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

What are the advantages and disadvantages of shower wall panels vs. tile?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of shower wall panels vs. tile | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodel | Shower Design Ideas | DIY Bathroom Design

Whether you’re a ‘Junior Tim the Toolman Taylor’ (a la the tv 1990’s sitcom Home Improvement) DIYing your project, or a homeowner looking to hire a bathroom remodeling contractor to install a shower, it can be confusing trying to understand the advantages and disadvantages of choosing shower wall panels or tile.

And just because a pushy ‘bath-in-a-day’ sales rep is telling you shower wall panels are the best thing since sliced Wonderbread (Ok, I’m dating myself with this reference!) or a custom design/build remodeler is saying you’re nuts to consider anything but tile, IMHO neither is correct.

There’s a place for shower wall panels. There’s a place for tile. The key is to know where and when to select one over another.

And in this article my goal is to help you press the ‘Easy Button’ and be able to confidently know which is right for your project.

Opening paragraph easy button

Towards this end, I’ll list (and explain) the advantages and disadvantages of shower wall panels vs. tile. At the end, I’d love your feedback in the comments on positive (and negative) experiences you’ve had with both options and/or questions you still have if you’re debating which is best.

So, let’s dig in.

Part 1 – The advantages of shower wall panels vs. tile.

Advantage #1 – No grout, no grout, no grout!

Let’s face it, tile’s ‘evil stepson’ is grout. And while it can be wonderful to install a new tile shower with brand-spanking-new grout joints, you know a tile shower will get dirty (or worse yet, moldy) and could become a ‘gross-me-out’ experience.

And while it’s true you can choose better grouts (urethane and epoxy grout are two options) to minimize grout hassles – those products are still a P.I.A. to work with.

On the other hand – if you love the ‘real grout look’ but would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to go ‘sans-grout,’ a stylish – yet realistic no grout laminate shower wall panel is a wonderful alternative too few people have heard of.

Advantage 1 white subway tile laminate wall panels black trim | bathroom Design | Shower Remodel Ideas | DIY Bathroom Remodel

Advantage #2 – Shower wall panels are MUCH quicker to install than tile

If you’ve quoted a bath remodeling job lately and dropped off your chair after getting the estimate, you now know for a fact costs (and labor costs in particular) are FAR MORE expensive than they used to be! And finding qualified contractors is not simple. They’re not a ‘cheap date!’

And the challenge with tile showers is they’re time-consuming to do.

These labor installation costs are ‘driving the bus’ towards the growing popularity of shower wall panels. Most panel systems are glued onto moisture resistant greenboard or mechanically fastened to plywood. They’re quick to install. They reduce costs.

Advantage 2 quicker laminate shower panel installation | Innovate building solutions | Bathroom Design Ideas | Quick installation for bathroom remodel

Shower wall panel projects take a day or two to complete. Tile showers can be a week or longer before the crew packs up for the final time.

And unless you’re a DIY’er with extra time on your hands to install a tile shower – wouldn’t you rather pay less for a shower – and get one which is simpler to maintain with wall panels?

Advantage #3 – You won’t keep paying, and paying, and paying for your wall surrounds with shower panels!

Do you want your wall panels to be like your kids? Ok, now you may be saying, “Mike, where the heck are you going with this?”

Ok – with kids you keep on paying, and paying, and paying (note my wife Rose and I just might have a little experience with this…. sarcasm intended!). Getting kids ‘off the payroll’ is a lengthy process.

And this lengthy process of continued costs is exactly what you’ll ‘get’ with a tile shower. Just because you paid the contractor (handsomely) for the original job doesn’t mean you’re done dishing out money on your tile shower. Now it’s your responsibility (or the responsibility of someone you hire) to clean those doggone grout joints.

With wall panels you simply wipe them down with a non-abrasive cleaner.

Cleaning is ‘easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!’

You also won’t need to regrout or reseal a grout free shower wall surround.

Advantage 3 wall panels are easier to clean than tile showers | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodel | Cleaning bathroom ideas | Cleaning Tile | Shower Design Ideas

Advantage #4 – With the right shower wall panel system, you’ll get a lifetime warranty vs. a tile warranty which can be short to nonexistent.   

It’s funny when I talk to homeowners who are comparing a tile shower to a grout free panel system and I ask, “So, what warranty are you getting with your tile shower?” and they don’t have a clue, I’m amazed.

Tile showers ARE NOT cheap, but most owners are clueless if they’re even getting a warranty with their new shower. And if you want to learn more about wall surround warranties read What’s the warranty of your tile shower surround vs. grout free wall panels.

