How to install bathroom wall panelling

Updated December 21, 2016

Wall panelling can quickly change the looks of a bathroom. Whether you are adding waterproof panels behind a bath, or putting up decorative wall panels in the entire room, the installation process is basically the same. Most bathroom panelling pieces come in 1.3 by 2.4 m (4 by 8 foot) sheets. If you have basic carpentry skills, installing bathroom wall panelling should be a simple task. Preparing the walls may take as long as actually hanging the bathroom panelling.

Set the panels in a nearby room to acclimate for at least 24 to 48 hours before you begin. Stand the panels on end or lay them flat with scrap wood between them as spacers.

Remove all fixtures on the wall. Take off electrical socket covers with a screwdriver. Take all previous wall coverings, except wallpaper and paint, off to the plasterboard or cement backer board. Use a putty knife or scraper to remove any pieces that remain.

Use a pry bar to gently remove all trim and moulding from the floor, ceiling, doors and windows.

Repair the wall if necessary. If the drywall shows signs of mould, find the leak and fix it before proceeding.

Locate the studs with a stud finder. Mark each stud with a chalk line. Most studs are 40 cm (16 inches) on centre, so once you find a stud, you should be able to find the adjacent one by measuring 40 cm (16 inches) away from the stud.

Start in the corner of the bathroom that you first see when you walk into the room. Hold a panel in place along with a level to make sure the corner is plumb. If it's not, use a fine-toothed saw to trim away whatever is necessary to make it plumb; cut from the finished side of the panel to avoid snags. Use a circular saw to cut the panel so it's 6 mm (1/4 inch) short of the floor. When using a circular saw, cut from the back of the panelling.

Spread the panel adhesive recommended for your type of bathroom panelling on the back of the sheet. Set the panel in place. If your panelling requires nails, place the finishing nails along the side of the panel every 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches). Add extra nails along the studs, placing the nails 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 inches) apart. Use a nail set to place the nail heads slightly below the surface of the panelling.

Prepare the next panel by trimming it to the right height. Spread adhesive on it and press the panel against the wall. Allow the thickness of a 5 pence piece between the two panels to allow for expansion. Nail the second panel in place. Continue working your way around the room in this manner.

Rub chalk around electrical boxes. Hold the panel up to the wall and tap the area where the box is. The chalk transfers to the back of the panel so you know where to cut out the outlet hole. Drill pilot holes in each corner, then use a keyhole saw to cut out the hole. Use this same process to cut other shapes into the panelling.

Finish the job by putting the moulding and trim back on the bathroom wall. Reattach the fixtures and electrical-outlet covers.


If the panelling has dark grooves, try to use dark-coloured finishing nails there. To mark where the panelling must be cut to fit around bath fixtures, make a template out of a piece of cardboard.

Things You'll Need

  • Scrap wood
  • Screwdriver
  • Putty knife
  • Pry bar
  • Stud finder
  • Chalk line
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Fine-toothed hand saw
  • Circular saw
  • Adhesive
  • Hammer
  • Finishing nails
  • Nail set
  • Chalk
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Keyhole saw
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About the Author

Denise Brown is an education professional who wanted to try something different. Two years and more than 500 articles later, she's enjoying her freelance writing experience for online resources such as and other online information sites. Brown holds a master's degree in history education from Truman State University.