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Tiled Tub Apron

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 189 Projects

The aprons that are cast into alcove bathtubs simplify the tub installation, but they often come up a bit short in the style department. One way to improve the appearance of a plain apron and create the look of a built-in tub is simply to build and tile a short wall in front of the tub. All it takes is a little simple framing and a few square feet of tile. The basic strategy is to construct a 2 × 4 stub wall in front of the tub apron and then tile the top and front of the wall. one design option is to try and match existing tile, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find the exact tile unless it’s relatively new. Choosing complementary or contrasting tile is usually a better bet. Specialty tile, such as listellos, pencils, and accent tile, can have a big impact without breaking the bank because you’re covering such a mall area. Ask your tile retailer to direct you to families of tile with multiple shapes and accessories. Be sure to include a waterproof backer (cement board is recommended) and get a good grout seal, since the stub wall will be in a wet area.

How to Build a Tiled Tub Deck

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    Measure the distance of the tub rim from the floor, as well as the distance from one wall to the other at the ends of the tub. Allowing for the thickness of the tiles, create a layout for the project and draw a detailed plan, spacing the studs 16" apart on center.

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    Cut the 2 × 4's to length for the base plate and top plate (58 1⁄2" long as shown). Cut the studs (five 11" pieces as shown). Set the base plate on edge and lay out the studs, spacing them 16" on-center. Make sure the first and last studs are perfectly parallel with the end of the base plate, then drive two 2 1⁄2" screws through the base plate and each stud.

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    Spread a generous bead of construction adhesive on the bottom of the base plate. Align the base plate with the placement line and set it into position. Put concrete blocks or other weights between the studs to anchor the base plate to the flooring and let the adhesive cure according to manufacturer’s instructions.

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    Drive two or three 2½" screws through the studs and into the room walls at each end of the stub wall. If the stub wall does not happen to line up with any wall studs, at least drive two 3" deck screws toenail style through the stub wall and into the room wall sole plate.

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    Attach it using two 2 1⁄2" screws for each stud. Offset the screws slightly to increase the strength of the assembly. The top of the stub wall should be 2 1⁄2" below the top of the tub.

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    With the factory-finished edge of the cement board at the top of the wall, attach the cement board to the studs using cement board screws.

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    With the factory-finished edge facing the tub edge, attach the cement board to the top plate using cement board screws.

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    Draw horizontal and vertical reference lines for the corner tile (used to transition from vertical to horizontal at the top stub wall edge) and the coved base tile (if your project includes them). Lay out tile along the floor, including spacers.

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    Lay out the bottom row of tile on the floor, using spacers if necessary. Adjust the layout to make end tiles balanced in size. Mark and cut the tiles as necessary, and then smooth any sharp edges with carbide paper or a wet stone. Mix a small batch of thinset mortar and install the base tiles by buttering the backs with mortar.

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    Beginning at the center intersection of the vertical field area, apply mortar using a notched trowel to spread it evenly. Cover as much area as required for a few field tiles. Install the field tiles, keeping the grout lines in alignment.

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    Finish installing the field tiles up to the horizontal line marking the accent tile location.

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    Apply thinset mortar to the backs of the accent tiles and install them in a straight line. The grout lines will likely not align with the field tile grout lines.

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    Dry-lay corner tiles to create a rounded transition at the top edge of the wall. Install these before you install the field tiles in the top row of the wall face or on the top of the stub wall (corner tiles are virtually impossible to cut if your measurements are off). Dry-lay the top row of tiles. Mark and cut tile if necessary.

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    Fill in the top course of field tile on the wall face, between the accent tiles and the corner tiles. If you have planned well you won’t need to trim the field tiles to fit. If you need to cut tiles to create the correct wall height, choose the tiles in the first row of field tiles.

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    Shield the edge of the tub with painter’s tape, then spread thinset adhesive on the wall and begin to lay tile. Keep the joints of the field tiles on the top aligned with the grout joints of the field tile on the face of the wall.

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    Use a grout float to force the grout into the joints between the tiles. Keep the space between the top field tiles and the tub clear of grout to create space for a bead of silicone caulk between the tub and tile.

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    Remove excess grout and clean the tile using a damp sponge. Rinse the sponge often.

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    After 24 hours, clean the area where the tile and tub meet with rubbing alcohol, then put tape on the edge of the tub and the face of the tile. Apply clear silicone caulk into the gap, overfilling it slightly.

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    Smooth the caulk with a moistened plastic straw or a moistened fingertip to create an even finish. Make sure this spot is well-sealed, as it is a prime spot for water to penetrate into the tub wall.

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    When the grout has cured completely (consult manufacturer’s directions), apply grout sealer to the joints.