Advantage 4 lifetime warranty laminate Fibo shower panels | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Ideas | Lifetime warranty | Shower design ideas

And while there are certainly cheap shower panel surrounds with razor thin warranties (like fiberglass reinforced plastic or fiberglass surrounds) you’ll generally find generous (and even lifetime warranties) with products like laminate shower panels and some acrylic wall panels.

And if your shower (of any type) fails, it’s an expensive repair.

So, wouldn’t you prefer the peace of mind of a longer warranty you’ll get with better quality shower wall panels vs. tile?  

Advantage #5 – If you don’t want all your ‘riches’ sucked into those niches, choose shower wall panels over tile.

If your existing storage leaves much to be desired and you’ve been forced to hang an ugly plastic ‘dollar-store-esque’ shower caddy over your shower head, you know in your newly remodeled bathroom now is THE TIME to solve your storage problems.

And when you look at luxurious high-end tile showers in interior design magazines and experience ‘shower-envy’ when you see the big storage niches (and didn’t realize those two words could even be used together!) you think to yourself, “I have to have that!”

However, when you find out how much your design/build general contractor is charging for this oversized tile niche – in many cases, people choose smaller (and cheaper) tile niches to keep costs down.

And this is where grout free shower wall panels can be a god-send. You can get a large horizontal or vertical niche at a fraction of the cost of a custom tile shower niche. And better yet – you WILL NOT experience the dirt and nastiness you’ll see in tile niches in the corners as the shower ages.

Advantage 5 horizontal stainless steel niche cracked cement wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodeling ideas | DIY shower remodel | Recessed Niche | Shower accessories

Don’t worry … be happy (as the video below reminds you)….and get the storage you desire with a premade stainless steel niche which coordinates with grout free wall panels.


Advantage #6 – Shower wall panel installations are neater, cleaner, and shorter to do than tile.

If avoiding dust and dirt are something you want to minimize to protect your family, then a tile shower installation is something you should avoid.

Tiles have to be cut. Cutting tiles kicks up A LOT OF dust. It’s a messy process.

Since shower wall panels involve minimal cutting – and there’s ZERO grouting (which is the mother of all evils) – your project will be neater, cleaner, and shorter. And isn’t that music to your ears?

Advantage 6 dusty cutting tiles for a shower wall surround | Innovate building solutions | bathroom remodel | Shower ideas | DIY bathroom remodel

Advantage #7 – Water is repelled AT THE SURFACE with shower wall panels, not below the surface like is the case with grouted tile.

One key reason to use tile (or shower wall panel) surrounds is not only to add style, but it’s to block water from seeping behind the walls. This can cause wood framing or subfloors to rot. And one of the challenges of grouted tile is the waterproofing IS NOT at the surface– it’s behind the wall.

And given the number of separate tiles – and the thickness of grout joints between tiles, there’s lot of places for water to seep into the substrate behind the surface.

And while there are waterproof tile backer systems (Wedi and Schluter are two options) it’s nice to know with shower surround panels you don’t have to worry what’s lurking behind the wall, because the panels are blocking all water on the surface. This is peace of mind for you.

Advantage 7 beads of water repelling off laminate shower wall panel | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodel | Home design ideas | DIY Shower remodel

So, now that we’ve listed (and explained) the advantages of shower wall panels vs. tile – let’s take a look at disadvantages of wall panels vs. tile.

Part 2 – The disadvantages of shower wall panels vs. tile.

Disadvantage #1 – Selection, selection, selection. Designs options are never-ending with tile.

Tile can be as much about fashion as it is about function.

The patterns, colors, and styles you can achieve with tile are infinite.

You can take the same tile and lay it in running bond, stack bond, 45 degree herringbone, stacked subway, or 90 degree herringbone patterns.

Tile options never end … unlike your budget.

Selection is a big plus with tile. However, if you don’t have the budget for a tile installation you can get cool patterns like stacked subway wall panels, herringbone etc. in grout free wall panels (if you know where to look!).

Disadvantage 1 smokey blue stacked subway tub wall panels | Innovate building solutions | Bathroom remodel ideas | DIY Bathroom

Disadvantage #2 – Shower wall panels (in general) are not associated with high-end homes.

There’s a certain ‘snob-appeal’ you’ll get with tile. You’ll find high-end luxury homes dripping with tile installations. You’ll be hard-pressed to find wall panels in these homes.

So – if you want to go with a traditionally ‘safe’ choice for your high-end home, tile’s got you covered (yes, that ‘wall pun’ was intended).

However, there are ‘knock-your-socks-off’ wall panels which offer a high-end look while eliminating evil grout joints.

