How to Install a Glue-Up Shower Enclosure

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Once your shower base is in place, add a new shower enclosure using adhesive. Here's how.

Replacing an old shower with a new glue-up enclosure may seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and a little time, you can tackle this DIY project like a pro. Shower walls may be molded into a U-shape as a single unit, which is most often used with new construction, or consist of separate interlocking panels that install in a sequence to form a watertight seal, used in remodels.

The project detailed in this guide assumes your old shower has been removed and you’re renovating your shower alcove with interlocking panels. It also assumes the floor has been prepared and the shower base has been installed. As you work on your project, be sure to follow any manufacturer instructions that come with your shower wall kit.

Tip: Glue-up shower walls should only be installed over drywall or another solid surface. They’re not recommended for use over existing tile. If fixtures are already installed in your bathroom, turn off the water at the cutoff valve before getting started.

WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS PROJECT

1
Get the bathroom ready

• Place a drop cloth or piece of cardboard in the tub to protect the finish from chips and scratches as you work.
• Take off the shower handle and trim cover and spout. There are a few different types of spouts – this one twists off, but other spouts may have a set screw that needs to be loosened first.

2
Mark a level line

• Draw a horizontal guide line for the panels all the way around the alcove.
• Since dimensions can vary, check the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct height above the tub your line should be placed. For this enclosure, the directions say the distance should be 58 inches.
• Measure up from the tub in several places and mark, then use a carpenter’s level to finish the line.
• To properly align the panels, it’s important that this line be level, even if the tub itself is not. If necessary, you can trim pieces at the bottom to fit. You should also draw a vertical line on the sides in line with the tub to serve as a guide.
• When you’re finished, the area for your enclosure will be outlined for all three walls of the alcove.

3
Prep the walls

• Painted surfaces should be roughed up with sandpaper to ensure a stronger bond with the adhesive.
• Also, the surface must be clean, dry and free of dust and flakes. Spending the time to thoroughly prep the walls will help you avoid complications later.

4
Plan out the shower

Tub surrounds come in three- or five-piece kits. These individual panels overlap each other to compensate for different dimensions and out of square walls.
 
• Dry fit a few panels first, just to make sure everything will fit the alcove without having any gaps.
• Set the back wall in place, with the bottom resting on the tub, and the panel itself centered on the wall.
• Use strips of tape to keep it from falling down.
• Place the side panel against the wall along the vertical mark you made earlier.
• Place the corner panel in front. The lip on the panel should overlap by about an inch.
• Once you’re satisfied the new shower enclosure is going to fit, remove the panels.

5
Trim the panels

• If you need to trim the panels for a proper fit, you can use a piece of masking tape on the panel to mark it. This will help give you a more definitive line and a cleaner cut.
• Make your measurements and draw the cut line using a straightedge.
• Use a jig saw to cut the panel to the proper size.
• If you need to trim the corner panels, you can do that with scissors.
• When you’re finished, clean up any rough edges with sandpaper.

6
Cut holes for the faucet

• Before installing, cut holes in the shower wall for the shower trim handle and tub spout.
• On the plumbing wall, measure the distance from the vertical line to the center of the tub spout and trim handle.
• If everything is in line, these measurements should be the same.
• Then measure up from the top of the tub to the spout and the trim handle as well.
• Transfer the markings to the side panel of your glue-up shower enclosure. To avoid mistakes, double check your measurements before cutting.
• Use a hole saw to cut the holes for the fixtures.
• Choose a size for each hole that will be large enough for the opening, but small enough so that the trim plate will cover it.
• Rock the hole saw back and forth as you work, and drill from the inside out to give you a cleaner cut.

7
Dry fit the shower

• Before gluing everything down, dry fit all the panels one more time to make sure the enclosure fits together properly. The back panel should be centered on the back wall.
• The side panels line up with the front edge of the bathtub.
• Use strips of masking tape to hold each panel in place.
• Dry fit the corner panels and make sure there’s a slight overlap with the panels.
• Confirm that all the pieces fit together, and line up with the reference mark you made in the beginning.
• Then remove the corner panels, followed by the side and back panels. As you do, use a pencil to mark the position for the left and right sides. This will help guide you in the glue-up installation of the panels.

8
Apply adhesive

• To install the panels, be sure to use an adhesive specially designed for glue-up tub surrounds.
• Loctite Power Grab bonds to most surfaces, and is repositionable for several minutes after installation.
• Apply it with a caulk gun in a zigzag pattern across the entire section you need to seal.
• Then use a notched trowel to spread it around evenly on the wall. As you do, be sure to keep the adhesive within the lines you’ve marked.
• Do not apply the adhesive to more than one section at a time.

9
Install the side panels

In this project, we install the side and back panels first, but other units may work differently, so consult your manufacturer’s instructions for the proper installation of your unit. 

• Before installing the first panel, lay a bead of caulk along the edge of the tub base.
• Apply the adhesive to one of the side walls as described earlier, and then spread it around with the trowel.
• Take the panel, press it onto the wall, and make sure it engages with the adhesive over the entire surface.
• Then pull it away for 30 seconds. This will allow the solvents to escape.
• Repress it firmly against the wall to make it adhere properly.
• Finally, wipe down the walls with a damp rag, putting pressure on the panel to ensure it makes full contact.
• Repeat this same exact process for the other side panel.

10
Install the back panel

• Lay a bead of caulk along the bottom edge of the back wall near the tub base.
• Apply the tub surround adhesive to the back wall, and use a trowel to spread it over the entire surface where the panel will go. As you do, try to keep the adhesive inside the lines.
• Press the back panel onto the wall and then pull it away for 30 seconds to allow the solvents to escape, just as you did in the previous step.
• Re-press it firmly against the wall to make it adhere properly.
• Make sure the panel lines up with the marks you established earlier, and reposition if needed.
• When you’re finished, wipe any excess adhesive off the walls with a damp rag.

11
Install the corner panels

• Install the corner panels in the same way as the others, first laying down a bead of caulk on the tub base and then applying adhesive to the wall in one of the corners.
• Since a strip of the corner panels will overlap the back and side panels, run a bead of sealant on the back edges of the corner panels to make them adhere.
• Press the panel into the corner, pull it away for 30 seconds, and push it back into place.
• Repeat this same process when you install the other corner panel.
• Remember to always follow the instructions provided with your shower enclosure as there are a variety of ways these panels can be installed.

12
Caulk AND finish

• Allow the adhesive to dry for 24 hours before applying caulk to your enclosure.
• Caulk around the top of the shower, the seams between panels, the sides, and the bottom where the walls meet the tub.
• Install the shower handle, showerhead and tub spout according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure that trim pieces cover any exposed holes.
• Caulk around the fixtures. Then, install the shower rod and hang the curtain.
• Allow at least 24 hours for everything to fully cure, and your tub shower with new glue-up walls is ready to use.