Bathroom Makeover – How to Add Decorative Molding to a Bathtub

I am happy to say that I have made lots of progress this week with the bathroom makeover.  I have ripped out the baseboards, scrubbed the floor to see if it could be saved, painted the top section of the wall, and built a decorative frame for the bathtub using molding. My home was the builders “Spec” home – pretty basic – no real tub or tile, just one of those molded tubs complete with its own wall.

Budget Bathroom Makeover Idea for Bathtubs

I have always loved when tubs have decorative molding along the front to accent them and decided to do it for this bathroom.  I had to work around a few obstacles –shower curtain rod not lining up, curved walls in the molded tub, but it all worked out just fine.

Here is the tub before.

Bathroom Decorating Ideas

During

If you have the space and a regular bathtub not the molded kind I have you can add the molding and paneling in a slightly different way so it sits outside the tub itself and does not wrap over it. I had to do it the “wrap over” way because of the tub I have and space restraints.  At the end of the post I added how to add the frame and molding that doesn’t wrap over the top of the tub.

I built the decorative front in a way that it could be removed with minimal damage to the tub itself if we ever decided we didn’t want it any longer – which I highly doubt, but you never know.  I originally wanted to create the frame with 2 x4’s, but that took the tub too far out into the room and the shower curtain would have to be placed through the window. Not going to work – time for a new plan.

Instead I created a very narrow frame and top that goes across the top of the tub so it doesn’t change the tub width much at all and the shower curtain rod has a wall to still  be attached to.

I started by creating a frame of wood along the wall on each side of the tub and the floor.   I am going to be adding board/batten/bead board  in the room and the frame on either side of the tub will be part of this.  I am using 3 1/2” wide Mdf for that.

frame-each-side-of-tub-withframe-tub-with-boards

I then created a frame in front of the tub that is level with the top edge of the tub.   Make sure the frame is at the right height so that the top finishing PVC board will be level when you attach it.  I had to play around with this for awhile, until I got it just right so that everything was secure and solid.   I then nailed the sides into the Mdf on each side of the tub and into the floor.  To make sure it was really secure – I used Liquid Nails also.

During-construction---how-t

I had to work around the curve on each side on the front of the tub.  At first I thought it would be a real problem, but once I thought it through,  I figured out I could still attach the frame to the side walls and floor for stability, so it was no longer a problem.  ( View of tub looking down)

Had-to-work-around-curve-on

I used Liquid Nails to attach the bead board to the frame.   I have to save every decorating dollar I can with this project and only wanted to buy one package of bead board. When I cut the boards to the height of the tub the excess leftover piece of board wasn’t the right height, I hated to waste it. I didn’t.  Once the baseboard was attached it didn’t matter.

Beadboard-to-the-front

I then attached the baseboard to the front of the frame with Liquid Nails.

How-to-add-molding-around-a

The top board is PVC board guaranteed not to rot.  I used this because I am sure this will get wet every once in a while  when someone doesn’t have the shower curtain closed just right.  The wall is slightly curved and I had to make the cut a bit larger  to fit – nothing a little caulk won’t fix.

Working-with-pvc-board

Here is a breakdown of the parts.  I added the bed molding using finishing nails and Liquid Nails.

Bath tub makeovers

I have been feeling like a carpenter going back and forth between the garage where I have my cheap-O, but trusty table saw set up and the bathroom upstairs. I have also been channeling  Norm Abrams – “measure twice – cut once” “measure twice – cut once” and can honestly say – I did good – only one goof up cut.  Thanks – Norm, I was listening all those years ago when you were on TV.

My-trusty-table-saw

Now it needs caulk and paint, but the most thought consuming part is complete.  I really had to plan on how it was all going to come together – the frame, the rod change, curve in wall, and the top board cut.  I made quite a few trips to Lowes, I am now on a first name basis with the guys in the lumber department.

Bath tub makeover ideas

Here is what the back to the top looks like.    I used a few lines of white waterproof caulk to seal it.  I first used clear, but it ended up looking like Vaseline when it was dry, so I removed it and then used white to match the PVC board.

