Your existing yellowed, stained, partially cracked (and not very clean-looking) fiberglass builders-grade shower is a disaster. It needs to be replaced.
Sure, in a perfect world (OK, it’s not the world you’re actually living in) you’d pay the highest-rated (which is usually the most expensive) bathroom remodeler in town to redo your shower (and entire bathroom if you have the money). They would transform your ugly-duckling space into a drool-worthy shower which would grace the pages of House Beautiful or Better Homes and Gardens.
Now, I’ll have to interrupt this vision for a ‘cold-splash’ of reality.
Your Budweiser-like ‘beer-budget’ (and seemingly never-ending expenses of your 2 kids and spouse) isn’t helping you one bit to fund your Dom-Perignon-champagne-esque bath and shower remodeling tastes.
You need a new shower but can’t afford to break the bank (OK – your kids have already done an excellent job of that anyway) making it happen.
The question is, how can you get a stylish shower on a tight budget?
To help you attack this challenge head-on, you’ll find 5 ½ (OK – the ½ idea is to add some intrigue) practical ideas to get a cool shower if your budget isn’t exactly ‘Bill-Gates-esque!’ Let’s check out the ideas.
I never expected to become a bathroom wall panel geek.
I grew up a mini-Alex P. Keaton (for those of you not old enough to remember he was the young business-geek son on the sitcom Family Ties popular in the 1980’s – yes I’m dating myself here). My heart and passion were business and finance. The dream job I wanted when I graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with my B.S. (it doesn’t mean what you think) in Business Administration was to get a job as a strategic planning consultant with McKinsey and Company (a hot consulting company).
That’s not how things worked out.
After 4 years doing the ‘corporate thing’ as a Product Manager at a cutting tool manufacturing company, my Dad let me buy (he floated me the loan actually) 50% of his glass block contracting business. Away with the 3-piece suit and fancy mahogany desk. Say hello to jeans and hanging out with ‘gontractors’ (that’s how you say contractors with an Italian accent).
I got into the bathroom wall panel business like most entrepreneurs. I morphed into it. Here’s how:
Glass block shower walls led me to offering shower bases to go with them.
Shower bases lead me to acrylic bathroom surround panels.
Acrylic bathroom surround panels lead me into 4 lines of wall panels (so far) – cultured granite, a decorative PVC composite line, high gloss panels and thin acrylic panels.
I started in bathroom wall panels with standard 1/8” thick acrylic panels – like you see from ‘one day bath’ companies Bath Fitter and Rebath. Today, this line is a small part of what people are buying from us. The world has shifted. We have shifted with it.
With all this being said, my journey into bathroom wall panel geekdom probably doesn’t matter one iota to you (hey- what exactly is an iota anyway?). If you’re like most people, you’re confused researching the plethora (that’s a fancy word I threw in there to make you ‘think’ I’m smart) of choices in wall panels. You’re left to ‘sift through the rubble’ and figure out which bathroom or shower wall panel line will work best for you. Many homeowners are confused in this process. That’s why I wrote this article.
My goal is simple. Explain to you 5 little known secrets I’ve learned in my years educating, selling and (my company) installing bathroom wall panels (you wouldn’t want me installing, I might have the smoothest hands in the bathroom remodeling industry!). I want you to make the best choice for you the first time out.
Below you’ll find these secrets. At the end of the article let me know which ones have helped you and if any others are simply too ‘out-there’ for you (I can – at times – resemble that remark).
You’ve lived through a shower which was falling apart at the seams. You said you would not get fooled again. You’ve made these proclamations (sounds very official, doesn’t it?).
I’m done with dingy and moldy grout joints.
I will not put up with a cracked shower base which caused a leak onto our dining room table below.
I will not buy or own a home which has wafer-thin plastic wall panels. The last one yellowed and looked nasty.
I won’t own another ‘brown-ish’ shower pan I can’t get clean no matter what toxic solvent I use.
I will not get stuck cleaning the bottom track of a flimsy and pitted aluminum framed shower door ever again.
I will spend less money on disinfectants and fighting back mold problems in my next shower.
I will have a shower which will last me for the next 20 years – or it better, because as Dad used to say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
You’ve heard the old saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”
When it comes to shower remodeling, I will tell you (and I talk to people about shower remodeling every day) I’ve seen many people get fooled again. They have the best intentions to eliminate the nightmare which was their last shower. However, they get fooled and fall into ‘traps’ like these.
