Make that boring stretch of white tub into something beautiful.
I inherited the modest brick house I grew up in, a 1200 sf, 1 1/2 bath home built in 1949. It's needed a lot of TLC, especially the bathrooms. We had to gut and re-do the half bath, but the main bath was structurally sound and just needed a lot of sprucing up.
As part of the main bath remodel, I tore down and replaced the old panel board tub surround with ceramic tile. I chose a 2-1/3 in. x 10 in. Glazed Porcelain Floor and Wall Tile, (one that looks like brick and is impervious to water) and I liked the look of it so much I decided tile the large, boring, expanse of white fiberglass tub that faces into the room, the so-called "decorative panel". It turned out great, and is now my favorite thing in the room.
FYI: This bathroom is the standard hall bath you find in many older homes, and it's difficult to take great photos in such a small space. Also, the bath remodel is still in progress - so do ignore the missing moldings and tacky old floor. This and the remainder of the finish work are next up.
Step 1: What You Need
1. A clean tub panel. Adhesives won't adhere well to a dirty of oily surface. Make sure it's completely dry before beginning. Note: If the surface is "shiny" you may want to consider dulling it up with a sanding block before proceeding.
2. Cement backer board and construction adhesive. I used 1/4" HardieBacker, the same board used for the tub surround tile install. It's sold in 3x5 sheets that you'll need to cut to fit your situation. For the adhesive I used Loctite Power Grab Express Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive, which is my "go to" construction adhesive, but if I hadn't had any around I would have used thin-set.
3. Tile, mastic or thinset, and grout. I chose to use the same porcelain tile and grout I used on the tub surround, as I like the rustic brick look with dark grouted joints and wished to extend it. Always check to see if the use of a "sealer" is required. Don't forget about BORDER TILES if you wish to border your tile project. I chose a smaller border tile than I used on the tub surround. I used a mastic made for wall tiles, but thinset can also be used.
WET SAW - for cutting tile
JIGSAW or UTILITY KNIFE - for cutting backerboard
TILING TOOLS - Spacers, notched trowel for spreading mastic or thinset, grouting tools, sponges.
Step 2: Measure, Cut, and Apply Backerboard.
Measure the tub area for the backerboard. I left 1/2" on sides and bottom (always allow room at the bottom edge for caulking) and closer to an inch at the top to accommodate my trim tile. Do a dry fit before you cut!
I used a utility knife to score then break my concrete board. (If you can't easily transport a 3x5 board, many stores will cut it for you. I have mine cut in half, then join them together with thinset and concrete tape as necessary).
Dry fit this, then apply adhesive, adhere it to the tub, and check for level. Then let it set as per adhesive instruction. Although the adhesive I use is "instant", I let it set for an hour or more before proceeding.
**Paint stirrers were the perfect size to keep backerboard and tile off the floor. Ignore the level. I almost began at the bottom row for laying the tile, but quickly realized I needed to begin at top and started again.
Step 3: Apply the Tile.
Start at the top. Any tile cuts you make will look better along the bottom, which may be partially covered with moulding if you go that route.
I used "pencil" moulding on the top row to ensure a smooth transition along the edge of the tub.
Use a level as you lay any trim moulding and the first row of tiles beneath. These tiles weren't heavy enough to require a brace, and the mastic I used held them in place well.
My tiling pattern here is the same as the one I used on the walls, except it didn't require as many cuts because the width was a bit less.
Although I'm not a big fan of spacers, I did use them here, as I wanted a larger grout area than that of the wall.
Step 4: Finish Bottom Row and Grout.
On the bottom row, which would not accept a full tile, I chose to cut some of the ceramic brick, and also use some pieces of mosaic slate I had left from another room. All were laid out and dry-fitted first.
I always grout a small area at the time, which makes it much easier to remove from the tiles with sponges. Neither the tile nor grout I used require sealing.
Done! Well, almost. I need to caulk beneath the tiles and along the sides, but that will wait until I finish the floor.
The entire job cost less than $100, and I think it looks terrific. If I forgot anything, or can answer any questions, let me know.