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How to Compare One Piece vs. Three Piece Acrylic Tub Wall Surround for a Remodeling Project

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

 

Acrylic tub wall surround - 3 piece system
Acrylic tub wall surround – 3 piece system

Acrylic tub and shower wall surrounds have become a popular choice for remodeling projects today since they’re easy to clean, have no grout joints, are warm to the touch and are available in many colors and patterns. With that being said not all acrylic wall systems are alike. One big difference is one company in the industry (Bath Fitter) promotes a “one piece” system while all the other companies use a three piece systems. Learn below the advantages and disadvantages of each of these systems.

“One piece” acrylic bathtub wall surround system – A one piece bathtub surround will use one continuous piece of acrylic on the back wall, side wall and plumbing wall for a tub enclosure.

 

Advantages

 

  • There are no seams at the 2 inside corners which avoids caulk joints in these two places.
  • The wall pattern is continuous.

 

Disadvantages

 

  • Many existing walls are out of square which may require forcing the liner into the enclosure space or require excessive caulk to fill in gaps.
  • Walls are more prone to buckling due to expansion and contraction.
  • It’s hard to maneuver this acrylic sheet into a small 5’ x 7’ bathroom.
  • This system can require up to 10 additional trim pieces (including at the bottom of the tub and outside edges) that creates additional seams that could collect mold and mildew.
  • The entire system will need to be removed if there is a plumbing problem down the road.
  • A one piece system cannot be used on angled walls.
  • Walls are thinner than a 3 piece system.
  • One piece walls only come in 84″ height maximum – which can be a problem in shower projects.
  • The material needs to be heated and bent creating a weak spots.

 

Three piece acrylic bath tub wall surrounds – With 3 piece systems each wall panel (back, side and plumbing walls) is custom cut to fit to go over existing bathtub walls.

 

Advantages

 

  • Each wall is custom cut to ensure an exact fit even when walls are out of square.
  • A 3 piece system allows for expansion and contraction so walls don’t buckle.
  • Don’t need to add trim pieces at the bottom or outside edges of a tub space (note – three piece acrylic side walls are equipped with bends to eliminate trim pieces on the outside edges).
  • The plumbing wall can be replaced separately if there were to be a problem with the valve behind the wall.
  • Thicker acrylic walls used provide a strong, more durable product over the long run.
  • It’s easier to move three separate flat sheets of acrylic into a bathroom vs. a bulky one piece system.

 

Disadvantages

 

  • There are seams in the 2 inside tub corners (this problem is overcome with a triple gasket sealant system).
  • Tile or stone patterns will need to be matched up during the installation process.

 

 

Which of these wall surround options do you think is best? Please comment below.

 

 

 

If you’re looking for more information or an estimate to install a bath tub wall surround visit The Bath Doctor of Cleveland (216-531-6085), Columbus (614-252-7294), Cincinnati (513-742-6679) or Dayton (937-299-3822) – divisions of Innovate Building Solutions.

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Comments (4)

