15 Practical Ideas to Cut Costs of A Tile Shower
After getting tile shower quotes you may have bemoaned (with the emphasis on the moaning) …..
“I can’t believe how expensive tile showers are!”
And unfortunately, I’ll back up your findings and say, tile showers ARE NOT a cheap date.
And not to go all Danny Downer on you when you’re already stinging from the pain of the cost of a tile shower estimates, but it’s not getting any better. And you may be asking, “Mike, why do you say that?” Well, here’s why.
- Tile setters are increasing prices and having no problem getting it! – Wages in the remodeling industry are showing no signs of slowing. So, the next time you’re pushing your kids into a 4 (or more) year ‘college experience’ (complete with the trip abroad in their Junior year), maybe their smarter economic track would be to go into the trades!
- There’s a lack of human beings to do the job – Contractors aren’t ‘growing on trees.’ They’re becoming as scarce as an honest politician (OK – maybe not THAT scarce!).
- There’s a lot of equipment to install a tile shower – Installing tile is not only a dusty, dirty, long process, but it also requires a decent investment in tools.
- And even though it’s not often the ‘tiles’ fault, but the costs of a tile shower (unlike fine wine) DO NOT get better with age – Although options like ceramic, glass, and slate tiles have a long life, it’s the grout joints which cause many people to get on a first-name basis with the technician from their local Grout Medic franchise. Or if you’re not calling out the Grout Medic, you still have to buy chemicals no person in their right mind likes breathing in to keep your tile joints clean. Moldy, mildew-infested, brown grout joints aren’t exactly a clean companion for a refreshing shower.
- Because ‘genius politicians,’ Russians invading Ukraine, and/or greedy businesses aren’t helping you get a handle on inflation – OK, whether you want to blame inflation on Biden, Trump, Putin, or big, greedy corporations (or the combination of all 4), material (and labor) cost inflation is still NOT your ‘little Fre’ (as Tony Montana from the movie Scarface would say).
So, if you love the look of a tile shower, but are wondering how the heck you can afford one (or something which looks similar to a tile shower), and NOT end up eating Ramen noodles every night, you’ve come to the right article.
Below I’ll share 15 practical tips to reduce the cost of a tile (or faux tile) shower. And while I (personally) wouldn’t choose every one of these ideas – they’re all legitimate ways to get a more (financially) manageable shower remodel.
I’ve organized this article in 3 sections. Section 1 I’ll look at cost-effective shower pan ideas, in section 2 we’ll move on to wall surround ideas, and in section 3 we’ll look at general ideas to save money on a tile (or faux tile) shower system.
So, let’s dig in.
Section 1 – Shower pan ideas for a more cost effective tile (or faux tile) project.
Tile shower cost reduction idea #1 – Use a ‘point drain’ vs. a linear drain.
If you think shower drains are the ugliest thing in your shower, you’re not alone. If you’ve got an ‘old-school’ pitted polished brass drain cover which has seen it’s better days, years ago – it’s a common problem.
And while it’s nice to remodel with a ‘fashion forward’ linear drain, not only is this type of drain itself more expensive – but moving the drain location (which is usually required with a linear drain) is no picnic (or ‘free lunch’) either!
It’s for this reason you’ll save money with a ‘point drain’ (where all 4 sides of the shower pan are pitched to one spot), vs a linear drain. For ‘style points’ go with a square (contemporary) strainer cover. Use more contemporary finishes like brushed nickel, brushed brass, or matte black.
And if you really want to go ‘deep’ in this subject (because how could you NOT be excited about shower drains….sarcasm intended), read 5 Smart Tips to Stop Hating Your Shower Drain…and Fighting a Bad Drain Location.
Tile shower cost reduction idea #2 – Use a hybrid option. Tile the walls but use a grout free shower pan instead of a tile base.
There’s no rule which says you have to use tile on the shower walls AND the shower pan. And as a matter of fact, I’d argue (and could use my own failed tile shower pan floor as the proof), it’s safer to NOT use a tile shower floor pan since they’re more prone to leaking especially if you use an old ‘mud set’ tile floor installation vs. a waterproof tile shower system (like Wedi or Schluter).
However, if you want to save money on labor, and lessen the risk of leaks go with a grout free shower pan. These pans can be made of fiberglass or acrylic (the least expensive options). Or for a higher quality grout free pan choose a solid surface or cultured stone pan.
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Tile shower cost reduction idea #3 – Use a ready for tile – or component based – tile shower pan to save money in the long run.
