10 Best Wood for Bathroom Shelves

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If your goal is to declutter or infuse a sense of luxury into your bathroom, it becomes crucial to choose floating shelves that exhibit superior resistance to water and moisture. This choice not only optimizes your bathroom storage but also enhances the overall aesthetic appeal of the space.

In this post, let me demonstrate how you can add stylish accents to your lavatory. We’ll do this by introducing you to my top picks for the best types of wood to use for bathroom shelves, ensuring durability, functionality, and visual appeal.

Wood’s Waterproofing Abilities

Bathroom storage is no exception for interior design, but you must also ensure that your wooden shelves have high waterproofing abilities. 

Plenty of bathroom shelving looks durable with its appealing color and design, but not all can sustain longer water exposure and moisture exposure.

Woods with great water resistant ability can withstand rainy conditions and high moisture environments or high humidity. However, most wood have porous fibers making them susceptible to decay, warp, or shrink because of water exposure.

But it does not mean you cannot use wood in high-humidity environments such as bathrooms or outdoor use. This is where you must seal it to add a waterproofing ability.


Waterproofing creates a protective layer or barrier to prevent water penetration into the wood. But there are circumstances when wood can be naturally resistant to water or moisture. However, they cannot withstand prolonged exposure to moisture or rainy conditions. 

There are also some woods that have very-low water resistance, which are not recommended to use for bathroom cabinets. 

If these types of wood are left unsealed and exposed to areas where moisture is common, such as the kitchen and bathroom, the wood will begin to deteriorate. 

Therefore, when choosing the best wood to use for bathroom shelving, consider the waterproofing ability of the lumber. Here are the best woods with excellent water-resistant that are widely available in your local stores:

1. Birch

Birch grain pattern

Birchwood is considered the best wood type for bathroom shelving. It’s a  more durable and reliable rack than other premium hardwoods. 

Birch wood is easy to work with, and you can stain it to protect it from exposure to water and moisture in your bathroom. 

Birch wood’s unique grain and pattern can add a touch of luxury to your bathroom, providing elegant wooden accents without breaking the bank, as it is more budget-friendly compared to other types of wood.

However, birch is not water and moisture-resistant and you must seal the surface or apply a waterproof finish before incorporating it into your bathroom.

2. Cherry

Cherry wood color

Cherry wood is a water-resistant softwood. It still needs waterproofing because bathroom shelving is exposed to an environment with higher humidity.

Most woodworkers and homeowners prefer cherry wood for bathroom shelving over softwoods like pine. It offers high durability while giving your bathroom shelves a natural beauty.

Also, cherry offers high-quality wood for decorative items with its natural bright color and patterns. As an affordable softwood, cherry is the best wood specie for bathroom shelving on a budget.

3. Koa

Koa wood

Koa wood is another right wood for bathroom shelving for longevity and strength. It can be exposed to moisture because koa wood contains natural shellac. However, you cannot expose this wood directly to water, so you have to waterproof it properly before using it as bathroom shelving. 

Koa wood is also lightweight but durable and considered the hardest lumber, making it ideal for floating shelves. So if you want permanent wooden bathroom shelving, you consider using Koa wood.

When you use this wood, you do not have to worry about damage or foul odor. It is a pressure resistant wood, which means that it cannot easily bend, warp, shrink, or split. It also has a reddish hue or slightly golden brown hardwood color that accentuates your bathroom decor.

4. Mahogany

stained Mahogany boards

Mahogany is one of the strongest woods you can use for bathroom shelving because it offers excellent resistance to water and moisture.

You must apply a waterproofing clear sealer over your mahogany bathroom shelving for it to have an additional protective layer. This will ensure that water or moisture will not penetrate the wood.

When you use mahogany as bathroom cabinets, expect a more aesthetic, sophisticated, and rich look. Compared to other solid wood, mahogany has quite a unique reddish-brown color. However, it is a bit more pricey than other wood shelving.

Also, using this wood is quite challenging because mahogany is heavier than other hardwoods. But with its solid weight capacity, appearance, and strength, mahogany is easily one of the best wood to use for bathroom shelves. 

5. Maple

Hard Maple

Maple is a wood type similar to mahogany when it comes to durability but differs in weight since it is lighter. 

Maple has a natural resistance to water and moisture but still needs waterproofing so molds and fungi do not accumulate on the surface. That said, maple is one of the best wood to use for bathroom shelving or cabinets, and it has a natural honey color. 

When you sand Maple wood, you can achieve a shade of red. Because of this color, it is an excellent choice for bathroom shelving decor that requires a more classic or timeless look.

6. Padauk

African Padauk wood

Padauk offers durability and a stronghold for heavy materials over time when used for bathroom shelving. It is hardwood with a unique wood pattern with a red-orange color suitable for bathroom cabinets, particularly if you are looking for wood that does not deteriorate quickly.

However, you must waterproof it before using it as bathroom shelving because its ability to resist water and moisture is terrible. But with the right waterproofing technique, it makes a good wood to use for bathroom shelves.

