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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

Updated December 7, 2019 

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!).

The best product for you is simply the one you LOVE to look at. It’s one which fits your needs. It’s a product which won’t have you on your hands and knees begging to chuck the scrub brush which seems permanently fixed to your hands. And most importantly works for your budget.

My goal in this article is to shatter  the myths and half-truths being told by high pressure, sleezy, ,’dirt-buckety’ (not sure that’s a word!) sales people who have one goal in mine for your project….their commission! Read on to blow up the myths and 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! I’ll tell you it’s best to have acrylic shower and tub wall panels professionally installed. The reason is this material can expand and contract after it’s cut and the black butyl tape installation adhesive is a pain to work with. However, there are 4 other systems I’ll outline below which are DIY friendly and can be cut and drilled with common woodworking tools you  own already:

PVC backed composite faux stone walls – These walls look like natural stone and are super-easy to cut. They come in 20 different stone patterns (which all cost the same) and put the looks of the standard acrylic patterns to shame. If you’re worried about cutting them – don’t be. The 3″ trim moldings on the edges hide bad cuts. How cool is that for a DIY’er?

Decorative DIY faux stone shower wall panels in a 48 x 36 corner shower stall | Innovate Building Solutions

Solid surface walls – Although they are the thickest at 3/8” they’re not tough to cut and are available with a large array of accessories (shower seats, recessed niches, leg stands for shaving and grab bars to name a few). They come in 51 different colors and 4 patterns. The biggest challenge with solid surface walls is you’ll need to eat your Wheaties (and bring along a friend) – because these panels are HEAVY! A 60″ x 96″ back wall panel will weigh about 120 lbs.

Solid surface shower panels with a subway tile pattern and a decorative glass tile border | Innovate Building Solutions

This subway tile solid surface has no joints. The decorative glass tile border is a fun touch.

Laminated shower and tub wall panelsLaminate shower wall panels  have finally arrived in the United States.  They are waterproof and have the feel and look of tile –  yet NO MAINTENANCE! This – to me- is the best of both worlds. This product has been made in Norway since the late 1990’s. It makes me wonder why we’re so far behind embracing wall panels in our country (maybe it’s the sleezy acrylic sales dudes and low-quality fiberglass which has turned people off?). These panels come in different textures, with different tile sizes with styles to fit contemporary, traditional, Shabby Chic, Mid-Century Modern and even Modern Farmhouse bathrooms. If you’re looking for shower wall panels for a modular home or bathtub walls for a vacation home, these units are perfect. If you’re intrigued click on the button below and request your free samples.

Laminated DIY friendly shower wall panels look and feel like they have grout but they are simply high pressure laminate which snaps together | Innovate Building Solutions

These panels look like (and feel) like large tile pieces – but they are laminated panels

Slick 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. The come in 7 colors and they add as much drama to your bathroom as your 15-year-old daughter does to your household!

Fire engine red high gloss bathroom wall panels give a sleek contemporary look like back painted glass at a much better price | Innovate Building Solutions

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

While it is true you can buy (and home builders often use) cheap fiberglass one piece shower and tub surrounds, in-home remodeling companies who sell “one piece” acrylic shower and tub panels systems are frequently deluding the general public. Their “one piece”system is not one piece at all. It includes trim pieces around shower and tub surrounds. The other problem with these so-called “one piece” systems is if your shower/tub is not  square (which most aren’t) the caulk joints around the one piece section will be inconsistent and start growing around the edges.

The best systems I’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. If you have a wall longer than 60″ the solid surface walls are are one option because you can get them in lengths up to 100″ maximum (however – make sure you can get your panels through your doors – otherwise you’ll be belting out more than a few choice words which can’t be printed here!).

Long stone tile faux shower wall panels for a custom shower with a wall greater than 60 inches | Innovate Building Solutions

This shower panel is 72″ long in this custom shower. It was made with a solid surface one piece panel – no seams!

 

An even smarter choice can be the laminate wall panels. These 2′ x 8′ x 3/8″ thick panels simply click, lock and seal together and can be used in shower or as bathroom walls panels in rooms of any size.

