How to Install Wall Panels in Your Bathroom

Instead of installing tile in your shower, consider this time-saving, waterproof material. Here's what you need to know.

Next Project
Time

A full day

Complexity

Intermediate

Cost

More than $1000

Introduction

Learn how to install waterproof wall panels in a shower to save time on tiling.

Tools Required

  • Caulking gun
  • Circular saw and cutting guide (or table saw)
  • Drill/driver
  • Hole saws

Materials Required

  • Caulk
  • Wall adhesive
  • Wetwall panels

What’s on these Walls?

To skip the time and skill involved with tiling walls, we installed Wetwall, a Wilsonart Company. Wetwall is a wood/plastic composite topped with a high-pressure laminate surface. About 1/2-in. thick, Wetwall is waterproof and durable. It’s available in a wide array of panel sizes (including custom sizes) and patterns.

It can be applied to many existing surfaces, including tile. It’s easy to work with and requires no special tools — just a sharp, fine-tooth saw blade for smooth cuts. Tongue-and-groove edge joints make seams virtually disappear.

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

Dry-fit the panels

Test-fit the panels and cut as needed. If you need to trim a panel, trim the edge that abuts a wall, not where two panels meet. The best way to trim large panels like this is to use a track saw or a circular saw with a cutting guide. 

Using a track

      

Step 2

Apply wall adhesive

Clean the back of the panel using denatured alcohol and allow it to dry thoroughly. Apply adhesive to the back of the first panel. The manufacturer recommends a 1/4-in. bead every 10 to 12 inches. Clean and dry the walls before applying Wetwall panels.

Applying panel adhesive using denatured alcohol

Step 3

Install the panels

Press the first back wall panel into place. Apply a bead of color-matched seam sealer to the tongue on the panel, then apply adhesive to the back of the next panel and install it. The joints are tight; get a helper. Tile-setting suction cups are also a big help.

Using a tile setting suction cup to set panels

Step 4

Clean the seam

After pressing the panels together, wipe off any excess seam sealer with denatured alcohol. If the adhesive isn’t holding the panels securely in place, you may need bracing boards to hold up the panels.

Wiping off excess seam sealer with denatured alcohol

Step 5

Cut holes for fixtures

Measure and lay out the shower fixture holes on the appropriate panel. To cut the holes, use a jigsaw with a fine-tooth blade or a hole saw as your fixtures dictate.

Marking and drilling fixture holes

Step 6

Install side panels

Apply the side panels as you did the back panels, trimming as needed and using adhesive on the backs and seam sealer on the tongue-and-groove joints.

Installing side panels, leaving 1/8 inch gap

Step 7

Caulk joints

Apply a bead of seam sealer to the corners where the wall panels meet. Wetwall has color-matched sealer for all its products. For outside corners, you can order Wetwall with a bullnose edge. We chose to trim our outside corners around the shower with one-inch aluminum angle applied with construction adhesive.

Caulking joints with a bead of seam sealer