Bathroom Decorating Ideas

Here is how to add the molding without wrapping it over the top edge-

Bathtub Molding

Photo:  House and Home

Build the frame with 2 x4′s, but stop about an inch or two below the top of the tub. So that when you add the cap/top PVC board (doesn’t have to be PVC) it is slightly lower or flush with the top of the tub. Attach the bead board, bed molding in the same way I did. The cap/top goes on last and sits on top of the frame. There is no need to wrap the top around the tub like I had to do. This installation sits outside the tub itself, but is much wider and takes up floor space. This is the way I planned to do it, but when I actually looked at my tub configuration and where the shower curtain rod would have to be placed it didn’t work as there is a window that would be in the way. I made mine very narrow and made it to go over the top edge of the tub.  Making the frame outside the tub is easier if you have the space.

I got all the materials for this project at Lowes.   I am only telling you that so you know the supplies can be easily obtained. Lowes has no idea that I exist. If Home Depot were closer to my house – you would see them mentioned here instead of Lowes.

If you have any questions, just leave me a comment.  Next up the walls – lots of up and down between the garage and bathroom still  – I am getting my exercise and making it count as each time I go up the stairs I pretend I am on a Stairclimber.  No need for the gym.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    The change is really amazing. You are doing a fantastic job – I have no idea if I could do the whole cutting thing!
    What a great way to upgrade the builder grade.
    Happy weekending
    xo

    • says

      Hi Ashlyn-
      I could not do all the wood cutting without my trusty table saw. It has helped me complete so many projects around my house that I never would have been able to do before I bought it. It was a bit scary at first, but now I am very comfortable using it. I do have the really long lumber 12 ft cut down at the home improvement store – not only so it fits into my car, but it is so much easier to work with when I am doing it myself without an extra set of hands around to help.

  2. says

    wow! That is a really creative idea and such a beautiful way to bring a cottage/country feel into a bathroom! I really really love it!

    • says

      Hi Casey-

      I saw it done at a Decorator Showhouse that I participated in a few years ago. I took mental notes when I watched the carpenter do it to the tub in the bathroom that was next to the room that I was decorating in the showhouse. Since then I have had it in the back of my mind to do someday. I love the look of all the white wood. I wish my tub was white, but I can’t can’t change that.

    • says

      Hi Sarah –

      I love how you refer to the bathtub -” bathtub/wall combo thingy” – pretty funny, but that is exactly what it is. Since I have to keep it I am trying to make it look as good as possible.

  3. Michelle says

    Did you or will you caulk where the top ledge meets the board on the inside part of the tub? Love this!

    • says

      Hi Michelle-

      Yes – I am going to caulk all around the top board that sits on the edge of the tub. Since you left this comment I did add directions at the bottom of the post about how to make the frame so it doesn’t go over the tub at all – just butts up next to it. Not sure what kind of tub and space you have, but you may want to consider the option.

  4. says

    WOW!! This is wonderful. We have the exact same tub as you, so I may have to try this myself!! Thanks so much for sharing!! ; )

  5. says

    Oh my goodness! You are killing me!! This is just so clever and I want to copy it. My son is coming to visit in a couple of weeks. He knows I have projects for him. This may be added to the long list!!

    • says

      Hi Betty –
      Thanks – I am trying to add lots of impact with the molding. We may have to move because of my husband’s job, so I am getting a head start on updating for selling. If we don’t have to move, then I get to enjoy all my work.

  6. says

    I am LOVING this! I am going to show it to my husband!! He has to do the measurements as I am AWFUL at measuring!

    Can’t wait to see more!!

    Lou Cinda

    • says

      Hi Lou Cinda-

      I am right there with you about taking measurements – that is the hardest part for me. I am working on the bathroom today, so hopefully I will have some more progress to show you this week.

    • says

      Hi vicki-
      Yep! I can’t add 2 + 2 to save my life. I tremble when I see numbers. Even using a measuring tape gives me stress. :)

  7. Marilyn Holeman says

    I showed this to my husband, and he had the same question as Michelle above. How did you finish the inside? Did you just caulk the PVC board? Thanks for an inspiring tutorial!

    • says

      Hi Marilyn

      Yes. I caulked the PVC board to the tub along the back so no water gets under it. I also had to add the caulk to the sides of the board where I had to make the cuts to fit around the attached molded walls of the tub as they are slightly curved.

      If you have the space and a regular bathtub not the molded kind I have you can add the molding and paneling in a different way so it sits outside the tub itself and does not wrap over it. I had to do it the “wrap over” way because of the tub I have and space restraints.