Three high-end non-grout options are:

  1. High gloss acrylic wall panels – These panels look like back-painted glass and are a wonderful fit for high end contemporary homes.

disadvantage 2 - 1 high mint green glacier high gloss acrylic shower panel | innovate Building solutions | bathroom ideas | DIY Bathroom | Budget Friendly bathroom design

  1. Sculptured solid surface wall panels – These panels are (literally) a work of art. They’re customized to fit your look. However, I’ll warn you, this product isn’t cheap!
Disadvantage 2 - sculptured solid surface wall panels credit | Innovate building solutions | bathroom remodel ideas | DIY Bathrom
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  1. Laminate wall panels – This is the least expensive of these 3 options. These CNC (Computer Numerical Control) manufactured panels are time-effective to make and install. Get patterns like 45 degree herringbone you’ll see in luxury showers at zero extra cost (yes, you heard that correct).

Disadvantage 2 number 3 45 degree white herringbone panels | bathroom remodel | innovate building solutions | cleveland, ohio bathroom remodel

Disadvantage #3 – Shower wall panels come in standard sizes (and some systems require seam trims which aren’t the most pleasing to the eye if you have wide walls).

If you’re looking to do a ‘standard’ tub to shower conversion in a bathroom with an 8’ ceiling you’ll find standard shower wall panels until the ‘cows come home’ to fit your needs.

However, if you want to reach the top of a 9’ ceiling, or have a larger custom sized shower, the shower wall panel options become infinitely smaller.

With tile – make your shower any size you want. It’s no sweat to build (although it takes a lot of time) one continuous tile design without trim pieces between sections no matter how humongous your shower is.

However, if you hate tile and want a continuous wall look without seam pieces between panels – explore laminate panels by Fibo. They’re popular in Europe (and growing like weeds in the United States) because these click-lock panels are almost impossible to detect where the seam is.

Disadvantage 3 wide walls with bath wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom design ideas | Silver grey marble | Bathroom design ideas | DIY Remodel

Disadvantage #4 – Some wall panels look cheap and plasticky.

If you’ve ever ‘lived through’ a plasticky fiberglass one-piece shower surround the original builder slapped in to save money which has yellowed or has dirt ‘baked in’ which won’t come out no matter what you do – you know some wall panels ‘shout out’ (if they could speak) – cheap, cheap, cheap.

However, even if you buy the bargain basement low cost per box tile at Home Depot, it’ll look better than the cheapest wall panel surrounds.

So, what are you choosing – shower wall panels or tile? What questions can I or my team answer for you?

After sifting through the advantages and disadvantages of shower wall panels and tile which are you choosing for your next project?

And if you have experience with either system –share in the comments below the good, the bad, and the ugly so others can learn from you.

Do you have questions about shower wall panels and tile showers me and my team can answer?

And if your bathroom remodeling project (or shower wall surround selection) is already blowing your mind, don’t put yourself through the aggravation of trying to figure it out alone.

Contact a Bathroom Specialist at Innovate Building Solutions to learn about shower panels which can be supplied for a job ANYWHERE in the United States. Call 877-668-5888 or fill out a Free Estimate Form (or ask for a referral to an installing shower wall panel dealer in your town).

And if you’re a bathroom contractor, a kitchen and bath showroom, or multi-unit property owner (or buyer) looking to purchase shower or tub wall panels call me at 888-467-7488 or visit the wall panel dealership or multi-unit wall panel supply areas of our site.

And lastly if you’re looking for an Akron or Cleveland bathroom remodeling contractor call 216-531-6085. Our northeastern Ohio team would love to help.

Thanks for reading and learning about the advantages and disadvantages of shower wall panels vs. tile. As tile and shower panel selections have grown, it’s tougher than ever knowing what to choose, so let us help you.


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 (4)

  • The choice between shower wall panels and tiles ultimately depends on your priorities and preferences. If you value ease of installation, lower maintenance, and cost-effectiveness, wall panels might be the better option. On the other hand, if you prioritize aesthetic variety, customization, and are willing to invest in a potentially higher cost and maintenance effort, tiles might be more suitable.

  • Clifford – we can help with this project – we ship all around the country and stock 31 different patterns (including the cracked cement pattern which is actually what I used in my own bathroom). Feel free to call us at 877-668-5888 and one of our team can assist you – or get us your number and we’ll call you – Mike

  • Clifford L Toney L Toney Sr.

    Hi i have been looking at the laminate products , i live in Redmond ,Or
    there are a couple of plumbing supply stores here in Central Or, unfortunately they are not up to speed on Fibo panels there is a Company in Portland ,Or
    that was recommended but they are 2 -1/2hrs away , i called them and didnt
    get much help. do you sell panel kits to anyone here ? are you associated
    directly with Fibo Fleurco?. i Like the Cracked Cement panels , wall 1 is
    34 inches , back wall 60 inches , and other wall 34 inches with a 4 inch return
    x 94 inch high walls , would you have a price of a kit?

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