Laminate 3D textured slate shower wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #LaminatePanels #NoGroutPanels #EasytoCleanShower #BathroomRemodel

3D textured slate laminate bathroom and shower wall panels

Myth #3 – Thickness matters

While it’s certainly not bad to have thicker wall panels (the thickest ones our company uses are the 3/8” solid surface panels and the 3/8″ thick laminated shower 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 my experience it is critical to use the adhesive recommended by the wall panel manufacturing company). When you buy your shower and tub kit make sure you’re getting the adhesives along with it. As my Dad used to say, “Mike, don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish!”

Click here to download

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 or from your contractor who doesn’t know his butt from a hole in the ground about wall panel systems. 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”). With the easy to cut and seam systems in the PVC, high gloss acrylic and laminated wall panels you can use wall panels for any sized shower stall.

Light blue high gloss wall panels look like back painted glass are used for the 2 back wall surrounds of this colored glass block walk in shower | Innovate Building Solutions

These light blue wall panels look stylish with this colored glass block walk in shower system

Don’t limit yourself to a grouted tile shower even if you have a custom size anymore. Do you really want to be cleaning (or paying and having to wait for  the “Grout Medic” guy to service) your tile shower any more? If your answer is yes – you may need to check yourself into the hospital! Just sayin’.

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, circular saws, hole saws and drills) for a DIY wall panel project.

DIY faux stone tub panel installation can be done without special tools | Innovate Building Solutions

These panels ARE NOT tough to install!

 

Another straightforward way to install wall panels are to use ‘modular’ systems (i.e. panels which click and lock together). With this laminated wall system the panels are only 2′ x 8′ in size (which makes them simple to bring into a second floor bathroom up a winding set of stairs…. even for one person) and they are simply screwed to studs and interlock together. Wall panels are getting easier to install all the time.

Laminated wall panels installed in a shower project | Innovate Building Solutions

Laminated 2′ x 8′ wall panels being tied into studs

You aren’t at the mercy of a way-too-expensive remodeling contractor to do this job (although sometimes a professional remodeling contractor is the smartest way to save you time you could be spending with your family!).

Conclusion

Which of these 5 myths have you heard before? Do you have any tall-tales you’ve been fed by contractors or home centers you’d like to contribute below (or questions we can clear up  for you)? I would LOVE to hear your comments and questions.

How can I (or my team) help you?

If you want more information, or a quote for grout free shower wall panels (delivered direct to you anywhere in the United States)  or the installation of these panels in the Cleveland or Columbus Ohio markets call the numbers below. Me and my team – would be excited to help you. If you’re a remodeler or builder, click here to learn how to become a shower wall panel dealer or call Mike at 877-668-5888.

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).

If you’re a remodeler or builder and want practical advice on remodeling products, marketing and sales tips to grow your business (and cut day to day hassles), start reading my newest blog – Innovate Builders Blog. It’s packed with ideas you can use now. Click here to Sign Up for the Innovate Builders Blog.

In addition, if you’re looking for shower panels for a luxury apartment, or bathtub wall surrounds for rental properties, we’d love to help.

If you’d like to learn even more about grout free shower wall panels read 5 Little Known Secrets I’ve Learned Becoming a Bathroom Wall Panel GeekFor more information about the laminated shower wall panels read The No Tile, Tile Shower Bathroom and Shower Wall Panels – 5 Reasons you Need to Check them Out

If you’re a fan of Twitter please follow me @MikeFoti. I love to share tips and information on remodeling and share a few bad puns along the way.

 

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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 (85)

  • Mike Foti

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    Sharon – thanks for your comments and feedback about your client. It looks like you’re guiding them well! Since they like the ‘old farmhouse’ look I’d recommend the Antique Gray or Shabby Chic laminate wall panels. They’re not too expensive, yet’s they’re low maintenance (and who in their retirement home wants to clean grout joints anyway?) and simple to install. I’ve included a link here. We wholesale these panels across the country and have a growing network of installing dealers. Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888 if we can refer you to a dealer partner and/or quote on the product. Mike – here’s the link – https://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/laminated-diy-shower-bathroom-wall-panels

    Reply

  • Sharon Beaner

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    Hi Mike,
    I’m so thankful for your posts on this topic. I’ve read many of them and found them to be very insightful and useful. I am in the Atlanta, Georgia, area and am building a small 2 BR/2 BA farmhouse for a client. In researching shower surround options for a non-standard sized shower, I came across one of your articles.