      Here is how you do it without wrapping it over the top edge-
      Build the frame with 2 x4’s, but stop about an inch or two below the top of the tub. So that when you add the top PVC board it is slightly lower or flush with the top of the tub. Attach the bead board, bed molding in the same way I did. The top goes on last. Three is no need to wrap the top around the tub like I had to do. This installation sits outside the tub itself, but is much wider and takes up floor space. This is the way I planned to do it, but when I actually looked at my tub configuration and where the shower curtain rod would have to be placed it didn’t work as there is a window that would in the way :) I made mine very narrow and go over the top. Being outside the tub is the best if you have the space.

      I hope this helps. I will add it to the post.

  8. says

    Wow, this room is going to be fabulous! I love it already!

    I had to re-read this post several times to assure YOU were doing the work. You are! I’m beyond impressed! I’ve yet to fire up my tablesaw but I know I need to brave up one day and just do it.

    I’ll be watching this redo closely!

    Shared this on FJI Facebook for SNS 85. :)

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Funky-Junk-Interiors/175378011140#!/photo.php?fbid=10150270415031141&set=a.192514281140.164586.175378011140&type=1&theater

    Donna

    • says

      Hi Donna – Thanks for sharing on Fb. Yep, I am doing it by myself. I will get my hubs to switch out the light fixture in the room as I don’t like working with electrical stuff, but I am doing everything else. If I didn’t have that little table saw, I would not be able to do this kind of wood work. It is one of the best DIY tools I ever bought. I found it when a building supply store was going out of business years ago. It was on clearance and super inexpensive.

  9. says

    Visiting from SNS. This is amazing. Well done! Can’t wait to see the rest of the project. I’m a new follower…love the look of your blog. I’m thinking about a switch to WordPress but not sure I want to start all over again. Seeing your blog makes me really want to take the plunge! Happy Weenend…~Ann

    • says

      Hi Ann-
      Thanks. I first started on Typepad and made the switch to WordPress about 6 month after. At first it was a bit scary – I didn’t know a thing and had to just dive in. I made a few mistakes. Once I got used to it – I was very glad I made the switch. I use Windows Live Writer to write all my posts, as the WordPress editor takes forever. Another important issue is your hosting – make sure you sign up with a good one. I recently switched my hosts because my old host’s server starting going down at night and then in the morning. When I called them about it , they said it happens, but will only be for a few more days. No one could access my site at these times – not acceptable. If you do decide you are going to switch over and think you may need some help – you can contact Sharon Hujik. She is wonderful to work with and has helped me quite a bit. Her site is goodtrueandbeautiful.com
      Hope you have a great weekend.

  10. says

    What a transformation! I am so behind on my reader, but I always check your blog :) You are so inspiring. I wanted to tell you that I used a vinyl bead board in my daughter’s kitchen island, never had seen that before, and decided to use it because of the high traffic abuse it will get with little kids and spills. You can’t even tell it is vinyl! I think the vinyl would hold up wonderful in a bathroom with the moisture. Just my little tid bit. Can’t wait to see the finished bathroom, you are amazing.

    • says

      Hi Heather-

      Do you have the room to add the molding to the outside of the tub? If you do then it really doesn’t matter what the edge is like as the frame would just butt up against the tub – and stop about an inch under the top edge of the tub. It would not go over the tub at all. Worth looking into.

  11. says

    Thanks for the excellent tips Diane! I’ve been looking for this DIY project since last year because I’ve been neglecting my bathroom for so long now. Last spring I remodeled and redesigned just our living room and bedroom. I didn’t have time for our bathroom.

    This summer, I will make it up and try to have some time for our bathroom.

  12. says

    Oh Diane, that looks great!! And doubly impressed that you did all the cutting! I have such a mental block when it comes to cutting wood! You always have such creative ideas! Have a great week!

  13. says

    This is absolutely amazing!! I’ve wanted to do this, but I have one of those bowed fiberglass tubs. I really can’t stand it. Hopefully one day I can replace it, and follow your lead with this idea. It’s amazing how much style that adds to the bathroom! Beautiful job.

  14. says

    Oh I love it! I so love it! I have been thinking about buying a table saw….there are so many projects out there that my house could use! Thank you for showing us the how-to of this project. The bathroom looks phenomenal!

  15. says

    Love it! I would love to take a sledge hammer to my bathroom right now but it’s going to take it’s turn on the renovation list. What a great idea!! This will work for my bathroom. Love your pics and description!!

  16. helda montero says

    Thanks so much for this idea!! I’ve been looking for inexpensive ways to tackle our master bath. The whole master room usually gets the leftover dregs from the other rooms. Not this time. Love it! This one is next up on my to do list. Yay!

