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 Questions You Must Ask Before Choosing a Waterproof Shower Wall Panel System

questions you must ask before choosing wall panel systems | Innovate Building Solutions | #WallPanels #BathroomRemodel #RemodelOnABudget

Updated July 9, 2023 

So, you’ve had it up to here (wherever ‘here’ is at) with your nasty brown or moldy tile grout joints or dingy yellowed fiberglass one-piece shower surround.

You’ve decided a waterproof shower or bathroom wall panel system is the way to go. However, the more you’ve compared what’s in the market the more confused you’ve become. What’s the best choice? Is it cultured marble and granite, acrylic or a PVC composite? Is it Kohler Choreograph or laminate wall panels? Too many choices. Every manufacturer, installer and supplier say there’s is THE BEST. What should you believe?

As a guy whose company installs regionally (in Cleveland Ohio) and supplies nationally a wide array of wall panels I wish I could tell you there was one system which trumps (oops – sorry for using this politically charged word) them all. If only it were that simple.

Here’s the reality.

There is no perfect wall panel system.

As I like to say, “Wall panels are like people. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, just like you and I (although my wife of 35 years – Rose – thinks I don’t have ANY weaknesses…. OK, I lied!).

So, in a nutshell here’s the only thing which matters.

At the end of the day (and at the beginning of the day for that matter), the perfect system is the one which works for you.

The best choice will fit your budget and décor, has features you love and is simple to install and clean.

My goal in this article is straightforward. I’m going to present 9 questions you need to ask, so you’ll make the best selection for you.

I’ll give you a money-back guarantee (oops, I forgot I didn’t charge you any money) these questions will help make the selection process easier for you. And if they don’t call our company and DEMAND more answers. Me and my team would be delighted to help you further (and my team will be less wacky than me – that’s a bonus for you).

So, let’s look at the 9 questions.

Question #1 – What’s your budget for shower and tub wall surrounds?

You may be asking, “Did you have to start there? Couldn’t I drool over the cool stuff first and then find out I couldn’t afford them?”

Well certainly you can drool over high-priced wall panels – but why waste your time? Get a feeling of costs. Skinny down your selection alternatives and get this ‘bathroom remodeling’ process rolling.

Here’s a ‘cheat sheet’ (no, we won’t share this with your 8th Grade Geometry teacher either) of the pricing tiers of popular grout free shower panels.

  • Down & dirty – as cheap as you’re going to find – In this corner you’ll find fiberglass reinforced panels (the bottom of the barrel), fiberglass and acrylic.
  • Takin’ the middle of the road – This is what most people choose who upgrade from the ‘not so nice’ (OK – lets call them what they are – junk) the original home builder put in. Mid-priced panels include laminate, PVC composite, Kohler Choreograph, and cultured granite and cultured marble.

PVC composiste calcutta marble faux shower wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #PVCWallPanels #ShowerWallPanels #BathroomRemodel

  • You better have some big bucks – Optical grade high-gloss acrylic and granite panels are very cool, but very pricey.

Question #2 – Do you want matte or gloss finish shower or tub wall panels?

Matte finishes today are hot. They give you an organic feel. They don’t show spots. They’re understated and elegant.

On the other hand, gloss is cool. It brightens a dark room. Its reflective qualities make a small room feel bigger. Gloss surfaces pop.

Below you’ll find a listing of the finishes available for each panel type.


  • Gloss finish only – Acrylic, PVC composite (actually a semi-gloss), optical grade high-gloss acrylic.

Get Free Samples!

Click here to request free samples of our High Gloss Shower Wall Panels.

  • Matte finish only – Kohler Choreograph.
  • Matte and gloss finishes – Cultured marble & cultured granite (although matte has a significant upcharge), Laminate wall panels.

Get Free Samples!

Click here to request free samples of our Laminated Waterproof Shower Wall Panels.

Laminate shower panels in a marina gray oak pattern | Innovate Building Solutions | #LaminateWallPanels #ShowerPanels #GroutFreePanels

Question #3 – Is there a shower wall panel system which can be installed by one person?

Whether you want to DIY your job or hire a professional, needing 2 people to put the panels up is a pain to coordinate and expensive (even if you’re only paying for a steak dinner for your Brother in Law …but you know he can eat you out of house and home).

Most wall panels require 2 people because they’re thin and flex (acrylic, PVC and high gloss acrylic fit into this category), or because they’re too heavy for one person and can crack during installation (cultured marble, Kohler Choreograph and Luxstone fit here).

