Guide to Shower Wall Material: Options, Ideas & Practicality


Choosing a look for your shower walls can get a little tricky when you have so many different options. If you already have a look in mind, you can narrow it down to the type of material that will achieve the desired result you’re going for.

But, there are also a range of materials that can all create the same look, regardless of the material. For example, there are acrylic tiles that look exactly the same as natural stone, but with a much lower price tag.

In this article, I’ll cover the pros and cons of each of the different options for shower wall materials that can be used, so you can make an informed decision about which one may be best for you.

Costs Differences of Various Shower Wall Materials

For some people, the budget is a key deciding factor. So to give you an idea of the differences in cost, I’ve broken down the price of different materials that can be used for your shower wall area.

On average, acrylic is the cheapest shower wall material available overall, at around $4.50 to $15 per square foot (0.10 sq meters). However, it is possible to find artificial stone, and ceramic tiles cheaper than this if you shop around.

Here’s a table summarizing the average price range for all the different types of shower wall material available:

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Type of shower
wall material
Cost per square foot
(including install)
Natural stone (e.g. marble or granite)$17 to $65
Glass (tiles)$19 to $65
Porcelain$17 to $46
Artificial stone$4.50 to $110
Ceramic$4.50 to $110
Acrylic$4.50 to $15

If you’re choosing based on price alone, then acrylic is clearly the way to go. But of course, there are other things to consider too. Such as the look and practicality of the type of material you choose.

Some shower wall materials are much easier to clean than others. The reason is that certain types require grout along the seams of the tiles.

Grout is very susceptible to growing mold and mildew which requires regular cleaning, and it can also chip and need redoing. But these might still be a better choice for you because they have other advantages.

Let’s take a deeper look into all the different types of shower wall you could possibly choose, including:

  • exactly what they are
  • how difficult/easy they are to clean
  • any special features
  • the pros and cons of each one

Acrylic Shower Walls: Pros & Cons

Acrylic shower walls are made of completely waterproof plastic. They can have a design that makes them look almost identical to tiles, but are one piece.

The main advantages of acrylic is that they are far more shock resistant to other options such as glass tiles. Some acrylic shower wall manufacturers claim that acrylic shower walls are 25 times more shock resistant than glass. And typically comes with around a 10-year water resistant guarantee.

Acrylic shower walls are the easiest to clean out of all the shower wall options. And that’s because no grout is used. Therefore, whenever they get a bit of mold or mildew on the surface you can simply wipe it off with the help of some effective cleaners.

The disadvantage of acrylic is that it’s not a natural material like stone or tile. Therefore it doesn’t have the charm that tile, faux stone, and natural stone have.

Ceramic Tile Shower Walls: Pros & Cons

Ceramic tiles look really good, and they’re made from natural materials. As you may know, tiles are made of ground sand, clay, and talc. They are then mixed with binding materials that behave like cement.

According to tiling manufacturers, Ceramic tiles are slightly more porous than porcelain tiles.

The drawback of ceramic tiles is that grout is used to install them. As mentioned earlier, grout can be particularly difficult to clean once mold and mildew accumulate. But overall, ceramic tiles are fairly easy to clean. 

Ceramic tiles like porcelain tiles can come in any pattern or color. After being made, a color and/or pattern is printed onto them.

The advantage of ceramic tiles is they give you the ceramic tile look, which many people find very visually appealing. They are also reasonably cheap even when you factor in the installation cost.

Artificial (Faux) Stone Tile Shower Walls: Pros & Cons

Artificial stone tiles are made in a similar way to ceramic tiles, but they can be slightly more expensive.

Instead of printing on the color or pattern, pigments are added to the tile mixture before they’re shaped and heated. Like the other types of tiles, they are difficult to clean because they are installed with grout in between the individual tiles.

They aren’t as durable as natural stone tiles, but they are far less expensive than true stone tiles. As a result, they’re a cost-effective way to get the stone tile look. And there are MANY different colors and patterns available. 

Porcelain Tile Shower Walls: Pros & Cons

Porcelain tiles, artificial stone tiles, and ceramic tiles can all be considered roughly the same in regard to their pros and cons as shower walls.

They differ slightly in how they’re made, but they’re generally:

  • quite cost-effective
  • available in virtually any color
  • have a uniform, even appearance
  • And the major downside is they’re difficult to clean.

Porcelain tiles are slightly different from ceramic tiles however, because they’re slightly denser and more durable. Because of this fact, porcelain tiles are more expensive than either faux stone tiles, or ceramic tiles.

Glass Tile Shower Walls: Pros & Cons

Glass tiles, as the name suggests, are made completely of glass. Rather than being completely see-through, they have a backing on them that is a specific color. The color of the tiles comes from the color of the underlying backing strip.

Glass tiles reflect light more than other kinds of tiles such as faux stone, porcelain, and ceramic. This gives a bathroom a brighter look.

Glass is a very resistant material, and is non-porous, so they tend to be easier to clean than porcelain, faux stone, or ceramic tile. 

