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


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.


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.


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)


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.


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


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.


Here is a breakdown of the parts.  I added the bed molding using finishing nails and Liquid Nails. If you have a very wet bathroom, use real wood or PVC board for the 5 1/2″ bottom piece, not MDF.

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.


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, but any home improvement store sells the supplies needed.

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.

Update:  A few readers have written to me asking how the bathtub molding has held up after 3 years.  I have added a few photos that I took 1/22/15 .  3 years and 6 months after I created and posted about it.

It has held up great – the caulking has gotten a little discolored and the side where the shower head has some some joints that need more caulk. This is the end that if the shower curtain is not closed well, water can stream down.  Other than these issues, it looks very good.  I would do it again in another bathroom.  The PVC board on the top is really key.  If it was wood or a piece of MDF, it would have warped.

How to add half wall and molding in front of a bathtub How to add half wall and molding in front of a bathtub How to add half wall and molding in front of a bathtub



  1. 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 :)

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

      • Rich W says

        Was there any concern to the moisture or direct water to the MDF? I have a lot of experience with MDF only know of which is installing it in a wet location.

        I love the idea of using it, I’m just curious on the sealer used.

        My suggestion would be if a larger budget were in place would be to use PT lumber.

        Finished great and high end. Good Job.

        • says

          Hi Rich – It has been 3 years now since I did the bathroom and there is no problem with the MDF in the bathroom. Even by the shower, it looks as good as new. I did not seal it with anything but the semi-gloss paint. The bathroom does have good ventilation which does help keep any moisture build up from a hot shower very minimal.

  10. Shahid says

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

  11. 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

    • says

      Hi Kristy –

      I took 3 photos of the tub yesterday and just uploaded them to the post. You can see them at the end of the post. I hope they help you. If I moved into a new house, I would do it again. Using the PVC board on the top is mandatory. It looks as good a new. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  12. Misty Elliott says

    This is one of the best tutorials that I have ever seen. Bravo on such a beautiful job! Love…

  13. Krystina says

    Hi Diane,

    Love this! Quick question, did you use liquid nails to attach the frame onto the actual tub? Also, what did you use to attach the PVC board to the top of the tub? Apologies if I overlooked this part in your post!

    • says

      Hi Krystina – I did not use Liquid Nails to attach the frame to the tub. The frame is only attached to the walls on each side of the tub. If I removed the whole frame, the tub would be undamaged. The PVC board is attached to the top of the frame on the outer edge with Liquid Nails. The inside of the PVC baord is laying on the top of the inside of the tub no Liquid Nails. It is caulked so no water will get under it. I didn’t place any Liquid Nails on the tub itself only the wood frame in front. Caulk is the only thing on the tub itself.

  14. says

    I am redoing my hall bathroom. I saw your post several years ago and here I am back again. :) I love it! Is there any chance I could see a picture of what it looks like at the top of the shower, where you added the trim board on the sides? I imagine that you made it look okay, because everything else looks great! I don’t have a window or anything, so I am not sure how I would make it look right.

  15. Tracie says

    I am in the process of doing this this amazing idea to my tub but have a few hurtles and was wondering if you had any suggestions.

    I have a whirlpool standard tub that does not have a front so this is a perfect way of covering all the pipes etc showing on front of the tub.

    You have attached your frame to the walls instead of the actual tub. I have tiles on the wall and can not attach the frame to the wall like you did. Should I use Liquid nails and attach the frame to the tub itself or should I use something else ?

    I owe my home and I am a lifer so I am not concerned about the tub.

    Thank you in advance for your input and this great project. Can’t wait to start.


  1. […] DIY Bathroom Decorating Ideas- Adding Molding to a Tub-In My Own Style 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 […]

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