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An Alternative To Tile Shower Walls: Solid Surface Shower Wall Panels

May 28th, 2024 | 4 min read

By Callie Lovejoy

Did you know that more than 75% of tile showers will fail, letting water seep into places it was never meant to be?Tile shower grout cracking and failing

Solid-surface shower walls are a durable, stylish alternative to tile that will waterproof your shower and save you time and money on maintenance for years to come.

The people at JSB Home Solutions have been on the cutting edge of bathroom remodeling products for over 45 years. We see the problems caused by traditional materials and seek to find solutions that will improve the function and health of your home. In this article, we will introduce you to solid-surface shower walls and why you should consider them as an alternative to tile. Whether you choose to work with JSB for your bathroom project or not, you will be equipped to make an informed decision that is the best fit for your home.

Table of Contents:

As you read this article, consider the things you value most in a shower. Maybe it’s relaxing, or easy to clean, or low maintenance. Evaluate how solid-surface shower walls fit into your idea of an ideal shower to decide if this is the best option for your bathroom remodel.

What are Solid Surface Shower Walls?

Solid surface shower walls can have textured panels to add character but without grout lines.Solid surface shower panels are made from mineral dust mixed with resin and has a more natural stone look than other types of shower wall systems. It is simple to install, waterproof, and there are NO GROUT LINES!!! Any joints and corners are sealed with silicone which is also waterproof. Solid surface panels offer a huge selection of colors and designs.

Solid-surface panels offer a non-porous surface, making them resistant to water and moisture. Mold, mildew, and bacteria are a worry of the past if you have solid-surface shower walls!

Here at JSB Home Solutions, we install a product called The Onyx Collection, or Onyx for short. Onyx is 63% solid surface material and 37% polyester resin that they have developed over the last 30 years. Their resin gives their product that deep, translucent appearance found in natural onyx. We will use The Onyx Collection as an example throughout this article but the information is useful for other brands of solid surface shower walls as well.

At the forefront of every homeowner’s mind during a remodel are the timelines and costs associated with their project. The average size of a walk-in shower is 60 inches by 30 inches so we will use this as a guide for time and cost estimates.

Light Onyx shower walls with a dark base and complimentary, vertical accent strip
White textured Onyx shower walls with accent strip and large shower caddy
Grey-marbled Onyx shower walls with subway tile texture and oversized shower caddy
Peppered Onyx shower walls and tub surround with bold black fixtures

Timeline of Solid-Surface Shower Walls

Solid-surface shower wall installation only takes 1-2 days. Here at JSB, our Onyx installation process looks like this:

  1. Solid-surface shower walls are purchased as large panels according to the sizes needed for a particular shower.
  2. Panels are usually ordered with a few extra inches so they can be cut to fit the shower exactly on the job site.
  3. Then the shower base is set.
  4. The panels are essentially glued to the walls of the shower using special adhesive.
  5. Any additional shower features (floating shelves, grab bars, etc.) can be installed when the adhesive is set.

DSC_9171-scaledCost of Solid-Surface Shower Walls

We will break the cost of solid-surface shower walls down into two parts: purchase and maintenance.

Purchase: The cost of panels is the largest expense of buying a solid-surface shower system. Installation is much more simple than tile and 3-5x less expensive than that of tile. After materials and installation for a standard shower, you are looking at $10,000 - $15,000.

Maintenance: With virtually no maintenance for the life of your solid-surface shower, maintenance costs are essentially $0.

As you envision your ideal bathroom, budget, and project timeline, consider these advantages and disadvantages of solid-surface shower walls.

Advantages of Solid-Surface Shower Walls

1. Waterproof

As mentioned previously, solid surface materials are non-porous, preventing water from penetrating past the surface. Onyx which we install here at JSB has an additional gel coat to help maintain the waterproof nature of the shower panels over time.

2. Quick, Simple Installation

Rather than spending time laying individual tiles and grouting, solid surface panels are cut to size on the job site and an entire shower wall is installed in one go. Shower bases are made out of the same material as the walls and can be customized to fit any shower and drain location, making installation as simple as setting it in place.

Smooth solid surface shower walls are easy to wipe clean3. Easy to Clean

A weekly wipe-down with most household cleaners is all that is necessary to keep solid surface panels clean. Onyx even recommends putting a surface protectant on Onyx walls to prevent water spots and hard water spots, making cleaning even easier. Think Rain-X on a windshield.

4. No Maintenance

Solid surface wall panels can easily last for 30+ years with regular cleaning only; and no other maintenance. Occasionally, the silicone used to waterproof around the edges of the wall panels might need to be reapplied. If so, it is typically only once for the life of the shower.

Disadvantages of Solid-Surface Shower Walls

1. Susceptible to Scratches and Dents

Solid surface wall panels are heavy and durable but they do scratch and dent more easily than tile. Choosing styles that have variations in color pattern will help hide any accidental scratches and dents. And since the product is waterproof, it will remain watertight unless you cut all the way through your wall panel, which would be a completely different problem!

2. Sensitive to Harsh Cleaning Agents and Abrasives

Harsh cleaning chemicals like bleach and abrasive cleaners (anything with a gritty texture) should be avoided. While tile can withstand more harsh cleaning, you have plenty of other options that will still sanitize your solid surface walls. The Onyx Collection lists white vinegar, Eliminate Shower Tub & Tile Cleaner, CLR Kitchen & Bath, Kaboom, Scrubbing Bubbles, Clorox (cleaners or wipes), and Lysol as safe for their products.

3. Less Selection in Color, Texture, and Patterns

It’s hard to compete with the thousands of tile options out there. While solid surface has less options than tile, there are still lots to choose from and they are adding more styles and colors all the time.

4. Higher Initial Cost than Tile

Solid surface shower wall material is more expensive than tile for the same shower. However, after installation is factored in, much of that difference is eliminated. And no maintenance over the life of a 30+ year investment will mean that the solid surface walls will quickly pay for themselves.

Product lines such as Onyx do a good job of addressing many of the drawbacks of solid-surface materials. Onyx’s extra gel coat, for example, gives an added layer of protection against scratches, dents, and harsh cleaners. They are always coming out with new colors and patterns and also have textured walls that look like subway tile and shiplap.

Are Solid-Surface Shower Walls Right for Your Bathroom Remodel?

If you’ve ever had a tile shower before, you know the headache it is to clean. You know you have to be constantly vigilant for signs that water is leaking into places it shouldn’t go.

Solid-surface shower walls bring beautiful colors and designs while making sure your home is protected from the problems water can cause. If the cost of the solid-surface walls is not what you had in mind for your project, you could also consider acrylic shower walls.

Ultimately, you need to be able to make the choice that fits your needs, budget, and style as you plan your bathroom remodel. For help in deciding which type of shower wall would best fit your needs, schedule a free in-home consultation with JSB Home Solutions.

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