According to Zillow.com, bathrooms always wind up at the top of consumer home remodeling lists, whether owners intend to sell their property or just upgrade it. The website’s yearly trends study reports that 26-percent of their clients improve their bathrooms to sell their homes.
“Bathroom remodels yield the biggest returns in terms of boosting your home’s resale value,” say Zillow experts.
“You’ll see a $1.71 increase in home value for every $1 you spend.” But, which shower wall will you choose?
This market has exploded and choices are diverse, but the following 10 are the most popular and a good place to start.
So let’s have a look at the most popular material options for shower walls in bathrooms:
Table of Contents
- 1) Ceramic Tiles
- 2) Porcelain Tiles
- 3) Natural Stone Tiles (marble etc)
- 4) Glass Tiles
- 5) Acrylic or Fiberglass
- 6) Single-sheet Plastic
- 7) Laminated wall panels
- 8) Vinyl wallpaper
- 9) Beadboard
- 10) Solid Surface Shower Wall Panel Kits
1) Ceramic Tiles
If you love the look of large tiles because they require less grouting and offer a sophisticated look that is easy to clean, ceramic tiles may be your number one shower wall material pick.
Ceramic tiles tend to be larger than glass or stone tiles and ceramic makes a perfect alternative for porcelain.
That stated, expect to achieve a classic look without spending as much as you would for those higher-end tiles if you opt for ceramic. Patterning and texturizing can make these tiles emulate natural stone, minus the high price tag.
- -Easy to find in different patterns
- -Won’t stain like other tiles
- -Relatively inexpensive
- -Won’t cause leaking issues
- -Stands up to vigorous cleaning.
- -You may find ceramic tile to be old fashioned
- -Installation is time-consuming
- -Can be difficult to install, requiring a contractor.
2) Porcelain Tiles
Though they can be confused with ceramic tiles, porcelain is a unique material that tends to be associated with sinks, tubs and toilets.
It is increasingly being used to make expensive-looking substitutes for highly-desired natural stone wall material.
Contractors call porcelain “ceramic’s high-end cousin.” Remove the price factor and the benefits of porcelain easily justify paying more.
Porcelain tile is water-resistant, dense and strong, despite its delicate appearance. Unlike other tiles, porcelain can be repaired if it cracks or is damaged.
Homeowners who use it as their shower wall covering enjoy a timeless finish that is beautiful and never goes out of fashion.
- -Can be glass sealed for waterproofing
- -Comes in gorgeous colors and patterns
- -Can be textured to reduce slip factor
- -Lasts for decades and holds its value
- -Upkeep is fairly easy.
- -May be slippery when wet
- -Pricier than other wall coverings
- -Challenging to install.
3) Natural Stone Tiles (marble etc)
There was a reason ancient Romans preferred to use marble for their communal baths: nothing surpassed this quarried, luxuriously-decadent material.
Today’s stone tiles are equally reminiscent of wealth and power, so if your décor aim is to replicate the look of ancient Persian, Greek and Roman baths, natural stone is an ideal choice.
Culled from commercial quarries, large blocks of stone weighing thousands of pounds are cut into slabs or strips, polished and prepared for sale.
Stone tiles are not considered “green” since supplies are finite, which makes every tile unique. Nothing substitutes for those seeking “the wow factor” when they choose stone for their project.
- -Can increase the resale value of a home
- -The most natural material selection on the market
- -Gorgeous and traffic-stopping
- -Upgrades the look of any bathroom
- -New sealants can make stone impervious to water.
- -Hard to obtain and in short supply
- -Cost could be prohibitive
- -If not sealed properly, stains and water damage can result.
4) Glass Tiles
For small bathrooms, glass tiles are not just lush and elegant, but they visually expand the amount of space the eye perceives within the room.
Translucent and available in colors and clear, these tiles are fabricated by using a translucent glaze fired to the backs of thin pieces of glass.
Sold individually and as mosaic patterns, high end glass tiles are made with mesh backing so adherence to shower walls is tight and secure. Nothing is more reflective and shimmering than a shower wall of glass tiles.
- -Enlarges the look of the smallest bathroom
- -Easy to clean with soapy water or glass cleaner
- -Mold and mildew don’t usually grow on glass
- -Impervious to water once installed
- -Eco-friendly if you opt for recycled glass.
- -Glass tiles tend to be pricey
- -Professional installation is essential
- -Cheap glass can be brittle and prone to damage.
5) Acrylic or Fiberglass
Plenty of contractors sing the praises of acrylic and fiberglass shower walls because both are a less labor-intensive way to protect shower walls.
Acrylic and fiberglass are produced as single, large sheets so homeowners never have to worry about leaky seams.
Further, install is done without tile cutting or alignment issues. Pattern choices and colors are endless, and once installed, homeowners rave about the smooth feel and glossy look they enjoy and at a price likely to satisfy every wallet.
- -Slip- and mold-resistant materials
- -Bends to fit rounded corners
- -Saves installation time
- -Very little maintenance after install
- -Guaranteed not to crack, peel or chip.
- -Can look cheap and flimsy
- -Considered industrial grade material
- -Neither are eco-friendly.
6) Single-sheet Plastic
No doubt about it: installing single sheet plastic over a shower wall will take less time than adding individual tiles, so even if your shower area is expansive, it probably won’t take days to do the install.
