The main purpose of bath panels is to cover all of the pipework and unsightly installation components that come with most baths. Of course, there are baths that do not use panels – most freestanding baths for example. But in the main, a panel will be required.
The type and style of the panel that you use will come down to several factors. Personal tastes, the design of the room, your budget and availability will all play a part in determining which bath panel suits you best.
Let’s have a look at the various options available to you.
What Are Bath Panels Made Of?
There are many different materials that can be used for making a bath panel. It is not a structural component so it does not have to bear any weight. It just has to look good and cover up everything that is going on under the bath.
So you could let your imagination run wild and make your own out of just about anything. Manufacturers have made products from
- real wood
But the two most common materials are acrylic and wood so we will have a look at these in more detail.
Acrylic Bath Panels
Acrylic bath panels are made from the same material as most modern baths. Unlike baths, the sheet used for the panel is not generally reinforced. It is also a much thinner gauge. They are very flimsy and flex easily as a consequence, This can cause problems.
Over time the flexing and bending can lead to cracking. It will happen more quickly if the bath panel has a convex pattern on it. These “sticky-out” bits are more likely to get caught when getting in and out of the bath and when standing close to the bath.
The panel slots up into a narrow channel under the rim of the bath. This makes them very easy to fit. They can be cut quite easily too. This is great if you have to adapt the panel to fit over pipes or other protuberances.
So these panels are not the most robust option. But they are very cheap, easy to fit and match the look of the bath material perfectly.
The following examples are available from Amazon – as an associate, we receive a small commission for any qualifying purchases.
Wooden Bath Panels
These are the second most common type of bath panel material and are usually made from MDF (medium-density fibreboard).
One of the drawbacks of MDF is that it is not waterproof. There are some grades that are water-resistant and it is this material that should be used for bath panels. The panels a wrapped with PVC foil which greatly helps in keeping the water away from the MDF.
This foil can be plain white, textured or printed with a wood effect. Moulded or routed patterns are a common feature to provide a bit of visual interest. If the wooden bath panel has to be cut to make it will mean that the PVC no longer covers every surface. Try and seal and open surfaces with a varnish or smear clear silicone sealant over the cut area to prevent water ingress. If water gets into the MDF core it will swell up and the PVC layers can start to peel away.
Prices are a little more expensive than acrylic but they are more robust and feel a lot more solid.
Are Bath Panels A Standard Size?
No, there is some variation.
A standard-sized bath in the UK is 1700 x 700mm so most panels are designed to this specification. The height at which baths are installed also varies and so does the height of the panels. Some panels have a separate plinth that can be used to adjust the overall height rather than having to cut along the whole length.
You might have to look for an alternative if your bath is longer than 1700. Some manufacturers make bath panels longer than 1700mm but they are not as readily available. You might be in a position where your bath is shorter than standard. If this is the case then the panel can be cut down accordingly. But make sure any cut edges are sealed if it is a wooden panel. Also, check that the cuts will not encroach on any design features such as routed or moulded patterns.
Most panels will have to be cut at some point to fit them in place. But you might be lucky and find one that fits straight off-the-shelf.
Panels For Corner Baths And P Shaped Baths
Buying a replacement bath panel for a corner bath or P-shaped shower bath can be problematic.
Corner baths come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. The radius of the curved section varies from one make to another. Then there are offset corner baths where one side is longer than the other. The best option is to buy the panel from the same source as the bath if at all possible. If not, you can try and make the panel from a different model fit your existing bath. The slot under the lip of an acrylic corner bath will help to make the bath panel follow the curve.
P-shaped baths or shower baths pose the same problem – if not slightly worse. There are various sizes and the showering area that bulges out into the room can also vary considerably. The panel will have compound curves so it is harder to make a panel from a different model fit your bath.
The other option would be to make your own bath panel – here are some ideas.
Make Your Own Bath Panel
This is a lot easier than you might think. It is a common practice when people install a bathroom wall panel system.
PVC bathroom cladding is the easiest of the wall panel systems to work with. By making the bath panel out of the cladding you give the bath a “built-in” appearance. The resulting panel is also much more robust than a standard acrylic bath panel. And it is completely impervious to water – unlike MDF panels.
But its main advantage is that the finished job looks great!. More info here: making a bath panel using cladding
You could make the panel in such a way that makes it easy to remove. This will give you access to the pipes but will also allow you to store some items away out of sight – see this article for more bathroom storage ideas
Tiling A Bath Panel
This is another way to give your bath a “built-in” look. There are a few more considerations that you need to be aware of with tiling.
The tiles will need to be attached to a solid panel. This should ideally be some form of tile-backer board.
You could use plasterboard but this has some downsides. It will be difficult to remove because a tiled panel will be heavy. Plasterboard is very fragile and might easily break. It also suffers adversely is exposed to water. So any splashes that seep behind the tiles could result in damage to the board.
Plywood is not ideal either. It expands at a different rate to the tiles so the grout will start to crack and the tiles can work loose.
Bath Panel With Storage Access
Most UK bathrooms tend to be on the small side. As a consequence, storage space can be limited so that various bottles soaps and cleaning materials have no place to be hidden away.
One place that you could make use of is the area under the bath. The tap-end of the bath will have a reasonable void to enable the pipework to be run. And the opposite end is sloping which leaves another decent area in which to store items out of sight.
There are specialist bath panels available which have access built into them. This enables you to make the most of the area under the bath that would normally be just wasted space. These panels are available on Amazon – as an associate we make a small commission from any qualifying sales.