If you think about bathrooms, you think about wall and floor tiles. At least, if you are still living in the 90s. For a long time, a standard white tile was the norm for bathrooms and showers. Fortunately, this has changed, lifestylists and interior designers have transformed the bathroom from a useful space into true shower palaces. In that respect, you do not have to worry if you look at those boring, white tiles every day, but you might be presented with a big bill for a bathroom transformation. Luckily, there is a much cheaper and much more effective way to give your bathroom a completely new look: bathroom wall panels made of acrylic sheet!
Which type of acrylic sheet is suitable for a shower enclosure?
In general, there are two types of acrylic: the cheaper extruded acrylic, and the somewhat more expensive cast acrylic. We always recommend choosing cast acrylic sheet if you want to work the material yourself, for example by drilling or cutting it. You can also choose either type for an acrylic shower wall: if you want to install a tap, you will have to drill holes and choose cast acrylic. But for a panel where there are no holes, you can opt for extruded acrylic.
Acrylic is very suitable as a shower enclosure for several reasons. In the first place, the material is completely moisture-resistant and very hygienic. In the second place, the panels can be obtained in large dimensions: up to 3.05 by 2.03 metres. In the third place, acrylic sheet is easy to machine with standard DIY tools. It is also available in various colours; the opaque versions are the most suitable for bathroom wall cladding as then you can be confident that you will no longer see that old tiled wall. We recommend a 6-millimetre thick sheet as the minimum thickness. Please note that the panel must have a 4-millimetre seam around it for sealing. The length and width you order must, therefore, be 8 millimetres smaller than you have measured.
Positioning an acrylic wall – Step 1: Drill through holes
Positioning an acrylic shower enclosure is relatively easy if you have prepared the job properly. And that preparation starts with the proper measurements of the holes for the shower faucet and the shower fitting (the shower bar etc). When you take into account the fact that the underside of the panel is not on the floor, you have to keep a seam of 4 millimetres at the bottom of the panel. First, you measure the centre of the hot and cold-water pipe coming from the wall. You mark both positions on the acrylic sheet. Tip: stick a piece of wide masking tape on the places where you have to drill. This helps to centre the drill and prevents the drill from running away. Then mark off the other drill holes, such as the screws for the shower rod and any accessories. The following rule applies: measure everything twice before drilling the acrylic.
Before you drill the holes, place the acrylic sheet on a surface into which the drill can run, for example, a wooden board. First, you drill all holes with a 5-millimetre HSS drill. This drill diameter is usually large enough for the standard screws with which the shower fitting is attached. Fitting the shower faucet is a different story, for that, we have to drill holes with a hole saw. These holes must be large enough so that the hexagon of the coupling can rotate well.
Place the hole saw in your drill and place the centre drill bit of the saw into the previously drilled hole. Let the drill turn slowly so that the saw passes carefully through the material. If the cutting speed is too high, the material will melt and stick.
Step 2: Acrylic wall panel test sites
As a second step, you will test the wall panels. This means that all items that are on the wall must be disassembled, as well as the tap. Don’t forget to shut off the water!
Now the suction cups come in handy: place the suction cup on the panel and hang it over the tap connections. At the bottom, there is a sealant of 4 millimetres, so place the base on the spacers/wedges.
Now check that all drill holes are in the correct position. It does not matter if there is a small deviation in the drill holes for the shower set. You can solve this by tapping the hole slightly. Many shower fittings are covered with an ornamental cover so you do not see the hole. You can now register any adjustments on the panel. Then remove the panel and make the necessary small adjustments.
Step 3: Prepare the old wall
The new acrylic bathroom wall panel is glued onto the old wall. Before you can do this, the old wall has to be cleaned for the last time, very thoroughly. Use a good limescale cleaner to remove all limescale. After this, you must clean the wall with a suitable bathroom cleaner. As a final step, clean the wall with a good degreaser, so you can be sure that the glue/sealant will adhere well. Tip: ensure adequate ventilation and wear rubber gloves when cleaning.
Step 4: Apply glue /mounting sealant
There are several types of sealants and sealants suitable for gluing the acrylic panel to the wall. We recommend using Bostik Hightack mounting sealant. The sealant used has to meet two conditions: it must remain elastic, and it must be light in colour, which is the case with the Hightack sealant. If you opt for a dark sealant, you run the risk of seeing dark spots through the acrylic. If you are not sure, take a test piece of acrylic sheet to the hardware store, you can test if the sealant is suitable and does not show through.
Apply the acrylic sheets one by one: do not set the second wall in place until the sealant/adhesive seal of the first-placed wall is dry. So keep in mind that you can place the second wall the next day. The sealant can be applied to both the wall and the acrylic sheet. You start by applying the sealant in vertical lines, from 5 centimetres from the ceiling to 5 centimetres from the floor. Never apply horizontal lines, because water can accumulate here if it gets behind the wall. Then apply your sealant around the water connections and around all plugs for the shower fittings. Make neat, round circles that are completely closed.
Then you can apply the sealant to the acrylic. Remove all protective film from the back. Draw a straight, continuous line of sealant 4-5 millimetres wide along the entire circumference. Allow the sealant to dry for 5 minutes before placing the acrylic wall.
Step 5: Position the wall
Placing the wall starts with placing the spacers on the floor, the bottom of the new acrylic wall is 4 millimetres from the floor. Place a spacer/wedge every 20 centimetres. Spacers in the form of wedges are preferable because you can set the wall on a sloping floor. Bathroom floors are normally located on drainage, and you want the acrylic wall to have a nice angle.
Place the bottom edge of the panel on the spacers and tilt the acrylic sheet against the tile wall. You will notice that the sealant sticks immediately, so the acrylic will not fall back quickly. Press the panel well – but not too firmly – against the sealant lines. Start from the lower left corner and carefully work towards the upper right corner.
Place the spirit level against a side wall and check that the acrylic sheet is perpendicular. You can now adjust this with the wedges. With the flat side of the spirit level, check that the panel does not slope too much. You can still adjust this by hand. It is important that the panel is well supported when the sealant on the underside dries. Stick the duct tape along the sides to secure the panel against the wall. Now wait until the sealant hardens, the drying time depends on the temperature and the type of sealant. Let the spacers/wedges remain in place during drying! Place the second panel (and any subsequent sheets) when the sealant for the first panel is fully cured. The rest of the panels are placed in the same way: vertical sealant lines on the wall, all around the edge on the back of the panel.
Step 6: Finish the wall
After all the panels have been placed, the edges and openings must be sealed. It is important that you do not remove the outer spacers on the floor (which are closest to the corners). With a transparent sealant, fill in the edges between the panels and the tiled wall and also seal the openings around the feedthroughs and the drill holes.
At the bottom, always seal up to the spacers. Only when this sealant layer has hardened, remove the spacers and seal the last openings. In the meantime, you can reassemble the shower faucet, the shower rail and all accessories. Then you can remove the protective film on the front of all the panels. Acrylic sheets are not only suitable for the bathroom – for more ideas and tips, read our blog about the possibilities of plastic wall cladding.
To keep the shower wall nice and clean, we advise you to treat the surface of the acrylic with Burnus antistatic cleaner, using a soft cloth. This agent provides a protective layer and makes the acrylic easier to clean. To keep an acrylic shower wall beautiful for a long time, we recommend cleaning the wall with a squeegee after every shower. Regular cleaning with household cleaning products is best. Never use abrasive cleaning agents, such as Cif and scouring pads! Also, read our blog ‘Cleaning Acrylic’ for important cleaning tips.