Tub Surrounds

I'm contemplating getting a sectional tub surround. I knew they were in the cheap-ish range, but then I discovered some up almost to a thousand bucks - had always considered them more a a budget item, but I guess they can get fancy too.
Any opinions/tips/perspective on five-piece surround kits?
Jon
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wrote:

The more pieces the more future leaks. Bonding all the parts to the substrate and to each other takes some skill and first class materials. Done well, you could get reasonable service from the installation, but IMO it is risky if you have teens in the household. Shop carefully, as a premium price doesn't always equate to the best project.
Joe
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"Joe" wrote:

Thanks Joe, that's also what one of the designers suggested to me at the store. My problem is that my tub/tub area is a little shy of the 60 inches in width, which is required to get the three-piece units I have seen.
I am also considering getting one that is taller than the common 60" tall. I've seen some water issues on the paint directly above 60" tall surrounds, so I am strongly considering one of the taller ones.
Right now I'm looking at the American Shower and Bath model 39454:
http://www.asbcorp.com/products3.asp?prod 4
It's tall (80"), and I am hoping it is going to be a little higher quality than the cheaper units. It's a little past my budget (the unit is $230, before adhesives), but since it is going to be there for awhile, I think I can justify the cost based on a long-term usage perspective.
I'm not really crazy about the style, and it's a five-piece, but that's about all I'm able to come up with so far.
Jon
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"Jon Danniken" wrote:

Following up on this, emailing the company led to finding out that the shelf panels are 0.068", and the other panels are only 0.045".
Is it just me, or is something that thin likely to be pretty flimsy/cheesy?
Jon
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Those dimensions are in the range of thickness of vinyl siding, to give you a benchmark for judging flexibility. You are not likely to find thicker material in similar products because a common manufacturing process is vacuum forming and thicker material means much slower process cycles. FWIW, in our local box stores there are some Sterling products worth looking at as Derby Dad suggested. Sterling is a Kohler product with top notch customer service. Regarding your shy of 60" dimension, don't let that push you into a shabby compromise. Take down the wall board, whatever, and modify it to gain the width you need, trimming oversized studs as needed. A clever remodeling contractor could do this neatly at a fair price. DIY is probably possible, but we can't judge that off site. You probably realize by now that your budget will have to be Obamaized. Start with the basics, a good substrate, a decent product, a careful install and you'll still be pleased a decade hence.
Joe
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"Joe" wrote:

Ah, thanks Joe, I hadn't thought of that. Cheer!
Jon
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Jon Danniken wrote:

If you can easily flex the flange edge on the demo unit in the store with your fingers, the panels will feel flimsy after installation.
-- aem sends...
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"aemeijers" wrote

Thanks aem, that sounds like a good technique.
Jon
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wrote:

re: I've seen some water issues on the paint directly above 60" tall surrounds, so I am strongly considering one of the taller ones.
I'm not sure a taller unit will eliminate the paint issue. Now that you mention it, I do have a little extra touch up to do above the unit in my main bath when I repaint this summer.
My gut feeling is that regardless of how tall the unit is, you are still going to get moisture on the wall above the unit which is going to drip down and sit on the "ledge" atop the unit. I don't think it has anything to do with direct shower water contact - I believe it's condensation.
I guess you could make the argument that less wall above the unit means less condensation to drip down, but I don't know if it will eliminate the peeling paint.
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"DerbyDad03" wrote:

Thanks DD, that is an interesting perspective. I hadn't thought of the problem being a condensation issue, but it makes sense.
Jon
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wrote:

Regarding the shelfs and the edge of the tub: make sure you protect them from metal cans like shaving cream, etc. The cans will leave a rust ring that is next to impossible to remove. We have a plastic container on one shelf and anything metal goes in there.
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re: IMO it is risky if you have teens in the household
Warning: Mildly explicit content follows....
When I was shopping for my unit I was in a contractor's supply house asking about options. The contractors are usually willing to offer advice and one of them recommended staying away from the cheaper units if you have kids. His opinion was that once the teenagers start bringing their girl/boy friends home, the cheaper units won't standup to the abuses that 2 people in a shower could impart upon a shower unit.
At that point another contractor told us the story of how one of his client's explained the required height of the vanity he was building for her. She didn't care anything about "standard heights". She wanted the vanity built so that she could comfortably sit on it while she and her husband...well, I'll leave the rest to your imagination. The contractor said he had a hard time time keeping a straight face as she sat on the old vanity and showed him the "problem", but he took the required measurements and built the vanity to her specs.
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"DerbyDad03" wrote:

That's my entire problem right now, finding out what is a "cheaper unit". Obviously the $40 units are going to have issues, but how about the $130 units? How about the $230 units?
As a point of reference, I can get a one piece tub/shower/surround for about $300. It's 1/4" thick, and very solid, which is how I would define quality.
As another point of reference, you can get tub surround panel kits that are almost $1000 (which I am assuming (???) are quality).
So, at what point above $40 do they start to be halfway decent/sturdy, and how far below $1000 can you go while still getting something halfway decent?
I can make a lot of guesses, and read anectodal reports of one or two specific models, but there doesn't seem to be any kind of objective way to determine the quality (is it the thickness?). Aem had a good suggestion to digitally manipulate the panel to determine the quality, but that would only work on the ones actually in stock in the store (and out of the box).
The companies themselves aren't very helpful either. One $200 unit from Crane Plumbing (an American Standard brand) was told to me to be 0.110 mm (yes, a tenth of a millimeter) thick, according to their phone line help (took her 10 minutes to come back with that information). Now obviously I have doubts that it is that thin, but the woman on the phone was adamant about that thickness (that's what it says!) despite not having any reference in her mind as to how thin that actually was, let alone how thick a millimeter is (I had to explain to her that a mm is about as thick as the lead in a wooden pencil).
Thanks,
Jon
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wrote:

re: That's my entire problem right now, finding out what is a "cheaper unit".
Maybe this will help. This link should take you to the spec sheet for the base I used in my stall.
http://www.sterlingplumbing.com/onlinecatalog/pdf/1032205_4.pdf
On that sheet you'll find these words:
Codes/Standards Applicable Specified model meets or exceeds the following: ANSI Z124.1.2 ASTM E162 ASTM E662 CSA B45
Do some homeowrk on these codes/standards and perhaps they'll help you compare the various units you're interested in.
Hope that helps!
By the way, one other additional piece of info to keep in mind. Just because your rough opening is sized to fit the unit you buy, that doesn't mean the pieces will just slip in and snap together as shown in the instructions. At least that's not how it worked for me.
Due to a slanted ceiling and a window sill fairly close to the tub, we couldn't just put the back wall in place and then slide the end wall in, lift it and drop the tabs into the slots. We had to attach the back wall to the fixture wall, angle both sections out few inches, attach the end wall to back wall and then slide the whole unit back as a single piece. If I recall correctly, we had to grind a little bit off of the end wall top flange before we could manuver it into place. All of this going on right over the brand new tub, of course.
It sounds fairly simple, but in practice it was a bit of work keeping everything stable so as not to crack the fiberglass.
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wrote:

Look for ones that have the seams facing away from the bathroom, That way, if there are any small discontinuities, they won't be visible to the general public. Look carefully at the backing, those with big air gaps/ voids will be harder to put up without feeling cheap if you touch the surround. You don't want things to be flexible.
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wrote:

I've had a Sterling surround as a daily use shower stall for 10 years without a single problem and another Sterling in the main bath for about 5 years, once again, never had any problems. The built in shelves in both units are a must-have.
Here's my tub:
http://tinyurl.com/SterlingCurve
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