Whether you’re kitting out a new bathroom or overhauling an existing one, shower and bath panels are a great choice. They’re an easy alternative to tiles, looking good and protecting walls without requiring hours of grouting.
But when it comes to buying the right ones, it’s not always easy. Fortunately, we’re here to help!
We’re going to share nine tips to buy waterproof shower or bathtub wall panels. And we’ll give you some useful information to make sure the installation goes like a dream too.
So if you’re ready, step this way to find out everything you need to know …
1. Don’t try to find the perfect solution!
When it comes to DIY and home decorating, everyone has an opinion on the right way to do things! The good news is, when you’re choosing shower or bathtub wall panels, there’s no such thing as the perfect option. Different solutions have different advantages and drawbacks.
So take a deep breath when your neighbor/ father-in-law/ best friend tells you what you must buy – you can ignore them!
But that doesn’t mean you have to work in the dark. Different options will be better or worse, depending on your own particular circumstances. We’re going to take a look at all the different factors to take into account before you make your choice.
Just remember – how important those different considerations are is up to you to decide! The right option is the one you feel most comfortable with.
So now let’s look at some questions to think about before you make your choice.
2. Draw up a budget before you get started
If you’re lucky enough that money is no object, you can skip this tip. But for most of us, understanding how much our project is going to cost is an important factor. The best way to do this is to draw up an outline budget from the outset.
This doesn’t have to be difficult. Just remember to list all the different things you’ll need.
If you’re going to be installing the panel yourself, that means budgeting for any new tools required. And if you’re going to get someone else to do it, ring around for estimates so you can budget for labor. It’s a good idea to get at least three quotes, so you know you’re getting a fair price.
Either way, remember that alongside your panels you’ll need adhesive and sealant. And you may also need some kind of trim to get a polished finish.
Costing all these different elements means you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend on your panels. And that will help you narrow down the options available.
The most expensive panels are those made of granite and optical-grade high-gloss acrylic. They look amazing, but you’ll need deep pockets to buy them.
For a mid-priced option, consider PVC composite, cultured granite or marble, or laminate.
And if it’s important to keep the price as low as possible, check out fiberglass and acrylic panels.
3. Think about the light …
The amount of light your bathroom gets is a key factor in choosing your design scheme. And it’s just as important when considering your choice of shower or bath wall panel.
These panels are going to be covering a lot of space. That means they’ll have a real impact on the light levels in the room. Do you want to create a cosy, womb-like sanctuary to relax? Or do you prefer a bright, airy space?
If the former, you’ll want to choose a matte finish. That will absorb the light and avoid any glare. Cultured marble and cultured granite are both usually available in matte finishes. But be prepared to spend a premium compared to gloss versions.
If you love some sparkle, on the other hand, go for a gloss finish that will bounce the light around. Acrylic is a good choice here, and there are some ultra-high gloss options out there (though they’re pricey). Cultured marble and cultured granite come in gloss finishes too.
And if neither gloss nor matte sound quite right, some bath and shower panels come in satin finishes. PVC composite panels are a good example. They’re a good approach if you’re looking for a light sheen without too much reflection.
4. … And about your design scheme
Whether you choose a matte, satin or gloss finish, you’ll want your wall panels to fit your overarching design scheme. So don’t make your choice until you’ve considered how every element of your bathroom will fit together.
In most cases, the biggest investment you’ll make will be in your bathroom suite. Will it be classic or contemporary? Do you want an ultra-modern style statement, or shabby chic elegance? When you’ve decided that, you’re ready to choose wall panels that will complement your chosen look.
If you’re looking for a classic design scheme, cultured stone panels in marble or granite work well. Laminate panels with stone patterns like slate are another good option.
For minimalist interiors, laminate panels are again a good choice. You can get large versions in cracked cement designs where you’ll barely see the joins between them. The result is a pared-down, stylish look.
If you want a bathroom with countryside charm, there are some beautiful rustic woodgrain options out there.
And if you’re looking for a bold, modern look, high gloss acrylic or laminate are both great choices. And they’re available in a wide choice of colors too.
5. Think about trims
Depending on the layout of your bathroom and the size of the walls, you may need to include trims in your installation. These will cover seams between different panels on larger walls. They may be needed in corners too.
And some types of wall panels require trims in order to keep everything waterproof.
Trims can be visible or invisible. Visible ones often look like metal strips. And if you’re not careful, they risk making your walls less attractive. In an ideal world, you’d want to eliminate them altogether.
If you’re covering a large area – say, bigger than 60 inches on a single wall – that can be more difficult. But there are options.
