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Introduction

I would like to cover my bathroom walls with wooden planks because it looks downright hipster. Trouble is that there is masonry directly under the surface, and also they will potentially face a lot of moisture from the shower.

The question

What would be the best way to apply about 12sqM of wooden planks (taken from wooden pallets) to this masonry, and would they suffer from moisture in the long run and therefore require special treatment?

We currently have the lower half of the walls covered in tiles which we would like to keep. Any solution will have to work with these.

Ideas

  • Masonry nail gun
  • No nails adhesive
  • Screws with hammer drill (this would take years)

That's about it, thanks for your help!

Our bathroom looks like this:

enter image description here

This is the effect we are going for:

enter image description here

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Your question is concerning two things:
1. Proper fitting (wood planks to masonry wall).
2. Proper wood treatment (anti-moisture).

So that's how will my answer look like. Let's look at this.

1. Proper fitting.
I would advise preparing additional support planks going vertically with - say - 1 meter space (that spacing requires additional insight on how much planks will weight, what wall you got and what kind of bolts you will use; use your aptitude and experience or ask a prO). These support planks will be bolted to the wall on all wood-wall height and have only supportive purpose (don't need any beautiful finishing or something). The spacing also determines if (or HOW MUCH) your wood-wall would deform over time. Shorter spaces mean less visible deformations (in short).
Your proper planks - THE planks you want to see as a decorative - will be attached to these supports I mentioned before. That will make support planks perpendicular to these decoratives. Also, I would leave some few centimeters (or, preferably, more) space from the floor to avoid water to be in contact with planks (due to water from shower or cleaning tools) and to let air circulate between masonry wall and wood-wall. Similiar space would be needed up near ceiling.

2. Proper wood treatment.
This will require appropriate info on what you got in stores - all of these chemicals that render your wood water- and moisture-proof (at least for some years...). On that I advise to talk to some shot helper that seem to have proper knowlege.

EDIT concerning question edit :)

The space between masonry and wood is to be kept, I'm afraid. Here are some reasons:

  • it allows air (and often steam) to travel op the wall; moisture has an occasion to evaporate
  • using supportive planks lets you not to drill that many holes in a wall (cuz you will connect decorative planks to supportive planks with screws)
  • it allows planks to deform, avoiding some of tensions that would lead to look bad/destroy it

I'm aware that it may not look as intended with this visible difference between wood and tiles, but you may try either to neutralize that view or use it to your benefit (better visual effect). You can achieve that whatever you like (covering first line of tiles with last line of wood; plaing decorative hangers and so on...).
Of course, You can glue/attach wood to the wall with some glu-ish adhesive, but I guess that wood will 'work' and deform over time. If, later on, You would decide that any refinishing is to be done, it would be easier to unatttach the screws than tearing down (un-glue) all of them.

I would also wait for other DIY-ers to give their opinions as well. Mine is one of many, and I know it :)

  • Thanks for your answer, this is a good solution, however we have tiles on the wall already and having two layers of wood may result in up to 10cm depth with visible gaps at the bottom where they meet the tiles. I have updated my answer with an illustration to show this. Is there anyway to apply the planks directly to the wall? Thanks. – Alex Jul 9 '15 at 13:13
  • @Alex Answer edited. I wish other DIY-ers would post other answers. It may be nice to have more answers to choose from... – Marek Oleszczuk Jul 10 '15 at 7:04
  • I suppose this network is still taking off, needs a few more users! Can you think of any other solutions? Would using a masonry nail gun be overkill? Thanks – Alex Jul 10 '15 at 8:24
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Marek's answer is what I'd expect to do.

Thin

In order to make the result a lot thinner than 10cm, what you can do is to use thinner support wood on the walls. Since the load is vertical you don't need substantial lumber there.

I would also look into reducing the thickness of your pallet wood - you are only interested in the surface appearance and it probably doesn't need it to resist strong forces (I'd keep spare planks to repair breakages). You can cut a thin surface section (say 6mm? perhaps less?) using a table saw. Use appropriate care/precautions.

reducing the thickness of the planking also reduces the weight and gives you more options for thinner support/mounting.

Glue?

To support the same load, glue requires less depth of wood than does nails.

Using wood glue between supports and planks should mean the nails/brads only need to hold everything in place until the glue dries. I think I'd lean something heavy on the planks until the glue dried.

Moisture

Moisture and wood are a combination that needs special care. I'd make sure that room ventilation is as good as I can make it. Perhaps more or better extraction fans would help.

Gaps

There may be problems due to wood expanding and contracting over time. Some woodworkers use a router/trimmer to cut small half-lap overlaps on boards so that shrinkage doesn't create gaps that expose the wall behind. The alternative is tongue & grooving.

Junction

Where the panelling meets the tiles, I'd experiment to see if something akin to a custom dado-rail could acceptably bridge the gap. This might be just your pallet wood with one edge left at full thickness. The supporting strips would then start a few cm above the tiles.

Experiment!

At the very least, it can't hurt to try this on a small section.

  • This is an excellent extension to Marek's answer, and really helps to iron out some of the queries I had, thanks very much for this! – Alex Jul 10 '15 at 14:30

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