While you can save money in the short run with a mud set pan where you (or your contractor) pre-slopes your own pan, if the job is done poorly you’ll end up with pooling water (or worse yet leaks – YIKES). This WILL NOT be a welcome sight.
To eliminate worries with a hand-built mortar bed shower pan, better options (IMHO) include a ready for tile shower pan or an extruded polystyrene component base shower curb with a sloped base (like those made by Wedi and Schluter).
These pre-built, or component systems, actually have guarantees (unlike the hand-made pans), and you’ll feel better the ‘foundation’ of your shower won’t leak. And the reality is – if your shower pan fails, you basically have a shower which is of no use to you. In addition, these systems save significant field installation labor vs. a mud set pan.
Tile shower cost reduction idea #4 – Keep your drain in the same location.
Moving your shower drain – especially if you have to cut into joists – is expensive. And a way to save money is keeping the drain in the same spot.
With products like the ready for tile shower pans (or custom cultured marble pans if you want to go no-tile), you can get all dimensions (and the drain location) designed to work with the drain location you already have.
Section 2 – Shower wall ideas for a more cost effective tile (or faux tile) project
Tile shower cost reduction idea #5 – Use a simpler tile pattern – or go with a grout free shower walls which give you fancy patterns WITHOUT big costs.
Herringbone and mosaic wall patterns are so cool. However, they take A LOT of time to install due to the cuts and complexity of the patterns.
So, if you need to cut tile shower costs of intricate tile patterns– here’s two ways to go:
- Option 1 – Still use tile but lay it in a ‘stack bond’ (one tile on top each other) or running bond (like the brick on a house) patterns vs. herringbone and mosaic patterns.
- Option 2 – Go with grout free wall panels – Use laminate wall panels which click and lock together to create the look of tile without big labor expenses (or messy cutting of tiles).
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Tile shower cost reduction idea #6 – Use glossier tiles (or matte finish wall panels).
In general, glossier tiles are cheaper than matte finish tiles. So, if you have a bathroom which is dark – and want more light movement, glossy tiles can make sense.
However, if you like more popular matte finishes – but DO NOT want to fork over the larger bucks for matte finish tiles, then opt for a matte finish wall panels. If you choose a smart three-dimensional wall panel, it’ll look like tile, but only you’ll know you didn’t pay as much for it (and it won’t be a pain to maintain).
Tile shower cost reduction idea #7 – Use a premade niche vs. a custom tile niche.
Don’t you love the look (and function) of a larger shower niche? Finally, you’ll have room for your ‘way-too-fast-growing-as-you-age’ shower products which are ‘guaranteed’ to help you look younger.
And while it’s possible to build a custom tile niche, they’re time consuming to install, and are a source of future leaks.
It’s for these reasons, if you want to reduce tile shower project costs, ‘pivot’ (OK – that’s a corporate buzz-term I hate, but threw it in for fun) to premade solid surface or stainless steel niches. These products are factory made – available in many sizes and textures – and save installation labor. And as you know time IS money…unless you’re DIYing the job, and have all the time in the world, and would rather be building this niche than be golfing or hanging out with your friends.
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Tile shower cost reduction idea #8 – Buy cheaper grout and/or wall backer boards.
I’ll admit that while this is a ‘too legit to quit’ (a la M.C. Hammer reference for those of you old enough to remember) cost reduction idea, but IMHO it’s a bad idea.
A tile shower is waterproofed through its grout joints and wall backer board BEHIND the tile. So, if you go with a cheaper grout (say, standard sanded grout vs. urethane or epoxy grout) you will save money, but more moisture will flow through the grout joints which could result in leaks.
And if you use a cement backer board vs. a waterproof system (like those made by Wedi and Schluter…and no, I’m not a pretty spokesmodel for these companies, and it’s not just because I’m NOT pretty!) – your final ‘defense’ against water penetration will be ‘water resistant’ and not ‘waterproof’ board.
The longevity, and ability for the shower to not leak, is dependent on the quality of the grout and backer board. So, while NO ONE will notice the better quality waterproofing of your tile shower, you may have a ‘Fram Oil Filter’ moment like you’ll see below (‘er pay me now or pay me MORE later) if you cheap out with lower quality grout or backer boards…although they will initially save you money.
Section 3 – General ideas for a more cost effective tile (or faux tile) project.
Tile shower cost reduction idea #9 – Do your own demo.
While removing old tile, or a fiberglass one piece surround, or heavy cast iron tub (if you’re doing a bathtub to shower conversion), is a dusty, dirty, job, it’s simpler to do than the tile installation – and can save you a few bucks.
