11 FAQ’s about Laminated Shower & Tub Wall Panels You Need to Know (especially if other bathroom panels haven’t excited you)
Updated March 31, 2019
If your tile and fiberglass shower and tub wall surround panels today are a disaster, you’re not alone. Moldy, dirty tile grout joints. Yellowed, stained and cracked fiberglass. You know you don’t want to stare at (or deal with the maintenance of) these products any more.
So, you’re burning a digital trail on Google attempting to find a high-quality, high-style option to blow up the ugliness which is your shower wall surrounds today. Your ‘digital tire-kicking’ has led you to 3 common options:
- Option #1 – Bath-in-a-Day acrylic wall panels – These 1/8” thick (or should I say thin) panels aren’t impressive. They’re pressed out of a mold (and look it). You can’t find a DIY kit to save your life (note- the reason for this is the ‘Bath-in-a-Day’ franchises want to come out to hard-close you in an old-fashioned Tin-Men-esque style).
- Option #2 – Decorative PVC composite wall panels – These ¼” thick panels have many bold patterns. They’re simple to install. You’re just not sure if you want so much pattern in your walls – or if the designs fit your interior design theme.
- Option #3 – Cultured marble or solid surface wall panels – These man-made 3/8” thick wall panels (which look like marble, granite and stone) are built like a tank. They’re durable. They’re rock-solid. That’s the good news. The bad news is they’re traditional – but you want a contemporary look. They’re heavy (a 60” wide panel will weigh about 130 pounds and takes 2 people to install). They’re an option, but their look and installation scare you.
You start to think, is there a contemporary, higher-quality, simple to install option which beats the ‘usual’ choices?
The short answer is – YES. That option would be…
Laminated shower & tub wall panels
If you haven’t grown up in Europe you may be saying, “What in the ‘H-E-Double Hockey sticks’ (you’re using this term because this is a ‘family-friendly’ blog post) are laminated wall panels and why should I give a hoot?”
In this article my goal is to help you get your arms around that question by giving you information about 11 frequently asked questions about this product. You’ll see why 1/3 of the homes in Norway use these bathroom panels. You’ll see why they’re getting HOT, HOT, HOT in the United States as well. Let’s dig in.
FAQ #1- What are laminated shower and bathroom wall panels?
These 3/8” thick x 2’ x 8’ (actual size is 23.6” x 94.4”) waterproof panels install using a ‘tongue and groove’ assembly system like laminate flooring systems. The big difference between laminated bathroom panels and flooring is they are 100% waterproof with a patented click, lock and seal system.
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The front surface is made with a high-pressure laminate. It’s applied onto a marine grade plywood with a vapor barrier backing. The panels are available in multiple interior design styles (more about this later in FAQ #6) and various textures in matte and gloss finishes. You can even feel realistic grout joints between the tile and stone patterns.
FAQ #2 – Is it possible to do a laminated shower or tub wall panel project as a DIY’er?
Since these 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” panels click, lock and seal together it’s very do-able for a DIY homeowner who wants to save money vs. hiring a professional remodeler. Since the panels only weigh 26 pounds, they can be installed by one person.
Only use the approved sealant, inside corner trims, base profile and edge trim pieces which come with the installation kits. They are designed to ensure you’ve got a 100% waterproof seal.
FAQ #3 Can different shower pans be used with laminated wall panels?
Yes – you can either use a traditional shower pan with a flange or a waterproof wet room system with laminated wall panels. With a flanged system you’ll want to make sure the panels are set inside the flange, so water is directed into the pan and not under it (water under a pan = disaster with any wall panel system).
A bead of sealant will go between the shower pan (or wet room system) and the bottom of the base profile the laminated panels sit on (see the detail drawings below).
FAQ #4 – Are laminated wall panels difficult to cut? Do I need to purchase special tools to do the installation?
If you’ve got common woodworking equipment (circular saws, jig saws and hole saws) you’re in business. You’ll want to have a fine-toothed blade designed to cut wood or laminate.
If you’re a professional who’s planning to do several projects, invest in a track saw for the ultimate in efficiency and quality.
FAQ #5 – Will this project be less expensive than tile?
Although this isn’t a trick question – it’s a tricky question. The short answer is it depends. I know that sounds like a cop-out. However, it depends on your choices with the following 5 possible cost elements if you decide to use tile.
- 1) Installation Cost – Are you installing your own tile? If so, your installation is ‘free’ (I put this in quotations because your time has value and isn’t actually free). If you’re going to contract the tile installation out, tile setters today aren’t cheap – IF you can find one to do your job (finding labor in today’s market can be a pain).
- 2) Tile Cost – What is the cost of your tile? You know there are many SUV’s, cars and trucks which vary in cost, but all provide ‘transportation.’ Conversely, there are many different priced (and different patterns to lay) tile which will impact cost. Their price can vary as much as the price of the vehicle you choose.
