

For a more minimalist bathroom look while still embracing the elegance of paneling, mouldings are also a great option that can also be paired with wallpaper for the same framed effect.

4. Use white paneling for a serene space

(Image credit: Catchpole & Rye)

White bathroom ideas instantly create a space of serenity and paneling is a great way to achieve this look. Pairing rustic shiplap panels on walls and ceiling with sophisticated square paneling below the dado rail creates an elegant yet laid-back look that is perfect for relaxing. Opting for white bathroom paneling ideas also provide a great way to increase natural light in the bathroom too.

5. Use bathroom paneling ideas to maximize small spaces

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Bathroom paneling ideas are perfect for small bathrooms as they can work to emphasise the room's proportions. To do this, try pairing different types of paneling on different walls. Use square paneling on the room's shortest walls to exaggerate their length, then opt for vertical tongue and groove paneling on the room's longer wall's to emphasize the room's height. 

The illusion continues with paint. Dark colors are usually a no-no for small spaces, however, when used correctly they can create a cozy atmosphere that's perfect for luxuriating.

Paint paneling a warm aubergine shade, such as Farrow & Ball 's Brinjal to create an intimate environment within a cottage space, then balance with a lighter shade above the picture rail which will brighten the room and draw the eye upwards, exaggerating the room's height. 

6. Divide a bold print with bathroom paneling

(Image credit: Drummonds)

Wainscoting is a favorite technique to pair with other bathroom paneling ideas. Installed below the dado rail, it provides texture and character that can be complemented with patterned tiles or wallpaper. Paneling is the perfect partner for decorative wallpapers enabling you to enjoy a bold print without it overwhelming the room. 

'Wall paneling is a hot trend at the moment and it’s easy to see why – it’s a modern, easy to care for stylish wall covering with a wide choice of different styles and periods,' says James Lentaigne, creative director at Drummonds . 'Paneling is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to create a statement look in a bathroom and can be re-painted at regular intervals to create a different feel. From a practical point of view, it also has the benefit of hiding a multitude of sins – like uneven walls and unsightly pipework. It's also much easier to install than bathroom tiles.'

7. Plan a place to perch with paneling and a window seat

(Image credit: Warner House)

You wouldn’t think twice about wallpapering a bedroom or living room, so why not the bathroom? The injection of pattern can completely reinvent a tired space. For classic elegance, try embracing the chinoiserie trend – with a sinuous design in blue and white, it oozes historic charm. Pair with traditional square bathroom paneling ideas in a warm, yet neutral color palette to prevent the print from overwhelming the space. 

'Typically, paneling is painted or stained the same color as the other architectural trim in the space such as the crown, base mold, chair rail, door and window casings. This provides design continuity in the room and provides a nice backdrop to do something creative “above the chair rail” like installing a beautiful wallcovering or painting an interesting color,' advises Gail Jamentz, principal at Soul Interiors Design .

8. Embrace the rustic bathroom-look with reclaimed weatherboard paneling

(Image credit: Future/Brent Darby)

While not a traditional choice for paneling, bathroom paneling made from reclaimed wood is perfect for country bathroom ideas, it is also a great way to increase the sustainability credentials of your bathroom design. It is also perfect if you're trying to incorporate beach bathroom decor into your scheme.

When adding bathroom paneling ideas to your space, it is important to remember that the wood needs to be treated with a primer, sealant and suitable glue in order to prevent the paneling warping or rotting due to the moisture levels in the room. 'While these panels are water resistant enough to be used in bathrooms, they are not totally waterproof and so should not be used in shower enclosures,' says Period Living editor Melanie Griffiths. If you're looking for wall-coverings for shower enclosures. 

For a more waterproof wall-covering for your shower enclosure, shower tiles ideas are a much better option. 

9. Add full length panels for a space inspired by history

(Image credit: Heidi Caillier)

Bathroom paneling ideas are a quick and affordable way to get a high-end look in your bathroom. Saving on wall coverings can give you the opportunity to splash-out on the details that will really make the space sing, like this marble washstand in a bathroom designed by Heidi Caillier . Marble bathroom ideas are a great way to give your bathroom the luxury-look.

'I love paneling for powder rooms and smaller bathrooms, it can add so much design interest with such little budget and time,' says Georgia Zikas, Founder at Georgia Zikas Design . 'Consider paneling that is going to complement the size and height of your room, and don't be afraid to have fun with colors and styles. It doesn't always have to be white or cream. This is a great opportunity to have fun with a contrasting color in your overall design scheme that you can use in a bigger way, which will feel less of a commitment than say, painting your entire kitchen that color!'

