Choosing the Best Material for Shower Walls: Pros and Cons of Tile Showers

When it comes to bathroom renovations, one of the most important decisions is selecting the best material for shower walls. With numerous options available, the choice can be overwhelming. Two popular choices often stand out – tile shower walls and acrylic shower walls.

Tile Shower Walls

Tile walls have long been a favorite choice for homeowners due to their wide range of colors, designs, and materials. They offer unlimited possibilities for bathroom design and décor. However, they also come with their own set of challenges. Tile walls are prone to cracking and chipping, but with proper care and sealing, they can be maintained. It’s important to note that tile walls are more susceptible to leaks due to the nature of the bathroom, the grout applied, and the shower itself.

Tiles can be wiped down to prevent mold growth and stains. Grout lines should be cleaned with a grout cleaner, and proper sealing is necessary to protect the grout from stains and moisture. One advantage of tile walls is that they can be replaced or repaired without having to replace the entire wall. Tiles offer an unparalleled range of design, pattern, and color options, making them more versatile than acrylic surrounds. You can choose from ceramic, natural stone, glass, and porcelain tiles, offering a wide variety of texture and design possibilities. Tile walls often require a more complex, time-consuming, and messy installation process compared to acrylic walls. While DIY installation is possible, it’s generally recommended to hire a professional for the job. The overall cost of installing tile walls is higher than acrylic wall surrounds when considering factors such as mortar, grout, and special tools.

Pros of Tile Shower Walls

  • Repair and Replacement: One advantage of tile walls is that individual tiles can be replaced or repaired without having to replace the entire wall.
  • Design Versatility: Tiles offer a wide range of design, pattern, and color options, allowing for flexibility and creativity in bathroom design.
  • Sealing: With proper care and sealing, tile walls can be well-maintained and protected against damage.

Cons of Tile Shower Walls

  • Durability and Lifespan: Tile walls are prone to cracking and chipping, which can lead to the need for repairs or replacements.
  • Leak Susceptibility: Tile walls are more susceptible to leaks  due to the nature of the bathroom, the grout applied, and the shower itself.
  • Maintenance: While tiles can be easily wiped down, maintaining the grout lines requires regular cleaning with grout cleaner. Additionally, proper sealing is necessary to protect the grout from stains and moisture.
  • Complex Installation: Installing tile walls is generally more complex, time-consuming, and messy compared to other wall surrounds. Hiring a professional is often recommended, adding to the overall cost.
  • Higher Cost: The cost of installing tile walls is higher than other surrounds when factoring in the cost of materials like mortar, grout, and special tools.

Acrylic Shower Walls

Acrylic shower walls are large sheets of sturdy material that are attached to a surface using strong adhesive. They offer extensive customization possibilities and can even be designed to mimic the appearance of tiles. Acrylic wall surrounds are known for their durability, making them resistant to scratches or chipping. When installed correctly, an acrylic wall is more likely to last longer than a tiled wall.

One of the main advantages of acrylic walls is their ease of cleaning. Their smooth surface requires only a damp cloth and a quick wipe down. For stubborn dirt and soap scum, a non-abrasive cleaner is recommended. In regard to aesthetic appeal, while some designs can mimic the color and pattern of tile walls, they might not provide the same appeal as real tiles. That being said, acrylic surrounds are generally less expensive than tile walls when factoring in the use of mortar, grout, and special tools. The installation process is less expensive and less time-consuming, making it a more convenient option for many homeowners.

Pros of Acrylic Shower Walls

  • Durability and Lifespan: Acrylic wall surrounds are highly durable and resistant to scratches or chipping.
  • Longevity: When installed correctly, acrylic walls are likely to last longer than tiled walls.
  • Easy Cleaning and Maintenance: Acrylic walls have a smooth surface that is easy to clean with just a damp cloth and a quick wipe down.
  • Cost-effective: Acrylic surrounds are generally less expensive than tile walls, considering the cost of materials like mortar, grout, and special tools.
  • Convenient Installation: The installation process for acrylic surrounds is less time-consuming and messy compared to tile walls, making it a more convenient option for homeowners.

Cons of Acrylic Shower Walls

  • Limited Design Options: Acrylic wall surrounds might offer limited color options. Depending on the remodeling company, they might not provide the same level of design versatility as real tile walls.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Although some designs can mimic the color and pattern of tile walls, acrylic walls might not provide the same appeal and visual effect as real tiles.

Comparing Acrylic and Tile: Key Factors

Now that we’ve explored the features of both acrylic and tile shower walls, let’s take a closer look at the factors that may influence your decision.

  • Durability and Lifespan: While tile walls can be maintained with professional-grade sealing and proper care, they are more likely to crack or chip compared to acrylic walls. Acrylic wall surrounds, on the other hand, are highly durable and more resistant to damage, making them a more long-lasting option.
  • Cleaning and Maintenance: Acrylic walls are undoubtedly easier to clean and maintain than tile walls. However, the ability to repair or replace individual tiles can be a significant advantage in favor of tile walls.
  • Design Versatility: Tile walls offer a greater range of design options, making them a more exciting choice for those looking to create a unique bathroom aesthetic. Acrylic walls, while customizable, do not offer the same level of design versatility.
  • Cost and Installation: Acrylic shower walls are generally more cost-effective and easier to install than tile walls, making them a more budget-friendly and convenient option.

Which Material Is the Best For Showers?

Both acrylic and tile shower walls come with their own set of pros and cons, and the best material for your shower walls will ultimately depend on your personal preferences, budget, and available space. Acrylic shower walls are a durable, affordable, and low-maintenance option, making them an excellent choice for many homeowners. However, if design versatility and the ability to repair or replace individual tiles are important factors for you, tile walls might be the better option.

In the end, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each material and consider your specific needs and priorities before making a decision. Regardless of your choice, a well-designed and properly installed shower will undoubtedly enhance the overall appeal and functionality of your bathroom. West Shore Home® is the leading expert in bath and shower remodeling across the United States, and we’d love to help you find your perfect shower. Our trained design consultants can assist you in choosing the best addition for your home and our efficient installation team can get it installed in as little as one day. Contact us today to learn more and start your project!