- 3) Backer Board Cost – With tile you’ll need to use either a cement board or waterproof backer board. These materials aren’t free – and they take time to install.
- 4) Grout Cost – What kind of grout are you using? The cost of tile grout can vary significantly between standard sanded grout to urethane and epoxy grouts (which costs 2 to 4 times more than sanded grout).
- 5) Maintenance Cost – Who will be cleaning your grout joints as they get dirty (or God-forbid, moldy)? If this will be you – and you value your time as time as ‘free,’ then grout cleaning has no cost (and of course, it has no glory either). If you’d rather be doing other things than cleaning grout (and who wouldn’t be?), you’ll be forking over money to your local “Grout Doctor” to maintain your tile.
While the 5 factors above represent the complete cost of a tile shower (i.e. Installation Cost + Tile Cost + Backer Board Cost + Grout Cost + Maintenance Cost) – in general laminated wall panels are about equal or slightly less cost than tile for the initial installation. However, when you factor in long term maintenance costs, you’re far ahead with these grout-free waterproof wall panels.
FAQ #6 – Are there laminate wall panels to fit diverse design styles like Modern Farmhouse or Modern Minimalist?
This is where the uniqueness of laminated wall panels shines. If you want the rustic look of a vintage shower wall which is 100% waterproof what choices do you have today? With the 3 traditional wall panels mentioned at the beginning of this article the answer would be ZERO. With laminated wall panels you can choose an Antique Gray with a textured wood feel (see below) or Abby Shale pattern to make your modern farmhouse shower come to life (without tile joint maintenance).
If you’re renovating an urban loft (of just want the feel of one in your bathroom) and want an earthy Modern Minimalist feel, these cracked cement bathroom wall panels are perfect. They look like the real thing yet cost far less than creating an actual concrete wall. And oh, another thing – they’re a breeze to clean.
FAQ #7 – Is it difficult to clean laminated wall panels?
It’s as simple to clean laminated wall panels as it to clean laminated flooring or countertops. Most people use soap and water to clean these walls down. You can also use other non-abrasive cleaners like Fantastic, Windex, Green Works, Tilex Spray, Pine Sol and Lime Away.
FAQ #8 – Is it possible to use laminated panels in a custom-sized shower?
Since these panels come in modular 2’ x 8’ sections (which can be cut with a common woodworking tools), they’re perfect for custom-sized showers. For example, if you have a 66” wide back wall you would first click, lock and seal 2 full-sized panels together (2 panels x 24” wide panels = 48” total). Then to fit the last 18” of space (66” total width – 48” for the first two panels), you simple cut an 18” piece from the last panel.
It’s that simple to make a custom size.
With this system you don’t need to know the exact final size of the shower (or whether it’s in-square or out-of-square – OK, it’s most likely out-of-square), because you can cut and trim the last panel to make your custom (or standard-sized) shower work.
FAQ #9 – What is the warranty?
Laminated wall panels have a lifetime warranty residential which guarantees they are waterproof, stain resistance and maintain their color consistency.
FAQ #10 – How heavy are the laminated wall panels? Do they flex a lot when they’re being installed? Can they be installed with one person?
Since these high-pressure laminate panels are applied onto a 7-layer marine grade birch plywood they are sturdy and can be handled by one person. Each panel weighs 26 lbs.
FAQ #11 – What type of backer board do I need behind these panels?
Laminated shower or bathtub wall panels require less cost and energy to prep for than ceramic tile, cultured granite or acrylic wall panel installations.
For example, with ceramic tile you’ll either use bulky (and hard to cut) cement board or an expensive waterproof wall backer system (Wedi and Schluter are 2 popular options).
If you choose a cultured marble or acrylic wall panel system, you’ll line the alcove or corner shower with moisture resistant green board before putting up the panels.
With laminated wall panels (which are a ‘direct to stud’ product), you only need to run 1” x 6” boards horizontally every 16” or use a sheet of OSB to attach the panels to. Quick. Simple. Low-cost.
So, now that you’ve sifted through these 11 frequently asked questions about laminated wall panels do you see them as a contemporary, higher-quality option vs. the ‘standard choices’ you’ve bumped into during your initial Internet research?
How can I (or a member of my team) help you?
Do you have any additional question about your project me (or my team) can ‘fill in the blanks’ for you?
We’d love to help. Call us at 877-668-5888 (for nationwide wholesale supply or a connection to a local installing dealer) or at 216-658-1270 in Cleveland or 614-252-7294 in Columbus for professional installation service.
If you’re a remodeler or builder and want practical advice on remodeling products, industry trends, 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.
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.
