Making a bath panel can be a quite straightforward process. The panels that are supplied with bathroom suites can be a bit flimsy. So you might well decide to create something that looks better and is more substantial.
The method used to make a bath panel will depend upon the type of bath that is being installed and the location of the bath. The bath could be against a flat wall, in a corner or in an alcove, for example.
We will look at the various materials that can be used and the effects that can be achieved.
What Can I Make A Bath Panel Out Of?
The simple answer is: just about anything.
Bath panels are purely decorative. They are designed to provide a nice finish to the bath design and to hide all of the pipes and brackets used during installation. So they are not a structural component and bear no weight.
We look at some of the more common materials used in detail so you can gauge for yourself which material is best for you.
Price will play a part as will your personal tastes. Your DIY skills will also be a factor because some materials are easier to work with than others.
When making your own bath panel it should be:
- impervious to water splashes
- removable – so you can check under the bath for leaks
- attractive – so that it improves the look of the room
And that’s basically it. Some materials and techniques are obviously more appropriate than others so let’s take a look at each of them in turn.
Tiling A Bath Panel
This is a popular option and is one of the methods that help tie the whole bathroom design together.
By using the same tiles on the walls and the bath panel you give the bath a built-in look. There are a few methods you can employ to provide the substrate onto which you can fit the tiles.
Plywood or MDF would seem like the obvious candidates but these have a few downsides. Wood and MDF expand and contract at different rates to ceramic tiles. This can lead to tiles working loose and grout cracking. In a shower, this would be a serious problem but obviously, on a bath panel, it is less critical.
There are specialist adhesives and grouts available that are flexible and go some way to alleviating these issues.
Plywood and MDF both suffer when exposed to water (even the water-resistant grades). But this should be minimal with a bath panel as exposure to water will be sporadic and not excessive. It is probably best to coat it with something waterproof to be on the safe side.
Plasterboard is another option but is a bit fragile if you are going to make the panel removable. It also acts like a sponge if it gets wet and loses its structural integrity. Tile backer boards would probably be a better option as they have more strength and are not affected by water. Both these products expand at similar rates to tiles. So cracking and loosening issues will be reduced.
The panel will be more difficult to remove if it has been sealed or grouted into place. But this will be pretty minimal and can be easily re-applied if you have to take the panel off for any reason.
Making A Bath Panel Out Of MDF
MDF is an easy product to work with and can be sanded, cut or routed readily.
Your options with MDF will depend on the tools that you have available and your DIY skills. You could opt for a plain, painted finish if these are both limited.
A plain, painted wooden bath panel will provide a simple and straightforward design that will be far more rigid than a conventional acrylic panel. There are also different painting techniques you could employ to variations on plain white. Woodgrain effects, rag-rolled effects and sponging can all be used to make your panel a little more distinctive.
You can create your own patterns in the MDF if you have a router, and make something completely unique to your bathroom.
Or you could buy one ready-made – the example above is from Royal Bathrooms
Using Solid Wood
Wood comes supplied as planks so this is the type of material most people will have to work with.
You may be lucky and have a large sheet of solid wood available but this is not the type of thing that is available off-the-shelf at building or hardware stores.
It is possible to join planks together to make a panel. You would need to employ some joinery techniques to construct a panel this way and you would need the right equipment.
An easier option is to use tongue and grooved timber. These planks simply slot together doing away with the need for high skill levels. They are usually thin enough to push up into the slot on the underside of the bath rim.
You need to ensure the timber is sealed either with varnish or paint because bathrooms are very tough on wooden products.
Make A Bath Panel Out Of PVC Cladding
Making a bath panel out of PVC cladding is probably the easiest of all the options.
The majority of baths sold in the UK these days are made from acrylic. They have a slot under the rim designed for the bath panel to slot into. It is the perfect size for bathroom cladding in most instances.
All that is required is that the cladding is cut to size, a batten attached to the floor and the bath panel is assembled by slotting together the cladding. Sticking the cladding to the batten is easiest but this will mean the panel will not be easily removable. If you want to make it removable stick the cladding to some thin ply to make a one-piece panel. This can then be attached with a few mirror screws or some magnetic catches.
Using the same bathroom cladding as on your walls will give that “built-in” look as was mentioned with the tile version above. In fact, there are many tile effect bathroom panels available that will give you the look of tiles but without any of the grout problems.
Using A Shower Panel
A variation on the method above is to use a shower panel.
These panels are quite large in size – usually 2.4m x 1m (or bigger). This enables the bath panel to be made from one piece of material without the need for joins.
Shower wall panels used to be made from a plywood core covered with a laminate surface. But recently, shower panels have been made entirely from PVC. These are easier to cut than the laminate panels which is important because you will have to cut the whole length to make it fit.
The PVC shower panels are made from a thicker gauge plastic than bathroom cladding so they are more robust and are ideal for use in this situation.
Panels For Steel Or Cast Iron Baths
Steel and cast iron baths do not have a slot underneath the rim so a framework would have to be constructed to which the panels are attached. This does not have to be excessively robust because it just needs to hold the panels steady. Bath panels are not weight-bearing, as mentioned previously.
Corner Baths And P-Shaped Baths
Corner bath panels are more of a problem, as are shower baths (P-shaped baths).
MDF is not bendable so it would have to be made into smaller, plank-like sections. Bathroom cladding can be bent if it is scored on the back – see the bending panels section in our installation guide. This is probably a better choice of material in this situation.
A curved framework has to be constructed which, although doable, is quite tricky as the curve has to match that of the bath minus the thickness of the panels.