10. Invest in exposed wood panels for spa-like atmosphere

(Image credit: Neptune)

Evoke the serenity of the natural world by incorporating raw materials into your design. Unpainted wooden bathroom paneling ideas brings natural beauty to the space, evoking a spa-like ambience that is perfect for pairing with the rustic edge created by farmhouse bathroom ideas.  

'Many of our clients seek to introduce natural elements into their homes from living plants and natural lighting, to wood paneling or stone flooring. This "biophilic" approach to design is more than just an aesthetic choice; connecting with natural materials supports our mental and physical well-being,' recommends Patrick Planeta of Planeta Design Group 'If you prefer a more natural look for the paneling, stain and seal with a marine sealant for a watertight finish.'

Can I waterproof paneling?

Yes, you can waterproof paneling so that it can be used to achieve your bathroom paneling ideas. However this needs to be considered from the outset rather than just applying a sealant at the end.

'Adding wood paneling to a bathroom is a great way of adding texture and color, which in turn can add a warmth to what otherwise can be quite a clinical and cold room. Wood paneling works well as a wallcovering on any walls that do not come into direct contact with water, so the shower area is out. It is also important to invest in the right glue; one that is suitable for both interior and exterior use and is capable of dealing with the moisture and humidity changes that occur in the bathroom,' advises BC Design's Barry Cutchie. 

What can I put on my bathroom walls instead of tiles?

You can put wall paneling on your bathroom walls instead of tiles, plus the finished look will be a lot more high-end for a fraction of the cost. 

'Tiles are often very expensive to purchase and once installed cannot really be altered if fashion changes or if you simply fancy a change – after spending all that money you feel obliged to live with them come what may! A bathroom with paneling on the other hand can be radically transformed with a lick of paint. It is also usually much cheaper per square metre than tiles - especially the designer brands,' says Jon Madeley, founder at The English Paneling Company.

Having graduated with a first class degree in English Literature four years ago, Holly started her career as a features writer and sub-editor at Period Living magazine, Homes & Gardens' sister title. Working on Period Living brought with it insight into the complexities of owning and caring for period homes, from interior decorating through to choosing the right windows and the challenges of extending. This has led to a passion for traditional interiors, particularly the country-look. Writing for the Homes & Gardens website as a content editor, alongside regular features for Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors magazines, has enabled her to broaden her writing to incorporate her interests in gardening, wildlife and nature. 

How To Choose Bathroom Wall Panels

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

Looking for an alternative to traditional bathroom tile? Bathroom wall panels are an attractive, DIY-friendly alternative that won't break the bank.

Like a new British invasion, bathroom wall panels have been steadily making inroads from the United Kingdom to the North American market. They offer a less expensive and easier-to-install alternative to tile, which has been the go-to bathroom wall covering for so long it can actually look dated.

Not so with wall panels. They’re available in an array of designs and colors that can complement even the most modern and innovative bathroom furnishings.

Designers aren’t the only ones who adore bathroom wall panels. DIYers love them for their price, ease of installation and application — they go on directly over existing tiles or drywall. Although some products require professional installation, others come in DIY kits with instructions, channeling and everything else you need except the tools.

If you’re planning a bathroom renovation and you’re new to bathroom wall panels, familiarize yourself with what they are and what types are available. You might find a lot to like.

On This Page

What Are Bathroom Wall Panels?

Bathroom wall panels are large decorative sheets glued directly to the bathroom walls. Those installed in the shower, around the tub and anywhere else exposed to direct moisture are called wet wall panels, and they’re 100-percent waterproof. Panels for other parts of the bathroom don’t need to be waterproof, just moisture resistant. P.S. While you’re at it, take a look at these best shower kits, too.

Types of Bathroom Wall Panels

Wet wall panels are generally as large or larger than a sheet of plywood. They come in various thicknesses. Depending on the thickness and material, can be lightweight or heavy. Available materials include:

In areas where wet panels aren’t needed, material options can include MDF and wood. Painted MDF offers a clean and inexpensive option for wainscot. Various wood species, especially cedar, make great accent walls and back splashes.

Bathroom Wall Panel Pros and Cons

Tiles and wall panels are competing options for shower stalls and other water exposure areas. Tiles are the traditional go-to because they offer abundant design possibilities, but bathroom wall panels compare favorably.



How To Choose the Best Bathroom Wall Panels

Homeowners sold on the idea of bathroom wall panels should consider these points when shopping:


At the low end of the cost scale, the FRP and fiberglass panels you need for a shower stall cost between $200 and $450. At the high end, solid surface and laminated panels cost up to $2,000. Real stone can cost four times as much.


All wet panels are waterproof. Most wood and MDF panels have limited water resistance and must be coated with a moisture repellent finish.