The mounting process is simple once moisture-resist drywall is in place. An adhesive is applied to the sheets and pressed into place before sealing joints.
Not only are these sheets fast to install but you can do it yourself and save labor costs. In terms of an entire new “look” for your shower, you would have a hard time finding a material that’s as kind to your budget.
- -Lightweight and easy to handle
- -100-percent waterproof
- -No laborious grouting required
- -Comes in myriad colors and patterns
- -Easy to clean and maintain.
- -Can look cheap and tacky
- -Design and color choices could be limited
- -May be difficult to transport due to weight and size.
7) Laminated wall panels
Laminated wall panels make an ideal solution for those who don’t want to use flimsy sheets of wall covering but can’t afford ceramic tile.
As long as you have basic woodworking equipment (e.g., jig saw; circular or track saw), it’s easy to cut and install if the walls of your shower require carpentry.
Laminate walls have grown so popular, choices of decorative patterns are diverse, but these panels tend to be heavy so you may wish to have the retailer ship your wall panels directly to your home.
- -Considered a “high-end” shower wall pick
- -Authentic-looking tile, stone or marble matte finishes
- -Backing is marine-grade plywood with vapor barrier
- -Recommended by HGTV personalities like Joanna Gains
- -Won’t show water spots; easy to clean.
- -Could double the cost of acrylic choices
- -May not come with pre-bent ends
- -Highest-quality panels weigh a ton.
8) Vinyl wallpaper
Not every homeowner is keen to install vinyl wallpaper on shower walls, but they might be once they learn that This Old House’s Bob Vila does it all the time.
There isn’t a tile or panel on the planet capable of delivering as many pattern options as wallpaper, and it’s easy to hang.
Cover your shower walls with this tough wallpaper and save money while getting a unique look. The secret to maintaining vinyl wallpaper so it always looks great is correct installation using mold-proof primer, old-proof wallpaper paste and sealing the wall with varnish once the paper is hung.
- -Choices of patterns and colors are unlimited
- -Easier to install than tiles or panels
- -No labor-intensive grouting required
- -Vinyl papers resist moisture and humidity
- -Extremely inexpensive compared to other wall coverings.
- -Will require constant maintenance to keep it dry
- -Moisture could cause wallpaper to peel
- -Mold and mildew growths can impact family health.
Back in grandma’s day, she would have thought the idea of beadboard in a shower or tub area plain dumb, but like innovative materials used for home renovation projects, beadboard morphed into a wall covering that works in any room thanks to the addition of vinyl.
Vinyl beadboard paneling is truly charming, adds texture to shower walls and you can create a unique look that’s not possible with tiles and panels. If you love the idea of wood beadboard but know it wouldn’t survive a shower, vinyl beadboard paneling won’t disappoint.
- -Easy maintenance thanks to vinyl coating
- -Resembles the look of wood minus warping issues
- -Vinyl beadboard prevents mold and mildew
- -When installed properly, water won’t penetrate
- -Sold in sheets; no caulking necessary.
- -Can be difficult to find
- -You may have to special order it
- -Price could be prohibitive.
10) Solid Surface Shower Wall Panel Kits
Homeowners eager to see a shower transformation in hours not days are wild about prefabricated shower wall products.
Usually shipped from factory to home, these kits come in lots of sizes and configurations that range from a one-piece shell to individual components.
Wall shower kits can be mounted over bare studs, existing tile or wallboard as long as they’re in good shape, too. Keep reading to learn more about solid surface shower wall kits below.
- -If time is money, shower wall panel kits are great choices
- -You may not have to remove existing wall covering
- -Can be shipped directly to your house
- -Shower wall pattern and design options are amazing
- -Can be installed by a confident DIY person.
- -Upper end kits are surprisingly expensive
- -Repairs can be difficult if cracks appear
- -Realtors say these wall units can lower a home’s value.
What are the most inexpensive shower wall options?
According to shower wall professionals, FRP (Fiberglass Reinforce Plastic) panels, fiberglass systems and acrylic are likely to be the most inexpensive materials, but your geographic area and need for labor will influence the final cost.
Try to save money by shopping wholesale outlets, ascertain what’s called the “full material cost” before you say yes, and factor in delivery costs at the time you get your estimate.
Are you creative? Visit construction sites and collect free broken tiles, pick up spackling and make an original free-form mosaic.
Substitute polished river pebbles or shards left behind by stained glass projects. Not that creative? Galvanized steel roofing plus screws and washers can create a one-of-a-kind shower wall made extra waterproof by the application of a clear sealer.
What is the best shower wall material to use?
A survey of contractors concluded that the best shower wall material is any form of acrylic because it is the easiest to install, the safest, the most durable and fastest way to cover a wall without spending a fortune.
Further, acrylic won’t chip, peel, crack or fade, it resists mold and mildew and colors and patterns on today’s market are limitless.
Varying grades of acrylic allow a homeowner to accommodate their budgets so by opting for this material, there are very few downsides to consider.
What are shower wall panel kits?
These versatile products offer the convenience of few components, a variety of configurations and full instructions that come with these kits so it’s possible to accomplish the project in a reasonable amount of time.
Standard tub kits usually come with 2 back panels, 2 end wall panels and 1 or 2 batten strips. Corner molding may also be part of a shower wall kit.
Standard surround kits are sized to accommodate varying wall sizes and shower kits usually include a base, 3 back and end wall panels. Some are specifically made for corner showers.
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