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5 Things Nobody Tells You Shower Tub Wall Panels

5 Things Nobody Tells You about Shower & Tub Wall Panels

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

5 Things Nobody Tells You Shower Tub Wall Panels

If you’ve ever been subjected to an in-home sales presentation from a hard-selling acrylic shower or tub wall salesmen – you know some of the “facts” surrounding grout free shower and tub wall panels “spun” quite a few ways. These reps may tell you their system is the only right one for your bathroom, or they have the only “one-piece” system or that it’s not possible to install grout free shower and tub wall panels yourself. As the owner of Innovate Building Solutions (we wholesale and install 5 different lines of tub and shower wall panels) I can tell you choosing the right system for your project is not a “one size fits all” situation. There is no one product which is “the best” (note – if there was one best solution we would not offer 5 lines ourselves!).

My goal in this article is to shatter some of the myths and half-truths being told by high pressure sales people who have one goal in mine for your project….their commission! Read on to uncover some of the mysteries regarding grout free wall panels.

Myth #1 – Grout free panels must be professionally installed

This is a half-truth if there ever was one! While it’s best to have standard acrylic shower and tub wall panels professionally installed (the reason for this is the material can dimensionally change due to expansion and contraction and the black butyl tape installation adhesive is difficult to work with) there are 4 other systems I’ll outline below which are quite DIY friendly and can be cut and drilled with common woodworking tools:

PVC backed composite faux stone walls – These walls look like natural stone and are the easiest to cut.

Decorative Grout Free DIY Shower Panels

Solid surface walls – Although they are the thickest at 3/8” they are not tough to cut and are available with a large array of accessories.

DIY Solid Surface Shower Wall Panels

Serica composite walls– Offering a natural look and textured wall options this system offers innovative storage and pattern designs.

Kohler Choreograph DIY Shower Panels

Optical grade high gloss wall panels – Offering the look of back painted glass (without the cost) these panels are popular for those wanting a sleek contemporary Euro style bathroom.

High gloss wall panels look like back painted glass

Myth #2 – The only panels worth using is a “one piece” system

While it is true you can buy (and home builders often use) inexpensive one piece shower and tub surrounds in-home companies who sell “one piece” acrylic shower and tub panels systems are frequently deluding the general public. The “one piece” is not one piece at all – it includes trim pieces around shower and tub surrounds. The other problem with these “one piece” systems is if your shower/tub is not dimensionally square (which most are not) the caulk joints around the one piece section will be inconsistent. The best systems we’ve seen are those with unique panels for each wall (which can be fit or trimmed to your exact size) and have sound waterproofing methods to ensure a tight fit and seal at the seams and corners.

Myth #3 – Thickness matters

While it’s certainly not bad to have thicker wall panels (the thickest ones we use are the 3/8” solid surface panels) in most cases once the wall panels are properly adhered to a wall backer the thickness of the material will have little bearing on long term performance (note – if the wall panels are not adhered with the right adhesives all bets are off. From our experience it is critical to use the adhesive recommended by the wall panel manufacturing company).

Myth #4 – You can only do standard sized showers and tubs with grout free panels

This is a myth you might hear in a big box store which only inventories stock sized enclosures. It is possible to get large panels for custom showers (in solid surface walls you can actually get a panel as big as 144” x 100”) or there are easy to cut and seam systems in the PVC and Serica composites which can be designed to work with any sized shower stall. You are not limited to a grouted tile shower even if you have a custom size anymore.

Myth #5 – You need custom tools to do the installation

The facts is in most cases (with the exception of some intricate acrylic wall projects where a custom bending tool can be helpful) you can use standard woodworking equipment (like jig saws, routers, table saws and drills) for a DIY wall panel project.

Which of these myths have you heard before? If you want more information, or a free estimate on materials or the installation of grout free tub and shower wall panels comment or call us on one of the numbers below.
For regional installation service call The Bath Doctor in Cleveland (216-531-6085), Columbus (614-252-7294) or for nationwide material supply Innovate Building Solutions (877-668-5888).

 

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Mike Foti

President of Innovate Building Solutions a nationwide supplier and regional (Cleveland and Columbus) remodeling contractors. Some of our product lines include glass counters, floors, backsplashes, glass blocks and grout free shower and tub wall panels

Comments (16)

  • Mike Foti

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    Gregg – thanks for your comment. The most cost effective wall panel system we have is in a PVC backed composite and there are kits which are 60″ high and 80″ high. The cheapest kits are in white – but there are decorative ones available in 22 different stone patterns. Feel free to give me a call at 877-668-5888 and I’d be glad to help you. Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Scott – we provide a direct wholesale across the country of all of our products so we can certainly ship these directly to you. Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Denise – the solid surface and pvc backed composite wall panels we offer both have the ability (with the use of trim pieces) to be customized around the window. Feel free to contact us for more help!

    Reply

  • Denise

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    I currently have tile and hate the grout. ( standard tube/shower in 1980 home) Looking for durable, easy to clean alternative. I have a window (like the window) so I need something that can either be customized or can be cut. Seeking advice.

    Reply

  • Scott

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    Mike, any contractors that are distributors of yours in Utah?

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    George – we offer some white PVC panels which are 60″ wide (1/4″ thick) and also a solid surface wall panel which we can make 63″ (which is 3/8″ thick). My thought for you would be to use the solid surface against the wall and you can use your acrylic you have on the other walls. Since it’s the back wall I don’t think it will be that noticeable. I hope this helps! Feel free to call us to learn more.

    Reply

  • George

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    Hi Mike,
    Please recommend a company that I can purchase a
    white acrylic – gloss- panel 1/8″ thk x 58″ H x 35″ W.
    The 5 piece bath wall surround kit that I purchased unfortunately comes with back panel that is only 29″ wide. I searched everywhere to buy the wider size panel without success. My tub is 63″ wide.Thanks in advance for your kind assistance.
    George
    I live in Connecticut

    Reply

  • Gregg

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    Good info thanks. I have an older 3 panel tub enclosure bordered by a small aluminum channel to hold the panels in. The surface is old and worn and I would like to replace it. However, this is a rental and cost IS an issue. The panels I have found by Kohler are running a few hundred dollars. Are there less expensive options instead of the panels? I saw that some people used corrugated galvanized steel, but it is hard to find the 60 x 72 inch panel which I would need. Thanks in advance.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Karen – most of the trim is made for rectangular or square applications. The option to make the trim work around a round window would be to get a trim which can be bent and molded to shape. I hope this helps.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Braden thick solid surface walls are a great choice where you want durability. I had a project I sold into a bunch of men’s dorms where they chose solid surface for just this reason.

    Reply

  • Braden Bills

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    I don’t know what kind of enclosure to use for my tub. It makes sense that I would want some solid surface walls! The thicker the wall, the more durable it would be, after all!

    Reply

  • Karen

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    Hello—-I have a round 24 inch window in my shower area on the large wall. Will I be able to get custom wall sections and is trim available for this type of installation? Thanks!

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Excellent Brian – if you need any additional input with a shower or tub wall panel project – or other remodeling – give us a call! Mike

    Reply

  • Brian

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    Thanks Mike,

    Your info has given me hope, as a DIY guy.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Thanks Jimmy – we’ll need to get that fixed.

    Reply

  • Jimmy W Stiglets

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    Links under Myth # 1 do not work. They return an error of 404.

    Reply

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