How to fit wooden bath panelling

Learn how to create the sought-after wood panelling look in your bathroom with our easy step by step guide

The Bath Co. Dulwich stone ivory wooden bath panel pack, £233.99, Victoria Plum

Whether you have invested in a complete bathroom makeover or are doing a partial renovation, bath panels are not to be overlooked. They serve the practical purpose of concealing unsightly plumbing work, but if chosen carefully, can greatly enhance your bathroom’s style and are essential for achieving a timeless bathroom aesthetic.

In fact, just fitting a panel to an existing bath is an easy and low-cost way to re-energise your décor. There is a range of materials, colours and finishes to choose from, and you might be surprised to find that bath panelling is not as difficult to install as you might think.

Bath panelling styles

First you need to make sure you are buying the right size and shape panel for your bathtub. Straight baths are the most popular design and require one front panel (the long one that runs down the side) and sometimes a shorter end panel too.

Slightly more unusual are shower baths with a side panel that extends out sideways to accommodate the extra width of the shower section, sometimes called L- or P-shaped panels. There are also space-saving corner baths that require a curved or angled panel.

Tight on space? Pick a bath panel with doors. As well as hiding away pipes and fittings, it will also give you an extra, hidden area to store less attractive bathroom items, such as chemical bottles and cleaning equipment. Check out the Hideaway Bath Panel from Argos, priced £90.

The Bath Co. Winchester bathroom suite with right-handed L-shaped shower bath and taps, £831.97, Victoria Plum
The Bath Co. Winchester bathroom suite with right-handed L-shaped shower bath and taps, £831.97, Victoria Plum

Acrylic bath panelling

These are perhaps the most commonly seen bath panels and for good reason – they are affordable, durable and easy to clean. Acrylic panels can be cut to size with a saw and fitted in just a few steps. Sleek and white, these will work well for a modern, minimalist look.

Wooden bath panelling

The benefit of wooden panels is that they come in a range of styles, such as panelled or tongue and groove. You can also buy plain MDF panels from your local builders’ merchants, and then paint them in your choice of colour. A natural product, wood panels are perfect for a rustic, Japandi, or period look.

Tiled bath panelling

Another way to integrate your bath with the rest of your bathroom décor is to tile your bath panel. You can buy ready-to-tile bath panels from various bathroom retailers. The panels are pre-formed with adjustable legs – you just add tiles to create a stylish wall-to-floor look.

Painting panelling tips

  • Painting a wooden bath panel yourself is a great way to ensure it matches your existing colour scheme, as well as enabling you to create your own unique style.
  • If you are painting an existing wooden bath panel a new colour, then you will need to do some preparation work. First sand it down to provide a ‘key’ (an uneven surface that the paint will stick to), then wash it with sugar soap and let it dry. If you have a new plain wooden panel, you can get stuck in with painting straight away!
  • Apply Ronseal One Coat Cupboard Paint, a primer and paint in one, priced £15 for 750ml and available in a range of colours. Or use a primer for a base coat and then finish the panel with an interior woodwork paint, such as Dulux Quick Dry Wood Paint, from £20.84. Remember to coat all edges and ends to protect from moisture damage. 

Sage Advice Emulsion and Eggshell Paint

How to fit a wooden bath panel

You will need…

  • Electric drill and screwdriver
  • Saw
  • Sealant gun
  • Silicone sealant
  • Tape measure
  • Metal brackets
  • Lengths of softwood batten
  • Wood adhesive
  • Wood screws
  • Wood varnish (if panel or plinth requires trimming)
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Step 1

VP How to fit a wooden bath panel 1

Before purchasing your panels, measure from the rim of the bath to the floor. This gives you the height your panel needs to be. Then measure along the rim for the length.

If you have a front panel and an end panel, then you need to join the two together to form one L-shaped piece. Use a softwood batten and brackets to connect the panels.

You will probably need to cut the plinth at the bottom of the panel to allow for any skirting boards or pipes. Any cut edges of your wood should be sealed with varnish to prevent water penetration.

Step 2

VP How to fit a wooden bath panel 6

Hold your panel to the wall and once in the required position, mark the wall with a pencil. Remove the panel and if you have a cut section of plinth, line this up with the pencil line and make a second mark. This is where your supporting batten will be placed.

Step 3

VP How to fit a wooden bath panel 7

Cut the batten to match the panel height and attach it to the wall with screws. Drill pilot holes in the wood and use wall plugs if screwing into plaster board. Do this on each end that the panels meet the walls.

Step 4

VP How to fit a wooden bath panel 9

Apply some adhesive to the inside of each panel end where it will meet the batten fixed to the wall and slide the L shape into position. Then fill the joins with a bead of silicone sealant to ensure a watertight finish.

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Feature Catherine Smalley. Photos Victoria Plum.