FRP Installation for a Bathroom

By Michael Logan

Fiberglass reinforced plastic panels are waterproof and resist stains, mold and mildew. Residential applications include bathroom shower and tub surrounds. Commercial applications such as restaurant kitchens that require easily cleaned walls also use FRP panels. The product installs easily with glue, and may also use a plastic rivet, especially on walls with uneven surfaces.

Suitability

Bathtub and shower walls require a waterproof surface that cleans easily and does not support the growth of mold. FRP meets this requirement. Although quite thin for a wall covering at 1/8-inch thick, FRP installs directly over standard drywall creating a durable, long-lasting surface. It won't easily crack, chip or break as long as the drywall beneath it is secure and smooth. Don't confuse FRP with older plastic panels that fade quickly, or tile-board with a thin, easily chipped plastic covering over Masonite. FRP is a permanent wall covering for wet or damp areas.

Substrate

A good FRP installation requires a smooth, even substrate such as drywall -- the panels won't support themselves on a wall or ceiling. Drywall should be smooth and even. The seams between pieces of drywall should be filled with drywall tape and joint compound, but the seams don't require finishing as long as they are smooth. FRP panels will mold themselves to walls that curve slightly, but visible defects that raise the surface of the drywall, such as nail heads, screw heads or poorly applied joint compound, may show through the FRP installation or cause it to fail. In particular, a nail or screw head that protrudes from the drywall may eventually cause the FRP panel to break or crack.

FRP Moldings

Manufacturers provide four different types of moldings for FRP panels: inside corners, outside corners, panel connectors and edge protectors. The installer cuts moldings to length with scissors, snips, a utility knife or rotary tool. The molding slips onto the edge of the panel before placing the panel on the wall or ceiling. Panel connectors make the connection between two adjoining FRP panels. Corner connectors do the same thing at inside and outside corners. Edge protectors prevent exposed edges of FRP from damage.

Installation

The FRP panels are cut to length and width individually. Specially formulated mastic adhesive is spread on the back of the panel with a notched trowel just prior to installation. The molding strips slide into place on the edge of the panels and the panel is placed on the wall or ceiling. Ceiling installations may require the use of supports while the mastic cures. Plastic rivets fit through holes drilled through the FRP and drywall and expand once inserted into the hole with the rivet head flat against the panel. The rivets help hold the FRP flat against the substrate on uneven walls. FRP installed in a bathroom for a shower or bathtub surround is sealed with mold-resistant, 100 percent silicone caulk.

© Demand Media 2011