Light blue high gloss acrylic shower wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #HighGloss #WallPanels #Lustrolite

If you want to save time, money and hassle – choose a panel which only needs one person to put them up. That system is laminate wall panels. These 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” thick panels are simple to handle and – while sturdy – only weigh 26 lbs. They click and lock together like laminate flooring.

Question #4 – How can I find a shower wall panel which fits my interior design?  

While all these panels will waterproof your shower, tub or bathroom walls, not all ‘make the grade’ when you put style into the equation. The best choices (IMHO) by interior design styles are listed below:

Cracked cement DIY laminate wall panels - simple bath | Innovate building Solutions | #BathroomRemodel #Laminatewallpanels #CrackedCement #DIYShowerInstall

Get Free Samples!

Click here to request free samples of our Laminated Waterproof Shower Wall Panels.

Question #5 – Which faux shower and tub wall panels look and feel like the ‘real thing?’

Let’s get real. All ‘faux things’ (whether they’re faux wall panels, faux wood or marble floors, or faux jewelry) have one thing in common, they’re trying to give you the ‘champagne look of the actual material on a beer budget.’

We’re all looking to ‘live large’ without tapping into our Elon Musk or Bill Gates trust fund (oops, I forget, if you’re like me you’ve haven’t made it into these guys trust funds quite YET!).

Some faux products are amazing at capturing the look and feel of the real thing, others fall woefully short. As a guy whose been around wall panels for a few years I’ll give you my POV of the faux wall panels which have nailed the look, and which ones I wouldn’t waste money on.

Unbelievably good faux wall panels

Fire engine red high gloss wall panels in a bathroom | Innovate Building Solutions | #FireEngineRed #HighGlossPanels #BathroomWallPanels

  • Cracked cement laminate panels It’s hard to find the seams in these 2’ x 8’ units, plus it’s far cheaper than actual concrete walls. You’ll create a minimalist look and won’t have to back up a cement truck to do it either.
  • Marbleized PVC composite walls Using digital printing technology they look like marble and granite but are light and simple to install.

Get Free Samples!

Click here to request free samples of our DIY Shower and Tub Wall Panels.

Blue marble PVC composite shower panels in a tiny home in North Carolina | innovate building solutions | #DIYwallpanels #PVCComposite #BlueMarblePanels

  • Distressed wood wall panels You’ll get the Joanna Gaines rustic feel, without the maintenance of actual wood…and they can be used in a wet shower or bathtub space.

Unbelievable bad wall panels

  • Acrylic molded panels which are supposed to look like tile – They’re plastic with a tile mold – and that’s exactly what they look like. Yuck!
  • Cultured granite panels which are supposed to look like stone – Since the joints are the same color as the faux stones – they look fake to me.

Question #6 – Will seams, battens or corner trim pieces be visible in corners or in longer walls?

Nothing interrupts the natural look of a faux shower wall panel system faster than metal strips popping out where none would exist with the ‘real thing.’

If you can choose a wall panel without trim, do it. However, many systems require trims (whether they’re visible or not) to waterproof your shower or tub. If you’re building a wall larger than 60” and want to eliminate corner and seam trim pieces the 2 best alternatives are solid surface wall panels and laminate bathroom panels.

Cultured granite longer shower wall panels without seams | Innovate Building Solutions | #SolidSurface #WallPanels #culturedgranite #ShowerBase

Question #7 – Are fashion-forward accessories available for these wall panels?

I’m going to digress for a minute with this example, but when you step into walk in closets today (and I’ve done a lot of this over the years with my Columbus custom closet division, Innovate Home Org) it becomes VERY obvious for most women (yes I’m being sexist here, but this generalization is true) an outfit is not complete without the right accessories. Just count pairs of shoes and handbags and you’ll know I speak the truth (note – women on average have 31 pairs of shoes and men have 8 and my walk-in closet resembles this remark).

This same principle about the importance of accessories holds true in bathtub and shower surrounds. You want (and need) stylish and flexible spaces for your shower accessories.

contemporary bathroom remodeling cover page

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However, here’s the problem. Some shower wall panel systems have no accessories. These manufacturers need to ‘get a pulse’ and recognize people need a place for soap, shampoo, razor or loofas…and the list goes on and on. Other systems have accessories which ‘do the job,’ but should be reported to the fashion-police. However, there are a couple of systems which range from ‘pretty good’ to ‘wow’ from my perspective. I’m passing out my ‘grades’ and here they are:

  • ‘Needs a pulse’ – Optical grade high gloss fits here. The manufacturer has made no attempt to create accessories for the line. You’ll either have to ‘jimmy-up’ your own homemade recessed niche or use glass corner shelves (which aren’t bad).
  • ‘SteadyEddie’, but your fashion police Interior Designer wouldn’t be caught dead using them – Molded cultured marble corner caddies and recessed niches will remind you of Your Father’s Oldsmobile. Behind the times, but ‘reliable’ (as Dad would say).
  • Pretty doggone good – PVC composite and contemporary shower accessories with brushed nickel finishes for the laminate shower wall panel line compliments the wall panels well.

