Do you have the June Cleaver throwback bathroom from the 1950’s, or maybe a “modern” 1970’s bathroom straight out of the Brady Bunch which are practically begging you for an update? You know you NEED a bathroom makeover so bad. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the partially rusted tub, pealed wood on the window sills, tired old particle board vanity with a dated laminate top and nasty looking grout in the shower. The challenge is what are you going to do about it? How can you update for a fresh, clean look? How can you create an updated design which takes advantage of the latest trends and keeps maintenance to a minimum? The question is – where do you start?
One excellent place to begin is to take a sneak peek at the products which are hot today and include these elements in your remodeled “bathroom of tomorrow.” In this article, we’ll look at what’s hot now. At the end, I’d love to hear your “Siskel and Ebert” – two thumbs up or thumbs down on these products.
Are you sick of ceramic tile shower and tub walls? They are the traditional “go-to” product of every custom builder and remodeler who does business in the United States. For today’s owners traditional ceramic tile projects and the not-so-glorious grout joints everywhere are losing their luster. Why – you might ask? Simple – if you’re like my wife Rose and I you want to be enjoying friends, family and living cool experiences (bicycling, hiking, running or experiencing nature). You don’t want to be sweating like a pig inside some cramped shower cleaning grout joints. Also, something tells me these builders and remodelers who were eager to “push” a tile shower are nowhere to be found when you’re stuck cleaning your yucky enclosure!
What do you want in a new shower or tub design? What’s making shower and tub wall panels hot today vs. a tile shower? Here’s the big trend I’m seeing in bathroom product selections. From Millenials moving into their first home to empty nesters who have finally gotten the kids “off the payroll” want sleek, clean, contemporary and low maintenance showers. High maintenance is out!
One luxury product growing rapidly is high gloss wall panels. They are sleek, easy to clean and ultra-contemporary (if you want boring traditional tile shower and tub walls stop reading NOW!).
I’m excited to share with you 5 secrets facts about high gloss wall panels. Why am I excited? It’s because I love contemporary and thought this was the hottest product “ever” (gotta say it in a “Valley girl voice) when I saw them at the International Builders Show 4 years ago. The only reason these are “secrets facts” about this product is because we live in the United States. If you lived in Europe or Asia these products would be as common to you as sliced American bread (or loaves of French bread I should say). Let’s check out these 5 secrets facts.
Shower walls which are spongy, mold infested, cracking, have dirty tile joints or out of style are a real bummer to look at. What’s even worse is bad shower walls may be messing up your families’ health. For many people the options in shower walls are largely unknown, and in many cases their contractors and builders just want to install the “same old same old.” The common materials your contractors will often want to use are one-piece fiberglass shower surrounds (which are usually flat-out ugly – especially as your home ages) and/or tile (and you know the contractor who installed your tile IS NOT the guy who has to worry about cleaning it – that would be YOU!).
Whether you’re looking to do a DIY remodel on your bathroom or hire a contractor it will pay you (especially in lower maintenance bills) to know how to make sure your shower walls are built to last (whether you’ve decided on a tile surround, fiberglass unit or one of many grout free shower wall panel systems). In this article I’ll give you 4 sure-fire strategies to make sure your shower walls will stand the test of time. Let’s dig in!
“OK – I’ve just stumbled across your web page on stone solid surface shower wall panels and I’m praying it’s the answer to my two nasty bathrooms, Tammy said to me. I hate cleaning the tile shower walls in my master bathroom and the builders grade tub/shower plastic insert in the kid’s bathroom is yellowing, cracking and looks disgusting. I’m hoping this product is the answer for a nice looking surround which won’t be a pain to clean, Tammy continued. I have to warn you I have a lot of questions about this product!”
The conversation above about stone solid surface wall panels is not unique. Homeowners are looking for better alternatives to what’s commonly being used (tile and plastic fiberglass inserts) but aren’t too familiar with the options available. Traditional tile showers and one-piece fiberglass tub/shower inserts can look good after they are installed but the maintenance and their looks long term are less than ideal.
With your crazy schedule you may be hoping that there is a better option to get a nice looking shower you won’t have to be messing around cleaning all the time (after all you’ve got kids and parents to take care of and you want to carve out some fun time – imagine that!).
Let’s take a look at the 9 questions Tammy peppered me with. These are the most frequently asked questions we get about solid surface shower wall panels from most everyone.
3 Steps to simplify your glass block shower wall project
I have to tell you I hate when I get a call and the person on the line says, “We’ve got our shower pan completely done – now we’re ready to include the glass block wall.” While at first glance this sounds good because the project is ready to go, I know it can be a bad situation for this person. They might have wasted money, or got the design wrong, by installing a base which may not work well with the glass block wall.
