Deciding on the right shower and tub wall panels is tough enough, but it becomes ‘doubly-difficult’ when the two systems you’re comparing are newer to the United States market (even if one of them has been around the world market for over 26 years).
While Kohler Choreograph (also known as LuxStone) and Fibo laminate wall panels are both 100% waterproof, simple to maintain, respected brands in their country of origin (everyone knows Kohler in the United States and Fibo is used in 1/3 of the homes in Norway) and are an excellent alternatives to tile, this is where the similarities end.
As you’ll see below the Kohler and Fibo wall panels both have their strengths and weaknesses, just like you and I (note: even my wife of 35+ years thinks I have a few weaknesses…OK I’m lying, she thinks I have more than a few!).
In this article, I’ll present the advantages of each product and brand. At the end, I’d love to hear your opinion on which you’d choose for your next bathroom remodel or renovation of a vacation home rental bathroom.
Advantages of Kohler Choreograph vs. Fibo laminate shower and tub wall panels
Advantage #1 of Kohler Choreograph – They have 72” high panels for tubs
When you’re simply looking to get rid of your tile or fiberglass tub wall surrounds (and keep your existing tub) and want to upgrade with a thicker, higher quality system at a low cost, Kohler can be for you. With the Choreography panels you can buy shorter 72” high panels. The Fibo line is only available in 94.4” tall.
Advantage #2 of Kohler Choreograph – They’re widely available at home centers, on-line stores or through Kohler distributors
It’s nice to purchase products through several places. Kohler (for better – and sometimes for worse) is widely distributed. This makes it simple to find Choreograph (or LuxStone – which is actually the same product as Choreograph but is rebranded as the ‘installation line) at home centers, online stores and Kohler distributors. Fibo is only available through a small (right now) network of nationwide distributors and approved installing dealers.
However, there is a downside with Kohler’s wide distribution. You can also get in the middle of ‘finger-pointing’ battles. One I saw in an Amazon review was a customer who wasn’t happy with the printed quality of the Kohler panels. The on-line store he bought from wanted him to return the panels to Kohler. Kohler wanted him to return the panels through the online store.
The other disadvantage of wide distribution is some stores and sites carry a wide range of products. They don’t have specialized expertise in shower and tub wall panels. This can result in working with people who are selling everything and anything (‘er can you say online stores here?) and (as my Dad used to say), ‘don’t know their butt from a hole in the ground.’
Advantage #3 of Kohler Choreograph – You’ll find top-notch accessories
Kohler has done a masterful job designing accessories for the Choreography line. You’ll find ‘shower lockers’ – which are recessed shower niches on steroids. They can be 9” or 14” wide and provide up to 5’ long of storage depth. It’s also smart how they have adjustable shelves and removable storage baskets. They’re stylish and space-efficient for those of you with LOTS of products (my wife Rose knows she certainly would resemble this remark!).
You’ll also find ‘shower barre’s,’ shower hooks and teak trays to name of few of the options.
The Choreograph accessories are better designed than those associated with any wall panel system in the market – IMHO.
Advantages of Fibo laminate wall panels vs. Kohler Choreograph
Advantage #1 of Fibo laminate panels vs. Kohler– You can get the product RIGHT NOW!
You don’t have to read of ton of reviews on the Kohler Choreograph line to figure out getting their product has been a MAJOR PROBLEM since it was introduced over 3 years ago. Lead time have ranged from 5 weeks to 5 months. Can you say, ouch? That’s a crazy amount of time.
Unless you (or your contractor) excels at planning ahead (and I’ll tell you from my experience, once someone decides to do a project, they want it done yesterday!) long lead times are a problem.
Fibo, on the other hand, has 21 different laminate shower wall patterns and colors available from stock today in the United States. Design styles include Transitionalist, Modern Minimalist, Contemporary High Gloss and Modern Minimalist in these waterproof wall panels.
Advantage #2 of Fibo laminate panels vs. Kohler– You can choose from matte and gloss finishes
Perhaps you’ve got a small, cramped, dark bathroom without windows. You need to do EVERYTHING to brighten up your small space. This is where shower wall panels with gloss finishes excel.
Gloss provides a reflective surface which brightens up a room. Gloss is simple to clean.
With the Fibo line, you can choose from matte and gloss finishes. With Choreograph (or Luxstone) you’re limited to matte only.
Advantage #3 of Fibo laminate wall panels vs. Kohler – Everything’s in the kit
Think back to last Christmas. You’re assembling toys for your kids or grandkids. You get to the end. Then you see those evil words on the box “BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED!”
You mutter to yourself (or you swear out loud), “Why the heck (OK, you didn’t say heck, but this is a ‘family-friendly’ blog) aren’t batteries included? They KNOW we need batteries!’ Then you have to go out to the store late at night and hunt down batteries. What a pain!
