Installing A Preformed Tub Surround – On the House

Installing A Preformed Tub Surround

By on August 29, 2015

In door plumbing; how different our lives would be without it. While the advantages to indoor plumbing are many, there are potential disadvantages. Water can be one of the single greatest enemies to a home. It is often the source of rot and other forms of water damage. Although we typically think of a roof leak when it comes to water damage, the roof is not the primary cause of most water damage within a home. The locations within the home where we use water (the tub, shower, toilet and sink) are the areas most prone to water damage.

We have good news. Water damage can be prevented with regular maintenance. A bit of grout, a touch of caulk, a dab of putty and a modest amount of time are all that is required to keep most potential water problems at bay. We have bad news too. Unfortunately, most water damage at tub and shower walls is discovered well after grout, caulk and putty can be of any value. Most people first detect a problem when tiles begin to fall off of the wall or when the plaster or wallboard becomes spongy.

Fortunately, the damage can be repaired. Sadly, however, what could have cost a few bucks in preventative maintenance can run several hundred (even thousands) dollars in repair costs. Why such costly repairs? Essentially, the scope of the repair work will generally go well beyond simply the tile and wallboard. Wall framing, floor framing and, depending upon the configuration, exterior siding can be affected necessitating costly repairs. Moreover, the tub, shower pan and/or toilet may need to be removed in order to make the needed repairs.

Hairline cracks in shower tile and grout, virtually invisible to the naked eye, can allow more than their share of damage to occur beneath an otherwise waterproof surface. With prolonged exposure, the moisture content of the wood framing will exceed twenty percent; the perfect environment for rot to prosper. Hence, if your shower wall cover is delaminating and the walls are spongy, be prepared to remove it all to expose the framing. Often, the damage is localized which may mean replacing a stud or two. Treatment of the area with a rot inhibiting pesticide and allowing the area to air dry are a must before wallboard and new finishes are installed.

The mistake that many people make is to attempt to make temporary repairs. Gluing up tile, painting tile or damaged wallboard and covering existing damage with a new fabricated wall system are recipes for disaster. The new wall system is definitely going in the right direction, but not until after all of the needed repairs are made. If the damage is extensive, we recommend that you enlist the services of a Structural Pest Control Operator (termite contractor) to investigate and treat the damaged areas. Some states require that a licensed professional apply pesticides. Check with your local building department for details.

Once framing repairs have been made, new wallboard can be installed along with new finishes. The materials for new shower walls are almost limitless. Solid surface products, tiles of all shapes, colors and sizes, plastic laminate and preformed fiberglass or plastic are among the most popular choices. Of the options, preformed fiberglass and plastic panel systems are the user-friendliest for do-it-yourself installation.

A preformed tub surround kit consists of anywhere from three to five pieces. Three-panel kits contain two sides and a back panel. Five-panel kits contain two side panels, the back panel and two corner panels. The corner panels often contain integral soap and shampoo shelves that improve utility as well as appearance. Also, the kits are available in a variety of colors with white and almond among the most prevalent.

Although some remodeling kits can be installed directly over framing, the less expensive, preformed retrofit kits described in this column are designed to be installed directly over wallboard. Therefore, these panels should be considered a waterproof wall covering, not a structural surface.

Prices of kits vary widely. The more costly kits are constructed of heavy gauge materials with superior finishes. This is especially important in the case of fiberglass and plastic. While strong and rot resistant, neither is scratch proof. Thus, abrasive cleaning products should always be avoided. Mild detergent and warm water usually does the trick.

Many of the better panel systems are self-flashing and require no caulking. The panels overlap or have tongue-and-groove joints. We suggest that you stay away from butt joints. They depend upon caulking to remain watertight. Caulking is temporary at best and a can attract mold and mildew.

Installation is easy. Most kits come with complete installation instructions and all of the installation material need such as adhesive and trim. The tools required include a razor knife with a sharp blade, a circular saw, masking tape, tape measure, carpenter’s square, hole saw, screwdriver, drill, straight edge, pencil and a caulking gun to apply the adhesive.

Before installing the new panels, protect the tub by placing a blanket in the bottom and covering the edges with cardboard. Begin the installation process by removing the showerhead and arm, the tub spout and the faucet handles and trim plates. It is an opportune time to give them a thorough cleaning before replacing them.

Next, transfer the location of the valve, shower head and spout to the corresponding panel using a tape measure and pencil. Use a hole saw or saber saw to cut holes in the panel at the appointed locations. To avoid chipping the panels, drill holes from the finished side. When cutting with a circular saw or saber saw, work from the back side.

Use masking tape to temporarily hold the panels in place while checking the fit. Trim the panels using the razor knife and a straight edge. Score the panels with the knife and fold the panel over as you would a piece of drywall. Thicker panels can be cut using a circular saw, saber saw or hand saw.

Generously apply adhesive to the wall and the back side of the panels. Push the panels into place and hold them firmly to allow the adhesive to set. Use masking tape or silver duct tape to prevent the panels from moving.

Finish the job by reinstalling the showerhead, tub spout and valve trim. Tempted as you might be to use your new shower, we suggest that you avoid using it for at least 24 hours after completing the work.

For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.


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