DIY Recessed Tile Shower Shelves

Updated February 21, 2017

Recessed shower shelves add convenience without taking up space like commercially available shower organisers. Place your recessed shelves at a height that everyone in your household can reach. Don't forget the height of your shampoo and body wash bottles when planning your recessed shelves, or you may make them too short to hold all your items. You'll need bullnose tiles for the exposed edges of the recessed shelves. Consider selecting bullnose tiles that contrast with your field tiles for an interesting design element.

Decide where to place your shower shelves and mark the wall studs to guide you when attaching the wood. For one recessed shelf, you will place two pieces of wood, one for the top of the recess and one for the bottom. For more than one shelf, you will need to place an additional piece of wood for each shelf.

Cut the required pieces of wood from a 2-by-4 piece of wood. The pieces should be long enough to fit between two wall studs.

Cut a piece of plywood to fit the back of the recess. It should be wide enough to fit between the studs and tall enough to span all the 2-by-4 pieces. Screw the plywood to the 2-by-4 pieces.

Slip the wood between the studs, and check that the 2-by-4 pieces are level with a level. Drive screws through the studs and the 2-by 4 pieces of wood from the other side of the stud.

Spread thinset mortar on top of the lowest shelf with a notched trowel. Comb grooves into the mortar with the notches on the side of the trowel. Place tiles on top of the mortar with tile spacers in between them. Lay bullnose tiles at the front edge of the shelf and field tiles for the rest of the shelf.

If you have more than one shelf, spread thinset mortar on the front of each shelf in the middle of the recess. Place small tiles on the mortar with tile spacers in between them. Tile the shelf as you did the bottom shelf, placing the bullnose tile so that it overlaps the tiles on the front of the shelf. If you have only one shelf, skip this step.

Spread thinset mortar on the sides and back of the recessed shelf, as you did for the shelves. Place the bottom row of tiles, starting with a bullnose tile on one side, continuing with field tiles and finishing with another bullnose tile at the other side. Place tile spacers between the tiles.

Continue placing rows of tiles in this manner until you reach the top of the recess. If necessary, hold the tiles in place with masking tape.

Spread thinset mortar on the top of the recess and the bottom of any additional shelves. Press tiles into the mortar, placing tile spacers between them. Use bullnose tiles for the front edge. Hold the tiles in place by attaching them to the wall above with masking tape.

Let the thinset mortar dry overnight. Remove the tile spacers.

Push grout into the spaces between the tiles with a grout float until the spaces are full. Wipe the grout from the tiles with a wet sponge before it hardens. Draw the corner of a damp sponge along the grout lines to create a consistent depth and appearance.


Tile your recessed shower shelves while tiling the rest of your shower surround. The front of the bottom shelf and the top of the surround will be tiled when you tile the surrounding wall.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Table saw
  • 2-by-4 boards
  • Plywood
  • Level
  • Screws
  • Power drill
  • Thinset mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Field tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Bullnose tiles
  • Masking tape
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
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About the Author

Jen Anderson has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has appeared in the "New York Times," "Time Out Chicago" and "The Villager." She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Brooklyn College.