Updating your bathroom tub and surround may sound like a huge undertaking, but if you buy the right fixture and prep the space properly, you can do the job yourself in just one weekend. Here are some buying and installation tips and tricks to make the job a lot easier.
Start by Buying the Right Tub and Surround
If you're upgrading a primary bath, shop for a four-piece composite tub/surround unit. They're sturdy, resist chipping and provide decades of service. A four-piece design is easier to transport and move into place than large two-piece units that force you to remove the bathroom door and jamb. Next, find a unit that maintains its watertight seal without caulk – unless you really enjoy renewing caulk every few years.
I think the STERLING® Ensemble Medley® tub/surround is the perfect choice for a DIY bath remodel project. It's a four-piece design (tub, back wall and two side walls) so you can move all the pieces into place easily. It's designed for DIYers with tongue-and-groove wall panels that fit together with tabs and slots. The wall panels incorporate factory seals that provide a seamless look that's watertight and never needs caulking. Plus, the Ensemble® Medley tub/surround is made from Sterling's proprietary composite Vikrell® material for a solid feel. The shelves and wall panels feel solid with no flex and the Vikrell® material resists chipping and maintains its gloss.
Prepping the site is critical to achieving a perfect installation, so spend the time to get it right before you begin the installation. Concentrate on these five preparation steps:
- Square up corners using filler strips and shims.
- Use a 6-ft level to check for vertical and horizontal bowing on all studs. Trim bowed areas with a handheld planer.
- Check subfloor condition and replace any damaged flooring.
- Pour a 1" thick mortar base to achieve the most solid foundation and reduce floor "creaking."
- Test-fit the tub and use shims to achieve a level condition within 1/32".
Then follow the instructions to install and secure the tub. Make sure you shim any shallow areas before attaching the tub retaining clips to the studs. Then place the back wall by locating the bottom tabs in the tub flange. Secure the top of the wall to the studs with screws. Again, use shims to fill any small gaps between the wall flange and studs.
Carefully measure and cut the openings in the side wall to accommodate the faucet, spout, and showerhead. Then set the side walls in place so the tongue and groove mates, and secure the wall flanges to the studs using screws. Finish the job by applying water-resistant backer board above the walls. Paint or tile those areas, and apply a bead of silicone caulk to seal the wall-to-flange gap.
Contributing Editor, The Family Handyman