We are often asked “Can you bend bathroom cladding?”
The answer is yes. But only in certain circumstances. There are factors that need to be taken into account that are not obvious. So read on to find out what those circumstances are and whether there are better alternative methods.
How Do You Bend Bathroom Cladding?
Bathroom cladding is a hollow extruded product. It has a front wall and a back wall with a webbing system sandwiched in-between. This box structure gives the cladding its rigidity. But if you cut the back of the panel it loses this rigidity because the box structure is no longer intact.
Cut vertically through back of the panel with a Stanley Knife but retract the blade so only a short section of blade is protruding. You need to prevent the blade from coming into contact with the back of the front surface. Any contact with the back of the front surface could result in the panel cracking when an attempt to bend the panel is undertaken.
If you make one incision the panel will “fold” along the cut line. This is ideal for 90 deg bends such as the internal corner of a room. If you make multiple cuts the panel will be able to follow a gentler curve.
Bending Around External Corners
This is a very tricky task but it is feasible. To bend panels around an external corner you need to make incisions on the back of the panel. You then need to cut away the webbing and a portion of the back surface to enable the panel to bend in on itself.
This is a delicate process and you need to take great care when cutting away the webbing. If you weaken the front surface it can crack when you try to bend it.
This method is easy enough for one straight edge, for example if there is boxing-in in the corner of a room. Window reveals and alcoves are particularly awkward as you will have 3 or 4 edges that all meet each other. It is much easier to use a trim in these situations.
If you are using adhesive to fit the panels you will need props or stays to hold the cladding in place while the adhesive sets. Adhesive on its own will not be sufficient to counteract the springiness of the plastic.
When bending any panels it is vital that they are kept warm. The colder the panels are the more brittle the plastic will be. Warming with a hair dryer or a heat gun will make the plastic more pliable.
Situations Where Bending Is Not Advised
There are situations where bending bathroom cladding is not advised.
The make-up of the panel will dictate if it is suitable for bending. If the gauge of the PVC is very thick then it will not bend easily. The thicker the gauge the more likely it is to crack.
The plasticity of the cladding is also an important factor. Softer plastics are much more pliable and lend themselves to being bent. Harder plastics are more brittle and are liable to snap.
If you are in doubt take an off-cut of the panel and test it to see if it is suitable. If it is not suitable then do not worry there are several alternative methods to employ (see below).
Fitting into alcoves and window reveals is one such situation as mentioned above. It is the problem of trying to marry 3 or 4 intersecting planes that causes major difficulties.
We do not recommend bending tile effect panels or mosaic effect panels. Although it is feasible, the tile effect is lost as tiles do not curve. The whole point is to emulate tiles – seeing curved tiles detracts from the desired effect.
Other than bending the cladding there are two other methods to form internal corners:
- butt-join and a silicone seal
- a corner trim profile
Butting the panels into the corner is the easiest and quickest method. You will need to cut the tongue and groove edge off with a sharp knife to leave you with the machine-finished straight edge. Fit the first panel snugly into the corner. Then butt the panel on the adjoining wall onto it. Seal with a good quality silicone sealant.
If you are concerned about the waterproof aspect of this method then you can enhance this method easily. Get your two panels cut and ready to fit. Run a thick bead of silicone down the corner of the room. Push the first panel into the silicone so that the edge is encased in silicone. Run another bead of silicone down the corner (on top of the first panel) and then push your second panel into this seal. Wipe off any excess on the surface and you now have a completely waterproof corner.
It is also possible to use a corner trim to join the panels on an internal corner. Corner trims come in different designs. Some are a one-piece item with channels that the cladding slots into. Others have a two-part with a front section that clips in to a back plate. Both types help with installation as you do not have to be as accurate with your cuts. We would recommend sealing the panels inside the trim to ensure they are 100% waterproof.
Silicone joints do not work on external corners but using a corner trim is feasible. A plain angle trim can be stuck over the corner once it has been formed. Or a corner trim with built in channels can be used.
Always check if the corner trim you are using is for internal corners, external corners or is universal.
A very neat way to finish external corners is to use tile edge trim. This consists of a small quadrant section with a flat section that slots behind the tiles or panels. You have to accurate with your cutting to use these but the result is a very neat finish indeed.
You need to choose a tile edge trim with the right depth for your cladding – either 8mm or 10mm.
We hope this information has helped answer the question “Can you bend bathroom cladding?”.
As you will have seen there are situations where it is possible to bend bathroom cladding but conversely there are others where it is not a suitable method.
Overall, we would say that unless you really want a seamless corner it actually offers no benefit. Other methods are simpler, quicker and just as effective. For large curved areas there is no real alternative and a gentle curve is achievable if you take your time and are gentle with the cutting process.