When you’re designing a glass block shower wall it’s best to remember Stephen Covey’s saying to “begin with the end in mind.” Just like a new home you should design the plans for the foundation (a glass block shower’s “foundation” is the shower pan) before you start to frame the upper level walls (in this case the glass block shower walls). If you don’t design the shower pan first (especially in the case of an angled or curved wall) you can end up with a situation where the wall doesn’t fit correctly. This error can cause the joints to be too big and/or to have block sizes which aren’t symmetrical or the best choice.
My goal in this article is to help you eliminate the problem of your shower base not working with your glass block wall. Let’s take a look at 3 steps to design a glass block shower (a sound layout + the right shower pan + a prefab glass block wall) which can simplify and foolproof your project.
If you’re a do it yourselfer or a homeowner looking eliminate the hassle of a tile shower you may be looking at grout free shower wall panels. Like many things these days the choices can be varied and complex. Here are some possible options:
Thin and inexpensive shower panels made of MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or fiberglass.
Slightly thicker and moderately priced panels including PVC backed faux stone panels or acrylic walls.
Thicker, and usually most expensive options, includes optical grade high gloss acrylic or stone solid surface panels.
The question becomes does thicker and more expensive panels automatically make the best choice? In my opinion, the short answer is no. In the article below let’s explore 5 factors – which along with material thickness – can help you make your best choice.
Question: Are shower wall panels cheaper than tile?
Answer: It depends.
You’re probably saying that answer is a cop-out….and you’re partially right. As the owner of a company who installs tile showers locally and wholesales 4 different types of grout free shower panels on a nationwide basis I know the answer to this question is not a one size fits all proposition. So let’s check out 7 factors to help you get your arms around this question for your shower.
If you’re tired of cleaning and repairing grout in your tub or shower enclosure you’re not alone! The hassle, time and expense of dealing with grout is causing many homeowners to switch from tile to various styles of grout free shower wall panels (ranging from fiberglass, acrylic, high gloss acrylic, PVC backed composites and solid surface).
The article below will provide an overview of the features of these 5 types of grout free wall panels (ranging from color, pattern, finish and pattern options as well as ease of installation and sizing) and link at the end of the article for more in depth information.
If you’re tired of the look and maintenance hassle of ceramic tile and grout joints you’re not alone! While tile is still very popular, for those wanting low maintenance, contemporary kitchen and bath designs are steering towards new choices like high gloss acrylic walls. Learn more below about this product and its top 5 benefits.
Solid glass brick wall in a bathroom with blue and clear units
Question: What product can create clear or colored light movement through a wall with the traditional look of a brick?
Answer: Solid glass bricks in clear and colored selections.
For a unique look consider using solid glass bricks for a shower stall, plant stand, decorative column or divider wall. In the article below learn the answers to the frequently asked design and construction questions about solid glass bricks.
What sizes and colors of glass bricks are available? – These units come in 9 ½” x 4 ½” x 2” and 4 ½” x 4 ½” x 2” sizes. They are available in non-colored (clear), blue, Nordica (dark brown) and siena (tan) colors.
Clear solid glass brick in a 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ x 2″ size
What is the difference between glass bricks and glass blocks? – The main difference between these two types of glass masonry units is that glass blocks are hollow on the inside and glass bricks are solid pieces of glass (which makes them significantly heavier than glass blocks and provides higher impact resistance and compressive strength). Since glass blocks are hollow they have the advantage of being less expensive than glass bricks.
How can glass bricks be assembled? – In most cases these units are assembled with mortar – but it is also possible to use silicone between the bricks. The walls can be made different sizes – but an unsupported wall should not exceed 40 square feet.
Close up with “siena” colored glass bricks installed with mortar at a pool
What are the most popular applications for glass bricks? – Glass bricks provide a decorative look not available with other types of glass options (like traditional flat glass). These units can be used on the inside or outside of a home or commercial building. Some common applications include wall dividers, shower walls, plant stands, decorative columns, pool areas and capstones for exterior walls.
Glass brick wall in a bathroom
Solid glass brick kitchen divider wall in Nordica color
Where can they be purchased? – Innovate Building Solutions offers nationwide design and supply of glass bricks and regional installation service as well.
Do you like the looks of glass bricks? Please comment or call one of the numbers below if we can help you further.
To learn more or get an estimate on glass bricks visit or call Innovate Building Solutions on a nationwide basis (877-668-5888) or for a local project their divisions including Columbus Glass Block (614-252-5888), Cleveland Glass Block (216-531-6363), West Side Glass Block (216-398-1020) Mid America Glass Block (513-742-5900) of Cincinnati or Dayton and Akron (330-633-2900).