5 Reasons Bigger Isn’t Always Better When It Comes to Shower Wall Panels
When it comes to a bowl of Graeters Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, in my book bigger is always better. My wife Rose (who is also a Doctor), has a slightly different opinion. She thinks my obsession with the big bowls of ice cream I eat at the end of the night is a bad idea. She brings up the fat content. She mentions my cholesterol. She mentions grams of sugar.
I say to my ‘delusional self,’ where’s is Rose coming up with all this crap anyway?
When it comes to shower wall panels (much like my desire for big bowls of chocolate chip), it’s assumed by professional contractors and DIY homeowners that bigger is always better. However, this simply is not the case.
In this article I’m going to dish out (no – you’re not getting my ice cream), 5 reasons you should pause before assuming bigger one-piece shower wall panels are best for your next bathroom remodel.
At the end of the article, let me know if you agree that smaller can be better (in shower wall panels, not in my ice cream consumption).
Reason #1 Bigger Isn’t Always Better in Shower Wall Panels– It’s hard to maneuver those ‘big boys’ (‘er thick and heavy shower panels) up the stairs, around the corner and into a tiny bathroom
If you haven’t tried bringing up a 60” x 96” x 3/8” thick (and 130 pound) cultured stone shower panels up a flight of stairs and into a tiny 5’ x 8’ bathroom, I’ll tell you, you SHOULDN’T try it one day!
Quite frankly, it’s a pain in the butt (or so my installation teams tell me).
These panels are heavy. These panels are awkward. You run the risk of damaging walls and your hands. You run the risk of cracking panels. In addition, while this 60” x 96” cultured stone panel looks nice (see a finished project below), getting it through the door can be a feat of magic.
You may be wondering if there’s a better option?
Yes, there is. I prefer 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” thick laminated wall panels. They’re sturdy. They’re simple to handle since they only weigh 26 pounds. They’re easy to get up the stairs and into the bathroom (even with one person).
Reason #2 Bigger Isn’t Always Better in Shower Wall Panels– It’s hard to find good (or any) help now-a-days
We’re blessed in the United States. We have an employment environment where people are working and busy. This is a good thing, until you’re looking to remodel your bathroom.
Then you’ll start dealing with these problems:
- Finding a contractor who shows up for a sales appointment.
- Finding a contractor who actually gives you an estimate after they show up for the initial appointment.
- Finding a contractor who doesn’t schedule you 6 months from now because they’re so busy.
- Finding a contractor whose ‘advanced organization system’ isn’t a crumpled up legal pad with ketchup stains from McDonalds smeared on it.
Not to be undone by the homeowner, if you’re a remodeling contractor you feel lucky to find one guy or gal who is consistent and qualified – let alone a crew of people to keep your jobs moving.
Right now, you may be asking what this conversation has to do with buying (or having installed) bigger (or smaller) shower wall panels? Well – larger shower panels – even if they’re made with lighter acrylic or fiberglass materials are too awkward for one person to handle.
This means is you NEED two people to install bigger shower wall panels. So, if it’s hard enough to find one person – you double your challenge when using larger wall panels where you need two people to install them.
The good news is, there is a way to work-around this problem. That way is to use waterproof wall panels which only need one person to put up. Two options would be to use 36” wide PVC composite panels which look like natural stone (like you’ll see in the tiny home being installed below). Or you can use the laminated wall panels (which are 2’ x 8’) talked about in reason #1.
Reason #3 Bigger Isn’t Always Better in Shower Wall Panels– When you ‘break-open’ your solid surface wall panel package you ordered 4 MONTHS AGO and realize the big panel is broken!
I know one national brand of solid surface wall panels who actually has a 4-month lead time (their name is being withheld in the Manufacturers Lead Time Protection Program). And just the other day I was talking to a remodeling contractor about becoming a shower wall panel dealer when he started complaining to me (about this same national brand) shipping products which arrive broken – way too often.
Ouch! Imagine waiting 4 months for wall panels to finish a job and then they come in broken. Do you begin the cycle all over again, or not?
While no shipping services are perfect, you need materials which are less prone to breakage (especially if lead times are long).
For this reason, I’d either choose decorative PVC wall panels or the laminate panels which are built on a marine-grade plywood backing. They’re not as large to ship, which saves on freight costs and the percent arriving damaged is far lower.
Reason #4 Bigger Isn’t Always Better in Shower Wall Panels– When the tile and stone patterns in these larger wall panels look fake
Have you ever looked at glossy shower wall panels made of acrylic or fiberglass in your ‘favorite’ big-box retail home-improvement store and thought, “There is no way I’d put that cheap, plasticky crap in my shower EVER (insert your unfavorite Valley-Girl twang here)?”