Tile shower cost reduction idea #10 – Use a cheaper tile.
OK – this may seem like ‘Captain Obvious’ advice, but there are wide price ranges based on the type of tile you choose. For example, ceramic and porcelain tiles are generally less expensive than glass or pebble tiles. And if you want to dig deeper into tile shower material options and costs, read How Much Does it Cost to Tile a Shower.
Tile shower cost reduction idea #11 – Don’t use ANY tile in your shower!
OK – this may be as crazy as telling MAGA fans NOT to love Donald Trump or telling a Democrat they MUST only listen to Fox News but going with the entire shower (the shower pan, shower walls, and niches) being grout free isn’t as crazy as you’ll think.
With advances in shower wall panels, you’ll swear (but don’t let mom hear you) these better quality panel choices ARE the real thing. However, the B-I-G advantage is you’ll rid yourself of grout cleaning and mold forever.
And there’s a wide array of grout free shower pans which are not cheap, plasticky, and squeak when you walk on them.
And to ‘top it off,’ the grout free niches discussed in idea #7 are in many cases a no-brainer.
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Click here to request free samples of our Laminated Waterproof Shower Wall Panels.
Tile shower cost reduction idea #12 – DIY your tile installation.
This idea takes guts AND equipment. But if you have the tools, time, and patience to learn to set tiles, you can take on the tile installation as a DIY job.
In reality, more of the cost of a tile shower installation is the labor vs. the tile itself. So, if you’re willing to put yourself through it, a DIY tile shower install is an option (although you’ll be smart to keep the pattern simpler if you’re a tile-setting rookie).
However, if you don’t have patience, time, or family members who are willing to put up with a bathroom which is out of commission for a long while, you’ll be better hiring a professional tile setter (and yes, that’s assuming you can find one at a reasonable price).
Tile shower cost reduction idea #13 – Visualize BEFORE you buy.
Have you bought carpet, tile, or any fashion oriented home improvement product, then it was installed, and then you regretted the day you made the purchase (just like my butt-ugly basement carpeted stairs I’ve been putting up with for years)? If so – this is a waste of money you can do without.
To eliminate this problem – whether you’re using tile, or grout free shower panels which look like tile, it’s smarter to ‘visualize’ what you’re getting before you buy. Towards that end, check out below the visualizer tools for tile and one for grout free wall and bases (if you want to get the tile look without the cost).
It’s NEVER a bad idea to get a better feel of what the finished pattern looks like before your spouse/partner has a ‘conniption’ (and yes, that’s a funny word my dad’s generation used to use) AFTER it’s installed (and you end up crying over the proverbial spilled milk).
Tile shower cost reduction idea #14 – Act as the general contractor of your project.
If you have a strong knowledge of construction AND have connections (‘er potential subcontractors) who won’t ‘soak’ you (and yes, that shower pun was intended) because they don’t work on your jobs all the time, general contracting your own project can make sense.
However, don’t take on this construction management job without a good amount of thought. There’s a LOT more to remodeling a bathroom than meets the eye. In addition, hiring specialty contractors (plumbers, tile setters, electricians) who are ‘moonlighting’ and/or aren’t really that knowledgeable can turn into a ‘cluster’ (especially if they aren’t providing installation warranties or aren’t in business long enough to honor their warranties).
It’s for this reason, if you go down this route – you MUST know construction and you MUST know (and trust) your contractors. Otherwise, this is a slippery slope to a bad place!
Tile shower cost reduction idea #15 – Buy a package, not pieces.
Being a smart buyer and buying all your shower components (the tiles – or wall panels, backer board, grout, shower pans, and niche) from the same supplier can not only be a smart way to save money (and reduce shipping expenses), but also help ensure everything is designed to work together – and you have a waterproof shower.
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So, which of these cost-saving tile (or faux tile) shower ideas make sense for you? Do you need help designing or buying your (hopefully) more cost-effective shower?
So, which of these 15 cost saving tile (or faux tile) shower ideas make sense to you?
You’ll get insights AND pricing on grout free wall panels and shower pans, and can discuss the pros and cons on choosing tile or a tile alternative. And if you need help with your installation ask for a referral to an installing dealer.
And if you want to more input on whether to build a custom tile shower or use grout free shower system, watch 11 Reasons You Shouldn’t Build a Tile Shower and 4 Reasons You Should below.
Thanks for reading and putting up with my humor along the way!
And BTW – if you’re an installing contractor and would like to learn about becoming a dealer of laminate wall panels, grout free modern low profile shower pans, and shower replacement kits call Mike at 888-467-7488.