Bathroom Remodeling Part II: Adding Trim to a Raised Bathtub

By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips

In Part One of this piece we discussed some very-important-not-to-be-overlooked-or-underdone structural elements of raising and/or moving a bathtub.

Here in Part Two of our bathroom remodel, we talk about the bun that makes that beefy patty look and taste real yummy–trim details. For me, trimming a tub includes more than what my eight year old daughter refers to as “curly wood.” It’s about how a tub feels when you get in there and how long the details stay detailed as Calgon takes you away.

Bathroom Remodeling: Step #1

Step 1 of dropping a tub into its rough-framed pedestal is trimming the rim, or top plate of your little stud walls (which should be dead-level left-right/front-back.) The top rim of the tub settles onto these trim boards. If you want to go wood (budget-friendly I hasten to add) and stay true to some old-house materials and trim vernaculars Douglas Fir or Western Red Cedar 1-by are durable, attractive choices. I recommend priming and/or finishing all 6 sides–that includes cut ends–before final fastening. Some other choices are marble, granite or soapstone. Another great choice is PVC 1-by. It works like wood, but lasts like stone. Not for all old house purists I realize, but well worth a look in my mind.

Whatever you choose, install the rim trim and let dry before dropping the tub in. Also, as Mies van der Rhoe said “God is in the details” and one important detail is to make sure your rim trim cantilevers the wall cladding at least ½ inch. In other words, if you’re using 1/2 inch bead board cladding and a ¾ inch horizontal transition strip, the rim trim should cantilever the top plate 1 3/4 inches. Skimp on this detail and you’ll see why Mies is devilishly mis-quoted.

Bathroom Remodeling: Step #2

Step 2 is much less detailed but no less important. The tub must be set in a “wet bed.” And by wet bed here we’re talking a 60-pound bag of concrete. Some contractors substitute a 5-gallon bucket of joint compound here but I accept no substitute. I’m going for rock-solid connection here. Mix up the mud, shovel in, then wiggle the tub into position.

Bathroom Remodeling: Step #3

Step 3 is to apply the wall cladding. In our case it was bead board. PVC is a good, authentic looking, long-lasting choice for bead board. The PVC I have used looks real and, once painted you can’t tell it from wood. Then add your base, shoe, and transition strip under the rim-trim.

Note: while suitable for other areas of the house–and tempting due to low cost–MDF moldings will eventually get wet and then that’ll be all he wrote.

Bathroom Remodeling: Step #4

Step 4 is caulk. I have had excellent luck with DAP Dynaflex products all over the house.

Bathroom Remodeling: Step #5

Step 5 is to paint. Semi-gloss or high-gloss is recommended for all bath applications.

And that’s all he wrote–for this installment anyway.