10 Assumptions about Shower Wall Panels You Need to Throw out Your Bathroom Window
Updated March 24, 2019
Just think about the assumptions and ‘old wives’ tales’ you heard growing up you know today are a bunch of hogwash. Here’s a few assumptions I’ve put in my rear-view mirror:
Assumption #1) If you eat watermelon seeds, you’ll grow a watermelon in your stomach. As a little kid (before seedless watermelons) I ate a tone of watermelon seeds and I haven’t grown a watermelon yet.
Assumption#2) Eating chocolate causes acne. Studies have shown it’s not the chocolate which is the problem, it’s the sugar and dairy in the chocolate. I wish I would have known this as a pimply-faced teenager. It’s cool to know today my “Hershey bar with Almonds pick-me-up strategy” won’t cause me to break out (especially since Mr. Hershey takes all the sugar out just for me).
Assumption #3) Eating carrots will improve your eyesight. While carrots do contain nutrients like Vitamin A, it’s been shown they have no positive effect on your eyesight. I’m calling my Mom right now to give her a piece of my mind (…. just kidding Mom).
The reality is we can’t believe everything our parents and friends tell us. We can’t believe everything we read. However, there is one source everyone can believe. We can believe all the political news on the Internet (a bit of sarcasm thrown in).
Just like you can’t (and shouldn’t) believe all the old sayings rummaging around in your head, you can’t believe the ‘half-truths’ and assumptions you’re hearing about shower wall panels (even from your contractor or the guy/gal in the orange smock at the big-box store). As a guy who has been in the shower wall panel installation and supply industry from (what seems like) the time Moses was a boy, when I think I’ve heard it all, I hear another gem coming from homeowners and contractors alike.
In this article my goal is simple:
I want to blow up the B.S. circulating about shower wall panels. Here’s how.
I’m going to list 10 assumptions about shower wall panels you need to throw out your bathroom window right now. Killing these assumptions will help you make sound purchases based on better information.
At the end, let me know other ‘false-truths’ you’ve heard you now know are full of it.
Shower panel assumption #1 – You think the only panels available are the 1/8” (or thinner) ones advertised on TV or stocked in big-box stores
Some homeowners will kill the idea of using shower wall panels because they’ve only seen ultra-thin fiberglass reinforced wall panels (FRP) which sell for $50 per sheet- and look like it. Or they’ve seen 1/8” thick fiberglass or acrylic panels which resemble something seen in your local hospital or a tired one-piece shower in your basement shower.
Let’s face it cheap wall panels are everywhere. They’re used in newly-built production homes, displayed in big-box home centers and they’re in your hall or kids’ bathrooms. It’s good to know there are better looking, longer lasting, and thicker options. Here’s a few better-quality alternatives:
- 5/32” thick optical grade high gloss acrylic – These guys are cool, sleek and contemporary.
- 3/8” thick cultured granite or cultured marble – Improvements in the look of stone walls (away from the 90’s swirly marble patterns) has increased their popularity.
- ¼”, 3/8” and ½” solid surface wall panels – These (generally) matte finished walls may not stylistically wow you, but they are durable as all get-out.
- 3/8” thick laminated wall panels – The styles available in this Norwegian-manufactured product have opened opportunities to use wall panels where no design choices existed before (see assumption #2 below).
Shower panel assumption #2 – Don’t assume you can’t get a shower wall panel system which adds to your décor
When you think of ‘old-generation’ wall panels made of fiberglass, acrylic or swirly cultured marble the words ‘high-style’ aren’t exactly on the tip of your tongue. If you do think these are stylish panels, it’s probably also time you to retire your powder blue leisure suit (yes – my Mom actually made me wear one of these when I was in 3rd grade) or bell bottom pants.
IMHO these old school wall panels have no place in transitional, minimalist, Mid-Century Modern, Shabby Chic, Modern Farmhouse or Contemporary bathroom remodels (and they aren’t being used in them either).
So, if you’re determined to blow up grout joints in your newly remodeled bathroom, but there’s also no way you’re going to use ‘old-generation’ wall panels, what can you do?