Contemporary brushed nickel recessed shampoo niche in laminate shower | Innovate Building Solutions | #laminatewallpanels #ShowerAccessories #DIYWallpanels

  • A ‘wow’ accessory line – This is one area Kohler has nailed down. Not only do the accessories compliment the matte finished walls, but some (including the shower locker) actually have adjustable shelves and a place for your razor. Very thoughtful.

Kohler choreograph shower locker with adjustable shelves | Innovate Building Solutions | #KohlerChoreograph #ShowerAccessories #AdjustableShelves

Question #8 – Do the panels ‘travel’ and ‘ship’ well? Do they crack easily during installation? How many panels do I need to order? 

You’ve gutted the room a month ago. The shower pan is set. When the panels arrive, you’re going to put a bow on this project. You can smell the finish line.

You get notice the shipment (finally!) is coming. You open up the package and one of the panels is cracked. Oh **** (fill in your #NotForYourKidsEars words here). Can you say frustrated?

The workability and ‘move-ability’ (not a word, but I’m using it anyway) are critical components of a wall panel system which doesn’t blow up into a ‘Wow, this project ended up costing waaay more and taking much longer than I thought job.’

You need wall panels which arrive in one piece.

Laminate shower panels and trim pieces crated for shipment | Innovate Building Solutions | #Shipments #WallPanelsShipments #ShippingWallpanels

You want wall panels which won’t break during installation.

Here’s my personal list of ‘no sweat’ to ‘you’d better break out the Depends’ wall panels:


  • ‘Get out the Depends wall panels’ – Prone to cracking and awkward to ship best describes these stone panel choices. Kohler Choreograph, for example, has a bad ‘rep’ with delivery lead times and arriving in one piece. Check out their reviews. Cultured marble and granite panels are so brittle manufacturers have resorted to delivering with their own trucks because common carriers break them way too often. Installing can also be a ‘white-knuckle’ experience since stone panels are heavy and can crack if you don’t fit them properly.

And even if you choose one of the ‘no-sweat wall panels’ you want to make sure you’re ordering the correct number of panels – so you won’t get caught with your ‘pants down’ and need to order more. And if you’re kicking around the laminate shower panels – in this video below you can watch examples which will lead you to how many panels you need.

Question #9 – Which shower and bathtub wall panels work for a vacation or single-family rental home?

When you’re looking to find tenants (in a competitive rental market) and/or compete with other properties on VRBO or Airbnb, your bathroom walls better not only look sharp, but also be able to withstand the beating they can take from tenants and guests (without costing a bunch of money). Depending on the value of your properties, use the following categories to determine the best shower wall panel for your single family rental or vacation home:

Textured slate laminate shower and bathroom wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | #laminatewallpanels #Showerwallpanels #BathroomRemodel

  • Stylish yet often too expensive – Unless your looking for wall panels for a luxury contemporary boutique hotel, the high gloss acrylic panels will be too expensive.
  • Durable yet not too stylish – Cultured granite, solid surface and cultured marble get high durability scores with their 3/8” thick stone design. However, when it comes to style, the word boring comes to mind.
  • Cheap and they look it – If cheap is your #1 factor, then acrylic or fiberglass is OK. However, if stylish and/or durable are features which matter to you, there are better choices.


I know I threw a lot of information at you in this article. However, I’d like to simplify things since you’ve hung around with me to the end.

In reality, all walls panels (no matter what any manufacturers say) have strengths and weaknesses. But ‘at the end of the day’ (or at the beginning of the day when you shower also’) there’s only one thing which really matters. And it is…

Which systems works best for the budget, style and durability you desire.

If all this analysis still has you befuddled (isn’t that a funny word?), I’d recommend doing 1 of 2 things:

  • Make your decision based on what your gut tells you.
  • Get help from a shower wall panel distribution company which sells multiple systems (so they’re not motivated to strong-arm you to buy their 1 – and only- wall panel solution).

If our company can help (hey- after all I’ve still got to pay for my daughters’ college in a couple of years!) please call or click the numbers below. Thanks for reading,


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

Do you have any additional questions for me (or my team)?