Ease of installation

Wet panels at the low end of the price range are generally DIY friendly. Weekend warriors can also install higher priced panels, but professional installation may be a better idea depending on the bathroom configuration and panel size. That will add $1,000 to $2,000 to the cost of the project.


Any products not available through a local dealer can usually be purchased online. Higher end panels made from solid-surface materials and laminates can all be measured and cut onsite. But for an expedient installation, it’s usually better to send measurements to the distributor to custom-cut the panels. Stone panels are always custom-cut and professionally installed.

Photo panels for the bathroom. Designs with interior decoration with polyurethane wall panels.




Ready-made design solutions

Would a bathroom design benefit from decorative wall panels? Today we will talk about the advantages of polyurethane 3D panels and share the techniques of designers and decorators who use this material in their work. There are many options for using panels, and you can see for yourself.

Let's start with the main difference between modern panels: 3D relief allows you to give the walls expressiveness and highlights the effects of lighting. For example, W113 Cobble polyurethane wall panel will replace fine bathroom mosaic tiles and reduce finishing time. Two panels will be enough to decorate 1 sq.m. surfaces. Note that the polyurethane decor is easy to paint and install and will not create great difficulties in installation.


The main advantages of polyurethane wall panels are moisture and impact resistance. Orac Decor decorative coatings are not subject to deformation due to changes in humidity and temperature and are completely inert to mold and insects. This makes the panels an analogue of ceramic tiles, and also compares favorably with MDF.


Ease of installation and cutting allows the use of panels even in the process of self-repair. The geometric relief will allow you to create a single coating without visible joints. Once the walls are leveled and ready to be finished, you'll need the right glue, panels, paint, and…inspiration!

Mirror over the bathroom sink: how to decorate?

W108 | W110

The first area we will talk about is the place for the sink. Use decorative panels to decorate the wall behind the mirror and add hidden LED lighting to enhance the relief. The effect can be enhanced with a bright monochrome color or complementary shades.

W111 | W109 | W111

A replacement for the glossy cold and austerity of ordinary tiles has been found! Vertical 3D panels will help zone the space and create the perfect seamless floor. Now the process of brushing your teeth will turn into an aesthetic pleasure, and the look of the walls in the bathroom will allow you to tune in to a positive mood in the morning.

Bathroom furniture: changing the doors


Decorative panels can also be used for lining cabinet doors. This will create the effect of built-in furniture, visually merging with the walls. Replacing the doors will simplify the task of selecting new furniture and give a new look to existing interior items.

Bathroom Ceiling: Illuminated Panels


Most bathrooms and bathrooms have a small area, so when designing walls, it is right to focus on their height and use the ceiling. Use panels to create accent borders in combination with ceiling moldings and lighting.

We combine tiles and panels in bathrooms

W109 | W108

The combination of tiles and wallpaper has become a common solution for bathroom decor. Try using 3D wall panels instead of wallpaper. The corrugated coating will become a worthy companion for natural stone and will easily withstand wet cleaning. Also, the panels will solve the problem of unaesthetic grouting of seams and joints.

Closing the bath: using flexible panels


Perhaps the most original design solution in our selection. A bathtub or sink base can be “wrapped” with flexible Orac Decor Flex panels. You'll need a drywall base, vandal-resistant wetroom paint, silicone to seal joints and seams, and patience. An unusual base will help hide technical communications and turn even standard and inexpensive plumbing into a designer piece of furniture.

Bathroom and WC projects where walls and ceilings are decorated with Orac Decor wall panels confirm that these materials can transform any space. Are you also ready for interior experiments? Excellent! Practical information on installation can be found in the "Installation" section.

Copyright © 2022 Orac Decor. All rights reserved.

Moisture-resistant tiled bathroom wall panels

Bathroom remodeling is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. A lot of money requires wall decoration. But there are materials that allow you to quickly and inexpensively put everything in order. One option is moisture-resistant wall panels for the bathroom. They are of different types and in different forms of release. General - the speed and ease of installation and low cost (when compared with tiles).

Plastic for tiles looks good

Content of Article

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Moisture-resistant bathroom wall panels are not only the well-known PVC slatted panels. There are four more types of finishing materials of this type:

Bathroom wall panels are most often designed to look like tiles or mosaics. It is understandable - the most common design. The pattern also imitates the seams - they are slightly recessed, dyed in a different color. All as in the original. With good performance, you can’t immediately understand whether the tile is in front of you or the wall panels are tiled. The difference is in the degree of gloss. The panels are very light. But in recent years, the use of matte ceramics for finishing bathrooms has become increasingly popular - it is easier to care for it (traces of water are not visible). Here it is really difficult to catch the difference without touching the surface.

Most often, moisture-resistant bathroom panels are designed to look like tiles, but there are other patterns.

