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I used particle board baseboards in our bathroom a few years ago, but found, even after prepping/painting them, they have swelled up with the moisture in the bathroom (more around the bath area). I was in the store this weekend and see they make a "plastic" baseboard, but see some challenges with cutting around round corners and painting (adhesion). Is there a right material to use for bathrooms?

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Ah, compostable baseboards. – Bryce Jan 7 '14 at 21:13

Real wood. Poplar trim is what I use for bathrooms or basements. It is hard and holds up to moisture well. If you get the plastic stuff it will look like... plastic. It would have to really be in modern room or business setting to look right.

I would suggest getting poplar (pine is cheap and has moisture bulging issues) or some other hard wood. Give it a first coat with drylok. Follow up with whatever you want. I would suggest an oil based paint for bathroom trim though - it is tougher and cleans up better.

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For bathroom floors I feel that nothing is better than tile. And if you are using tile on your floor than you can use tile on the base of the walls too. It can be done with the same type as the floor or something different like the glass tiles used as kitchen backsplash. Prep the sheet rock surface properly, seal if needed so moisture from grout doesn't damage the wall. Approximately 2 inches high maximum or you will get too far up away from the wood of the wall's framework and that's when sheet rock will bend when bumped, and grout does not bend without cracking. By the time you seal the grout too, you have finished a big project. Wood might be easier.

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Lowes/Homedepot carry a line of trim made of Polystyrene. It's cheap, easy to work with, and holds up to moisture extremely well. It comes in all sorts of styles like wood does and you cut it with your miter saw the same way. It can be nailed with your air nailer or glued in place. It typically comes prefinished white, no painting or staining required. Depending on what you're looking for, it can be a quick easy way to make your bathroom nice. Obviously real wood has it's place too, it depends on what you are looking for. Check them out in person.

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People told me I was crazy to ask for it, but I am really pleased with cove molded linoleum, which comes up the wall instead of baseboard. The curve makes cleaning very easy and contains spills very well. There's just one thin caulk line at each corner. Like all caulk lines it collects debris:

Cove molded linoleum flooring in a bathroom

The true linoleum is 100% natural, refinishable and warm to the feet (though you should consider if underfloor heating is right for your situation).

Epoxy flooring also has huge advantages, with no seams whatsoever, as the epoxy will curve up from the floor to form the baseboard. There's a reason both are commonly used in commercial bathrooms. Why they are rare in residential I can't fully explain.

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Why rare in residential: Homeowners who find the look too commercial for home; Lack of easy to find, easy to verify as competent contractors (the "pro-tile" folks completely screwed up a commercial bathroom epoxy job where I work...); Somewhat daunting as a DIY (as with many daunting DIYs, less so if you get through one - but the first one is daunting.) – Ecnerwal Jan 7 '14 at 21:47

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