Here’s 2 inspiring options.
First, high gloss acrylic panels have eye-popping color reminiscent of the shades used by the father of Modern Art – Piet Mondrian.
Secondly, the textured laminate panels are an inspiring choice because they not only have an affordable price point – but can be used in décor styles as varied as Minimalist to Modern Farmhouse to Transitional. (note – if you want more ideas on wall panels to use for various design styles read How to Choose Shower Wall Panels to Fit 9 Hot Interior Design Styles.
Shower panel assumption #3 – You think all shower panels are big, bulky and hard to install
A cool looking shower or tub wall panel system which is hard to get through the door, up the stairs and into your tight 5’ x 8’ bathroom is a pain you’d like to avoid. Add on top thick and heavy solid surface and cultured marble panels and the job is doubly difficult. Don’t assume you have to ‘put up with’ a difficult installation to get a nice, sturdy finished shower!
With the introduction of ‘modular’ laminated shower wall panels the installation challenge is gone. These 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” thick sections are simple to move into any bathroom (even in a container or tiny home). Their waterproof tongue and groove installation system makes them a breeze to put together.
Shower panel assumption #4 – You assume you have to put up with a polyester-wearing-high-pressure-tin-man sales dude pushing wall panels on you
If you watch the movie Tin Men with Danny DeVito, you’d learn the ‘one call close.’ You know this technique. The sales rep gives you a high initial price (hoping you’re dumb enough to say yes). You’re too smart for that. You object. Then they call the ‘office’ to talk to the manager. They ‘magically’ come back with a ‘special deal’ which will ONLY be offered to you IF you sign up tonight.
The original dudes peddling the ‘first-generation’ of ‘cover over’ shower panels were all about the one call close. They made sure they weren’t running a ‘one legger’ (if you don’t know what a one-legger is, that’s when both the ‘husband and wife’ aren’t at the appointment together. A ‘one-legger’ (according to high pressure in-home sales guys) hurts their chances of closing the deal.
This stone-age form of home improvement sales is still alive – although not as big (fortunately) as it was from the guys from the 60’s selling aluminum siding door to door.
The good news is, as the wall panel market is growing, it’s found its way to general remodelers and moved beyond high-pressure ‘bath-in-a-day’ salespeople. You don’t have to buy from pushy one-call-close bathroom reps.
If they tell you the deal won’t be good tomorrow – they’re feeding you a line of bull.
Don’t put up with it. Call more companies. Look at more products. You can find reputable people selling wall panels. If you have a hard time figuring this out – call me. I may have a referral for you depending on where you live – or I (or my team) can lead you through the steps to do this job yourself.
Shower wall panel assumption #5 – You assume you need to settle for ugly (or no) accessories
Just like a dress is not a complete without a handbag, jewelry and new shoes (or so my wife tells me), a shower doesn’t fully function without accessories. In ‘old style’ shower surrounds you’ll find behind-the-times corner caddies. They’re built out of a mold, designed years ago and look clunky and outdated.
Why update your bathroom (and use wall panels) if your shower is going to look outdated the day it’s installed? That’s dumb.
However, there are lines of stainless steel contemporary shower accessories which won’t rust. They’re equipped with fun (and functional) options like drawers (a convenient place to put your razors, extra lotions or your toothbrush). You can get corner shelves without spaces between the shelf tray which are so big your soap falls through (can you relate?).
If you’d like a medicine cabinet or even a lighted mirror with a defogger – there’s accessories for that also!
Shower wall panel assumption #6 – You think you have to install wall panels over your window because there isn’t a system to trim around it
Have you ever wondered why the original builder put a window in the middle of your tub/shower? After all you’re not looking to put a ‘show’ on for the neighbors!
While on one hand the window in the shower isn’t good for privacy, its’ also an excellent way to make your bathroom brighter. It’s good to make the room safer for an aging parent to see where they’re going.
Covering over the bathroom window with a wall panels not only looks God-awful on the outside, but it blocks natural light and makes the risk of a fall greater.
