16 Types Of Shower Wall Options and Materials and Tile Alternatives for Your Shower Wall

Shower walls are not just installed for purely aesthetic reasons. The best materials for shower walls are carefully chosen because shower walls are installed for your protection and to give you extreme comfort while in the bathroom.

There are a lot of shower wall materials but you have to choose those that are durable, chip, crack and water-resistant. 

If you are renovating or putting up a home and want to be hands-on when it comes to choosing the best materials for your shower walls, here is a guide of the options you can choose from along with their pros and cons. 

Best materials for shower walls

1. Fiberglass

Some might find ceramic and porcelain tiles as labor-costly because it involves cutting and measuring before installing so if you need a one-slab installation like acrylic but not as expensive as glass, you can opt for fiberglass. 

In terms of durability, it is perhaps the most durable of all. It is not brittle like glass, and not crack, mold, and mildew vulnerable like ceramic, mosaic, and porcelain tiles. Other than this, fiberglass will make the running water unheard outside the bathroom. Its only downside is that it is very vulnerable to scratches. 

Pros

  • Easy to clean and maintain. 
  • Easy to install. 
  • Thick and durable. 
  • Resistant to cracking, mildew, and molds. 
  • Insulates shower/water sounds. 

Cons

  • Not scratch resistant. 

2. Acrylic

If you are shunning off glass tiles from your choice, acrylic shower walls are great alternatives because they are not as slippery and as expensive as glass. Other than this, they are also easier to install and are very workable since you can add soap holders and steel shelves for shampoo and others. 

Acrylic slabs come in one piece, with no gaps in between, making it mold and mildew-resistant. While it is not that resistant to scratch and dents, it is still fairly durable and could last very long if maintained well. 

Pros

  • Easy to install. 
  • Less expensive compared to glass. 
  • Comes with a range of designs, colors, and textures. 
  • Resistant to mold and mildew.
  • Less slippery. 

Cons

  • Texture and color may be out of place in-home aesthetics. 
  • Vulnerable to scratch. 

3. Ceramic

If you have a tight budget but still want to get a shower wall that comes in a range of colors and designs, choose ceramic materials. And since most toilets, sinks, and even the floor tiles are usually ceramic now, you can have all the elements in your bathroom in sync with one another. 

Aside from this, it is known to last very long and easy to clean. It requires regular cleaning, however, because of possible mildew and mold buildup. It can still also be slippery but this one depends on the design that you choose. Nonetheless, it is a durable choice and also water-resistant. 

Pros

  • Inexpensive. 
  • Comes in a wide range of designs and colors. 
  • Less resistant to stain. 
  • Easy to clean. 

Cons

  • Vulnerable to cracking. 
  • Vulnerable to mildew and mold build-up. 
  • More costly to install. 

4. Mosaic Glass

If you have been to a water spa, you have probably seen how high-end looking mosaic glass is on walls and floors. It is luminous adding light to space and comes in a variety of color combinations. 

While more expensive than the other types of tiles, it is eco-friendly as it is made from reclaimed glass and refuses tile pieces. Other upsides would be easy cleaning and its resistance to mildew, mold, and staining from chemical cleaning solutions. 

Pros

  • High-end aesthetics. 
  • Ecological. 
  • Durable. 
  • Adds light to the bathroom.
  • Easy to clean. 
  • Resistant to molds, mildew, and stains. 

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • Not easy to install. 
  • Not crack resistant. 
  • Vulnerable to scratches. 

5. Porcelain Tiles

It looks like ceramic tiles but porcelain is more durable and watertight compared to it, making it more expensive than ceramic. Like ceramic, porcelain tiles may also be vulnerable to chipping and cracking but the upside is that it could easily be repaired by installing a new one. 

While easy to clean, its gaps in between because of the grout make porcelain (as well as ceramic) tiles vulnerable to mold and mildew-buildup too. But with the range of designs and colors that it features, along with being a good value for money, durability, and longevity, everything can be offset. 

Pros

  • Comes in a range of colors and designs. 
  • Water and stain-resistant. 
  • Durable and easy to clean. 
  • Can be easily replaced. 

Cons

  • Costly installation. 
  • Slippery. 
  • Prone to dents and cracking. 
  • Mildew buildup is expected on the grout gaps. 

6. Glass Tiles

If you are aiming for that elegant, hotel-like shower, you can opt for glass tiles. You can go bold and transparent or go classy with glass prints and customizable designs. One upside of glass tiles is that they are very easy to clean. Other than this, it also reflects light, adding more brightness to your bathroom. 

