A bathtub wall kit, also known as a "bath surround" or "bath liner," is an enclosure designed to line the walls around the bathtub. Made from PVC plastic or pressed fiberglass, bathtub wall kits are a simple change for a major bathroom facelift. Readily available at hardware and home improvement stores, these kits have the added benefit of being suitable for installation over tile, even the old-fashioned ceramic ones, provided that the old tile area is smaller than that of the kit.
You can put a bathtub wall kit over old-fashioned ceramic tile as long as it is installed properly and the old tile area is smaller than the kit.
Remove the Faucet and Spout
Locate the screw on the faucet handle underneath the index cap and use a screwdriver to remove the handle. Unscrew the faucet's trim plate and pry the plate from the wall. Remove the showerhead.
Determine whether the spout is a slip-fit or a threaded connection. If it's a slip-fit, there will be a recess beneath the faucet where it's secured by an Allen screw. A threaded connection, however, would not have a recess. To remove it, insert pliers into the spout opening and unscrew.
Prepare the Area
For proper installation, the wall kit should be larger than the tiled surface. To prep the tile, sand with sandpaper to create a rough surface; you might wish to use safety goggles to protect your eyes. The grooves caused by the sanding will strengthen the sealant's hold. If loose tiles are discovered during the sanding, pry them off and stick them back to the wall with tile adhesive.
The apron trim should be included in the kit. With a hacksaw, cut a strip the length of the tub's height from the top edge of the baseboard molding to the top edge of the tub. Do the same for the tub's width. Peel off the paper backing on the apron trim. Stick the vertical apron trim (height) to the wall next to the tub and the horizontal apron trim (width) to the tile over the tub.
Prepare and Attach the Panels
For the back panel, adjust a 4-foot level so that it's plumb with the vertical apron trim and draw a line on the wall with a pencil. You may need to sand the bottom edge with a belt sander to ensure that it's plumb with no gaps between its bottom edge and the tub; wear a respirator during this process. Once the wall fits accordingly, flip it over.
Fill a caulk gun with the kit's sealant and apply it to the panel 1 inch from the foam tape. Peel the paper backing from the foam tape and position the panel over the tile. Apply pressure to the panel so it securely sticks to the tile.
Test fit the side panel the same way as the back panel. Measure the wall and mark the halfway point. Do the same for the side panel and install the panel the same way as the last, lining up the halfway point on the panel to the point on the wall.
Attach the Front Panel
For the front panel, cut a piece of cardboard so that it's the same size as the front panel. The cardboard will be used to map out where the shower fixtures will go. Measure the placement of the fixtures on the wall and transfer it to the cardboard. Double-check that your cardboard template is accurate by holding it to the wall.
Trace the cardboard template onto the front panel and cut out the shapes with a jigsaw using a 1-inch bit. Double-check that the cutouts are correct and install the front wall the same way as the others.
Reinstall the Fixtures
Reinstall the faucet, spout and showerhead. Secure the corner and bottom seams of the wall kit with silicone caulk and smooth the caulk with a damp finger. If properly installed, the kit should last for many years to come.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com), and she enjoys writing home and DIY articles and blogs for clients in a variety of related industries. She also runs her own lifestyle blog, Sweet Frivolity (www.sweetfrivolity.com).