You really start to appreciate the benefits of wall panels when it comes to installation. There is virtually no preparation required – the panels can go straight onto brick, block, plaster, battens and can even go over existing ceramic tiles.
If you are completely remodelling your bathroom we would recommend the following installation order:
Run the panels down onto the top surface of the bath or shower tray rim – do not run the panels down behind a bath or shower tray.
The easiest method of attaching the panels to the wall , and the one used by most installers. PVC panels can be stuck using any off the shelf panel adhesive. Some laminate panel manufacturers insist that you use their own proprietary brand. So check with the manufacturers to be on the safe side.
The adhesive can be applied to the rear of the panels in an “S” pattern if the walls are flat and smooth. Or it can be applied in blobs if the walls are less even – you then push the panel back to the wall for it to find its own level.
There is no need to cover the entire rear surface of the panel as you would with a ceramic tile. Each panel is held in place by the next one via the tongue and groove system so less adhesion is required. Make sure the walls are clean, dry and free of any soap residue (if fitting over existing tiles).
For standard 250mm wide panels you would usually use 1 tube of adhesive per pack of 4 panels or 1 tube per panel for 1m wide panels. This is just a guide. You might need more if the walls are very uneven and the adhesive is used to pack out the gaps.
The panels can also be stapled if the walls are suitable – plasterboard or plywood walls or partitions are typical situations. The staples will not be seen because the next panel in line will cover the fixing. This method is very quick and is one of the easiest methods to undo if the panels need to be removed.
It is also possible to fit the panels using screws although this is a much slower process than using one of the other methods above. The only real advantage of using screws is that the panels can be removed at a later date if required.
If the walls are very uneven, battens can be used to achieve a level surface and then the panels can be attached to the battens using panel adhesive or a staple gun.
These can be stuck to the wall or screwed. Both approaches will allow a small amount of adjustment to ensure the battens eliminate the unevenness in the wall.
There are some downsides to using battens.
Battens will slightly reduce the dimensions of the room. In large bathrooms this is not too much of an issue but can be critical in smaller rooms.
The extra thickness can impede the use of bath taps because there will be the thickness of the panels plus the thickness of the battens. This will leave very little room behind the taps. Bath taps with levers can overcome this problem but it could mean swapping the taps. You could also choose a wall mounted tap system.
One advantage of using battens is that you have space behind the panels to bury pipework. This produces a much neater finish than running pipes on the surface.
It is also possible to use combinations of installation methods.
For example, ceiling panels are quite often stuck to an existing ceiling but staples are used to hold it in place while the adhesive dries. Click here for more information on installing ceiling panels.
Another common combination is used where an old bathroom is half-tiled and the tiles are bedded in cement. These are notoriously difficult to remove so they can be left in place and the top half battened out to the same level. The panels are then stuck onto the tiles and stapled to the battens.
The joints between PVC panels are designed to be shower proof. They are not totally waterproof. You could force water through the joint if you took a shower head and pointed at the joint. So in a shower area we would recommend sealing in-between each panel. You only need a thin smear of silicone sealant because the joints are pretty tight to start with.
Laminate panels always need to be sealed to prevent water getting into the wooden core. The core can swell up if it is exposed to moisture forcing the joint apart slightly and exacerbating the situation. Check with the manufacturer as to which sealant they recommend. The product guarantee can depend on it.