Unless you have the roll top bath variety, your bath will need to be fitted with a panel to hide the ugly void beneath it. You can either buy a panel off the shelf or make one yourself to complement the decor of your bathroom. An interesting panel can make all the difference.
MAKING AND FITTING A BATH PANEL
The days of a painted hardboard panel fitted with a chrome-coated corner piece to cover the joint are long gone – thank goodness! Today, the list of materials and styles you can choose from is as long as your arm, so you can select one that suits both your taste and pocket.
Bath panels are available as standard stock items in plastic 1,
wood in various finishes such as teak bath panels, new or old pine, limed oak etc, and even granite. A new idea is to incorporate cupboards and shelving in what would otherwise be wasted space 2.
Alternatively, you can make your own panel. Making one from a substrate like plywood, blockwood or MDF is a straightforward job. For instance, you can make a really good-looking panel from a sheet of waterproof or water- resistant MDF, plus some skirting to match the rest of your bathroom. Adding moulding will make it more decorative. For a more creative approach, plenty of exciting materials can be used imaginatively. These include copper, lead, stainless steel, carpet and other textured materials, marble, tiles and mirror.
If you do make your own wooden bath panel, you will first have to build and fit a proper frame to attach it to. Make sure that, once fitted, the bath panels are easily removable in case you need to access the plumbing.
MAKING A BATH PANEL FRAME
Normally made of 50 x 50mm (2 x 2in) sawn or planed softwood, a bath panel frame fits tightly between the lip of the bath and the floor. To calculate the frame size, measure the height and width of the area below the bath. Bear in mind that the frame’s position must allow for the thickness of the bath panel material, which generally shouldn’t protrude beyond the vertical lip of the bath. This allows for the panel top to be sealed with mastic to prevent the ingress of water. Depending on the material, the bath panel can be fixed to the frame using face fixings or secret (concealed) fixings, but remember to ensure access to the plumbing. Construct the frame as a ladder frame. For the long side, screw the four outside pieces together, then add uprights for strength and rigidity 3.
Screw a three- sided end frame to the wall and offer the side frame up to it 4.
Screw the side frame to the end frame 5
and to the wall at the other end. Screw the frame to the floor 6.
Double check that all measurements for the bath panel and skirting are correct before you cut from the outside, or screw from the inside 4. To add mouldings, draw a line of equal margin all around the bath panel. Cut and mitre the mouldings then glue and pin it along the lines. Finally, paint the bath panels (including the edges) with a coat of primer, two undercoats and a topcoat 5.
MAKING AND FITTING A PANEL
Measure the frame area 1
and transfer your measurements to the bath panel material 2,
here it is a sheet of MDF. You can use a jigsaw to cut out the bath panel – if you do, cut a fraction outside the line, then smooth off the excess using a hand plane 3 for a neat finish.
Next, fix the skirting to the bath panel pieces, having first mitred the corner ends. Use PVA glue and pins if attaching from the outside, or screw from the inside 4.
To add mouldings, draw a line of equal margin all around the bath panel. Cut and mitre the mouldings then glue and pin it along the lines. Finally, paint the panels (including the edges) with a coat of primer, two undercoats and a top coat 5.
FITTING A READY-MADE BATH PANEL
Position the bath panels vertically, using a spirit level or plumbline 1,
then mark a line on the floor along the length of both the bath panels 2.
The end bath panel fits behind the front panel at the corner joint. Remove the bath panels, and mark a second line 3mm (/8in) inside the first. Screw battens to the floor along and inside this second line – a minimum of three battens for the front bath panel and two for the end one. For the batten to take the bottom flange, or turned-in edge, of the bath panels, you need to make a rebate. You can form this by placing a strip of packing the same depth as the flange beneath each batten. The packing will butt against the flange, while the batten above it will butt up to the inside of the panel itself. Reposition the bath panels, then drill 4mm (3A6in) pilot holes through each one into the battens 3.
Secure the bath panels to the battens using decorative mirror screws 4.
TOP TIP – If YOU have a router, cut a rebate in each batten to take the bath panel flange instead of using packing.