Bathtub Trim Panel

The project: Designing, building and installing a trim panel on a bathtub.


Materials: Salvaged wood from our demo/remodel. Dave, my patient and salvage-obsessed husband, saved the old wood (house built in 1911) and ran it through a planer to clean it up, so we could re-use it for the trim.

Design: I wanted wide horizontal planks (with small gaps in between each) for the face panel but didn’t know how the corner transition would work where the bathtub trim met the baseboard trim. Mary, Monica and I mocked up a couple of rough options to see what would look best.

hmmm, better 1 or 2?

In Version 1 the bottom board of the tub panel aligns with the baseboard trim, the middle board is the same height as the bottom and the top board is the leftover height. Version 2 has all three boards of equal height so the bottom board doesn’t align with the baseboard trim. After all that…we decided to align the bottom board with the baseboard. I have an alignment fetish. The top two boards are equal height, but slightly shorter than the bottom one. Better 1 or 2? I say neither. I like 3. ; )

Prepping: Next was getting the wood ready. After cutting each board to the correct widths/height (Dave helped us cut it, table saws are scary), we sanded, applied wood conditioner, sanded, applied wood finish, sanded, applied second coat of wood finish, sanded, applied third coat of wood finish, then buffed with steel wool. All this wood finishing talk may leave you either a) bored to death, or b) wanting more detailed information. For those of you in the “b” group, we’ll post some detailed info in the next couple days.

Building: We laid the three boards face down on the floor, putting ¼” strips of wood between each to create equal spaces between each board. We attached (by pre-drilling and screwing) 2 small vertical strips of wood to the back side to connect and hold the boards together (below left).

We made the entire 3 board panel longer than necessary so that we could make a single cut through all three boards after it was assembled. We clamped a straight edge to the panel and cut (carefully) a straight line with a skill saw (above right). After a couple rounds of fitting, trimming, fitting, trimming again… it fit!

Installing: First we painted the existing concrete board face panel black in case you’d be able to see through the gaps in the boards.

The 3 board panel needed to be removable for future access to bathtub plumbing. After considering some attaching options, we thought it would easiest to have a “french cleat”, which we made from some leftover scrap trim wood (did I mention Dave likes to save wood?).

I really wanted to make certain the wood panel fit firmly in place on the wall, aligning with the floor and would not wiggle. That required very precise positioning of the bottom/wall and the top/wood panel cleats. There are probably more professional ways to figure this out, but what worked was to mount the bottom cleat to the wall first. Then, we slid the top cleat in position onto the attached wall cleat (above right). We then ran a line of hot glue on the top cleat and then (quickly) positioned the wood panel, pressing firmly. The top cleat was then stuck to the wood panel in the perfect position and we just lifted the panel up and off the wall. Next we pre-drilled holes and used screws to permanently attach the top cleat to the wood panel. We then installed it by simply hanging it in place. All done!

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