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Bathroom Makeover – How to Add Decorative Molding to a Bathtub

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How to add decorative trim molding around 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 how the bathtub looked 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.

During-construction---how-to add wainscoting around a bathtub.

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.

Bathtub decorating ideas using molding and wood trim.

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

If you are thinking of doing this to your bathtub, I saw it created in a slightly different way.

You can find it here: DIY Bathtub Surround

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

    1. 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.

  2. I love this!! I’m totally impressed. We have the same bathtub/wall combo thingy in our upstairs bathroom and it is so blah. You took that “blah” right out!

    ~ Sarah

    1. 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. 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!

    1. 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.

  4. 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

    1. 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.

      1. How is the MDF holding up on the baseboard area? I’ve been told that it’s not good to use in high moisture areas, but maybe you have had good luck?

        1. Hi Jessie – The MDF is holding up perfectly. I did have to redo my caulking job around one side of the tub, but the MDF is fine. The bathroom has good ventilation so it never gets super steamy or damp in the room which could be the reason it works in the room.

  5. Love it!
    My SIL did this very thing to her boys tub several years ago and it still looks fabulous!