3 Expert Tips To Choose Shower Walls And Surrounds

The bathroom is one of the most important rooms to consider in a home renovation or building project. It's often a place for relaxation and tranquillity at the beginning and end of a day - and a huge part of that experience takes place in the shower

Here's a closer look at three tips for choosing the right walls for the shower and its surrounding area.

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Panels vs. Tiles, Which Type of Wall Covering Should I Choose?

One of the first decisions you will have to make is deciding how exactly you want to cover your walls. For most people, that decision will come down to deciding between using ceramic tiles or wall panels. 

Here is a quick look at the difference between the two and how they may have an impact on installation, budget, and longevity.

  • What is the difference between shower panels and tiles?

Tiles have long been the standard for shower wall coverings. Typically made individually from ceramic, a tiled wall in your shower is completely waterproof, will last a long time, and is very versatile in terms of design.

Panels or "wet walls", on the other hand, are typically either made of PVC, acrylic, or laminate and can be bought in large sheets. The newer and more modern option, panels are also 100% waterproof and can come in a variety of styles.

  • Which type is easier to install?

In terms of installation, panels are significantly easier to install as opposed to ceramic tiles. All panel types can either be cut to fit your exact specifications or, you can purchase them in a standard dimension that fits most up fr and showers.

Though you can hire a professional to install your new panels for you, it is also very common to install them yourself with basic tools that you likely already have at home.

Tiles, on the other hand, must be installed individually -- meaning they can take a very long time to cover the area. Additionally, tiles typically will need to be installed by either a professional or someone who knows the tile-laying process.

To give you even more perspective,a professional tiling job can take up to 2-3 days whereas a panel installation can be completely finished within a few hours.

  • How can tiles or panels impact my budget?

Panels are a much more cost-effective option than tiles when you take into consideration the cost of each individual tile and the labor involved during the installation process.

If you are on a tighter budget, panels will be the best choice because they are not only cheap, but they still offer a 100% waterproof solution for your shower.

However,if you are looking to add a more sophisticated, personalized, or artistic touch to your bathroom, nothing beats a stunning tile display in the shower to serve as a bathroom centerpiece. This will come at a cost, though, and may get expensive.

  • Tiles or panels, which one will last longer?

Over a long period of time, a well-tiled area will last much longer than any panel you can buy. However, tiles do involve grout which can be difficult to keep clean and maintain. Individual tiles also have the tendency to break or crack, meaning you may need to replace certain tiles periodically.

Given the fact that panels are so simple to refit and reinstall, many people prefer to just replace when necessary down the road instead of splurging on expensive tiles upfront.

Slate Composite Five Panel Shower Wall
Arctic White Acrylic Three Panel Shower Wall
Triton Plastic Three Panel Shower Wall
Natural Stone Marble Mosaic Tile
Glass Majestic Ocean Mosaic Tile
Gray Glossy Ceramic Subway Tile

If I Choose Panels, What Other Considerations Should I Make?

If you do choose to go with panels, here are some additional considerations to make before making a final purchase. 

  • What is the difference between PVC, acrylic, and laminate panels?

The three most common types of shower wall panel materials are PVC, acrylic, and laminate. 

All three options are totally waterproof, however, each one does have its own unique characteristics.  


PVC panels are typically the least expensive option that you can buy. In addition to being the most cost-effective, they are also the lightest in terms of weight. PVC panels typically only come in very basic colors and designs, however, they are a great option if you want something simple, modern, and budget-friendly.

Ice Gray Composite Wall Panel
Wind Gust Vinyl PVC Wall Paneling
Driftwood Composite PVC Five Panel Shower Wall
Carrara White Composite PVC Three Panel Shower Wall
Quarry Composite PVC Two Panel Shower Wall
Alaskan Ivory Plastic PVC Shower Wall


Acrylic panels are the thinnest option available and typically come in a wider variety of colors when compared to PVC. However, on average they can be more expensive than PVC options.

