Options for shower walls

Updated February 21, 2017

Showers are an ubiquitous feature of any home. Showering itself is a tactile experience and the material of your shower walls can have an impact on your showering experience, from the moment you step into the shower to how often you have to clean it. There are a variety of different materials used for lining showers, each with different features to consider when deciding on what type of shower walls to choose.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic shower tiles have a clear, protective glazing baked onto them to make them waterproof. Ceramic tiles are long-lasting, low-maintenance shower wall materials that come in a variety of sizes, colours and patterns, and offer many creative and decorative design options. Ceramic shower tiles can range from relatively inexpensive to quite pricey, depending on the type of tile you select. In most cases, ceramic tile is best installed by a professional tile setter since it is a labour intensive endeavour that involves a great deal of patience and precision.

Natural Stone Tiles

Certain natural stones such as marble or travertine are commonly used as shower walls coverings. However, natural stones are difficult to take care of and require significant maintenance. This is because of their porous nature that allows them to absorb soap scum and other minerals which can cause discolouration. To prevent unsightly discolouration, use natural stone sealers, although these are also somewhat challenging to apply and in many cases must be reapplied every six months or so. So, although natural stone can be quite beautiful in a shower, it requires significant maintenance and is also prone to cracking and other damaging fissures.

Fibreglass Units

Fibreglass units are generally installed when a house is first built since they are affordable and easy to install prior to bathroom wall construction. The seamless appearance of fibreglass shower units makes them leak-proof, lasting and reliable. However, if not installed during the initial construction of the dwelling, fibreglass units present a formidable remodelling challenge and will not fit through most doorways and hallways. Fibreglass shower units will also often yellow with age and are very hard to clean once discolouring occurs.

Acrylic Sheet Materials

Acrylic sheet materials are available in a range of design and colours. They are also easy to install, relatively affordable and fit through doorways and hallways during bathroom remodelling. When used in a shower, a floor covering sheet must be installed in addition to the wall covering sheets. If your shower is a non-standard size you may have trouble finding a sheet that fits your layout. Acrylic plastic materials also scratch easily and become discoloured and hard to clean over long periods of time. However, the main issue with acrylic shower sheeting is all the seams, which are found in each shower corner and around the bottom shower pan where the walls meet the floor. Each of these seems is a potential leak, especially when installed by contractors who are working in a hurry and not necessarily concerned with the lasting quality of their work.

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About the Author

Ariel Phillips is an editor and writer living in Portland, Ore. He has written for "n+1 Journal" and "The Rumpus Magazine," among others. He maintains an interest in a variety of subjects, including art, culture, the environment, media, the sciences and sports. He earned bachelor's degrees in art and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara.