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9 Reasons You Shouldn’t Build a Tile Shower

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

Opening - tiled shower | Innovate Building Solutions | #TileShower #GroutFreePanels #BathroomRemodel

OK – I’m not writing this to take down the tile industry, and I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think this post has that kind of power.

However, I’ve been on the receiving end of countless homeowners (and even bathroom remodeling contractors) calls who are ‘sick and tired’ (as my Mom used to say) of problems with tile showers. They’re desperately looking for better solutions.

Admittedly, a tile shower can look beautiful once its finally completed. However, how long will it hold up? Will it be a pain to maintain? Will you be protected by a warranty if the shower pan or walls leak?

When it comes to those looking for a richer-looking showers tile is the A#1 top choice… but should it be? And even if you’re sold on tile, are there installation approaches and materials you should use to get a better finished product which lasts longer?

In this article I’ll focus on frustrations surrounding tile showers, and alternatives you need to research if you hate grout (which is the evil-stepbrother or stepsister to tile). I’ll also provide examples of better performing products to use instead of tile (or improved products to use with tile, is you’re set this is the way for you to go).

Let’s check out the 9 reasons you shouldn’t build a tile shower.

Reason #1 to not build a tile shower. They have grout joints…and grout joints can lead to mold  

Grout is the necessary evil of a tile job…but its still evil. Grout by its nature has cement. Cement is porous. Water which gets trapped behind tile walls is a bad. Water happens ALL THE TIME in showers (OK – you can call me ‘Captain Obvious’ now).

While you may have a waterproof or partially waterproof backer board (in the case of cement board) behind the wall, these ‘behind the wall surface’ materials aren’t stopping water from penetrating. Trapped water can lead to the dreaded ‘M’ word (‘er that would be mold). You can substitute standard sanded grout for a urethane or epoxy grout, but they still aren’t 100% guaranteed to prevent moisture from getting behind tiles.

If you want the real look of tile and grout without ANY GROUT JOINTS TO MAINTAIN, the best solution is to stop moisture (‘er water) dead in its tracks on the surface BEFORE it gets behind the wall. The way to accomplish this is with…

Laminate wall panels

These 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” thick panels have a high-pressure laminate top surface which blocks moisture before it gets behind the walls yet has a realistic-looking (laminate actually) grout joints.

Laminate shower and bathroom wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #LaminateWallPanels #NoTIleShower #TileShower #GroutFreeWallPanels

Reason #2 to not build a tile shower. It’s expensive

Unless you buy the cheapest tile at the big box store and go through the looooong process of DIYing it, a tile project is gonna cost you.

Not only are tile and tile trim pieces not cheap but installing a tile shower takes a long time. In most cases your contractor will be setting small mosaic tiles on the floor pan (which needs lots of grout) and larger (harder to work with) tile on the walls. There’s a lot of time prepping, cutting and setting these units. And guess who’ll be paying the bill for all this time? ‘Er, that would be you.

Once again grout free shower wall panels like a PVC composite shower surround and the laminate shower walls make perfect sense to cut labor costs vs. tile.

PVC Back Composite Shower Panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #PVCPanels #ShowerPanels #BathroomRemodeling #DIYShowerPanels

Reason #3 to not build a tile shower. The shower floor pan ends up looking dirty  

Since all the dirt and grime go down on your shower pan the plethora (OK – I used this big word to make you think I’m smart. Is it working?) of grout joints in your mosaic shower floor pan gets ugly over time (especially if you don’t reseal them…and if you can name one person who actually reseals their tile shower, I’ll be amazed!).  

And, who loves to stare down at a dirty floor? I’ll give you the answer. NO ONE.

Shower Base Guide Download

Whether you have a standard-sized or customer shower pan, there is ZERO reason to put up with a dirty tile floor.

Standard 60 x 36 acrylic shower pan for a corner walk in shower | Innovate Building Solutions | #CustomShowerBase #StandardShowerBase #AcrylicShowerPan

If you have a standard sized shower look at contemporary acrylic shower pans. They’re sleek, stylish and durable (because they have an MDF reinforced bottom) and easy to wipe down. If you have a custom pan, the age-old, but built-like-a-tank custom cultured stone shower pan makes sense.

Custom cultured stone shower pan or base | Innovate Building Solutions | #CulturedStone #ShowerPan #GlassBlock

Reason #4 to not build a tile shower. It’s hard to find a competent human being, alien or robot to do the job

In this age of robotics and fast-moving-technologies, there still isn’t a cost-effective people-less way to install a tile shower inside your home. And there in lies the problem.