Not only are the glossy finishes SO behind the times – but they look as fake as fake can be (and their swirly cultured stone ‘cousins’ aren’t too far behind in the realism department, come to think of it).
The #1 reason these panels look fake is due to the fact they’re ‘cut out of a mold’ – literally. They are – after all – molded wall panels.
In today’s market you don’t need to put up with fake looking wall panels!
I like waterproof wall panels with textured matte finishes like you’ll see below.
They have realistic grout joints. They’re available in popular large format ‘tile’ sizes. They come in patterns which match interior design styles from Modern Farmhouse to Modern Minimalist.
Reason #5 Bigger Isn’t Always Better in Shower Wall Panels– Larger panels are hard to customize for your older ‘home with character.’
You have never chosen the simple path.
That’s why when your spouse ‘fell in love’ with your home in the older tree-lined neighborhood with ‘tons of character’ you knew ‘needed a little work,’ you said, let’s go for it. You plunked down the down-payment.
The problem now is you underestimated how difficult (and expensive) this home would be to renovate.
You’ve asked yourself, “Can’t there be at least one wall which is level and plumb?” Can’t any of the showers be standard sized? ‘Er, that would be a definite NO! Shouldn’t this home have been sold with a huge MTO (Made to Order), Caveat Emptor (‘let the buyer beware’) or The Money Pit sign on its roof?”
Since your home is ‘unique’ (that’s a bathroom remodeling code-word for it’s going to be a pain to work on and it’s going to cost you a lot of money), you know they’ll be a lot of cutting, sawing and trimming in your future when you start demoing this bad-boy out.
When it comes to making cuts in cultured stone or acrylic wall panels you can rest assured it AIN’T NO FUN TO DO (and it can be a drain in your wallet if you mess up cutting a bigger shower wall panel wrong).
It’s the reason I prefer simple to cut PVC panels which can be scored with a carpenter’s knife or the 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” laminate panels (built on marine-grade plywood) which can be cut or drilled with common woodworking equipment.
When it comes to shower wall panels what’s intuitively obvious (i.e. that bigger is better) isn’t always true (unless you enjoy home improvement products which are hard to install and cut and are a glutton for punishment). My preference is smaller, more manageable panels… any time!
Although – in shower wall panels, I believe smaller is nicer, I’m still sticking to my theory that bigger is waaaay better when it comes to my nightly chocolate chip ice cream routine. However, please don’t share this post with my wife Rose or I might be sleeping in the garage tonight!
With all kidding aside, if our company can help you sift through the plethora (that’s a fancy word I threw in there to make you think I’m smart) of shower wall panel choices. After all we sell 3 options nationwide and install them locally in Cleveland and Columbus Ohio. We’ve been around the ‘shower wall panel’ block once or twice before) and would love to help. Call the numbers or click the links below.
For more information about a grout free shower wall panels (big and small ones) contact Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888. For a local remodeling project call Cleveland Design and Remodeling at 216-658-1270 or in Columbus The Bath Doctor at 614-252-7294.
If you’re in the building business, click here if you’d like to learn how to become a shower wall panel dealer of laminated wall panels or call and ask for Mike at 877-668-5888.
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 want more advice (or like wacky humor) follow me on Twitter @Mike_Foti or my companies @InnovateBuild or @InnovateHomeOrg or connect on LinkedIn @MikeFotiLinkedIn.
Veronica – the laminated wall panels (and I’m guessing that’s what you’re asking about) can be used in a standard alcove space. We would want to see pictures of the Formica system which is in there now to determine if it would make sense to go over what you have in place or pull it out. Feel free to call our office for more information – 877-668-5888.
Can these panels be used in a bathtub remodel project, with an existing standard tub in an alcove, currently backed with a Formica postformed tub surround?
Mike – thanks so much for your nice comments. We are fortunate to have some really good people who do their absolute best to deliver a high-quality project for our customers. Thanks for your business – we most appreciate it! Mike
I just wanted to let you know how excited my wife Cindy and I are about our recently completed bathroom renovation done by Rob Klinc and the crew at Innovate Building Solutions. A special shout out to Robbie and Chayse who were on site the most and doing exceptional work. They are two fine gentlemen. We couldn’t be happier with the results. We took a Jack ‘n Jill bath and 1/2 and turned it into 2 separate bathrooms, with a whirlpool jet tub and a walk-in shower. The results using the Fibo panels are two bathrooms worthy of any catalog or magazine. Unbelievable! The guidance Rob provided through the process was fantastic. I’m sure they have shared pictures with you. I’d be happy to share our experiences with you sometime. I appreciate the insight into bathroom remodeling that you have provided through your blog. It inspired us along the way and now we’re thrilled with our new bathrooms. Keep up the good work!