How to Install a Tub Surround

How to Install a Tub Surround


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How to Install a Tub Surround is usually a fairly easy Project, provided that your walls behind the Surround are in good shape. However, if you have had any leaks behind your wall which may have compromised the condition of your Wallboard and/or Studs, then it may become fairly involved. If this is the case, you should be prepared to replace some Wallboard, as well as, possibly some of the Studs, due to water damage and rot. You will also need to repair the leaks. You would never want to replace a Tub Surround over soft or moldy Wallboard, or attempt to live with rotting or compromised Studs. Not only is it structurally unsound, it is also a health hazard due to the mold issue.

This post will proceed, assuming that your Wallboard and Studs are in good shape and there are no water leaks. If that is not the case, then see one or more of the following applicable Posts:


Materials & Supplies Needed:

    • Tub Surround of your choosing
    • New Faucet Handles, Tub Spout, and Shower Head (if desired)
    • (3) tubes of Clear or White Waterproof Silicone Caulk
    • (5) tubes of Liquid Nails
    • Trim work of your choosing (amount dependent on the size of your Tub Surround
    • Finishing Nails for Trim work
    • Paint for Trim (Paint and Primer combo)
    • Ceiling Paint
    • Wall Paint


In order to purchase any Materials & Supplies Needed, see the appropriate page in any of the drop-down pages under:  Home Products – Supplies  in my Top Menu.

Scroll down the list to find the correct item. You will find an explanation of that item, as well as, links under each item, which direct you to my Recommended Suppliers for you to check out their offerings.


Tools & Supplies Needed:

    • Safety Glasses
    • Work Gloves
    • Dust Mask
    • Trim Crowbar
    • Claw Hammer
    • Soft Drop Cloth (to protect bathtub)
    • Small Flathead Screwdriver
    • Phillips Head Screwdriver
    • Large Channel Locks Pliers
    • 1” Putty Knife
    • 4” Putty Knife
    • 80 Grit Sandpaper
    • Sanding Block
    • Shop Vac
    • Mineral Spirits or Turpentine
    • Several Clean Rags
    • Plastic Drop Cloths
    • Latex Paint Gloves
    • Paint Can Key
    • 2” Paint Brush
    • Paint Roller and Pan
    • 4’ Level
    • 25’ Tape Measure
    • Painter’s Tape
    • Jig Saw
    • 4’ T-Square
    • Drill
    • Appropriate size Hole Saw Bits for Faucet Pipes, Exchanger Pipe, and Tub Faucet Pipe
    • Caulk Gun
    • Stanley Knife with New, Sharp Blades
    • Nail Set (smaller in diameter than your Nail Heads)
    • Compound Miter Saw with Crosscut Blade


In order to purchase any Tools & Supplies Needed, see the appropriate page in any of the drop-down pages under:  Home – Garden: Tools and Equipment List  in my Top Menu.

Scroll down the list to find the correct item. You will find an explanation of that item, as well as, links under each item, which direct you to my Recommended Suppliers for you to check out their offerings.




Step-by-Step Instructions


Please review the information included here in the first 5 Steps, and then review my page:  5 Steps for Project Management.  When you have completed those first 5 Steps, you can return here to continue on to Step 6.


Step 1 – Assess the Project


The first thing that you should do if you have an existing Tub Surround, is push firmly against the walls in various places in order to determine if your Wallboard is sound. This is especially important on walls that contain plumbing and windows. Windows can also sometimes also be the source of water damage.

If any areas in your walls are soft, then you will probably need to replace some Wallboard and possibly some Studs. You may also need to make some plumbing repairs if there are any existing leaks. You will not really know for sure what work will need to be done until you remove your existing Tub Surround. See the appropriate Posts listed at the beginning of this post.

Then, shop for a Tub Surround based on the measurements that you have. You should also consider if you will be making any other changes to your Bathroom at this time, such as:  a new Vanity, new Cabinets, and/or new Paint. Painting before putting in a Tub Surround is recommended.


    • Once you have determined the condition of your walls behind your existing Tub Surround, you should shop for your replacement. Tub Surrounds come in a variety of styles. Some contain Shelving or Niches to hold some of your hair and soap products. Some contain Rods in order to hold a wash cloth. Choose the one that best suits your needs.
    • Measure the width and height of the areas to cover with your Tub Surround. Check online with my Recommended Suppliers to see their offerings of different designs of Surrounds and match those that suit your measurements. Choose the one that best suits you. Also, measure and record your findings for any needed Trim.
    • You may also want to consider any other changes that you want to make to your Bathroom at this time. You may want to put in a new: Vanity, Medicine Cabinet, Toilet, Towel Cabinet, or repaint the Bathroom before you install your new Tub Surround. Painting will be easier if you do that Project before installing a new Tub Surround. See the appropriate Posts at the beginning of this post.