And since it is reflective, it also adds an illusion of width, making the shower look more spacious than its actual size. There are downsides too. For one, it is not a good choice for homes with kids and the elderly as it could be slippery. It is also expensive and more delicate to install. 

Pros

  • Classy. 
  • Spacious illusion. 
  • Adds brightness to the shower room. 

Cons

  • Expensive. 
  • Delicate and brittle. 
  • Easily scratched. 

7. Stone Tiles

It is more expensive than acrylic and fiberglass but if you want to have a posh yet rustic, go for stone tiles. Since they are tiles, they are installed one by one. However, since the stones used do not have uniform sizes, they give a more distinct aura compared to acrylic and ceramic tiles. 

Its downside, however, is that it is porous requiring sealant now and then for it to last long. Water and soap scum may affect its longevity which is why regular sealing is needed. It can also be slippery. 

Pros

  • Durable and long-lasting. 
  • Gives a natural look. 
  • Less slippery compared to ceramic tiles.

Cons

  • Regular maintenance. 
  • Easily stains. 
  • Hard to clean. 

8. Marble

This polished stone, especially white marble, is one of the most beautiful stone materials for shower walls. It adds brightness and as a material, it has lighter weight compared to acrylic and stone slabs. 

You have to be wary about some marble types, though. Heavily veined marble is not a good option because it causes wall damage. A marble with high iron content may not be very durable because it is prone to rusting especially that it is always exposed to water. Other than this, marble easily stains too so it is a downside. 

Pros

  • High-end look. 
  • Easy to polish. 
  • Adds to the real estate value. 
  • Durable. 

Cons

  • Requires regular sealing. 
  • Expensive. 
  • Prone to cracks and stains. 
  • Slippery. 

9. Stone Resin

Stone resin also goes by the name of natural stone cladding. As a shower wall material, stone resins are created by drying unpolished stone slabs, sprayed with polyester, and cured with resin. After that, it is further polished into any kind of surface polishing, from matte to glass. 

It will make a unique shower interior when fitted on a wall. However, it is quite heavy, making it harder to install. It is also more expensive in general. When the stone resin is not cured properly, it will become porous and will become brittle, and may have discoloration when exposed to too much light. 

Pros

  • High aesthetic value. 
  • Durable when maintained properly. 
  • More resistant to scratch. 
  • Resistant to molds and mildew.

Cons

  • Hard to install.
  • Expensive. 
  • Depending on the finish, it has the tendency to be slippery. 
  • Not resistant to stains. 

10. Granite

It has become one of the most popular materials for flooring, countertops, and bathroom walls. It is very flexible to many interiors, from traditional, rustic to modern designs. It is considered as one of the most durable materials out there. Like other natural stones, it can be polished with a matte to a reflective finish. 

It is a good choice for high-traffic rooms because it is crack, wear and stain-resistant. It will need sealing but usually, this happens every five years only. It comes in a range of colors for you to choose from. 

Pros

  • Heat and scratch-resistant. 
  • Easy to clean. 
  • Natural, attractive look. 
  • Stain-resistant. 
  • Resistant to chemicals. 
  • Durable.

Cons

  • Requires sealing. 
  • Hard to repair when cracked. 
  • Expensive. 

11. Travertine

For a timeless look resonating Roman tubs, Middle Eastern pools, or Hispanic homes, travertine will give you the feeling like the tile has been there forever. It comes only in earth tones and is easier to maintain and install compared to other natural stone walls. 

When maintained properly, it is durable and long-lasting. While it is not crack-resistant, it is easy to replace and repair. It is quite porous, however, requiring periodic sealing. 

Pros

  • A durable and timeless look. 
  • Easy to replace. 
  • Easy to install.
  • Good value for money. 

Cons

  • Slippery and cold under the feet.
  • Not resistant to stains, mildew, and molds. 
  • Requires regular sealing. 
  • Has natural holes that make it more susceptible to wear.

12. Slate

Like natural stone, it also gives a posh feel to your bathroom and because it has a rougher surface, it is also less slippery. It is also a durable option that could last for very long if it is maintained well through regular sealing. Make sure that you install an A-grade slate since it has a tendency to flake through the years. 

Slate is not easy to install, however. And because it is quite heavy, it is labor-costly. It also has gaps in between because it is installed like ceramic tiles making it vulnerable to mold and mildew too.

Pros

  • Durable and attractive.
  • Less slippery. 
  • Can accommodate floor heating. 
  • Adds to real estate value. 

Cons

  • Requires regular sealing. 
  • Expensive material and labor-costly installation. 
  • Prone to stains. 
  • Hard to replace and repair. 

