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Shower Wall Materials Explained

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From high-end to budget, there is a shower wall material to suit your bathroom.

The type of material you use for your shower wall makes a huge difference to the overall styling of your bathroom. And the great news is there are so many material options available to you.

We look at 11 of the most popular materials, rating them on cost, performance, and style, so you can make the right choice when remodeling your bathroom.


Shower Wall Material Options

So, what are your shower wall material options? A lot depends on your budget and the style you are trying to achieve.

Ceramic

If you want an endless array of sizes, colors, and textures, ceramic tiles are an excellent choice. Getting creative is easy with ceramic tiles. You can stick to a theme and color or mix and match for a more individual design. You can even choose different tile sizes.

Ceramic tiles are hard-wearing, making them the ideal material to use if you want your shower wall to maintain its fresh new look.

The only thing you should bear in mind is the actual installation of your ceramic tiles. It requires skill and patience to match up the lines and space every tile perfectly. Plus, it takes a lot longer because the adhesive needs to dry, and then you have to grout the gaps between each piece.

There is no doubting the classy look you will achieve, but it isn’t the most convenient way to restyle your shower wall.

The other consideration is the cost. Ceramic tiles are cheaper than porcelain varieties, but they are still expensive compared to other materials.

Pros

  • Comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
  • Great for firing your creativity.
  • Hard-wearing and won’t fade over time and usage.
  • Mix and match or stick to one pattern theme.

Cons

  • Expensive to buy compared to other materials.
  • Requires a professional to install them.
  • Time-consuming compared to other materials.

Porcelain

While porcelain and ceramic tiles share many of the same qualities, porcelain is more water-resistant, denser, and harder wearing than ceramic tiles.

You get the same choice of colors, sizes, textures, and patterns, plus they also adhere to the shower wall in the same way, so you might require a professional to install them. You can fit them yourself, but that would need a degree of experience and a lot of patience.

Getting the lines, patterns, and spacing to match up is a delicate operation that takes time and diligence.

Porcelain tiles are more expensive than ceramic varieties, so if you want a classic look for your shower remodel, be prepared to pay a significant sum. And don’t expect instant results. Tiling, regardless of the material, is slow work.

The adhesive needs to dry before you apply the grout, and that also takes 24 to 48 hours to bond successfully.

Pros

  • Hard-wearing, so they stay looking good for longer.
  • Come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
  • Inspires you to get creative with your designs.
  • Mix and match or stick to a theme.

Cons

  • More expensive than ceramic tiles.
  • Typically requires a professional to install.
  • Time-consuming compared to other materials.

Natural Stone

Natural stone is one of the classiest materials you can use to transform your shower wall and your entire bathroom. It recreates that boutique hotel style, although it can also lend itself to a rustic feel.

The unique thing about natural stone is precisely that; it’s natural, so the patterns and textures are formed over millions of years, giving each tile an individuality that you don’t get from any other material.

You can get matte or gloss surfaces, as well as smooth or rough to create textures and moods within the room.

Stone is porous, so it does absorb water, soap, and grime. The only way to prevent this is to seal the stones, which is a regular maintenance consideration.

You can choose between slate, onyx, marble, granite, and other natural materials, but depending on which one you choose, the costs vary enormously. The other thing to bear in mind is natural stone is more challenging to install due to its uneven surfaces.

Stone is the most expensive material to use to revamp your shower wall, and it is more high maintenance than porcelain and ceramic tiles. People typically choose it because of its aesthetic qualities.

Low-cost options are available. You can buy prefabricated sheets of stone-effect tiles. They are easier to install and cost a fraction of the amount of true natural stone.

Pros

  • Looks classy in any design.
  • Adds texture and depth to your shower wall.
  • Each stone tile is unique.
  • Comes with a matte or glossy finish.

Cons

  • Stone tiles need sealing regularly.
  • They are heavy and challenging to install.
  • Expensive to purchase and install.

Glass

Glass tiles may not seem like an obvious choice for covering your shower wall, but they come in a vast array of colors and designs, just like ceramic tiles.

Glass is excellent at reflecting light, which makes your space appear larger. It is ideal for smaller shower enclosures and darker rooms, where the light is a premium. They are also easy to clean, using standard glass cleaner and dry cloth.

You can also use natural ingredients like newspaper and vinegar to remove smears and stains from the surface of your glass tiles. Cleaning is a feature of having glass tiles that you need to get used to.

Glass shows up every blemish, stain, and mineral residue, so be prepared to work hard to keep everything looking good. Also, you need a healthy budget to install glass tiles. They aren’t as expensive as stone, but they cost more than ceramic and porcelain tiles.

And you should think about hiring a professional to install them as they are tricky to get right. If you still want glass in your shower enclosure, think about using it as an accent material rather than the main component.

Pros

  • Come in a vast choice of colors and styles.
  • Reflects the light, making rooms seem bigger.
  • Easy to clean using natural products.
  • Gives a classy modern feel to your bathroom.

Cons

  • More expensive than ceramic and porcelain tiles.
  • Requires a professional to install them.
  • Shows up every blemish, scratch, and stain.

Acrylic

Acrylic is a popular choice with contractors and DIY enthusiasts alike. It’s inexpensive, relatively easy to fit, and you can cut it to size. You can get it in any color or pattern, so the choices are endless.

Acrylic shower walls are less labor-intensive, and because they come in large sheets, you don’t get leaks and cracks between joints. You don’t need lots of tools, like tile cutters and lining the sheets up is simple because it cuts so easily.

You also get an ultra-smooth surface that’s easy to keep clean and repels mold and mildew. Acrylic lacks the classy feel of tiles or natural stone, and you do substitute some of the texture for a plastic sheet that adds very little to the atmosphere of the bathroom.