Almond Acrylic Seated Shower Module
White Plastic Acrylic Shower Wall
Plastic Acrylic Corner Two Panel Shower Wall
Plastic Acrylic White Shower Wall
Plastic Three Panel Shower Wall
Composite Resin Rectangle Shower Wall


Laminate wall panels are the most expensive, durable, and well-constructed option of shower panels. These panels can come in a range of styles, colors, and can look very high end. This is the best option for those who may not have the budget to splurge on a tiled wall but still want a high-end feel.

Sand Creme Three Panel Shower Wall
Rectangle Fixed Panel Shower Wall
Sorento Solid Surface Panel Shower Wall
Everest Corner Two Panel Shower Wall
Night Sky Three Panel Shower Wall
Three Panel Shower Wall With Door
  • What are the sizing options for shower panels?

Each type of wall panel can be bought in sheets. Oftentimes they come in standard sizes and dimensions; making it a relatively simple purchase to make. 

You can also have panels trimmed and fitted for each individual shower wall that you need to be covered. This works great if your shower is an unusual shape or if you are working around any obstacles. 

Before making a purchase, you will want to measure the height and width of each wall that you need to cover. Then, you can either purchase a panel for each wall or seek guidance from a professional and order a custom solution.

  • How long will shower panels maintain their look?

If you are concerned about the longevity and maintenance of panels, you will be pleased to learn that they are extremely simple to clean and will hold up well if they are taken care of. 

One of the perks of having panels is the fact that they do not have grout, which is known to absorb mold and can become discolored over time. Simply wash them on a regular basis with a damp cloth and basic, non-abrasive soap and they will maintain their shine for several years.

What Other Considerations Should I Make if I Go with Tiles?

If you want to go for a tiled look in your shower, here are the additional considerations to make. 

  • What sized tiles should I buy?

Bathroom tiles can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes -- giving you the ultimate freedom to design your perfect shower. 

For showers, larger tiles typically work best. Whatever style or color you choose, it should be somewhere in the range of 20-30 inches in length per tile - and you should avoid choosing anything smaller than that. 

More tiles mean that you will likely have more grout to clean. Additionally, small tiles can feel overwhelming and busy in a shower, which is supposed to be a place of calm and serenity.

  • How many tiles do I need to buy?

The answer to this question will depend on how much space you need to cover and the size of tile you want to use. 

You will need to take measurements of your shower walls and any surrounding areas that you intend to tile. Once you have the measurements, you can then calculate the square footage to gain a better understanding of how many tiles you need to cover it. 

As a rule of thumb, it is also recommended to add an additional 10-15% to this final calculation when you place your order. This gives you some room to allow for any mistakes or broken pieces.

  • What color and style of shower tile should I buy?

Tiles really do come in all different colors -- which can feel freeing but also overwhelming! Before getting too creative with your color though, make sure to consider the purpose of your shower, how it will be used, and the overall size of the space you are working with. 

For example, if your bathroom is small, try to choose a lighter and more neutral color and avoid any patterns. This will help the room and shower feel larger and more tranquil. You can also try neutral colors but with a glossier finish, which will help to reflect light in a smaller bathroom. 

If you are remodeling or building a larger bathroom, you have some more room to play around with color. A shower area could be the statement piece of the bathroom, so you could go with a pop of color or an artistic design.

  • Will tiles maintain their look over time?

Tiles are by far the most long-lasting option you can buy for your bathroom. However, they can be difficult to maintain and keep clean. This is due to the grout that is necessary and shows between the tiles. 

Before purchasing, you may want to consider a tile option that leaves a minimum amount of grout exposed. You will also want to ensure that your tiling job includes a sealing process, which will help to prevent grout from greying and picking up dirt. 

Or, if you are really concerned about the look of the grout between tiles, you could choose to use black grout as opposed to white to help hide the look of dust and dirt.

Lily is a modern designer with great appreciation for sleek architecture, a love for art in its many forms, and a passion for sharing her experience with people. If you’re looking for advice on how to modernize your old-fashioned place or make your new restaurant a visual blast, she’s definitely the one to ask.