Fortunately, with better wall panel systems today you can get window trim kits to finish around a window. These trim kits are waterproof and won’t rot.
Shower wall panel assumption #7 – Don’t assume you can’t get the real look of tile or stone without the maintenance
While there has been shower wall panels for years with the ‘faux look’ of tile or stone – most of them are built in molds. Bottom line, molded panels don’t look realistic. Fortunately – there are tile and stone-looking wall panels which aren’t ‘fake news’ (‘er I mean look fake).
Enter – “The No Tile, Tile Shower.”
If you’re not familiar with the ‘no tile, tile shower’ it’s a laminate covered wall panel. It has the feel of real stone and tile (with a texturing on the top) and the indentation of a grout joint. This faux joint is often not the same color as the ‘tile’ – just like a real tile job. It also feels real because the joint is indented in the panel like a tile. Does the image below look like tile to you? If you said yes – you’re a winner (OK – I’m not sure what you’re the winner of, but you get the point).
This product looks like tile, but you don’t have to deal with the hassle of tile and grout joints.
Shower wall panel assumption #8 – Don’t assume you need a standard sized shower to use grout free wall panels
When you go into big box stores what you see is standard sized showers. The reason for this is common sizes move off the shelves. It doesn’t make sense to carry custom sizes.
Despite the fact the home center stores don’t have custom sizes, doesn’t mean you can’t get shower systems to work with the odd sized (or odd shaped) tile shower you want to replace.
In fact, you’ll find 4 systems which can work in non-standard spaces. They are solid surface, optical grade high gloss acrylic, the laminated walls and a PVC composite system.
Don’t feel you have to go back to tile if you’ve got an odd sized space.
Shower wall panel assumption #9- Don’t assume you’re stuck with boring white, bone or biscuit colors
Your shower, bathtub or bathroom walls should be as colorful and individual as you are (but maybe not as ‘off-color’ as your Uncle Louie). However, many wall panel systems are as boring as white bread. You don’t live in a white Wonderbread world. Your shower walls shouldn’t be boring either.
There are 3 fun choices you can use to liven things up. They are the optical grade acrylic, the laminated high gloss panels or the decorative PVC walls. They all create colorful walls to compliment your style.
Shower wall panel assumption #10 – Don’t assume you have to pay extra for a backer board system behind your panels
The old saying is ‘a penny saved is a penny earned,’ but when it comes to shower remodeling a penny saved is …. well…. another penny which can go to your cost overruns (most likely) or be used for a dinner out (a nice thought) with your spouse.
When it comes to shower wall panels there can (literally) be hidden costs you don’t see.
One hidden cost is wall backer boards behind the wall panels. Most systems (including acrylic, PVC composite and cultured marble) require moisture resistant green-board behind the wall panels. While this material is not terribly expensive, it does take time (and if you’re paying for a professional contractor, time doesn’t come cheap) to put up.
Wouldn’t it be nice to eliminate this ‘hidden’ cost?
The way to do this is to use a ‘direct to stud wall panel’ system. You’ll find direct to stud solid surface and laminated wall systems.
Just like General Motors says their new cars are ‘not your Father’s Oldsmobile,’ the new generation of wall panels are ‘not your Father’s molded wall panels.’ You can rest assured knowing the following about ‘new-gen’ wall panels:
- You have choices.
- You have choice which aren’t hard to install.
- You have choices which will ramp up (not take away) from your décor.
I know shower wall panel options can seem overwhelming. This is where me (and my team) would be honored to help you. Give us a call (on the numbers below), request Free shower wall panel samples, or write your questions in the comments below. We’re here to help you.
For Nationwide supply of tub and shower wall panels, shower enclosures and shower bases call Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888. For a remodeling project in Cleveland contact Cleveland Design and Remodeling at 216-658-1270 or The Bath Doctor at 614-252-7294.
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If you’re in the building business, click here if you’d like to learn how to become a shower wall panel dealer or call and ask for Mike at 877-668-5888.