How to Install a Direct-to-Stud Tub or Shower Surround


Installing a direct-to-stud tub or shower surround is a great way to upgrade your bathroom. This type of surround installs directly against the studs in your wall, creating a seamless look and avoiding the need for drywall. A direct-to-stud surround can give your bathroom a clean, updated look with tile, molded panels, or another material of your choice. This guide will walk you through the process of installing a direct-to-stud tub or shower surround in your home.

What is a Direct-to-Stud Surround?

A direct-to-stud surround gets its name from the fact that it installs directly against the wood studs in your wall, without anydrywall behind it. The surround panels attach right to the studs, allowing you to cover the wall with your material of choice. This gives a seamless, built-in look. It also avoids potential moisture issues caused by drywall behind a wet tub or shower area. Direct-to-stud surrounds are sturdy, long-lasting, and provide an updated look.

Benefits of Installing a Direct-to-Stud Surround

There are several benefits to choosing a direct-to-stud tub or shower surround:

  • Streamlined look – By installing directly against studs, you can achieve a smooth, seamless appearance without drywall edges.
  • Customizable – You can tile, install molded panels, or use another material in the color and style you want.
  • Moisture resistance – Avoiding drywall means eliminating a potential spot for moisture damage behind the surround.
  • Easier install – Installing on studs is simpler than working around existing drywall.
  • Sturdy – Mounting directly to studs provides a strong, rigid surround surface.
  • Cost effective – Direct-to-stud surrounds avoid the cost of materials like cementboard.

How to Install a Direct-to-Stud Tub Surround

Installing a tub surround directly against the studs involves careful planning and step-by-step execution. Here is an overview of the process:

Step 1: Prepare the Alcove

  • Remove any existing tub surround and drywall. This exposes the studs and allows you to inspect for leaks or damage.
  • Check that the studs are plumb and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Address any leaks or water damage before moving forward.

Step 2: Size and Cut the Surround

  • Measure the length and width of your tub alcove to determine the sizing for your surround.
  • Purchase a surround kit or panels in the appropriate size for your measurements.
  • Carefully cut the surround to fit your alcove, accounting for any uneven areas.

Step 3: Install the Back Wall Panels

  • Begin by dry fitting the back wall panels to ensure proper fit.
  • Apply construction adhesive to the studs and install the first panel, securing with screws.
  • Install any additional panels, overlapping seams and using adhesive and screws.

Step 4: Install the Side Wall Panels

  • Measure, cut, and dry fit the side wall panels. They should go floor to ceiling.
  • Apply adhesive to the studs and attach the side wall panels with screws. Seal all seams.

Step 5: Seal and Finish the Surround

  • Seal all seams and screw holes with silicone caulk to prevent moisture getting behind the surround.
  • Finish by installing tub trim pieces or the material of your choice like tile or panels.
  • Seal all edges with a waterproof silicone caulk.

How to Install a Direct-to-Stud Shower Surround

Installing a shower surround directly to studs follows a similar process:

Step 1: Remove Existing Surround and Drywall

  • Take down any old shower surround and drywall to expose the wood studs.

Step 2: Inspect Studs and Address any Issues

  • Check that studs are plumb and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Address any leaks, damage, or sources of moisture.

Step 3: Measure and Cut Surround Panels

  • Measure the shower area carefully to determine sizing.
  • Purchase appropriate surround panels and cut them to fit your measurements.

Step 4: Install the Back Wall Panel

  • Dry fit, apply adhesive, and secure the back panel directly to the studs with screws.

Step 5: Install the Side Wall Panels

  • Cut panels to ceiling height. Dry fit, adhesive, and screw to studs. Seal seams.

Step 6: Seal, Caulk, and Finish the Surround

  • Seal all screw holes and seams with waterproof silicone caulk.
  • Finish by installing panels, tile, or another material of your choice.
  • Seal all edges and seams to prevent moisture issues.

Tips for Installing a Direct-to-Stud Surround

Follow these tips for the best results when installing a direct-to-stud tub or shower surround:

  • Carefully measure and cut all panels to ensure a tight fit.
  • Completely seal all seams, edges, and screw holes with silicone caulk.
  • Stagger seams between panels to prevent moisture intrusion.
  • Use mold-resistant and waterproof backerboard if tiling on the surround.
  • Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for install and use waterproof adhesive.
  • Make sure panels are level and plumb before permanently attaching to studs.
  • Use backer rods and caulk between surround and floor/ceiling to seal gaps.
  • Avoid using drywall behind panels to prevent potential moisture issues.

Frequently Asked Questions About Direct-to-Stud Surrounds

What materials can be used for a direct-to-stud surround?

Popular options include fiberglass, acrylic, polystyrene, mineral composite, cultured marble, and tile. Always choose a material designed for wet areas.

What kind of adhesive should be used?

A panel adhesive designed for bath surrounds should be used. Liquid Nails, Loctite, and OSI all make adhesives approved for wet, humid areas.

What should the panels be fastened with?

Corrosion-resistant screws specifically made for bath surrounds are recommended. Using a drill with a countersink bit prevents screw heads from damaging panels.

How are seams between panels sealed?

Sealing all seams with a quality silicone caulk is crucial. Look for bathroom caulk labeled as mold/mildew resistant. Apply caulk generously between panels.

Can I install new plumbing behind a direct-to-stud surround?

Yes, plumbing can be updated or added behind a new surround. Be sure to seal penetrations with caulk. Coordinate with a plumber to ensure proper installation.

What about gaps between the surround and ceiling/floor?

Gaps should be sealed with caulk and flexible backer rod. The rod fills the gap so caulk adhesive has something to stick to.


Installing a direct-to-stud tub or shower surround allows you to achieve a seamless, built-in look and customize your bathroom with the material of your choice. By taking accurate measurements, carefully cutting panels, properly attaching to studs, and sealing all seams and edges, you can get a waterproof, durable surround that upgrades the look of your space. Follow these detailed steps or enlist the help of a professional to ensure your new direct-to-stud surround is installed correctly. With the right planning and materials, you can transform your bathroom with this contemporary surround style.