How to Install a Direct-to-Stud Tub or Shower Surround

Bathtub In Bathroom
Bogdan Vija / EyeEm / Getty Images
  • 01 of 06


    An increasingly popular option for the wall enclosures around bathtubs and showers is a surround kit that uses acrylic or fiberglass panels. They are cheaper and easier to install than ceramic tile wall enclosures, will remarkably easy maintenance. Whether you are enclosing a bathtub or stand-up shower, installation is basically the same, however, be aware that there are different types of surrounds.

    Some surround kits are designed for a specific shower base or tub, while others can be retrofit to an existing tub of appropriate size. Tub and shower surround kits can come as a single complete unit,  but these are usually used for new construction. Most tub and shower surround installed for remodeling applications come in three or five pieces to make the installation in tight spaces easier.

    Some surrounds are designed to screw directly into the studs. They are usually made of fiberglass or acrylic material, can be quite sturdy, and may come with built-in shelving. Others are adhesive-type tub and shower surrounds, which use adhesives to stick onto the bathroom walls.

    This tutorial will give you basic instructions on how to install the direct-to-stud type of surround for either a tub or shower. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before installing any tub or shower surround, because they will specify the way that the manufacturer wants the surround installed; you may void the warranty if it isn’t done properly.

    When buying a direct to stud surround make sure that you get the right size for the width of tub or shower you have. This type of surround can not be trimmed, the way you can with the thinner adhesive-type surround.

    Difficulty Level

    • Moderate-to-difficult

    Tools and Materials You Will Need

    • Tub or shower surround kit
    • Drill
    • Hole saws
    • Nails or screws
    • Level
    • Marker
    • Tape measure
    • Caulk gun
    • Tub-and-tile caulk


    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    The Basics

    The thicker tub and shower surrounds have flanges that are screwed or nailed into the wall studs. This type of surround installation starts by stripping the walls to the studs around where the surround will sit. Often, it is easier to cut out a larger area of drywall than what is needed for the surround, which makes it easier to screw or nail in the flanges. Then you can install drywall so it butts up to the surround over the flange after the surround is screwed into place.

    This type of surround is great for a complete bathroom remodel because you can tear the walls down to the studs and start from scratch by first installing a tub or a shower base, then finish the wall with the surround kit. If you aren't starting from scratch this way, you can set the panels on the lip of the tub, starting with the back, level it, and draw a line where the top of the flange will sit. Then, just cut out this area of drywall.

    • NOTE: Make sure the installation is done according to the manufacturer's instructions. If an adhesive is also required on the wall, or if silicone is recommended between the back and side walls, then be sure to use them.
    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Start With the Back Wall Panel

    Install the back wall first. Position the back surround panel on the tub and level it. Have someone help hold it in place while you check to see how it fits against the walls and the edge of the tub or shower base. Once it is sitting, drill pilot holes through the flange of the panel where it meets the center of the studs, and use nails or screws to hold it to the wall. Roofing nails that are short with large heads work well for this. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for the nailing interval. 

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    Install the First Side Wall Panel

    Next, install the side wall without the plumbing on it. Lock the side wall panel into the back wall panel. This side is done first because no holes are required and it is easy to install. Level the side panel and make sure it is sitting nicely on the lip of the tub or shower pan. Drill pilot holes in panel flange where it meets the studs, and screw or nail it to the wall.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Prepare the Last Side Wall Panel

    Before installing the last panel, it will have to be drilled for the tub or shower valve and maybe the tub spout. Take measurements off of the back wall to the center of the valve and off of the tub or shower base to the center of the valve. Transfer these measurements to the tub surround panel. Measure very carefully, as there is no fix if you drill the holes incorrectly.

    Drill holes in the surround panel with a hole saw. For the faucet valve hole, select a hole saw bit that is large enough to allow the trim screws to fit through, as well as the shower valve. (The faucet escutcheon plate will cover the slightly larger hole.) For the spout hole, choose a hole saw just a little bigger than the pipe that goes through to the tub spout.

    When drilling the holes, it can help to drill the holes the drill rotating in reverse so that the hole saw teeth do not rip into the surround. The pilot bit will help keep the hole bit in place while the hole is drilled.

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Install the Last Surround Panel

    Install the plumbing wall side panel. Once all of the holes are drilled, check to make sure they line up with the plumbing before locking the surround panel in place permanently. If the measurements were slightly off, make small adjustments until the holes line up correctly. Then lock the panel into the back wall and level it up. Screw or nail the surround flange into the studs after drilling pilot holes.

    Finish by reinstalling and caulking the plumbing trim.