Tiles generally last for a long time, but if they haven't been properly maintained, they may begin to crack and grow mold, requiring their removal and replacement. The good news is, you can fast-track your bathroom makeover by installing a tub surround over your old shower tiles.
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To get started, purchase a tub surround kit that's compatible with your existing tub from a home improvement store. These kits are not only easy to install, but they also look good and seal the area behind them from water.
How to Install a Shower Surround Over Existing Tiles
Step 1: Remove Plumbing Fixtures
Remove the faucet handle, face plate, spout and showerhead. Typically, screws secure each of these items in place. Back out the screws with a Phillips screwdriver and remove the items from the shower wall. Lay a drop cloth in the tub to protect its surface while you work.
Step 2: Rough Up Tile Surface
Scratch the tile with sandpaper to rough up the surface. This gives the tub surround sealant a stronger hold. As you sand the tiles, you may notice some loose ones. Remove them with a pry bar. Spread tile adhesive on the backside of any loose tiles; then put them back into place.
Step 3: Cut and Install Apron-Trim Pieces
Measure the tub's height, from the baseboard molding's top edge to the tub's top edge. Transfer this measurement to the supplied apron-trim piece and cut it to length with a hacksaw. Measure the tub's width, transfer this measurement to another supplied apron-trim piece and cut it with the hacksaw. Peel off the apron-trim pieces' paper backing and stick one to the wall next to the tub and the other over the tub on the tile.
Step 4: Level Vertical Apron-Trim Piece
Hold a 4-foot level over the vertical apron-trim piece next to the tub. Adjust the level so it is plumb. Draw a pencil line on the wall, using the level as a straightedge.
Step 5: Install Back Panel
Install the shower surround's back panel first. Lift it up to the wall, line up its outer edge with the pencil line you made in Step 4 and position it so it is plumb. File some of the panel's bottom edge off with a belt sander, if necessary, so it fits plumb on the wall and there are no large gaps between the panel's bottom edge and the tub's top edge.
Step 6: Apply Sealant and Position Panel
Flip the panel over. Insert the supplied sealant tube into a caulk gun. Apply a bead of sealant onto the panel, keeping it about 1 inch in from the foam tape around the perimeter. Peel the paper backing off of the foam tape on the back of the panel and position the panel over the tile. Rub your hand across the panel, up and down, to press it firmly against the tile.
Step 7: Position Side Panel
Test-fit the shower's side panel and sand away part of the bottom edge if necessary. Measure the length of the wall and divide by two. Place a mark on the tiles at this location. Measure the length of the panel and divide by two. Place a mark on the panel at this location. Repeat Step 6 and fit the panel in place on the tiles, lining up the two center marks.
Step 8: Make Cardboard Template
Cut a piece of cardboard to the same size as the front panel — this is where all of the fixtures will originate. Measure the placement of each fixture on the wall and transfer these measurements to the cardboard. Use a utility knife to cut out each hole. Hold the cardboard template up to the tile shower wall to check that your measurements match up.
Step 9: Trace Template Cutouts on Panel
Set the cardboard template onto the front panel. Trace the circular cutouts onto the panel. Cut out the tracings with a jigsaw and 1-inch bit. Double-check that the cutouts match the fixture placements.
Step 10: Apply Sealant to Panel
Apply beads of the supplied sealant to the back of the panel and around each cutout. Press the panel onto the tiles.
Step 11: Reinstall Fixtures and Seal
Reinstall the face plate, faucet, spout and showerhead. Run a bead of silicone caulk along the corner and bottom seams where the panels meet each other and where the panels meet the tub's top edge. Smooth the caulk with a damp finger.