  17. Dionne says

    Ms Diane,
    I absolutely love this idea! I have some of these supplies around the house. My question is…is it sturdy enough to sit on?

  18. Jenny says

    IT LOOKS AWESOME!
    I’d like to have more information on the materials you used, would you mind e-mailing me (jennymenard@hotmail.com) this information? Did you use anything to seal the bath panel after? And what kind of mdf did you use? I’m looking to do this for my shower- bathtub.
    How is it holding up – any damages so far?
    Thanks!
    Jenny

    • says

      Hi Jenny-

      The frame in front of the tub is very narrow, because of my available space. I used flat stock molding to make my frame, it is 3/4″ x 2 1/2″, but you can make your frame with 1 x 2’s or 2 x 4’s depending on your available space. If you have the space – you can build it in front of the tub – the traditional way, and not have to wrap it over the top like I did.

      I used pre-primed white mdf boards that I bought at Lowes. The bottom board is a 5 1/2″ wide piece. I think there is a photo of it in the post with what I used The beadboard on the front is also from Lowes – it is primed white beadboard. It is sold in packages with navy blue and white labels. The top board that I placed on top of the tub is a PVC board. I would get the widest one you can find. Lowes only had 5 1/2″ wide boards. It works fine, but I would have loved to have it cover the entire top section. No one in my family sees this as a problem – it is just my “perfection” issues. :)

      I sealed the PVC board to the top of the tub with silicone white waterproof caulking that I bought at Lowes also.

      I have a shower curtain and liner installed to help keep water off the decorative front. The shower curtain liner goes into the tub when someone is taking a shower- the decorative shower curtain outside the tub. This is truly the best thing you can do to keep excess water from getting on it.

      It has worked fine and I am quite happy with how it has turned out. I have also sat on it and leaned over it to wash my dog – no problems at all.

  19. Jenny says

    Thanks for the quick reply!

    I’m not so sure about MDF around the bath, it kind of scares me. Have you had any problems yet? I heard about boat varnish and I was thinking of putting that as a final coat. Have you put anything on your MDF for varnish?

  20. Robin Bower says

    I love this I am definitely doing this, one thing with this being wood and it being where water could damage it, Is there a product that should be used on the wood to water proof it ? or do they make and sell the wood that you used that is already waterproof ? This is my only concern I have before I start it. Also this was my first time at this website and I’m in love with all the great ideas, but what I like is it’s not expensive to do these projects and they also don’t require a lot of supplies. (I’ve already bookmarked this site)
    Thanks so much for all the wonderful ideas cant wait to get started

    • says

      Hi Robin-

      If you have the room you can build it outside of the tub so the top just butts up against the side of the tub, not go over the top. I had to go over the top because of space restraints. The top board is called PVC board that will not rot- like what exterior molding and gutters are made from. I bought it at Lowes. It comes in 2 different widths. It is shiny white so I didn’t even paint that top piece. As far as the other wood, it is a mix of wood and MDF. As long as it is not sitting in water, it should be fine. I give my dog a bath in the tub and when she shakes all the water off, I just go around and dry whatever got wet. My girls have been programmed to always make sure the shower curtain is closed right before taking a shower -which helps :)

      • Tandra says

        Any ideas on training husbands to do the same as your daughters? Ha! Thanks, I am going to attempt this. It may take a while to get materials where I live, but it looks worth it!

  21. Teri says

    Diane- very innovative and creative thank you so much and maybe Lowes didn’t know you existed before, but we do now. We appreciate your business and support. Keep up the great projects, I look forward to your future posts.

  22. Laura says

    Diane,
    YOU are very inspiring…when I was looking for the “right” thing to do for an update for a bathroom this was an inspiration…was it hard to use the table saw??? AND was this an expensive project? Have you ever painted linoleum before?? Thanks, Laura

  23. Dawn (Ditsy Decor) says

    Im in the middle of doing up the kids bathroom and love the idea for along the bath. Im definitely going to give it a go, thanks for the step by step, Im a newbie blogger and im having a few teething problems so reading some of your posts has helped. Please check me out on facebook I could do with some friendly faces to share with :)

  24. nancy says

    Great looking project, I want to frame in a big old cast iron tub, so it eliminates the oval footprint when installing vinyl flooring. We are saving the tub we like so much…I will consider your hints, please write if you have any. I’m considering making it like a 3-sided box since it is near the wall and creating a “lid” at one end to access the plumbing.

