Best Bathtub Walls

Updated May 2021
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

36 Models Considered
28 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
208 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best bathtub walls

It wasn’t long ago that having a shower in the house was considered a luxury reserved only for the wealthy. Since the 1950s, however, showers have made their way into nearly every apartment, house, and hotel. Along the way, the number, type, and style of bathtub walls for the shower have multiplied as well.

Bathtub walls do several things. First, they conceal the plumbing in the wall and hold the showerhead in place. Second, they provide a waterproof barrier between the shower and the two-by-fours and other building material in the wall itself. Third, they add visual appeal to your bathroom with a wide variety of appearances and color options. Finally, many of them today also provide built-in, molded shelves for your bathroom essentials such as shampoo, razors, soap, washcloths, and other items.

Bathtub walls have changed over the years. Originally, they were made of ceramic tiles attached to the existing wall and sealed with caulk, and installation was tedious. Today’s materials make installing them a breeze. However, you need to decide whether a one-piece or multi-piece wall is best for you and what style suits your décor. Read on for our expert advice.

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Most bathtub walls or surrounds are attached to the drywall in your wall rather than the two-by-fours.

Key considerations

One-piece vs. multi-piece

The first thing you need to consider is how many pieces the bathtub wall comes in.

One-piece

One-piece surround sets are fairly self-explanatory. They have a molded back wall and two end panels, all in one continuous unit without any seams.

The big advantage, of course, is the lack of seams. Fewer seams mean fewer chances of leaks. Aesthetics is another advantage, as the seamless appearance is smooth and modern.

The disadvantage is that in case of plumbing problems, the entire unit will have to be removed in order to access the pipes in the wall. That alone with double or triple the cost of a plumbing repair.

Multi-piece

Bathtub walls that come in three-piece or five-piece sets are almost as easy to install as one-piece units. Many of them can even be cut to size for small or unusually sized tubs. There is also less of a chance of buckling over time if your house shifts on its foundation. Yes, there are seams, but with a little care and a good caulking system, you won’t have to worry about leaks.

Tub size

Most bathtubs are 60 inches long, and the bathtub walls are constructed to match. Measure your tub before you buy a tub surround to make sure it fits. If your tub is a bit shorter than 60 inches, most of the surrounds can be cut to the right size.

The width is the main dimension to be aware of. The width of tubs usually varies from 32 inches to 34 inches. A surround that is too deep can be cut down, but if it is too small, you’d better hope you can return or exchange it, which isn’t always possible. To guard against that, make sure you get an accurate measurement of the width and depth of your tub.

Features

Material

There are several materials that bathtub walls can be made from. They each have their advantages and disadvantages.

Fiberglass: Surrounds made from fiberglass are typically thin (less than 1/4-inch) and cheap. As a general rule, there aren’t many color options in fiberglass, but it will do the job.

Acrylic: High-gloss acrylic is thicker than fiberglass but is still only 1/4-inch thick. It can also be hard to work with because it requires messy black butyl tape and the acrylic itself expands and contracts.

PVC: Composite materials can be up to 1/2-inch thick and come in a wide variety of finishes, colors, and patterns.

Veritek: This is a proprietary plastic from Swanstone that has a gel-coat finish. It’s also available in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Appearance

Although white or off-white is the most popular color for bathtub walls, they come in a wide array of other colors including pebble, bisque, granite gray, Tahiti matrix, and several shades of blue. Ceramic tile patterns are popular, as are marbled styles. Shop around carefully to find something that matches your personal taste.

Shelves

Bathtub walls often include molded shelves in one or more of the wall pieces, from a low one on the back wall to six large shelves, three in each corner. The more people who are using the bathroom, the more shelves you’ll probably need. If you have several children using a common bathroom, get as many shelves as possible to prevent squabbles over space.

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Did you know?
Modern bathtub walls are usually designed with the DIY enthusiast in mind. If you’re handy, installing the walls yourself can save you a significant amount of money.
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Accessories

Caulk: Dap Kwik Seal Caulk in 5.5-Ounce Tube
When you’re installing bathtub walls, you’re going to need sealant for the seams. This white caulk from Dap bonds like glue and seals the seams to prevent water leakage.

Shower caddy: SANNO Adhesive Shower Caddy
If you didn’t get enough shelves, add some with this adhesive shower caddy from SANNO. It’s made of rust-proof stainless steel that will last for years.

Safety handle: Safe-er-Grip Changing Lifestyles 17-inch Bath & Shower Handle
When you need an extra safety handle or just something to hold on to for balance, this suction handle from Safe-er-Grip can provide the extra measure of safety you’re looking for.

Curved shower rod: Zenna Home Rustproof Aluminum Double Curved Shower Rod
A curved shower rod gives you extra elbow room in the shower, and this one from Zenna Home has two rods — one for the liner and one for the outside curtain.

Bathtub wall prices

Inexpensive: Low-priced bathtub walls cost between $100 to $400. These are normally made of thin, cheaper materials with few color and design options.

Mid-range: For $400 to $900 are reliable mid-range bathtub walls. You’ll find a wide variety of colors, styles, and patterns in this range, along with quality construction.

Expensive: Expensive bathtub walls cost from $900 to $1,150. These typically have superior construction and multiple pattern and color options.

Tips

  • You don’t need expensive specialty tools to install a bathtub wall set. Ordinary tools such as jigsaws, routers, carpenter’s knives, and drills will do just fine.
  • Measure, clean, and sand everything behind the surround before you install it. Halfway through the job is a horrible time to discover you need to go back and do some prep work. This is when people start tearing their hair out.
  • Do all your cutting outside to avoid inhaling any of the particles that come off of the surround. You don’t want that dust in your mouth or nose.
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Bathtub walls don’t come with pre-cut holes for the faucet. You’ll have to measure and drill them out yourself.

FAQ

Q. Is a one-piece system always superior?
A.
No. They have some advantages, but it can also be difficult, if not impossible, to get them through the doors of your house. Take note of the dimensions of the product before you buy to determine whether installation in your home is possible.
 

Q. What is a bathtub surround?
A.
It is a fancy word for the area and walls directly around your bathtub. It specifically refers to the material that acts as a buffer to keep water away from the actual walls.
 

Q. What are solid surface materials?
A.
Solid surface materials are higher quality materials, such as Veritek. They are thicker, stronger, and more durable than materials such as acrylic or fiberglass. Many of them can have a 30-year lifespan or longer.

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