    Cost is a major factor for this family and this is their retirement home. They’ve planned well and have spent and saved money in all the right areas at this point. As we’re finishing the interior, funds are tightening but they do not want to spend thousands on a traditional tile job.

    Considering the odd size walls (48″L x 68″W x 96″H) in the master bath and cost conscienceness, any suggestions on a product? The owners do like the ‘old farmhouse’ look or something simple.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Barbara – the name of the company is KC Design Interiors. Call us if you need more information at 877-668-5888.

    Reply

  • Barbara

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    Can you give me the name and address for the Middletown NJ dealer?

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Gary – we would be happy to help you. Our company wholesales shower wall panels – and in some markets even have installing dealers (if you need that service). Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888. Mike

    Reply

  • gary golecki

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    Mike, I’m very interested in learning more, and buying some shower panels for my home. can you give me more info on how to get them? Gary

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Rebecca – there are several wall panels which can do well in cabinets which are unheated in the winter. The ones I’d lead you towards are the laminated wall panels, solid surface or the PVC composites. All 3 of these products will withstand temperature variations. If we can answer any other questions feel free to call us at 877-668-5888. Mike

    Reply

  • Rebecca

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    We are pretty experienced and confident DIY-ers and are looking at this product for a bathroom in our cabin . One of our concerns is that we close down the cabin in the winter time and it is totally on heated for three months or more in Pennsylvania where it can get below zero Fahrenheit.Have you had any experience or testing done in low temperature situations insofar as How the seniors will hold up and bring me a waterproof over time?

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Merlin and Kay – since we ship across the United States we can get them directly to you. Call us at 877-668-5888 and I’m sure someone on our team will be glad to help you. Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Janis – thanks for your question. We are currently setting up a nationwide network of installing dealers. Give us a call at 877-668-5888 and we’ll look at our current list and see if we have someone close to you. If not, maybe the contractor you find might have an interest. We can lead them through the installation process as well. Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Terry – we are not in Ontario Canada, but we do carry our stock in Cleveland Ohio which is just across the water. Let me know if we can help further. Mike

    Reply

  • Terry

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    Is there a innovatebuildingsolutions distributor in southern Ontario, Canada?
    Looking and reading researching online, the products sound great
    I did notice also there was not pricing shown

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Larry – thanks for your question. For our laminate wall panel line we have a dealers in Auburn California and Mountain House California. Are they close to you? If not, we can wholesale our systems direct to you or your contractor and help your people through the installation process. Let me know how we can help! If you’d like to call for more insight the best number to reach us is 877-668-5888. Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Michelle – excellent question. There are 2 products in our line which may work. The one (which will be more expensive) is a ‘titan’ colored high gloss acrylic panel. They are sleek, contemporary and simple to install. They aren’t a ‘cheap date’ – they’re the most expensive wall panel we sell. I have included a link to this product here – https://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/high-gloss-acrylic-wall-panels

    The other product you’ll want to check out are our laminate wall panels. We have a modern minimalist Concrete gray cement pattern and a 3D textured black slate (which is more gray than black in my opinion) which are stylish, easy to clean and more cost effective. I’ve included a link to it here – https://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/laminated-diy-shower-bathroom-wall-panels

    If you like either of these lines we either wholesale direct, or in some markets we may have an installing dealer to refer you to. Feel free to call with additional questions at 877-668-5888 Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Sean – we recently set up a dealer in Middletown New Jersey who may be able to help you. He is representing our line of waterproof laminate shower wall panels. How close is Middletown to where you live? Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Jeanne – thanks for your question. We are in the process of setting up a nationwide dealer network, but we don’t have an authorized installer in Connecticut just yet. However, our products are simple to install and we have instructions on our site (and a team of people who can assist your contractor through the process). So if you’ve got a good contractor we’d be glad to guide him/or her through the process. Maybe they can become our next dealer! Thanks – Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Dianna – for the wall panels we recommend to remove the tile so you won’t have any concern about moisture behind the tile which can create a mold behind the wall. Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888 if we can help you any further.