Ricardo – our company can not only help you with the supply of our shower wall panels – but also with the installation of these panels (we use this product in our own markets). Feel free to call 888-467-7488 – Mike (also also send you an email with links, videos and articles to learn more)
Hello there im a contractor I loke to have more I fo about the shower paneling installation, are you offering training classes, for this products or there is any complete diy to look ,also loke to know everything ,and accesories to finish inside corners outside corners and niches
Please this is my email
Yes Eddie – they can be installed over tile – although I’m not a fan of this method. The concern I have with going over tile is if there is any moisture trapped behind the tiles, when you put a waterproof wall panel over them you’ll trap the moisture inside and will have a breeding ground for mold. I recommend removing the tile. It doesn’t usually take long and then you KNOW you’ve got a backer system which hasn’t been compromised with water – Mike
Can these laminate wall panels be installed over existing tile?
Yes Diane – you can certainly add a fold down seat (or a stationary seat) with the wall panels. Our panels are either sold through one of our installing dealers or if you’re looking to DIY it – we can wholesale them directly to you. Let us know if we can help further – Mike (877-668-5888).
Can you add a seat using the wall panels?
Where are your products sold?
Cindy – the simplest way to do a niche in the laminate shelving is to purchase a premade niche. They come in 12 x 12, 16 x 12 and 24 x 12 sizes in brushed stainless and chrome. After the panels are up on the wall you cut the panels where you want the niche and then insert it into the space. You can also create ‘self-made’ niches and use the cut off material for the sides and then use what we call a ‘long L profile’ to trim around the edges. Let me know if you need anything else – Mike
Can you cut into and put niche shelving into laminate walls? And if so, how do you finish around and inside the niche?
Miriam – we do have a video on how to install laminate shower wall panels and I’ve included a link to it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_p7WNW8uFQ&t=3s. If you would like catalogs we can either send you a pdf of our catalogs or send you samples. Please call our office at 877-668-5888 and we can assist you further – Mike
Hello there. Was just wondering if you have that installation video? I’m also curious to knows if you have any catalogs. Thank you
Charlie – you don’t have to be a ‘big contractor’ to be a dealer of ours. We work with contractors of all sizes and shapes. The key for us in choosing dealers are ethical contractors who do a quality jobs (and someone who will at least ‘talk’ our products up – if you advertise all the better). To buy our products you can either call me (and I’ll send an email to you) or call our office and we can assist you with pricing. Our ‘dealers’ do get better pricing than a contractor or homeowner who is buying a single project. Also – thanks for your nice comments about the blog! Mike
Awesome designed products. How would a ‘Chuck in a truck’ like me be able to buy product without hiring an installer too? I have 5 bathrooms and three kitchens lined up in the next 8 months? Been looking at panelization bout 4 months now-but seems you have to be some big contractor or become a dealer. I do total remodels on small scale.
Enjoyed your blog
Paul – for the laminate panels we recommend to remove the drywall and put up OSB behind the wall because the wall panels are screwed into place (and then the screws are covered over when the panels are ‘clicked and locked’ together. It is possible to ‘glue’ the panels up – but the OSB approach is better. Call us if we can help any further at 877-668-5888. Mike
Bernie – we use an ‘outside corner trim’ piece to turn a corner. With the laminate panels you can do any sized bathroom and/or shower or bathtub enclosure. Call us 877-668-5888 if we can answer additional questions – Mike
How does your product handle corners….example a alcove shower.
I want to put in a walk in shower and to replace a tub and shower unit do I have to take out dry wall too use the these shower panel and pan
Bob – you can put the laminate over the old panels – but I would make sure you feel good that there’s no moisture behind the walls – because if there is it will be trapped there and could breed mold. We usually recommend to remove the old so you won’t have to worry about that. Call us if you need more input at 877-668-5888. Mike
I have a perfectly good, watertight ugly stand up shower with plastic glued up panels from 30 years ago. Can laminate – or anything – be installed DIY over this without ripping the old shower walls out?
Luana -the laminate wall panels have been tested and are considered to be a low VOC offering. Mike
Does Laminate off-gas and is it low VOC’s?
BYP – it is possible to do a single wall, but you will get a watertight installation if you use the hidden inside corner trim profiles and do both walls. Call us at 877-688-5888 if you want more help. Mike
Hi. We have a wall that has caved in. My husband removed the tile and found he had to remove the board behind the tile also. We really only want to fix the one wall. Can we use the panels with the tile on the adjacent wall? Or do we have to stick with the tiles? I know you are going to suggest replacing both walls, if I could get my husband to do that, I would. I appreciate your input. BYP
Jade – on several of our shower wall panels pages we do have videos- and as a matter of fact – in 3 weeks we will be shooting a comprensive installation video on our laminated shower wall panels (note – right now we have installation videos from our Norwegian manufacturer- but some details are different in the United States so we want to provide a more in-depth look for you. Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888 so we can ‘fill in the blanks’ for you. Mike
Hello: Would you have a YouTube demonstration of your wall panels, as a homeowner I think with a video is another way to show your products, I am doing homework now because I will have 3 bathtub bathroom projects coming up I will appreciate if you can send a few of your samples thank you very much,
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