What Is a Shower Wall Surround?

Updated February 21, 2017

When updating or setting up a new bathroom, you must install a shower surround on the inside of a shower. Shower surrounds come in a variety of materials, sizes and designs, but they all serve the same essential purpose of protecting against water damage in the shower area of your bathroom.


Shower wall surrounds offer protection for the wall, keeping the walls dry. If a shower had no surround, the wall in the shower would become saturated with water in a short period of time. Drywall will become soft and mushy as it is exposed to moisture. A wet wall will also start to grow mildew and mould and eventually will deteriorate. Shower surrounds come in a variety of styles and materials, each with their own advantages and drawbacks.

Tile Surrounds

Tile surrounds allow you to incorporate more than one design or colour on your shower's surround, since you can use multicoloured tiles or several different colours of tile in the surround. Tile for surrounds come in a variety of materials such as stone, glass and porcelain. Tile also comes in a variety of sizes, allowing you to even use different sized tiles together to create different design effects. You will need to clean the grout between the tiles regularly, since the grout may be a breeding ground for mould and mildew. Installation takes several hours, depending on the installer's experience with tile and the size and number of tiles for the surround.

Plastic and Fiberglass Surrounds

Fibreglass and plastic surrounds come in panels, one for each wall in the shower, allowing a homeowner to install the panels in less time and fewer steps than other types of surrounds. The surround anchors onto the wall studs with hardware included by the manufacturer. The installer uses caulk to seal around the surround panels and at the corners of the shower. The surround's material will bend or bow if you apply pressure to it, and can crack if hit with a hard blow. Scratches will show the white material under the coloured surface.

Acrylic Surrounds

Acrylic surrounds come as thin panels like plastic or fibreglass panels, but they do not crack as easily under pressure. A professional installer must put in acrylic surrounds, but they can install the surround over old tile surrounds since the heat the installer applies to the acrylic surround will cause it to conform to any surface. Acrylic surrounds come in a wide variety of colours that run through the whole surround material so scratches do not show white.

Solid Surface Surrounds

Solid surface surrounds come in a variety of man-made materials such as cultured marble or engineered stone. The surround material is thicker than acrylic or fibreglass surrounds and it weighs more. A professional must install the surround since the installation process requires speciality tools. The surround kit may be custom fit to the shower or purchased in standard sizes from home improvement stores.

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