If you talk to any remodeling contractor and ask their #1 problem, it’s finding good people (or maybe any people for that matter) to install (and the tile contractors certainly have this problem). And here’s the even more alarming news.

The labor problem in construction is only projected to get worse.

No one is telling their sons and daughters to go into construction – although I’d guess a construction craftsperson with 4 years of experience is making a lot more money that a college student with a 4-year (if you’re lucky) college degree in philosophy (who has also built up a mountain of student debt). This is a debate for another day.

IMHO – superior shower wall panel systems are (by necessity) the wave of the future in bathroom remodeling. They can be installed by carpentry crews (which are easier to find than tile setters) in 1/3 to 1/6th the time of tile.

Shower wall panels simple laminate shower wall panel installation | Innovate Building Solutions | #ShowerWallPanels #LaminateWallPanels #ShowerInstallation #EasyInstallation

Reason #5 to not build a tile shower. If you DIY the job, you’ll buy a lot of tools you’ll never use again

DIYing sounds great until you realize the number of (and cost of) specialty tools, equipment and supplies you need for a tile shower.

To make sharp cuts you need a wet saw (which is also a dusty, dirty process).

To gently tap the tiles into place you need a rubber mallet. Not exactly something you’ll use again – unless it is to bop your son over the head when he doesn’t take the garbage out again – OK, probably not it’s intended use.

To make irregular cuts (semi-circles and weird shapes) you’ll need a ‘tile nibbler.’ I bet (sarcasm intended) you have a million uses for a tile nibbler!

You’ll need pointed and square notched trowels.

You’ll even need a specialized, big, thick and dense-cell sponge to get the grout off the tiles (no, taking your spouses’ sponge from the kitchen sink won’t work – and may even get you a ‘free-nights-sleep’ in the doghouse!).

These specialized tools and equipment add up and then gather dust after the DIY tile job is done. Not a smart investment.

Look for wall panel systems which use standard woodworking equipment like shown below.

Cutting laminate wall panels with a tract saw | Innovate Building Solutions | #TractSaw #BathroomRemodeling #LaminateWallPanels #SimpleInstallation

Reason #6 to not build a tile shower. The tiles can be all ‘catawampus’

Catawampus…that’s a funny word isn’t it? It’s a term you might have heard your Grandpa use to describe something all messed up. He might have described all those tiles going in and out on a wall as being catawampus.

Let’s face it. With tile there are times your tile setter (or you, if you’re DIYing the job) have to ‘fight’ the tiles to get them flush and flat on the wall. In plain English….

THIS CAN BE A PAIN

Why fight with tiles if you can use wall panels with one smooth flat surface? If you want a sleek, high gloss look (like glass tiles, but continuous), maybe a contemporary acrylic shower panel will do the trick. If you want a stone look, the laminate shower panels are winners again. There’s no need to stand for catawampus anymore!

Request Free Samples Today!

Contemporary high gloss glacier colored shower wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #HighGloss #WallPanels #BackPaintedGlass #AcrylicPanels

Reason #7 to not build a tile shower. Leaking walls, leaking pans and leaking onto floors below  

If you don’t realize it, you’re taking a BIG risk putting in a tile shower. That big risk is leaking. The grout joints in the wall are porous. The grout joints in the pan are porous. Sure – you can protect yourself better today by using waterproof shower pan and wall systems like those made by Wedi and Schluter. However, in front of these systems you still have grout joints. And besides, what guarantees against leaking are you getting from your remodeling contractor or tile setter?

If you want to get rid of leaking – grout free wall panels (as discussed before) work great. For the shower pan – you’ll find acrylic or solid surface are both thoughtful options (note – I would stay away from fiberglass because it can be a pain to clean).

Waterproof grout free laminate shower and bath panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #GroutFreePanels #LaminateWallPanels #ShowerWallPanels #WaterproofWallPanels

Reason #8 to not build a tile shower. They require YOUR time

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if someone else was in charge of clean up?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if someone else was in charge of calling the ‘Grout Medic’ or ‘Grout Doctor’ to clean those nasty joints?

Woman cleaning tile grout in opening | Innovate Building Solutions | #CleanGrout #WallPanels #Moldygrout

There is ZERO fun pulling out a scrub brush or calling a contractor to clean grout joints. It’s also not a good omen for tile jobs to know there is an entire industry of franchises built around tile maintenance. Who really want to call a ‘Doctor’ or ‘Medic’ of any type…anyway?

This funny person below cleaning up their tile DOESN” T HAVE TO BE YOU!

Get rid of grout. Chop down maintenance. It’s that simple.