They tell their remodeler they don’t want a cheap-plasticky fiberglass shower. Then their remodeler does what remodelers always do and offer them an upgraded beautiful tile shower. As time goes on they find out they’re scrubbing grout joints until their arms are soar. They ‘traded off’ the difficult to maintain dirty, yellow fiberglass shower pan for another difficult to maintain tile shower.
They say they want a shower which will last for 20 years. Then after a life event happens (for example, Mom’s mobility takes a turn for the worse and she needs to move in with you) your cool almost-brand-new 5-year-old shower is getting ripped out accommodate her.
They buy a brand-new home (with the industry-standard-oh-so-impressive – sarcasm intended- one-year warranty) and love, love, love the cool features like the quartz countertops and Shaker cabinetry in the kitchen. They pay no attention to the one-piece fiberglass tub/shower in the boy’s bathroom with framed glass doors (it looked so pretty when it was decorated in the model home). In a few short years the bottom of the fiberglass pan is scummy (you don’t expect your boys to clean up after themselves now, do you?), and the doors are practically falling off. It looks like it’s time to remodel already -and of course, replacing a nasty looking shower 5 years later is not covered under your builders fabulous one-year warranty.
The question is – whether you are remodeling or building a new home – how do you make sure you don’t get fooled again with a shower which fails?
If the title of this article reminds you of the song by The Who titled, “We Don’t Get Fooled Again” – you might be an ever-so-slightly graying 70’s rocker like me. And I’ll fess up and say I’m a guy in the late 70’s who sported a ‘quasi-mullet’ as well. But no, I’m not sharing a picture of my mullet here. While this Who song was not exactly written with shower remodeling in mind, I’ve still included a video below to get you in the spirit of the ‘new revolution’ of a new shower – so you won’t be fooled again.
In this article I’ll present 5 foolproof ideas to help you get a stylish shower which looks sharp and lasts, so you won’t be fooled again. My list is not comprehensive. At the end of the article add your ideas 6,7 and 8. Let’s learn from one another.
Mary called me and said, “Mike, I see you write a lot about solid surface shower systems. My mind is as confused about these systems as it was helping my 15-year-old daughter find a prom dress after looking through 6 stores (and by the way she broke up with the guy 3 weeks later!). I’ve checked out Onyx, Kohler Choreograph, Corian and Swanstone. I’ve also visited a cultured marble shop 25 minutes from my home. I wish I could tell you this research has made things clearer. I’m more confused than ever. Can you help?”
I told Mary, “I get it. The more you’ve learned, the more difficult the decision has become. Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll do is outline for you the most important questions to ask. Then I’ll throw my 2 cents in and give you my opinion on how these different manufacturers grade out in relation to these questions. Just remember this is just one guys opinion, so feel free to disagree.” Finally, I told Mary, “If I can figure it out solid surface systems, I’m sure you can too. After all you’re talking to a guy who took his wife to the movie Dumb and Dumber years ago and drove to the wrong theater (just a bit of irony in that, don’t you think)!”
Below you’ll find 5 questions to dig deeper and determine which product is best for you. I’ll also throw in a few links to other articles for more insight on cultured stone and solid surface showers (and I’ll even tell you about a wall panel product (laminate shower panels) I think is better than ALL of these cultured stone and solid surface shower units combined!). At the end, give me your opinions about these products and manufacturers. Chime in with questions you need answers to I did not address. OK, let’s dig in.
Shower walls which are spongy, mold infested, cracking, have dirty tile joints or out of style are a real bummer to look at. What’s even worse is bad shower walls may be messing up your families’ health. For many people the options in shower walls are largely unknown, and in many cases their contractors and builders just want to install the “same old same old.” The common materials your contractors will often want to use are one-piece fiberglass shower surrounds (which are usually flat-out ugly – especially as your home ages) and/or tile (and you know the contractor who installed your tile IS NOT the guy who has to worry about cleaning it – that would be YOU!).
Whether you’re looking to do a DIY remodel on your bathroom or hire a contractor it will pay you (especially in lower maintenance bills) to know how to make sure your shower walls are built to last (whether you’ve decided on a tile surround, fiberglass unit or one of many grout free shower wall panel systems). In this article I’ll give you 4 sure-fire strategies to make sure your shower walls will stand the test of time. Let’s dig in!