The same challenge (even to a larger degree) can also be a problem when you’re dealing with shower wall panels. The manufacturer knows you’ll need adhesives and caulks, so why doesn’t every wall panel manufacturer include them with the wall panels?
With Fibo you can purchase complete shower and tub wall panel kits. The kit has the trims, factory-tested sealants and panels you’ll need. You won’t need to figure out (and worry if) you’re using the right sealants (note: sealants are critical to the long-term performance of any wall panel system). You’ll also know the sealant has been colored matched to the faux grout joints of the panels.
With the Kohler system, on the other hand, the installation videos tell you to find ‘construction adhesives’ to go with the system. This leaves you to guess (and have to find), proper adhesives and sealants for the job. That can be a BIG problem if you buy and install the wrong stuff.
Having the right sealant included in the kit will save you time (and worry) whether you’re using this in your personal home or you’re remodeling a rental home shower.
Advantage #4 of Fibo laminate wall panels vs. Kohler – Laminate is easier to install
If you’ve ever worked with a solid surface wall panel (which at its core – no pun intended- is what Kohler Choreograph is) you know a 60” x 96” back wall panel is ONE HEAVY PUPPY (likely around 120 lbs.)! You cannot and you will not be doing this installation alone.
Solid surface panels are hard to maneuver into tight bathrooms. You need to be careful not to crack them (otherwise you’ll go through the waaaaay-too-long lead time once again). You’ll need to brace the panels, so they don’t fall over before the sealant behind the walls fully dries.
Fibo laminate panels, on the other hand, are 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” thick tongue and groove style units which weigh 26 pounds. They’re simply screwed onto plywood or Oriented Strand Board. Then you apply sealant to the ‘mating’ panel and click and lock adjoining panels together. Lastly, you clean off the excess.
The installation is light and do-able by one person. There is no time to wait for the ‘braced’ panels to fully adhere.
Advantage #5 of Fibo laminate wall panels vs. Kohler – The Fibo system has been ‘around the block’ – or should I say ‘around the world’ for 8x longer than Choreography
New products are good…until they’re not.
With any wall panel system, it takes time to ‘get the bugs’ out. Since Kohler’s proprietary formulation is new and their production processes have been strained, there are still kinks (from what I see and read on the review sites) in the system.
With Fibo laminate panels you’re looking at a system which has been sold and installed in Europe for over 26 years. While this product is also evolving (check out the new marble patterns and rough wood textured laminate picture below), it’s been proven in Europe for decades. Sure, it’s new to the United States. However, the product is not – by any stretch of the imagination – new.
Advantage #6 of Fibo laminate wall panels vs. Kohler – There are no seam or inside corner trims
While there are a lot of ‘standard’ 60” and 48” wide showers, there are plenty of custom showers which go beyond these widths. And you know what people HATE about wall panels when they have larger custom showers? They hate not having a continuous look. They hate seam and corner trim pieces. They’re evil and should be avoided at all costs.
With the Kohler system you’ll have to put up with corner trims in every job. You’ll also need a seam trim piece when a wall gets wider than 60”.
With the Fibo laminate product (since the panels are sealed inside their tongue and groove construction) you’ll see ZERO seams no matter how long your wall is! That’s a look which works in a custom shower. It’s also nice to know you won’t need a high-cost custom kit to do custom sized walls. You’ll just need to order more 24” wide panels to (as Larry the Cable Guy would say), ‘get ‘er done!’
Advantage #7 of Fibo laminate wall panels vs. Kohler – These panels can be used beyond the bathroom
Although most waterproof panels are limited to use in your bathroom, this is not the case with the Fibo laminate panels. A full line of ‘under the cabinet’ kitchen backsplash panels brings the same easy installation from the bathroom into your kitchen. And if you’ve ever installed a tile kitchen backsplash, you know you’ll be glad you don’t have to go back THERE again!
I will admit I do have a preference between these 2 systems (I’d choose the Fibo system). As you might guess I’m an opinionated guy whose been in the bathroom remodeling and shower wall panel supply for a ‘few’ years. Ok, I’ve been around more than 30 years, and NO, I don’t want to admit I have gray hair either!
However, the most important question is not what I think, it’s what do you think?
If you had to select one, would you choose the Kohler Choreograph or the Fibo laminate panels? Why did you make this selection?
Please add your thoughts in the comments below or call me (or my team). We can help you ‘sift through’ the plethora (fancy words I’m using to impress you now) of options, provide Free Samples of wall panels and help you get your favorite system installed (either through our local crews in Cleveland or through our nationwide network of installing wall panel dealers).
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 of laminated wall panels). For a local project call 216-658-1280 in Cleveland or 614-252-3242 in Columbus for professional installation service.
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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 888-467-7488.
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