Step 2 – Create a Materials & Tools Needed Sheet


Based on your choices in Step 1, along with the Materials & Tools Needed list, create your Materials & Tools Needed sheet.


Step 3 – Calculate Project Cost



Step 4 – Order Your Materials & Tools Needed



Step 5 – Inspect Your Delivery


After reviewing the information here in the first (5) Steps, additional information to complete these first (5) Steps is found in the page:  5 Steps for Project Management.  Simply click on that link and you will be directed there.

After completing those first (5) Steps, return to these Instructions and continue on to Step 6.


Step 6 – Remove Existing Tub Surround


Put on your Safety Glasses, Work Gloves, and Dust Mask. If you have an existing Tub Surround, then you will start your Project by first laying out your soft Drop Cloth to protect your tub. Then, remove any existing trim, shower faucet, handles, tub spout, and any accessories (soap dish, soap, shampoo, etc.). Then, remove all caulking between your Surround and your tub. Then, remove the Tub Surround.


    • Begin by laying out your soft Drop Cloth to protect your tub. Then, taking your Trim Crowbar and Claw Hammer, and remove any existing Trim around your Tub Surround.
    • Next, take a tiny Flathead Screwdriver and remove the center caps in your faucet handles and shower exchanger. Then, take a Phillips Head Screwdriver and remove the faucet handles and exchanger handle.
    • While protecting your tub spout with a Rag, take your large Channel Lock Pliers and remove your tub spout.
    • Now, you need to remove the Caulk between the Surround and your tub. Starting in a corner, take your 1” Putty Knife and press it under your Caulking at your tub to loosen it up for several inches. Do the same where the Caulking meets the Tub Surround. Once several inches have been freed, you may be able to pull the Caulking off. If not, then you will need to use your 1” Putty Knife and go around the entire perimeter and free the Caulk from the tub (you will not need to free it up from the Surround).
    • Then, take your 4” Putty Knife, and starting at the top, left edge of your Surround (toward the outside of the tub) stick the Putty Knife between your Wallboard and the Surround, freeing it up from the wall for about 12”.
    • While using your Putty Knife to hold the Surround an inch or two away from the wall, stick your fingers in and pull the Surround off of the wall. Repeat this process for your entire Surround until it has been completely removed.


Step 7 – Sand Existing Adhesive from the Walls


Place a piece of Sandpaper on your Sanding Block, get into the tub, and close your shower curtain or doors Sand any existing Adhesive from the walls where the new Tub Surround will be installed. Use your Shop Vac to clean up the majority of the mess, then wipe the walls and tub with a damp Rag. Then, take a clean rag and your Mineral Spirits or Turpentine and clean up any residual caulk from your tub. Once all of the residual caulk has been removed, rinse the area with soap and water and dry.


    • Make sure that you are wearing your Safety Glasses, Dust Mask, and Work Gloves before beginning to sand. Sand the majority of the existing adhesive off of the walls (it does not need to be perfect).
    • Once the sanding has been completed, clean up with your Shop Vac and wipe the walls and tub with a clean damp Rag.
    • Remove any residual Caulk with a clean dry Rag and your Mineral Spirits or Turpentine. Rinse with soap and water and dry.
    • If you are going to paint your Bathroom, now is the time to accomplish that; ceiling first, then the walls. You will not need to paint where your Surround will be installed. Simply paint a couple of inches into the Surround area. See my Post:  Best Way – Paint Ceiling and Walls


Step 8 – Trim Surround Panels to Fit


Check the dimensions of your Surround’s panels. Check your tub for level. You will want to make your measurement from the lowest point on your tub, and then level your top marks from that point.

Measure from your tub to the top of where the panels will be installed and either mark the wall with pencil marks or Painter’s Tape at the correct height. Use your 4’ Level and mark a level line completely across at the top of where each panel will be placed. Double check your height measurements and panel dimensions to check for proper fit. Trim panels as needed.