Cracked cement laminate wall panels credit simple bath columbus | Innovate Building Solutions | Simple Bath | #LaminateWallPanels #SimpleBath #BathroomRenovation

Images Source: Simple Bath

Reason #9 to not build a tile shower. No disgusting ‘nooks and crannies’

Whether you have a tile shower – or any other shower for that matter – you know you need a place for all your stuff. And if you’re like my wife, the stuff just keeps on growing (as Rose tells me ‘the time – and number of products – from waking up to pretty keeps getting bigger and longer).

Given these harsh, cruel aging facts you probably have more shampoos, lotions and potions than ever before. You need niches and storage places to put them (especially if you have a small shower).

Download our Contemporary Bathroom Design Guide

If you have a tile shower, you’ll need a tile niche. The grout in the damp insides of these niches ends up looking ugly. This doesn’t need to be the case.

Instead of having your tile setter build a tile niche, a smarter – and better looking– solution are brushed aluminum niches like these. You’ll save cleaning time, and your shower will look better.

Products stainless steel niches | innovate building solutions | #StainlessSteel #Niches #SoupHolder #ShowerRemodel

Conclusion

If you absolutely love, love, love tile, I’m sorry to ‘pick on’ this industry in this article.

I just know from the world I (and my wife) live in we have little time for maintenance, calling ‘Grout Doctors’ or putting up with leaks (God forbid) which could occur down the road from tile.

The alternatives to tile have never been better. The installation options for grout free wall panels and maintenance free bases have never been faster.

Does it make sense for you to rethink your decision to have a tile shower for your new home or remodeling project?

If you want input on using wall panels and grout free bases vs. tile showers call me (or my team). We’d not only be honored to help you and can also provide wholesale-direct pricing on cool grout free options many people haven’t even seen before. Call or click the links below.

Mike

How can I (or a member of my team) help you?

Do you have any additional questions?

We’d love to help. Call us at 877-668-5888 (for nationwide wholesale supply or a referral to a local installing dealer of laminated wall panels) or grout free custom cultured granite shower pans or contemporary acrylic bases. For a local project call 216-658-1280 in Cleveland or 614-252-3242 in Columbus.

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 888-467-7488.

If you’ve got a multi-unit project learn how you can replace tile with shower wall panels in your vacation rental homes or even prefab home tub surrounds.

If you want more advice (or like wacky humor) follow me on LinkedIn @MikeFotiLinkedIn or on Twitter @Mike_Foti or my companies @InnovateBuild or @InnovateHomeOrg.

 

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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 (6)

  • Mike Foti

    |

    Tracy – thanks for your question. With the laminate panels we either recommend to use our external corner trim pieces to make the 90 degree return back to the window or you can also go over our panels with a cultured marble return. If you want more insight feel free to call us at 877-668-5888. Thanks – Mike

    Reply

  • Tracy I Marolf

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    I am going to convert an old (apparently custom made tub) into a tub with a shower in it.
    I assume that the panels can be cut to size. I see that you can have an insert for shelving, so my question is my shower will have a large window in it. How would that work with panels?
    Thanks

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Rick – I’m glad you were able to get the project done at a cost which worked for you. The point you make about panel breakage can be true if you’re working with a system like cultured marble, cultured granite or solid surface. However, with laminate, of PVC composite, wall panels breakage in transportation is not an issue.

    In many areas installation labor is very expensive and owners don’t want to continue to not want to deal with grout joint maintenance. However, if your system works well for you, that’s great. The best of success with your shower! Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Kathleen – thanks for your interest. Yes – you can use these laminate wall panels on all the walls of the bathroom (even beyond the tub/shower area). If you go to Europe this is pretty much how all the jobs are done – and we’ve done many in the United States like this also. We have a dealer in Charlotesville Virginia, but I’m not sure if they service your area. Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888 and we’d be happy to talk more about your project, to see if our dealer can help you, or can work with a contractor of your choice and guide them through the project. It’s not hard to install. Mike

    Reply

  • Rick

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    Getting wall panel in one piece is a big transportations problem they can break as they are think. I re-model my bathroom and i thought of putting panel, but the cost of panel was higher than tiles. Contractor are very expensive in California. I was quoted was almost rip-off price for sticking four panel on the wall.

    I did the remodel at 30% of panel cost, with tiles by getting Mexican labor from home depot who are skilled in tiling job.

    Fact is you need to clean the panel same is true with tiles.. You can spray chlorox to keep the mildew and clean the tile.

    Reply

  • Kathleen

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    Can you remodel all of the walls in a bathroom with this material?
    How do find a company who is experienced in this, I am in Fairfax, VA.
    Thanks

    Reply

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