7. Pine

Yellow Pine

Pine has become one of the best wood to use for bathroom shelving because of its design, color, and price. However, it has limitations in its holding capacity. As a softwood, pine wood bathroom shelving can only hold the likes of decorative and ornamentals items.

You can stain or seal the pine easily, so you should apply a good sealant or finish to make it waterproof before using it as bathroom shelving. But it has a porous wood fiber that can penetrate water easily. 

You can choose from a variety of designs, colors, and different grades of pine that will suit your bathroom shelving. 

8. Plywood

plywood layers

Plywood is one of the best wood to use for bathroom cabinets because it is cost-effective and lightweight,  making it easy to work with using the proper tools. Also, plywood is one of the best wood for axe throwing targets

The ideal thickness for your plywood bathroom shelving is 3/4 inch. However, you cannot place heavy objects on top of it because plywood, as a softwood, is less durable and unstable compared to other solid wood.

There are several plywood grades, but you must choose furniture-grade plywood for more durable bathroom shelving. Also, you can settle for a veneered plywood material that is stronger than pine wood. 

Also, plywood has no resistance to water and moisture, so if you use it as a bathroom cabinet, you must apply waterproof glue, creating a damage-resistant surface and resistance to boiling temperatures. 

Since the bathroom has a consistent and higher moisture environment, you must sand and seal the plywood. This will increase its waterproofing ability before setting it in your bathroom to prevent delamination. 

9. Red Oak

quarter sawn Red Oak

Red oak offers durability and workability and can resist water and moisture, making it one of the best woods for bathroom shelves. Red oak is lighter than any hardwood, which makes cutting efficient and finishing easier. 

You can use red and white oak for your bathroom shelving. Red oak stains well, while white oak is water and moisture-resistant and is more durable. Combining these two types, white and red oak, you can have high-quality bathroom shelves. 

However, the water resistance of white oak is limited, so you can increase it by waterproofing — adding a topcoat for improved protection against water and moisture.

10. Teak

Teak wood

Teak wood is an excellent choice for a bathroom cabinet. It is one of the best wood to use because it offers good water resistance besides having the same physical high-level properties as mahogany. 

Like other hardwoods, teak wood offers high bending strength and shock and acid resistance, giving your bathroom shelving good dimensional stability. 

You can use it for less maintenance on your bathroom cabinet, resisting the accumulation of mildew and mold on the surface. Depending on your preferred aesthetic, you can design teak wood as your bathroom shelving, turning it into a classic or modern one.

Recommended Wood for Bathroom Walls

The recommended woods for bathroom walls are red oak, teak, and mahogany. These woods offer durability and stability and can resist water and moisture. 

floating shelf

But to extend their lifespan as bathroom walls, you have to waterproof the surface using a high-quality sealant or a waterproof glue that can protect your walls from boiling temperatures.

Recommended Wood for Shower

You can use cedar, cypress, and bamboo woods to make a wooden shower. Cedar and cypress can resist immediate rotting, although there are not sturdy. These woods also can withstand moisture and water, including mildew. 

On the other hand, bamboo offers durability, workability, and lightweight, so installing it won’t be a problem. Also, it is an excellent choice if your bathroom has limited space. 

Recommended Wood for Floating Shelves

For floating shelves, the recommended wood types are pine, koa, plywood, red oak, cherry, padauk, teak, and mahogany. These woods offer durability, water resistance, and versatility in shapes and designs. 

bathroom shelf

But you must still use water sealant, stain, or paint products to increase the waterproofing ability of your bathroom fittings, extend their lifespan, and minimize the maintenance of the wood.

How to Waterproof Bathroom Wood

When it comes to bathroom furnishings like shelves and showers, applying an appropriate finish is imperative to prevent water and moisture from infiltrating the wood. 

It’s widely acknowledged that wood stands out as a preferred material in construction owing to its versatility and ease of manipulation.

Although other wood does not need coating, it is essential to your wooden walls. To waterproof your wooden bathroom furniture, you must use proper waterproofing materials, including an all-weather clear sealer coat.

What Type of Wood Paint Should I Use?

The paint or sealants you should use to waterproof your bathroom vanity, shelving, shower, and wooden walls are lacquer, linseed oil, varnish, and polyurethane. 

Nuvo cabinet paint

Using these sealants, you can completely waterproof the surface, seal the pores, and block water particles and moisture.

You can keep your bathroom shelvings and walls in good condition by also applying sealants at least once every two years. This will also prevent early decay, rot, or warping of the wood.


Now armed with knowledge on the optimal types of wood for bathroom shelves, you have the freedom to craft your own wooden cabinets, showers, and walls, creating additional storage for towels and toiletries without fretting over potential damage.

There are wood varieties that boast a high resistance to water. Nevertheless, always prioritize waterproofing measures before integrating any shelving into the bathroom space, ensuring longevity and durability in these moisture-prone areas.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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