A wooden bath panel should be your first port of call if you are looking for a robust, rigid product.
Bath panels can be made from a variety of different materials but some are a bit on the flexible/flimsy side. There is no such issue with a panel made from wood or a wood composite.
So what type of panels are available in wood? And how do you fit them? We will guide you through the various options.
Bath Panel Wood Effects
Wood comes in varying shades depending on the species it is derived from. The wood colouring of a bath panel is usually reproduced via a vinyl wrap, covering the MDF core, unless you are buying a real wood product.
There are quite a few different varieties that have been used over the years, including
- natural oak
- limed oak
- natural pine
- antique pine
So the finish can vary from the very light to the very dark, depending on your tastes. Some of these colours have fallen out of fashion and can look a little dated unless used in a period-style bathroom.
Here are some examples from Amazon – as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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Wooden Bath Panel Designs
There are three main designs used for wooden bath panels:
- a plain flush finish
- a pattern routed into the panel
- a tongue and groove (or plank) effect
Your choice will really depend on personal taste. There is no real practical distinction that can be made between any of the three designs.
The standard size for a bath in the UK is 1700 x 700mm so the majority of panels are designed to this specification. The height of the bath can vary quite considerably and will depend on the design of the bath. Even baths of the same design can be installed at different heights depending on what the pipework requirements are in the room. The lower you can fit the bath the better because access will be easier and it will make the room look larger.
With this in mind, many panels are supplied with a separate plinth. This enables the height of the panel to be varied quite easily without the need to cut the panel along the full length.
Materials Used In Wooden Bath Panels
The majority of the wooden bath panels sold in the UK will be made from MDF.
Medium-density fibreboard is made from the fibres of wood, mixed with resin and formed under pressure into sheets. There are various grades of MDF but not all of them are water-resistant. This is important because water will always get splashed onto a bath panel.
The surface of the MDF will have some form of decorative coating – usually, paint or a vinyl wrap. The covering or coating on the panel will prevent any water ingress. But panels normally have to be cut at some point to get them to fit and this will expose the inner core. It is vital that any cut edges are sealed to prevent water damage. Check with the manufacturer as to what they recommend (varnish or silicone sealant for example).
Where a realistic wood effect is required, a suitable vinyl will be used to cover the surface. Much less common is a real wood veneer. A paint coating is used where a single, flat colour is required.
There are some high-end bath panels that are made from solid wood.
Solid wood does not get affected by water as badly as MDF but the surface coating of varnish or lacquer will get damaged if water gets behind it. It also expands and contracts more than MDF which can put a strain on any varnish and can result in cracks.
Any areas that are cut during installation will need to be sealed to prevent moisture ingress.
Planks of softwood are regularly used when someone wants a tongue and groove effect panel. The planks slot together making construction quite straightforward.
Wood-Effect PVC Bath Panel
Wood-effect PVC is another option that you could investigate. These can look just as realistic as any of the vinyl-wrapped panels. The great advantage of PVC is that it is totally impervious to water so there is nothing to swell up or crack.
It is possible to emulate the tongue and grooved style mentioned above or you could opt for a flush effect panel. The Colour choice is a little more limited but it is very easy to work with and it will last for years with no maintenance. PVC panels are recyclable and can even be re-used.
The great advantage of these panels is that they can also be used as wall panels, pulling the whole design together and giving the bath a “built-in” appearance.
There is more information on making your own bath panel here.