    • Using your 4’ Level, check your tub for level. Make a mental note (or mark with a piece of Painter’s Tape) of which tub corners are the low points.
    • Check the dimensions of your Surround panels (height and width). Then, measure the width of the walls where the Surround will be installed. Write these dimensions down on scratch paper. Note which panels will need to be trimmed (or mark each with a Post-It Note with the necessary dimensions).
    • From the lowest corner of your tub, measure from the tub to the top of where your panel will be on the wall and make a mark (or use a piece of Painter’s Tape). This will be the height measurement of your panel.
    • Take your 4’ Level, place one end on your mark and mark a line across the top of the walls at level. Do this for all walls that will have the Surround.
    • Next, you will trim each Surround panel to the proper length and width (if needed). Starting with the panel that will contain your faucet pipes, measure the width of your panel, and mark that measurement at the top of wall where your panel will be installed. Then, measure from your top line to about 1/8” above your tub, at both ends of your where your panel will go. (You can place your Tape Measure on the tub at the outermost edge of where your panel will begin and end, measure up to your line, take the measurement, subtract 1/8” and record your measurement. Record those measurements on your scratch paper. Mark each measurement right or left as appropriate.
    • Transfer these measurements to your panel, marking where each will be. Using your 4’ Level or your 4’ T-Square, draw a line between the marks. Now, set your panel on a surface that you can cut on without damaging it (this could be a concrete drive or patio, a sheet of plywood or whatever you choose to use). Then, holding your Level or T-Square firmly on the line (you may need a helper to assist you), use your Stanley Knife to score along your line. It make take several attempts at running your blade along the line until it cuts completely through. If your Surround is very thick, it may be recommended to make your cuts using a Jigsaw with a fine toothed blade.
    • Now, you need to mark for your holes to be cut for your faucet and exchanger pipes, as well as, you tub faucet pipe. You can cut a piece of the cardboard that your Surround came in to make a Template. Cut the cardboard large enough to extend from the outer edge of where your Surround will start to several inches past your furthermost pipe. It should also be high enough to extend several inches past your pipes.
    • Use your Stanley Knife and a pair of Scissors to cut the holes in the Template. Once you are happy with your Template, lay the Template in the appropriate place on your panel, trace out the hole marks. Then, using your Drill and appropriate size Hole Saw Bits, drill the holes in your panel. Check it on your wall for fit.
    • Then, mark and trim the rest of your panels in the same way as you did the first one. As you measure, mark each panel with a Post-it-Note to designate the next one to be installed (1, 2, 3, etc.)


Step 9 – Apply the Liquid Nails Caulking and Attach the Panels


Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for applying the Liquid Nails Caulking and attach each of the panels to the wall. Let them dry.


    • Begin by cutting the tip of a tube of the Liquid Nails Caulking at a 45 degree angle, far enough down to allow the tip opening to be about ¼” in diameter. Using a long Rod, Nail, or thin Screwdriver, puncture the seal of the Caulk and install it in your Caulk Gun.
    • Take your first panel, lay it face down, and spread a generous bead of Caulk about ½” from the entire outer edge. Then, place additional beads in an ‘S’ pattern about 4” apart all along the panel.
    • Stick the panel in the appropriate place on the wall, pressing it firmly into place. Be sure to press on every square inch of the panel. Then, peel the panel back off of the wall, and let it air dry for about 10 minutes. Reinstall the panel, pressing it firmly against the wall. Be sure that it is in right position. You can gently slide it up, down, or to the side, by smacking the palm of your hand at an angle on the panel.
    • Dry fit your next panel to make sure that you have the right one, and repeat the installation process. Continue to repeat the process until all panels have been properly installed. You will need to occasionally repress each of the panels about every 10 – 15 minutes for the first hour in order to make sure that they will stick properly.
    • Once all of the panels have been installed, replace all of your faucet handles and tub spout.


Step 10 – Apply Silicone Caulk to the Joints


Apply the Waterproof Silicone Caulk to all of the joints in your Surround, as well as, around the faucet handles and tub spout. Cut and install your Trim (if needed).


    • Cut the tip of a tube of Waterproof Silicone Caulk at a 45 degree angle, back enough to allow for an 1/8” bead of Caulk. Poke the seal and install the Caulk into your Caulk Gun.
    • Apply the Caulk all along each and every joint in your panels, as well as, around the faucet handles and tub spout. Do not attempt to smooth out this type of Caulking, You will only make a big mess.


Step 11 – Cut Your Trim, Dry Fit, Paint, and Install

Measure and cut your Trim, dry fit each piece to be sure, paint the Trim as needed. Once it is dry, install the Trim. Countersink all nail heads.


    • Measure and cut each piece of Trim, using your Compound Miter Saw to make angle cuts in the corners. See my Post:  How to Make Miter Cuts
    • Dry fit each piece, and when all pieces have been cut, paint the Trim. Dry for about an hour before applying a second coat.
    • Once the Trim is dry, install it using your Finishing Nails, countersinking each one slightly.


Wait at least 24 hours for the Silicone Caulk to dry before using the shower. Enjoy your new Tub Surround!


Please leave a Comment or ask a Question in the Comments section below.


Thank you,

CJ Dodaro


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