News from the Block, Innovate Building Solutions Blog
News from the Block, Innovate Building Solutions Blog
Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement Design & Remodeling Ideas for the Nicest Home or Business on the Block
Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement Design & Remodeling Ideas for the Nicest Home or Business on the Block

9 Reasons You Shouldn’t Build a Tile Shower

Opening - 9 Reasons You Shouldn't Build a Tile Shower | Innovate Building Solutions | #TileShower #GroutFreeShower #NoTileShower #BathroomRemodeling

Updated July 5, 2020

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. In fact in the article below, you’ll be able to see 5 shower wall panel systems you can buy for under $1,750.

5 best diy shower wall panels under 1750 | Innovate Building Solutions | #DIYShower #WallPanels #CheapWallPanels #Showerwallpanels

 

PVC Back Composite Shower Panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #PVCPanels #ShowerPanels #BathroomRemodeling #DIYShowerPanels
A PVC composite corner shower wall system which looks like marble

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.

 


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 (26)

  • Pixie – thanks for your question. While our company is normally working with people who are removing the tile (and putting in grout free wall panels), I did see an article which looked interesting I’ve included a link to below. There looks to also be several epoxy and resin mixes on the market – but I don’t have any first-hand experience with them. I hope this article helps you – Mike – here’s the link – https://homeguides.sfgate.com/hide-old-drill-holes-ceramic-tiles-20226.html

  • We just bought a condo where the previous owner installed towel rods on the tiles inside the shower. Ew! What’s the best way to seal the screw holes when we remove them?

  • Kathy – yes – it’s not a problem to install safety grab bars on shower wall panels. You need to make sure there is a ‘backer board’ behind the panels (usually this can be plywood or Oriented Strand Board) to properly support the bar. With product lines like the laminate wall panels – the backer system is already plywood or OSB – so you can put your grab bars anywhere (and install them at any time because you know you have backer everywhere). Call me or my team if we can help further at 877-668-5888 – Mike

  • Is there a way to install safety/grab bars on the walls of a panel shower?
    I don’t see any pictures and am not sure how this could be done.

  • Marian – yes – many of the wall panels mentioned in this article are available in Canada – or in some cases we’ve had people come across the border to get them. Let me know what area of Canada you’re in and I can see if I can find you a referral. Mike – 877-668-5888.

  • Living in Canada, are these products available here and do you know of any companies that are using them….?

  • D- we have a dealer in Boynton Beach Florida called Ideal Home Management. If that is not close to you we’d be happy to work with your contractor on how to install this laminate system. It’s really not that hard. Call us if we can hep further. You can reach us at 877-668-5888. Mike

  • Can you recommend a reputable company with wholesale pricing in the Palm Beach County, FL area that install laminate panels..need a complete remodeling of bathroom with shower only. Thank you.

  • Vikki – I’m glad this article has been helpful to you. There are people who love tile, and those who HATE it. It’s nice to know there are stylish cost-effective alternatives which didn’t exist years ago. If our company can be of any additional help feel free to call at 877-668-5888. Mike

  • I absolutely thank you for your information yes tiles do look beautiful and over time just as you said ground yukiness and tiles expensive, labour expensive everything you mentioned makes sense. I don’t have a lot of money and remodelling a bathroom can be very expensive thank you for your time, and the above negative remark obviously a tile person, does not do you justice, I’m in my 70s so I opt for good 2nd hand vanity unit, an trademe items and I went all visiting tile shops but proved expensive, waiting for quotes, and labour quote changed my mind, and I’m even more happier after reading your post thank you one very happy person thank you.

  • Debbie – thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s certainly true all materials do involve some maintenance, but there are obviously some which need more maintenance than others. While there are certainly many competent tile installers out there – unfortunately the number of trained craftsman is on the decline (more of our ‘sons and daughters’ are pursuing careers in technology than in the trades – for better or worse). It’s important to do your homework before hiring any remodeler (or subcontract trade) and sites like Houzz and Angie’s List (or asking your neighbors and friends) can be helpful to ‘get it right the first time.’ While I could just give the benefits of tile (or of wall panels for that matter), the reality is ALL SYSTEMS (whether they are tile or grout free panels) have their strengths and weaknesses. This is why getting different opinions (yours, mine and others) is SO critical. Thanks for allocating the time to chime in on the conversation! Mike

  • As a person on the hike trade for over forty years I disagree with a lot of your reasoning. It doesn’t matter what materials you use as they all require maintenance. Cleaning is a must always no matter the material. Grout is made of less cement now so doesn’t hold mold. There are many competent tile mechanics out there. Do your homework for any trades person you hire. Please don’t be negative to tile to build up your pride to. Just give the benefits of it.