You can also find options imitating stone (marble, wild stone), brickwork, wood, leather, and other natural materials. If we talk about the appearance, the choice is wide, and there are very interesting designs.

Wall panels based on MDF, fiberboard and chipboard are produced in three types:

The release form is chosen depending on the design that you want to get. Please note that the method of installation depends on the form of release. Rack wall panels are mounted on the crate, the other two types can also be on the frame, or you can directly on the wall. In this case, the choice depends on how curved the walls are.

Brief description

Although all materials have the same name, their properties are different. First of all, the degree of moisture resistance differs. PVC can safely endure direct contact with water, MDF and fiberboard - provided that the cuts are properly sealed and the integrity of the laminating film. Chipboard-based panels are most exposed to moisture, so, if possible, they are best used for finishing the toilet, kitchen, corridor and other rooms with relatively normal operating conditions.

Looks like wood but is actually wall panels

PVC sheet panels

Of all the listed 100% waterproof PVC panels. This is a sheet of plastic a few millimeters thick (usually 3 mm) on which a pattern is extruded. An image is applied to the front of the panel using special abrasion-resistant paints. These moisture resistant bathroom wall panels can be used without any hesitation. They are definitely not afraid of water.

PVC wall panels for tiles - ordinary decor
More interesting option
Lots of mosaic options
In the form of a panel of tiles
This is what the bath looks like after gluing PVC tiles under the mosaic

They are mounted directly on the walls - they are glued to a moisture-resistant compound. Moreover, the walls do not have to be perfectly flat. Plastic hides irregularities well, especially notches, but it is better to remove sharp protrusions. Such panels are cut with scissors or a sharp knife, glued end-to-end. The joint can additionally be passed with a moisture-resistant sealant - transparent or matched.

For corners, there are also special plastic profiles that both join the material and give the joint a finished look. All in all, a good option for a budget bathroom renovation.

MDF wall panels

MDF wall panels can be used in areas with high humidity and direct water ingress. For this material, high pressure technology is used, as a result of which the plate is very dense. The wood particles are pressed so tightly that water practically does not penetrate between them. To improve the performance, additional binders and impregnations are added to the composition, which make the base almost waterproof. As a result, moisture-resistant MDF wall panels feel more like plastic to the touch.

There are different options
Sheet MDF panels
This is what the wall looks like after finishing with tiled wall panels

A patterned laminate is applied to this base and the whole is covered with a thin layer of clear, dense polymer. This film is an additional barrier to water and it is thanks to it that moisture-resistant wall panels for the bathroom can be used even in the area of ​​direct water ingress.

This type of finishing material has a feature: to make the finish waterproof, the joints are coated with sealant. They also pass the junction to the floor and ceiling. To prevent moisture from entering the material through the cuts. This method of installation is a guarantee of a long service life of the finish, even in wet rooms.

When choosing a material, be careful: in a large number of stores there are MDF wall panels for dry rooms. Installing them in the bathroom is a mistake, as they will warp very soon.

Fibreboard panels

Fibreboards are made using a similar technology, only wood fibers have a larger fraction and a lower density. Accordingly, they are more susceptible to moisture - they can swell. To eliminate this drawback, the material is impregnated with moisture-resistant compounds. The best for bathrooms are fiberboard panels impregnated with bitumen, which are also called hardboard.

Based on fiberboard impregnated with

Next, the fiberboard is laminated with a film, on top of which a protective coating is applied. This material is also called laminated hardboard or hardboard wall panels. As in the case of MDF, the film is an additional protection against moisture and it must be intact. During installation, it is also necessary to coat the joints and cuts with sealant.

Based on chipboard

Chipboard wall panels are made from even larger pieces of wood - shavings and small chips. Ordinary material is afraid of water ingress. At high humidity it swells and after drying it does not return to its normal state. For wall panels, a moisture-resistant version is used - with the addition of additional binders. As in other cases, the surface is laminated. But even after that, you should not use such a finishing material in the bathroom. The exception is special waterproof panels. But their cost is almost the same as that of moisture-resistant MDF, and if you choose between the two, then MDF is clearly better.

Imitation of wall tiles on sheet finishing materials - a way to quickly and inexpensively make repairs in the bathroom

Chipboard wall panels are well suited for finishing a toilet, corridor or hallway. They are rigid to withstand the load and significant mechanical stress. So in these rooms they showed themselves well. But when choosing, pay attention to the formaldehyde emission class. In the production of this material, synthetic binders are used that release formaldehyde. This parameter is normalized and controlled. In documents, it is indicated by the Latin letter E and numbers next to it. The lowest emission class E0 is no higher than that of wood. Safe - E1. From such materials it is even allowed to make children's furniture. It is better not to take other materials - they cannot be used for residential premises.

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