When remodelling or building a new bathroom, the material you choose to surround your bathtub and shower area will have a significant impact on the look of your bathroom, your budget and the work necessary to complete the room. Both a shower surround and tile offer benefits that you should examine before making your decision.
Shower surrounds are typically made of a concrete or fibreglass product and come in one large piece. Tile is available in a large variety of products, including natural stone like marble, granite or slate and requires more labour to install because it must be installed one tile at a time. You'll find a greater variety of material options for tile than in one-piece bath and shower surrounds.
Shower surrounds can offer a cost-effective way of protecting your walls from water damage in the bathroom. As of 2011, they are available from some home improvement stores from about £120 and up. Tile costs vary depending on the material you choose, but typically start at about 60p per square foot, up to £9 or £13 for upper-end tile materials like exotic marble. Overall costs for a tile installation tend to be higher than for a surround.
Day-to-day maintenance with a shower surround is typically easier than with tile because you must keep the tile grout clean to prevent mildew build-up. Choosing a darker grout can help your tile age better over time. Installing tile is a better long-term solution for your bathroom as shower surrounds can break or crack over time.
If you're remodelling an existing bathroom, one-piece shower surrounds can be too large to retrofit. Some home improvement stores offer shower surrounds in multiple parts if this is the option you'd prefer. You can get a bid on installation from your contractor as installation costs for tile will often run the costs up even higher than a shower surround. Most shower surrounds do not extend to the ceiling, so if this look is important to you, choose tile for your bathroom. If your shower or tub size is not standard, a shower surround may not be available for you, in which case tile would be a good option.