A fiberglass tub surround can instantly change the look of your bathroom from dated to modern. The installation process is straightforward, but there are a few things you can do to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Here are some tips to consider when installing a fiberglass tub surround.
1. Protect the Bathtub
It's important to take the steps to protect your bathtub from damage during the removal of the old surround and the installation of the new surround. Chips in the enamel of a traditional tub will eventually wear away, create a hole, and cause the tub to leak. New fiberglass tubs are very difficult to fix once they're scratched or chipped because they can't be re-finished like traditional tubs.
A heavy drop cloth, like the type used to protect surfaces when painting, works the best. Other choices are cardboard boxes strategically placed over the tub. With cardboard, you won't be able to get all surfaces covered. Several old sheets will also work, but they won't be as thick as a drop cloth and won't provide the same level of protection. Tarps like the kind used for camping are also a good option.
2. Begin Installation From a Corner
Begin installing the fiberglass tub surround from a corner and work your way out. It may be tempting to start at a single end and work your way around the tub. The problem with this method is that you run the risk of the corners not fitting properly. It's much easier to cut any excess fiberglass from the edges.
3. Mark Holes for Fixtures
Create a cardboard template of where you would like the fixtures to be placed. Use a cardboard piece for the size of the panel. Measure the location of the fixtures on the wall and duplicate their position on the cardboard piece. Cut holes in the cardboard, making sure that you add about 1/4-inch tolerance all around for final adjustment.
If they're cut too big, you will not be able to cover the cutouts with the fixtures or the cover plates any type of repair added to it will show. If the holes are too small, you'll have the difficult task of trying to make the openings larger while the fiberglass is on the wall. Use the template as a guide while you cut the holes into the fiberglass with a jigsaw. Try to lay the fiberglass panel flat as you do this. If that isn't an option, cut the fiberglass while it's upright but keep it away from the tub. But any way that you choose to do the cutting put a protective layer of masking tape over the area where you'll be using the jigsaw to keep the surface from getting scratched by it, and do not forget to wear your safety glasses for your eye protection.
4. Dry-Fit Panels Before Installation
Make sure you have all the parts to the tub surround and each panel is in good shape before applying the adhesive. Position each panel without glue where it should be to make sure there are no gaps and that the panels are plumb.
5. Fix Damaged Drywall
After removing the old tub surround and before installing of the new fiberglass tub surround, take a close look at the drywall. If you had tiles before, the grout may have worn away, allowing moisture behind the wall. Replace any sections of the drywall as necessary. Replace entire panels of basic drywall with green board drywall, which has a moisture-resistant paper covering. Fiberglass tub surrounds don't leak that easily, but if moisture gets behind the surround and the wall, the green board will reduce mildew and mold growth.