  25. Amy says

    This is a great idea. I want to do this but I have a shower door. Can I put the shower door over the PVC Board?

    • says

      Hi Amy – I am not sure about using the PVC board under a shower door. It might be fine since the boards are made for exteriors that face all kinds of weather. In my tub surround, the shower curtain separates the PVC board from the water when taking a shower. It still can get wet when someone does not close the shower curtain all the way – that is why I used it. Can you use tile since it sounds like it is on the floor?

  26. says

    I just love your work…. it inspires me to get busy more quickly on my own ideas. Anyway, just wondered if you’ve ever come up with any ideas on what to do to make a molded tub surround look more updated? I’m just not happy with the molded look. I know I can do the front of the tub itself (one of my “to do’s next”) but is there anything which can be done to the molded part which goes up the wall? Mine is similar to yours and can’t be tiled even if possible because of curves and molded soap dish etc. Could it be trimmed somehow, or batten boards be added…. anything to update it?

    • says

      Hi Pat –

      I don’t know of any treatment that would hide it successfully. Since it gets wet and is curved there is not much you can do. I painted my wall the same color – just so it would blend in. I know Rustoleum has a new product on the market that protects things from water, but that would not deal with the molded look of the tub surround. If I ever think of an idea, I will post about it.

  27. Teresa says

    Love the work you did. I wanted to ask what you thought I might be able to do using those tiles that come in sheets – used mostly for a back splash. Do you think I could use this method and just use solid board. I would love to place that tile around the tub. Do you think I would need to put something water proof liner behind it and then build the “box on top and attach the tile to that” Thanks so much

    • says

      Hi Teresa – As long as water will not get behind the tiles – they should be fine. I would draw your plan out on paper to figure it out before starting.the most important part would be to make sure the sides and or underside of the top board is sealed very well. I am not too familiar with tile installations and don’t know if they make a waterproof liner. I would ask at the home improvement store to see what they may have.

    • Adrienne Pratt says

      Hello, wondering Teresa if you ever went ahead with the sheet tile approach? I am crazy about glass mosaic tiles and would love to know if that could work… thanks!

      • says

        Hi Adrienne – I am not sure or not if Teresa did use tiles, but you could. If you used plywood instead of the bead board, I do not see why you could not cover it with the tiles. It would look great. You could still add the bottom board and crown under the top board with Liquid Nails or even leave it just tiles as long as you caulked all around them.

  28. Kolleen says

    This is wonderful! Thanks for referencing “Norm”. I used to watch him all the time and often repeat the phrase, “measure twice, cut once!” Got a good smile out of this!

  29. says

    I precisely needed to thank you so much once again. I do not know the things I might have gone through without the suggestions revealed by you concerning such a theme. It was actually a real difficult problem for me personally, nevertheless considering this expert way you solved it took me to jump with fulfillment. Now i’m happier for this guidance and even believe you really know what a great job that you are undertaking training others through the use of a blog. I’m certain you’ve never come across any of us.

  30. Linda says

    I am in the process of remodeling my master bath. I have a one-piece shower enclosure (no tub) that had a brass finished glass door on it which wouldn’t come clean so my husband removed it several years ago. With that said, it obviously left some holes and marks on the sides and bottom of the stall. Otherwise, it’s in perfect condition. I saw your blog and how you redid your tub. Awesome, I must say! Would you be able to provide some input as to how I could “trim” my shower stall so I don’t have to replace it? Thanks so much!

  31. Tammy says

    I see where you used caulking around the PVC board, but how did you attach the board to the top of the tub? Did you use caulking on the bottom of the PVC?

    • says

      Hi Tammy – The board is attached to the bead board frame in front of the tub. Before I made the bead board frame, I placed the PVC board on top of the tub. I then measured the distance to the floor. This measurement is how high I made the bead board frame. When I placed the PVC board back on, it sits level with the bead board frame. I attached it where the two meet on the front of the tub.

      Everything I did to construct this is all attached to the side walls, nothing but caulk is on the actual tub. If I ever had to remove it, there would be no damage done by nails or screws to the tub.

  32. Shahid says

    its so beautiful design and color selection, its so nice tips and ideas for making dashing and wonderful,

  33. says

    Help!! I am a renter- my bathtub is a one piece molded BLUE unit- similar to yours, but blue- I really need a DIY project to change it to white or something- I’ve looked at refinishing kits- but none really have good reviews- I love what you’ve done with the molding in front of the tub, but what could I do to resurface or change the rest of the tub

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