We’d love to assist. 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 shower design and installation call 216-658-1280 in Cleveland or 614-252-3242 in Columbus for shower and bathroom supplies.

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), read 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 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 (19)

  • Mike – yes we do have a showroom in Cleveland and you can buy shower bases, wall panels and glass doors directly from us – Mike (note – our location is at 4566 East 71st St. in Cuyahoga Hts, 44105)

  • I live in Cleveland, do you have a showroom here? Can i buy materials directly from your warehouse?

  • Linda – thanks for your question. Onyx is a cultured granite product. They make a nice finished product and we use them on some of our jobs. They come in gloss and matte finishes. We do the most with the laminate wall panels – which are the same thickness as Onyx, but are lighter to work with (since they’re made in 23.6″ wide x 94.4″ panels – the onyx are full sheets which can get quite heavy). Onyx is a quality material and run by an honorable team of people. If you need more insights feel free to call us at 877-668-5888. Mike

  • This was very interesting, but I’m still confused, I have been looking on panels to do a small bathroom. Taking out our tub. In all these different types of products. What type of product is onxy. And how do u feel about it? Thank you

  • Glad you enjoyed the article and while we’re not located in New Jersey we do wholesale our products around the country and in some markets have dealers of our products as well. Let me – or my team know if we can assist you – Mike (877-668-5888).

  • Thanks Adrian – it was nice to talk to you today about being a dealer of our laminate wall panel line. We’ll be sending you the samples and catalogue so you can put your hands on this material – Mike

  • This is a Adrian Kolles I am interested in buying shower walls shower remodel business you please call me at 763-670-4405

  • Dawn – thanks for reaching out. I’m going to send you an email to make sure you got connected with one of our team. We would love to assist you with the bathrooms.


  • Hi, Mike!
    I’m interested in your products, and put my info in for some free samples, and called yesterday to talk to someone, but was connected to a salesman with a full mailbox, so I couldn’t leave a message.
    I’m hoping to speak with someone about my 2 bathroom renovations!

  • Rafael – I have likely what is good news for you. In many cases when you remove the side walls around the tub you’ll end up with a ‘standard sized’ 60″ x 30″ tub. It’s possible you have a custom tub – but if I was a bettin’ man (which I’m not) I’ll bet you’ll be able to use a standard off-the-shelf tub and save money. Mike

  • Su – I know this brand is sold in the U.K. but I haven’t had direct experience with it yet in the United States. It looks similar to the Fibo brand, but I don’t believe they can put the faux grout joints in the panels. I would look on UK review sites to learn more. Thanks for asking – Mike

  • How do you rate the ‘Showerwall’ brand please? as I’m about to order two panels to renovate my daughters home bathroom shower.
    Thank you for your time.
    Miss Su Howard

  • Warren – thanks for your interest in our wall panels. Regarding your questions – the panel system does not come with an Aqualock groove at the top. In normal applications we would recommend you use the hybrid polymer sealant on the top edge and butt the next panel up to it (unless there will be an extreme amount of water hitting this joint.

    Yes – along the bottom you should use the base profile.

    Regarding the pricing I will reach out to you so we can talk about how you might take a shipment like this. It will have an impact on the delivered cost.

    Thanks – Mike

  • Good day,
    We are looking at a commercial application of the shower wall system over a insulated block wall to provide wash down capability of the enclosure. We are looking at approximately 1000 sf of your Cracked Cement (no grout joints MoMi-CC-0000) for wall covering. Our four walls are each approximately 25 ft long and 12 ft high. I know this should add up to 1200 sf, but like I said we have ~200 sf of roll up doors and personnel doors.

    We have three questions.
    Does the panel system come with Aqualock grove along the top/bottom edge to cover a 12 ft high wall? This means we would use 4 ft of a second panel on top to extend your nominal 8 ft high panel to reach the 12 ft elevation.
    Should the “Base Profile” strip be used along the bottom to seal between the wall system and a concrete floor or just use the Fibo Sealant.
    When you use screws to anchor the tongue part of the panel to the wall studs, do you have to counter sink the heads? What is the on-center- spacing of the screws?
    Can you provide me a budget price to ship ~1000 sf of the panels( I realize it will divide to be a integer number of panels), approximately 80 ft of Base Profile, approximately 50 ft hidden metal corner profile strips and enough sealant for the gaps, to SLC Utah. Plus what is the lead time for this large of an order?


    Warren Brown
    Northrop Grumman
    Facilities Engineer

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