  • Alice – thanks for your comments and point of view. I think it’s fantastic that your husband is a craftsman and is proud of his craft. Like your husband my Dad was a craftsman (a bricklayer by trade) and then started his own business. This is one of the great things about our country is the right to find your passion in life, work at it and make a living or a business of it (that’s what my Dad did is start a masonry business).

    In this article I’m expressing my point of view (or you can call it the reality I know). We have a remodeling business and do sometimes use tile on these projects. The challenge (at least in our market) is finding people as good as your husband who deliver a fine quality job. It’s for this reason we’ve seen growth in grout free shower and tub wall panels. Now – there are things you can’t do with the panels you can do with tile (fun herringbone designs, using multiples tile and certain types of borders), but we see the wall panel business growing greatly in this country (and one big reason is because many parents are not encouraging their kids to ‘go into the trades’ (whether this is a good thing or a bad thing can be debated).

    I appreciate you taking the time and letting me (and anyone reading this blog know how you feel). It’s the beauty of our country to write and express our opinions. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It sounds like you come from a long-line of hardworking people (and I can certainly relate to that!). Mike

  • Hello. I just read your article. I might have known you are a competitor. Of course you are going to try & sway people your direction. That will put money in your pocket. My husband happens to be not just a flooring installer, but a craftsman & I sold flooring for years. I will agree that manual labor is becoming a thing of the past. My husband & his brother have installed for 25 years. Their grandfather was in his 80s when he quit & their 2 uncle’s were in their 70s when they quit. They have always stayed currant on their methods & materials. They turn out beautiful work. My husband’s fee should reflect his experience. Yes, he makes a decent living, but we aren’t rich by far. I have a college degree & am still paying for it. I don’t make what my husband does. I get mad at the schools for ripping people by charging to much. It’s not my husband’s fault he makes more. Most college graduates don’t know what manual labor is. I don’t work near as hard as my husband & he does it without benefits. He’s responsible for that & retirement all on his own. He may not even get to retire. People like you come along & try to ruin his business because you have to pay for quality instead of getting it for free. There are some amazing products out there that are waterproof, but you have to be willing to pay for it & not demand doing it as cheap as you can. You get what you pay for. If done properly your shower will be there long after you aren’t. Sometimes you have to listen to the professionals & let them do their job. After all you pay more for other professional services. Give me experience over college any day. I’ve saw your recommendations in place of tile. Not even close to the quality look of tile. If you ask me people that are wanting top work & products for free are slightly dishonest. It’s not up to you to decide someone’s worth just because you want something for nothing & because you want to take money from their pocket & put in yours. Craftsman ship is something taught & learned continually throughout a life time. It takes talent & lots of physical & mental hard work. If you ask me they should definitely make more than a college graduate. For each shortcut some want to take because they’re to tight to pay for a job it takes food off someone else’s table. Let me guess, that’s not your problem. I bet it would be if someone didn’t pay you for your services. Better yet what if they were allowed to pay you what they thought you were worth. I pray that never happens to you. Not saying their aren’t tile installers out there that aren’t good. Especially one’s at big box stores that barely get paid for their work & don’t always have much experience. It’s up to the consumer to do research & find an installer instead of doing it the easy way. They make lots of internet options for whatever area you are in or check your local flooring stores. Consumers research everything else. Why not that. Maybe their aren’t as many choosing that as a career path, because to many consumers don’t want to pay them for their work & want to find other methods that would do away with their job all together. You might want to consider all sides. You know, do research, before you start spouting off about things.

  • Absolutely Eloise. We do have some dealers in California who we’d have to see if they’re close enough to you to do the installation or if they aren’t close enough we can ship the product directly to you or your contractor. Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888. Mike

  • Is this product available in California? I live in the heart of the state, closet big city is Fresno.

  • Maryalyce – thanks for your question. Some of the wall panel options, do also have matching shower pan options – while others do not. With some lines of solid surface wall panels you’ll find matching bases (and even bathroom vanity countertops). With the laminate shower panels and the PVC panels you won’t find matching shower pans. Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888 for more information. Mike

  • I just bought a house in Tampa and one of the bathrooms has to be redone . There was a leak in the shower pan. It’s all tile right now would love to try something new. I also noticed where someone asked if this material could be used on bath walls as well. I’ll take any information you can give me. Thanks

  • Marcus – thanks for expressing your opinion. There is certainly a place for tile and for tile setters like you – however there are challenges with tile (which often isn’t the tile at all, but it is the grout joints owners hate to maintain long after the tile professional has left the home or building. Tile offers a lot of creativity in design and options. On the other hand it’s time consuming – and can be costly. Just like everything in life there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. You’ve got to look at the ‘goods and the bads’ of any type of product or system.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

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