But, like these other types of tiles, grout is used as the spacing, which is susceptible to mildew and mold that is more difficult to clean. On average, glass tiles are the most expensive of the tile materials, except for natural stone tiles.

Natural Stone Tiles/Slabs Shower Wall Material: Pros & Cons

Natural stone tiles are made by cutting out pieces of solid rock, such as granite, or marble. They can have a polished finished or a more rough rustic finish. Because they’re made from a solid piece of rock they’re incredibly durable, but they are also typically very heavy.

The unique thing about natural stone tiles is no two pieces of stone tile are the same. The natural minerals in the stone are all of different shapes and sizes. But, they do tend to have an overall uniform appearance.

They come in a wide variety of colors, and there is also some variability in the color of individual rocks used to make them. For example, you can get white marble and pink marble.

Stone tiles are a bit troublesome because they need to be resealed once a year. The cost to buy, and install them is also typically the most expensive of all the shower wall materials.

Slabs and Larger Tiles: Pros & Cons

Tiles come in a range of different sizes. It’s possible to get larger tiles, which reduces the number of joins. And as a result, if you decide to go with tiles, it can reduce the amount of cleaning required.

You can also get slabs, where the entire wall is one piece of material. It’s possible to get one-piece slabs for each of the shower walls in a range of different materials. Porcelain, acrylic, natural stone, and ceramic.

The advantages of slabs are:

  • They create a great aesthetic, especially with natural stone
  • They don’t have joins, so cleaning the grout isn’t an issue

The disadvantages are:

  • Install is a bit more difficult, so can add a bit to the cost
  • It requires a bit more planning to get the slab installed as they can be bulky and awkward to move

Key Points When Choosing the Right Shower Material for You

The main variables to consider for shower walls are:

  • How easy they are to clean
  • How cheap it is to install
  • The design aesthetic you’re going for
  • Durability

In general small tiles are the hardest to clean, such as porcelain, natural stone, glass tile, and ceramic. Whereas, acrylic is by far the easiest to clean.

Acrylic is also the most cost-effective option. So, for the cheapest and easiest to clean you should get acrylic.

The main drawback of acrylic is the look isn’t as good as tiles, slabs of tile material, or natural stone. And isn’t generally as durable. Most acrylic shower walls have a 10-year warranty.

For a middle-of-the-range, to high-end luxury home, tiles or natural stone are the best options. They can create that wow factor that can increase the resale value. Or, look amazing in your own home.

If you’re looking to keep the cost as low as possible then acrylic will be your best choice, but if you want that wow factor and luxury feel, then tiles or natural stone is the way to go. You just have to bear in mind that regular cleaning is a must with these choices to ensure the grout looks it’s best alongside the tiles.

What Material Can You Use for Shower Walls?

There are several different options for your shower wall

Just to summarize, there are a range of different options for shower walls, and each come with their advantages and disadvantages. Overall though, what materials can be used for shower walls?

As a general rule, natural stone tiles, faux stone tiles, ceramic tiles, porcelain tiles, glass tiles, and acrylic-type products are most commonly used for shower walls. Acrylic is the cheapest and the easiest to clean. But tiles of all types or slabs of tile material tend to look the best. 

The main thing that makes tiles difficult to clean is the grout in between each tile. It’s difficult to remove mold and mildew from grout. For that reason, a ‘slab’ or large tiles are preferred by some.

A slab is typically one piece covering the whole wall area, or multiple pieces each covering a wall each. Such as one piece of ceramic tile, or one piece of thin natural stone.

What Can You Put On Shower Walls Instead of Tiles?

Tiles are commonly used in many parts of a house including for shower walls, but it’s good to know what the different options are so you can make the best decision. Here’s what you can put on shower walls instead of tiles.

In general, one solid piece of tile material called a slab or acrylic can be used instead of tiles. Slabs are made in all of the materials used to make tiles such as ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone. Acrylic is the cheapest and easiest option.

As you may know, acrylic is a type of plastic. Acrylic shower walls are made to look like tiles. The design is printed onto the surface of the acrylic. It’s quite aesthetically pleasing, and is a good way of getting around how difficult it is to clean the grout between tiles. However, the aesthetic of a slab of tile material, or tiles, typically is the most aesthetically pleasing.

Which Shower Material Is the Easiest To Clean?

There are a range of different shower materials to choose from to use on the interior of a shower. They fall on a spectrum from easy to clean to very difficult to clean. This is what shower material is the easiest to clean:

Overall, acrylic shower walls are the easiest the clean. However, a slab of tile such as ceramic or porcelain is a close second. Tiled bathroom walls are the most difficult to clean because of the grout used in the spacing in between the tiles, where mold and mildew are difficult to remove. 

Tiles can be slightly porous depending on the type of tiles they are. This means that soap gunk, grime, mold, and mildew can be more difficult to remove than acrylic which is perfectly smooth. 

Acrylic is also the cheapest of the materials that can be used on the shower walls. The main drawback of acrylic is that it doesn’t look as high quality as tiles, or natural stone. But, all things considered, it’s a solid choice for bathroom wall material.

John

I love fixing up my own home and I set up this blog to help others do the same.

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