What is a Tub Surround: How to Choose a Tub Surround For Your Bathroom

After purchasing a new bathtub or even sprucing up an existing bath space, you may find that your bathtub doesn’t quite match the aesthetics of your bathroom. Moreover, there seems to be a great deal of space between your walls and the bathtub itself. Well, fear not, as bathtub surrounds are designed to fix that very problem-creating an area that supports your bathtub, protecting your bath space from water overflow and water damages while creating a more complete look and feel.


What is a tub surround?

A bathtub surround describes the area around your bathtub-specifically the tiles or walls that encompass or surround the exterior of your bathtub. The surround is important for not only aesthetic purposes-it also functions as a buffer for any excess water from continual shower or bath use and for structural integrity between the walls and your tub. In simpler terms, think of it as a vertical bathtub for your walls, as it is non-porous and will not trap water inside. If your surround is made up of simple drywall, please consider swapping it out for a new surround that is non-porous so that you do not have to deal with the possibility of structural damage down the road.

What are tub surrounds made of?

Similar to bathtub materials, surrounds are constructed from non-porous materials so that water may not carry a potential danger of creating structural damage. Common surround materials include acrylic, cultured marble, composite stone, fiberglass and solid surface. The important factors to note when choosing the correct material for you is price range, flexibility of material and sturdiness.

Acrylic and tile will be your cheapest option, as they come in a wide variety of styles and are quite easy to drill or cut to suit your needs. These are generally just acrylic sheets which are glued to your water resistant drywall, meaning that the added flexibility of the material lends to perhaps the lowest longevity (10 years) and lowest durability-it is quite easy to chip and damage, when compared to other materials. Tile is similar in that they can be made to fit any size bathroom so long as you buy enough requisite tile for your area. Fortunately, these surrounds come with the option to be reinforced with fiberglass for an additional $300 and it is highly recommended to do so as it will greatly improve on the durability and longevity of this surround.

Fiberglass, composite materials and cultured marble are next, offering you a surround that is much more durable than acrylic and tile, upping your projected lifespan by another ten years (20 years). This surround type is also easy to install, easy to drill and is quite cost effective, floating around the $500-700 price range.

Lastly, we have solid surface materials which are far and away the best material from a quality perspective. Solid surface surrounds have the longest longevity (30+ years) with the highest amount of scratch and chip resistance compared to any material on the market. In the event that this material does get scratched, it is perhaps the easiest to buffer or repair when compared to the other material types. Aesthetically, these surrounds resemble more natural looks with more realistic tile and texture patterns. For high quality, there are two major drawbacks to this surround type-price and flexibility. Since it is highly durable, this material is harder to cut and drill in the event that you wish to add or modify the surround itself. Price wise, this surround type is about four times the price of the cheapest option, clocking in around $800-1200.

How many square feet is a standard tub surround?

Your average bath surround will measure in around 1,920 square feet. This number will generally differ depending on the size of your bathtub and the space you have available in your bathroom. Typical pre-constructed surrounds have a length of 60 inches, a height of 32 inches and a width of 32 inches-this generally can fit a small to moderate sized bathtub. This extends to higher or larger sizes which come in with a length of 60 inches, a height of 72 inches and a width of 60 inches. These numbers are for pre-constructed surrounds, but for the purposes of tiling, you need to measure the width and height of your three surrounding walls to determine how much tile is appropriate or needed for your surround. As there is no uniform size for your bathroom space, it is important to measure out how much tile is necessary keeping in mind that there will be a certain amount of ‘waste’ as tile doesn’t always fit in perfectly.

Installation – new vs existing tub

If you have chosen to DIY your surround install, you will first need these tools:

  • Drill
  • Hole Saw
  • Nails and screws
  • Measuring Level
  • Marker
  • Tape Measure
  • Caulk and Caulk gun
  • Tub or shower surround kit.
  • Trowel

Most shower and tub surround kits afford you two different options for securing the panels-nails or glue. For installation purposes, the methods are very similar, only differing on how you wish to secure the panels themselves.

1. Remove any obstructions and prep your drywall

To allow the panels to bond properly, you need to make sure that the wall is clean to prevent any obstructions from mixing with the glue.

2. Dry fit your shower or tub enclosure

Before installing, lay your panels against your shower and make sure they fit before applying any caulk or screws.

3.Install the side panels

To create a more solid base, you want to install the side panels first by lining them up with your tub. Apply caulk on the panel in a zigzag pattern, then apply a bead on the wall, spreading it evenly with a trowel. Press firmly, releasing only after a good 1-2 minutes then applying a line of adhesive at the base before the bathtub.

4.Install the back panel

As the above step, lay a bead of caulk, making sure that the caulk stays within the panel boundaries before pressing firmly, releasing only after a minute then applying adhesive at the base.

5.Repeat process with the corner panels

Install the remaining panels in the same way, then allow adhesive to dry for at least 24 hours.

Using pre-bought kits vs. hiring professional

The immediate difference between using a kit and a hired professional is the price difference. Shower kits will run anywhere between $300-1000 depending on the material used. A professional starts between $700-1000 depending on negotiated rates, not including the cost of materials. However, you do retain the benefits of their experience and knowledge especially if you have no experience installing a tub kit surround by yourself. They also can help with any size issues or material difficulties that may occur such as something not fitting properly or if you want custom work done to the surround that you are unsure of how to approach. Many factory surrounds are typically bare, so additional shelves may be desired inside of the shower or tub walls which the professional can assist with.

What comes in a pre-bought kit?

Pre-bought kits come with panels of your desired material that need to be glued or fastened against your drywall.

How much does it cost to replace a bathtub and surround?

As discussed above, this price will differ largely depending on whether you are DIY or hiring a professional to replace your bathtub and surround. A surround will run you anywhere between $300-1200 depending on the quality of the material you desire. A bathtub replacement will lump an additional $300-1200+ depending on the material as well. Combine that with professional rates and it is easy to see why DIY is a preferred solution.

While your bathtub is a very integral part of your bathroom, upkeep on its surrounds is also crucial. While it may seem costly at first, the additional money paid can help prolong the life of your bathtub and help upkeep costs remain low. So whether your needs are practical or aesthetic, a bathtub surround can easily fit your bathroom.

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3 years ago

I’m sorry…WHAT? “Your average bath surround will measure in around 1920 square feet.”

2 years ago
Reply to  K

Yep. Hilarious right?

2 years ago
Reply to  K

K, do you know how to come up with the sq. footage? 60″ x 32″ =1,920″ = 1920 sq.ft.!

1 year ago
Reply to  lynn

You need to convert inches to feet (ie 60 inches = 5ft) before you calculate square feet.

John Paly
John Paly
3 years ago

Are u washing the neighborhood?

2 years ago

Its sq inches not sq ft! Pay attention

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