Panelling a Bath

In the last few years of Queen Victoria’s reign it was the custom to have the sides of baths and w.c.s panelled in wood — presumably for the sake of neatness but also perhaps with a prudish notion that nothing naked should be on view. Later, our parents, in unseemly abandon, ripped out the old linings and, finding things behind were rougher than they expected, had to have new baths and w.c.s fitted!

So much do fashions run in cycles that the era of nakedness has passed and we have reverted to panelling — not this time from prudery but because of the difficulty of getting cleaning implements underneath the bath. This stricture does not apply to the w.c. Pan, and so it is generally left in its pristine virtue.

There is nothing at all difficult about panelling a bath: just build a frame and clad it in oil-tempered hardboard which may be obtained plain or decorated to represent tiles or reeded work. Paint the back of the board before assembly, otherwise steam will cause it to expand and warp.

panelling a bath

If your bath occupies the whole length of the room, or if it stops short and you wish to utilize the remainder of the space as a cupboard, all you need do is build the frame to the length of the room and to fit under the lip of the bath, plug the wall at each end and screw the frame on, making sure that it is vertical. Screw also to the floor in a few places.

In the case of a large bathroom, where there will be considerable space at one end of the bath, fix the end frame first to the wall and floor. Then add the side frame, screwing this to wall and floor.

Now add the hardboard, securing it to the uprights with dome-headed mirror screws or stainless steel raised-headed screws — four for the end pieces, one for each corner; and ten for the side piece, one at each corner and two driven into each of the centre uprights. If you object to the brightness of the usual chrome-headed mirror screws, you can now get them with clip-on plastic tops in various colours.

You will not want dry rot breaking out in the enclosed space; so after cutting the timber to size give it a generous application of a proprietary brand of wood preservative(not creosote, which will leave a lingering smell) and seal round the edges of the bath where it joins the wall with sealing strips so that moisture does not trickle behind.

It is a good idea to have the side panel in two sections joined together over the centre upright nearest the taps. Then, if anything goes wrong with the plumbing, only a small portion of the panelling need be removed. To simplify removal grease the worm of the screws before they are driven in.

A refinement of the above fitting, particularly apt if there are young children about, is to recess the foot of the framework to make a kickboard plinth. In this case the frame and hardboard cover only the area (a—b). The 150 x 16 mm (6 x in) timber, that joins the foot of the frame to a batten screwed to the floor, can be painted black.