However, the costs outweigh the negatives. Acrylic is one of the cheapest materials to use, so if you are remodeling on a budget, it is a great option.

Pros

  • Instant results speed up your remodel.
  • Slip and mold-resistant material.
  • Minor maintenance considerations.
  • Easy to install with minimal tools.
  • Doesn’t crack, peel, leak, or chip.

Cons

  • Lacks that quality look and feel.
  • Not eco-friendly at all.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is much like acrylic in that it is easy to install and relatively cheap compared to most materials. It comes in large flat sheets and cuts to size easily. The choice of colors and patterns is immense, so you can really go to town with your creative side.

Like acrylic, because it is a complete sheet, you don’t need to worry about leaks like you might with tiles. You get the same smooth wall surface and instant results, which is why it is a favorite of contractors and DIY’ers alike.

Fiberglass is more porous than acrylic, so it may weather over time, plus it lacks the same classy feel of natural stone and other more expensive wall coverings. However, if you want an instant makeover for your shower wall, fiberglass is a good choice.

Pros

  • Mold and slip-resistant material for added safety.
  • Molds to any shape, even around corners.
  • Comes in all colors and patterns.
  • Speeds up installation time for instant results.
  • Doesn’t crack, peel, leak, or chip.

Cons

  • Looks a bit cheap and flimsy.
  • Not eco-friendly in the slightest.

Single-Sheet Plastic

Single-sheet plastic is both affordable and easy to install. You don’t need to hire a professional, and you don’t need many tools. It stays looking good for a long time and is easy to clean.

Plastic is excellent at repelling mold and mildew and rarely allows bacteria to grow; plus, when it needs a clean, you can use ordinary everyday products to get great results.

It also comes in just about every color and pattern you can think of, which means you will be spoilt for choice.

It comes in large sheets and is cut to size, so even someone with the most basic skills should be able to handle sheet plastic. All you need to do is install moisture-resistant drywall and glue the sheets to the bare surface.

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to install.
  • Requires minimal skill and almost no tools.
  • Instant results reduce the remodel time.
  • Easy to clean and maintain.
  • Comes in hundreds of colors and styles.

Cons

  • Looks cheap and flimsy.
  • Not eco-friendly in the slightest.

Beadboard

Beadboard has come a long way since the days of your parents and grandparents. Using beadboard in a bathroom or as a shower wall was unthinkable. But thanks to vinyl, beadboard is waterproof, easy to clean, and comes in many colors.

Vinyl beadboard resembles wooden boards, adds texture and pattern to the shower wall that tiles and stone can’t give, and creates a country-chic look that wouldn’t seem out of place in a period home.

If you like the wooden style but worry about putting it against a shower wall, vinyl beadboard is the answer. It comes in long sheets, can be cut to size, and won’t leak because there are no gaps or joins.

Pros

  • Instant results speed up the remodel.
  • Adds that country-chic styling.
  • Easy to install and cut to size.
  • Repels moisture, mold, and mildew.
  • Sold in large sheets, so no caulking is necessary.

Cons

  • Not as readily available as other materials.
  • Can be on the expensive side.

Vinyl Wallpaper

If you want the largest selection of patterns and colors of any type of wall covering, vinyl wallpaper leaves you spoilt for choice. It comes in rolls with multiple sheets and applies easily, so you don’t need to employ a professional.

The key is to install it correctly using the right materials. You will need mold-proof vinyl paper, mold-resistant paste, and once up and dry, a generous coating of varnish to seal it all against water damage.

Pros

  • Unlimited choice of colors and patterns.
  • Instant results speed up the remodel.
  • Easy to hang, s is ideal for amateurs.
  • Comes in large rolls, so you have plenty of material.

Cons

  • Needs constant maintenance to keep it dry.
  • Excess moisture causes the paper to peel.
  • Might stain and discolor with excessive use.

Laminated Wall Panels

Laminated wall panels are the ideal middle ground between flimsy vinyl sheets and expensive tiles. They are more substantial with a bit more quality compared to vinyl and fiberglass sheets.

It comes in large sheets and is easy to cut and install with the right woodwork tools. You will need a saw and preferably a jigsaw to get the best results. Laminate walls come in many textures and colors, so whatever design you are looking for, it’s sure to cater to your needs.

You can replicate that high-end feel with tile and natural stone patterns that look extremely realistic but at a fraction of the cost.

The panels are simple enough to fit, but they are heavy, so be careful if you are installing them alone.

Pros

  • Cheaper alternative to tiles.
  • Comes in many colors, patterns, and textures.
  • Easy to cut to size and install.
  • Better quality than acrylic and fiberglass panels.

Cons

  • Heavy, so take care when installing them.
  • You need woodwork tools to cut them to size.
  • More expensive than acrylic and fiberglass.

Shower Wall Panel Kits

Shower wall panel kits transform your shower in hours instead of days. If you want instant results, they deliver. The kits typically come directly from the factory rather than off the peg at your local hardware store.

They come in many different colors and patterns, and some even have textured surfaces that replicate tiles and natural stone.

The beauty of these kits is they are easy to install, and in some cases, you can mount them directly to your studs without the need for drywall or other surfaces. If you have a bare surface available, look for kits that glue into place.

They don’t leak, come in different panel options from one complete unit to 5 panels in the kit, and they can be made to measure, so they are unique to your shower enclosure.

While panel wall kits are convenient, they are surprisingly expensive, with some costing as much and more than natural stone and other costly materials.

Pros

  • Installs in a matter of hours.
  • Can be made to measure, which reduces cutting.
  • Come in a vast array of colors and patterns.
  • Fits either to studs or direct to existing walls.
  • Can be DIY installed, saving costs on a professional.

Cons

  • Not the cheapest option.
  • Repairs are difficult if cracks appear.

Headshot of Mark Weir

About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.