    Mike

    Reply

  • Dianna

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    Hi, to install should tiles be removed or do we install over the tiles? Thank-you.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Sharon – there are 3 tub systems our company works with the most. 1 – laminated wall panels, 2 – the PVC composite wall panels and 3 – the high gloss acrylic panels. What’s tough about picking one is they (like people) all have their strengths and weaknesses. If I could only pick one for my house I would choose the laminated wall panels. The reason is my wife and I love a contemporary look and we like to keep costs at a reasonable level (after all we have 3 kids who aren’t completely ‘off the payroll’ yet. I hope this helps you some. Feel free to call us (877-668-5888) and speak to one of our team and they can go deeper with your question.

    Reply

  • Sharon Shook

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    Which is better….. an acrylic or a polystyrene tub surround?

    Thank you

    Sharon

    Reply

  • Jeanne

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    Would love to see it. Any one near Norwalk CT have it on display?
    Is there a professional in the area that could install
    it?
    Thank you,
    Jeanne

    Reply

  • Sean O'Neill

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    Hi, I’m looking for a showroom in New Jersey were i can see your products for a total renovation of my bathroom. I do not want to have any tile around my bathtub.

    Reply

  • Michelle Iler

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    Mike,
    We are remodeling a very small bathroom (only one in the house) it is over 60 years tired! We want to have the cast iron tub refinished and a new surround installed. I love the look of glass tile and I’m wanting to stay in the grey family, the lighter the better. Do you have a product for us? We are on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

    THANKS

    Reply

  • Larry Young

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    I am in Southern California and I need to re-do bathrooms in 5 apartments.

    While I find your literature interesting (I want a little style to the shower enclosure walls), I am not interested in doing the work myself.

    Do you have any correspondents in Southern California?

    Reply

  • Janis Jasinsky

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    I really like the laminated shower wall panels, but can not seem to find a contractor familiar with them in my area. Do you have a recommendation? I live in Vancouver, WA, which is very close to Portland, OR. Thank you.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Miriam – thanks for your comment. While I don’t know of a showroom or a contractor yet in your area, we can wholesale these panels directly to you. Feel free to call 877-668-5888. Thanks for your interest – Mike

    Reply

  • Miriam Watkins

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    I live in Orange City, FL and am interested in replacing the tile walls in my showers with pvc composite panels. Do you know of a showroom in my area and a reputable installation contractor.

    Reply

  • Merliln and Kay Pratt

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    Where can we get these panels close to Seymour Indiana?

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Ken – we can certainly help you. While we don’t install in Dayton – we do have an excellent installing dealer we could recommend. I will send you an email so we can talk further.

    Mike

    Reply

  • Ken

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    Hi Mike,
    Does your team ever provide assistance to customers in the Dayton area?
    If not, can you recommend someone to contact?
    Thanks,
    Ken

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Mary – we have a line of solid surface shower wall panels in a subway tile pattern I think may be a good fit. I’ll plan to call you to go over pricing with you. Mike

    Reply

  • Mary Bennett

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    My landlord in Charlottesville va wants me to help locate a tub surround that looks like Corian with tile lines etched in, in plain white to replace existing plastic surround. Needs to be fairly modest cost. Do you have suggestions of product and supplier. Mary 617 694 3238.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Jill – there are 3 options I like the best. They are the 3/8″ thick solid surface, the 1/4″ decorative PVC composite panels and the (soon to be introduced) 3/8″ thick laminated wall panels. If you want the ones which look the most like tile the laminated panels are the best – IMHO. I’ll include links to 2 of the 3 products below (the laminated wall panel web page should be live later this week). Let me know how I can help next. Mike

    http://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/diy-interior-shower-tub-wall-panels (PVC composite shower and tub wall panels)

    http://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/solid-surface-shower-pan-wall-panels (stone solid surface bases and walls)

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Kim – good question. With the ‘wood look’ panels you can use a ‘recessed niche” (that’s what we would call the built in shelf) with a ‘flange’ around it so no water can penetrate through the panels. Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888 for more input. Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Wayne – good questions. I’m going to post the web site for 3 of 4 of them (the 4th one I’m developing our web page for it right now – the laminated wall panels). let me know if we can assist you further on this. Mike

    http://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/diy-interior-shower-tub-wall-panels (decorative PVC composite wall panels)

    http://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/solid-surface-shower-pan-wall-panels (solid surface shower pans and walls)

    http://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/high-gloss-acrylic-wall-panels (high gloss wall panels)

    Reply

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