Tile alternatives for your shower wall

If you are looking for other shower wall materials, here are some alternative materials to choose from. 

1. PVC Panels

Not only are they visually appealing, but they are also less expensive compared to natural stone and tiles. PVC panels are impact, scratch, stain, mold, and mildew resistant making them very apt as shower walls. These panels are thick but lightweight, affordable, and come in a range of colors and decorative designs. 

Pros

  • Affordable and durable.
  • Water and fire-resistant. 
  • Stain, mold, and mildew resistant. 
  • Comes in an array of colors, designs, and finishes. 
  • Easy to install. 

Cons

  • Not entirely scratch resistant. 
  • Can sustain damage from knocking and high-impact objects. 

2. Wood Shower Walls

The smooth and flat surface of finely finished wood gives a warm glow and minimalist look to shower walls. Moist leading to porosity and breakage can be controlled when the wood panels are installed correctly and sealed regularly. 

Pros

  • Sleek look. 
  • Easy to install. 
  • Recycled wood can be used. 

Cons

  • Prone to warping when the installation is incorrect. 
  • Can be quite expensive too. 

3. Stainless Steel

It is not a popular choice but it will really give your shower walls a complete turnaround. Aside from being resistant to rust, it is also strong, almost resistant to wear, scratches, and molds. It is easy to clean and will not wear on constant exposure to moisture. 

Pros

  • Strong and long-lasting. 
  • Stylish. 
  • Not prone to scratches and wear. 
  • Not prone to molds. 
  • Resistant to rust. 

Cons

  • Can be pricey too. 
  • Does not insulate noise. 
  • Tedious to install.  
  • Not smudge-free. 

4. Paint

At the end of the day, paint is still the most common option for shower walls. It is accessible, inexpensive and in the dawn of odorless and glossy paints, you could get creative with paint anytime. It is also easy to apply, exempting you from added costs on labor. 

Pros

  • Easy to apply. 
  • Inexpensive.
  • Comes in a variety of colors to match the home interior. 

Cons

  • Prone to scratching, wearing, and other damages. 
  • Prone to peeling in humid and moist locations. 

FAQs

Are shower wall panels better than tiles?

Surprisingly, yes. It saves you time because shower panels tend to be long, wide, and thick making installation easier. It is also easier to maintain in the long run compared to repairing 200 tiles for example. Shower panels are often underrated because they are expensive. But in the long run, they will be more cost-efficient than tiles. 

Can I use plywood for shower walls?

While marine plywood and exterior plywood are used for subflooring, it is debatable if they could be used for shower walls. At the end of the day, plywood is still made of wood and although they can be sealed, it is still a gamble since they are still prone to warping and swelling. 

Can I use laminate sheets for shower walls?

Yes, but you cannot directly install it on drywall. You will still have to install MDF boards before you fit in the laminate sheets one by one. But since it is tough, workable, and generally water-resistant, it is still a popular choice. 

Can I use vinyl tiles on shower walls?

Yes, and it is a cheap but beautiful choice. You can install it directly on the drywall, does not need grouting, hence, resistant to molds and mildew. 

What color shower tile is easiest to clean?

Darker colored shower tiles are the easiest to clean. When wiping or mopping does not help, the dark color of the tile will help you camouflage the stain or smudge. 

What do you put behind shower panels?

For this question, there are three answers. When using acrylic, fiberglass, and natural stone cladding like marble, granite, and travertine, drywall should be put behind the shower panels before installation. For other materials like tiles, cement board is used. For PVCs and vinyl, MDF boards are installed first. 

What is the easiest tile to keep clean in a shower?

The answer is glass tile. When stains are inevitable, ceramic and porcelain tiles could be hard to clean. Glass tiles on the other hand could be cleaned using wet cloth only or when it is too dirty, a simple solution of water and detergent or glass cleaner will do. 

What size tile is best for shower walls?

When it comes to shower walls, the best size would be at a range of 4x4inches to 15x30inches. Smaller sized tiles create a compact effect on the room while larger tiles give a spacious illusion. 

What is the most durable tile for a shower?

The answer is porcelain tile. Compared to ceramic tile, porcelain tile is made of denser clay making it more durable with a higher water absorption power. 

What type of drywall goes behind a shower?

Various types of drywall go behind a shower but the most popular would be cement backer board and blue board. They are the most water-resistant and most durable of all the types of drywall. 

Conclusion

The best shower wall materials come in many types, each with its own pros and cons. Now that you already have a working idea of what shower wall materials are made of, how they are installed, and what good they would give you as a homeowner, there should be nothing in between you and your choice of the best shower wall material for your bathroom. 

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