Solid surface shower walls and panels are just what they sound like. There aren’t any joins, and you won’t need either trims or sealant to finish them off. And they’re available in a wide range of designs including tiled surfaces, stone panels, matte and gloss.
Waterproof laminate panels are often available in larger sizes too. That will avoid the need to join together different pieces, so you won’t need to cover the seams with trims.
If you can’t avoid trims, check out the options that are available before you pick your wall panels. Some products have trims that match the panel perfectly, making them much less obtrusive.
6. Consider accessories
When you think about your wall panels, it’s important to remember where you’ll be using them. Obviously, that means the bath or shower! So why does that matter?
Well, apart from the obvious need for them to be waterproof, you’ll also need something else. You’ll want them to be capable of providing somewhere for your sponge, shampoo and so on. And not all wall panels can do this easily.
If you go for optical grade high gloss acrylic, for example, most manufacturers don’t offer accessories. That means you’ll need to find your own storage solutions. Glass corner shelves are a good option, and they’ll look smart with the contemporary finish.
With cultured granite and cultured marble panels, on the other hand, manufacturers have often given accessories more thought. You may be able to choose recessed panels that give you a handy spot for your bits and pieces. Some have molded corner shelving units too.
The drawback with these is that they tend to look rather dated. And they can start to look a bit dingy after a while. On the other hand, they’ll do the job perfectly effectively.
If you want both style and substance, however, check out panels made of PVC composite. There are some great accessories available for these. Think stainless steel-lined niches built into the panels, and handy shelves edged in brush metal.
7. Think about installation
As important as it is to consider the look and useability of your bathroom, it’s also important to take a step back. How will you get your wall panels installed in the first place?
Bear in mind that they are usually big. And depending on what they’re made of, they can be very heavy too. Add into the mix the way some materials flex, and you may find it’s a two-person job.
If you can’t afford to get your panels installed professionally and don’t have anyone to help, that can be problematic. But if that sounds like you, don’t despair!
Laminate wall panels are considerably lighter than Kohler and Luxstone options. Each panel weighs around 26 pounds. But they still won’t flex like acrylic or PVC, making them a better bet for solo installers.
And they’re designed to make installation quick and easy, with edges that click and lock together. If you’ve ever installed laminate flooring, you’ll have a good idea about the way they work.
8. Make sure you’ll get the panels in one piece
We’ve already seen that wall panels are big, and they can be very heavy too. That means that getting them from A to B can be fraught with difficulties!
We’ve heard of lots of issues with panels arriving damaged. Some manufacturers have even ditched third party couriers altogether, and ship their panels themselves with the aim of getting them there in one piece.
You’re particularly likely to encounter these kinds of problems with stone and cultured stone panels. Their weight makes them very vulnerable to damage if they take a knock in transit. And if you need to get a replacement, you may find you have a wait on your hands.
All this adds to the time and hassle factor of your installation.
The bad news is that there aren’t any failsafe options here. But check out product reviews before you buy. If you see lots of instances where panels have arrived damaged, you may want to choose another option.
9. Think about maintenance
We’ve talked a lot about the delivery and installation process. But when you’re choosing your wall panels it’s also important to look ahead. That means thinking about how you’ll maintain them.
Some panels are much easier to keep clean and in good shape than others. Matte finishes are a good bet here. They are less likely to show fingerprints and other marks than gloss options.
And remember that, while textured surfaces can look great, they also provide nooks and crannies for dirt to get into. With a good, durable panel, that might not be too big a deal. Just point your shower head at it, and turn the pressure to the max!
But if you don’t want to risk the splashing – or your water pressure isn’t up to the job – a smooth finish may be the better option.
Whatever panels you choose, remember that regular cleaning will tackle grime and soap scum before it builds up. Little and often is the best bet here!
And the good news is, by choosing wall panels over tiles, you’ll never have to worry about dingy grouting. So you can get rid of that old toothbrush you’ve been using to clean between your tiles since 1985!
Ready to choose your bathroom wall panels?
That brings us to the end of our top tips to buy waterproof shower or bath wall panels.
Start by thinking about the look you want to create. Do you need something to brighten up a dark space? Or would you prefer to create a cosy sanctuary? What kind of panels will work with your bathroom suite? And what kind of accessories will you need?
Don’t forget the practicalities, too. How will you get your tiles, and how will they be installed? Do you need matching trims to cover a large space? And how easy will they be to look after?
Consider all these factors, and you’re sure to make the perfect choice for your bathroom. Happy shopping!