The Back Wall Won't Stick in My Three-Piece Tub Surround. What Do I Do?

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One of the easiest ways to finish off a bath and shower area is by using a prefabricated tub surround. These premade assemblies come in three or five pieces that fit the standard sizes of most bathtub spaces and are meant to be mounted directly onto the drywall surrounding your tub. The panels are normally made from fiberglass or acrylic and come in a variety of colors.


Prefabricated tub surrounds are easier and cheaper to install than tile, and since the panels are each one single piece, there are fewer opportunities for small leaks that can damage the drywall underneath. However, it is possible that they won't stick to your back wall, which can require additional effort. Here's what to do if the back wall won't stick in your tub surround.

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Why the Back Wall Won't Stick in a Three-Piece Tub Surround

  • Improper installation
  • A tub that isn't level
  • Damaged drywall

How Tub Panel Adhesives Work

These tub panels are held in place with a combination of adhesive spread over the back of the panel and fasteners provided by the manufacturer that are installed through the panel and drywall and into the wood studs of the wall. Successful installation requires the proper use of these materials. Using nails or screws that aren't the ones provided by the manufacturer can result in the panel pulling away from the wall as the hardware loosens, so be sure to use the parts provided with the panels themselves.


Not only do you need to use the right products, but you also have to ensure you've applied them correctly. Be sure to read the manual to determine how to apply the adhesive correctly. (Some types of glue require exposure to air for a certain amount of time before the panel can be stuck in place. Others may require special mixing or special application.) Finally, you also need to make sure the adhesive has enough time to fully dry before exposing the tub panels to heat and moisture.


Properly Installing Tub Surrounds

Proper installation is a critical part of ensuring the adhesive sticks properly. Here are a few things to keep in mind when installing a prefabricated tub surround:

  • The back piece of the surround should be installed first, and before installing, it's best to check that the area is ready.
  • Make sure the tub is entirely level and that the drywall is prepared.
  • If the tub isn't level, the back piece isn't going to be flat against the wall and other pieces, and it may not stick.
  • If the previous tub surround was glued to the drywall and removal has damaged the drywall, you'll want to tear it out completely and replace the drywall before installing the new surround. The back won't adhere to a damaged surface.
  • To ensure the back panel is flush, it may also be necessary to work on any warped or protruding wall studs. Chisel or sand off any edges until the wall studs are aligned with the drywall surface, assuming the walls are still not finished due to your bathroom renovation.


What to Do When the Back Wall Won't Stick

Again, the back surface has to be flat, and the back panel needs to be flush on the surface. The more area of contact you have, the better the back panel will stay mounted. Without enough area that seals properly, the back wall won't stick.

A panel that keeps coming off is a problem since it exposes the drywall and wall studs to damaging moisture from the tub or shower. So, what exactly do you do if the back wall of your tub surround won't stick? Beyond reinstallation, you can try to apply additional adhesive into the gap where the back wall isn't sticking and apply pressure to hold it in place until the additional adhesive has dried.



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