  • Bobby Petrushansky

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    Obviously this fake news letter is to promote your product.
    Based on the installation of a Bath Fitter job over 3 years ago in small pretty steamy bathroom.
    1. Before they started the job they checked the wall for any problems. They replaced the areas that were bad with green dry wall that was resistent to mold. When they cut out the weak areas some tile fell off and I could see the mildew right on the glue. Their representative pointed out that I must have some mold or mildew behind the tile because these were the areas where it would come back to in the grout time after time. When they cut out the front wall to put in their diverter system they noticed that there was a very tiny pin head leak in the copper pipe going up to the shower head. I wasn;t hit up with any surprise extra costs they just did it. I have been hit up when I was the most vulnerable by other contractors by the so called surprise. I had a vinyl siding job done on my home that was inspected by the contractor from top to bottom. He comes back to me after all of my old siding is on the ground and tells me he has to charge me for wood replacement that he missed. Jing Jing $850 out the door. He couldn’t move on without the money,
    2.They did not place any caulk behind the system they instead used some kind of glue on a tape that they said would never harden and crack. Guess what it hasn’t after 10 years
    2. I was told that the glue tape that they used because it never hardens allows the walls to flex and if it did everything is in the original conditions
    3. Yes there is 7 trim pieces that I could see but all of them are in areas that barely get wet and to this day I have never seen any mold, mildew, or soap scum They told me that they don’t caulk instead they use a special sealant they has a life time warranty that I have never had to use.
    4. The outside trim is a bull nose design and it looks beautiful. The top trim has what looks a like a flat trim piece maybe an inch in length that abuts to the ceiling they installed over my bathtub. I chose the ceiling to cut down on the steam from my small bathroom and it has really helped to keep the condensated water in the bath tub area.
    5. The diverter device was installed through the front of the wall and not behind the wall. And because it has a cartridge type system the only thing that can go wrong is that they need to replace the cartriidge. I had some hard water because I had troubles with my well filter. The mlinerals clogged it up, so I called their service hot line and they came out the next day. i could not believe it but they simply took out the cartridge and popped in another in less than five minutes and although it was not manufactured by them all the labor and material was covered by their lifetime warranty
    6. I was told by Bath Fitter that their walls were the thickest to allow them to make a one piece wall. So I believe them not you. It seems to me that either you can’t bend your walls as I was told or it is probably cheaper to purchase in small sheets.
    7. As far as getting it into my small bath they just wrapped it with string to fold it to get through the doorway.
    8. All I can say is if a problem were to incur I have total confidence in their solving the problem and that’s a good thing
    The reason that I even looked at this site was that my cousin wanted to do a job and got several estimates. He only called me because my name was on their referral list. He had no idea I had done any work. I guess he saw my name because we both live in the Pikesville area.
    He ended up buying the Bath Fitter system and is very thankful.
    I hope you post this which I doubt so potential buyer who are googling to find out about these systems at least get both sides of the story

    Reply

  • admin

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    Bobby – I’m glad you’re happy with the system by Bath Fitter. Like most systems there are positives and negatives to both approaches. Additional trim pieces are something many people are not aware of when they think they are getting a one piece system. The three piece system I was referring to here is made by BCI acrylic and I think you’ll find if you do more research is the thickest in the industry (it is in no way less costly than the one piece system). the important thing is you’re happy with your project and feel good about the service provided by your local Bath Fitter franchise. If we were local to your area we would welcome you to visit us and we could talk to you about the differences. In any event thanks for your feedback – it’s good to see your enjoying the investment you made in an acrylic wall surround product.

    Reply

  • MARTIN ABRAMS

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    THANK YOU FOR SAVING ME HOURS OF RUNNING AROUND. WAS GETTING TUB FOR MY DAUGHTERS NEW SMALL BATHROOM AND CONSIDERING BATH W/3 PART SURROUND-SHE DIDN’T LIKE SEAMS SO I BEGAN QUEST FOR ONE PIECE BATH W/ATTACHED WALLS. LOOKING AT SPENCER VIKREL TO KEEP COST DOWN FOR A LOW USE ITEM. SEEMS FROM ARTICLE I SHOULD DO OK BY STAYING W/3 PIECE SURROUND PLUS TUB.

    Reply

  • Roger Murdock

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    Bath Fitter’s one piece wall is THE industry leader because it just works with a lifetime warranty. The idea that a 3 piece wall could be better or comparable is incredible. The BCI system or Home Depot vinyl or fiberglass 3 piece wall system should be half the price of a Bath Fitter system and should take half the time to install. Why is it the same price as a custom manufactured one piece wall by Bath Fitter? I was quoted a system cost of $4,000-$6,000 for a tub liner and one piece wall and proprietary Delta valve and shower head which had shutoffs built into the valve. They said it allows Bath Fitter to service the system and replace the cartridge in 5 minutes without touching the wall. They provide a lifetime warranty for all labor and materials including their finish, seals, and have referrals including Angie Hicks from Angie’s List and the Blair House (the vice president’s residence) as well as Marriott Hotels, Hilton Hotels and many others. They make and sell their walls to their own customers directly without subcontractors. The price is worth it if it lasts 30 years which they say it will. How long is the BCI warranty and does that include everything including trip charge or mileage surcharge? Bath Fitter says you never have to spend another dime on their system for the rest of your life in the home. This is unheard of compared to any other contractor I talked to. Hands down Bath Fitter is the best investment for anyone with the money and doesn’t want hassles or problems with caulk or leaks in seams. My neighbor used a co that uses 3 piece walls and had leaks in the walls at the corners. The co came out to fix them, but I chose Bath Fitter because I didn’t want the hassle and the price was the same as my neighbor.

    Reply

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