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Acrylic vs Tile Shower Walls: 5 Things to Consider

Both acrylic and tile shower systems are some of the most commonly used materials for protecting the walls of your shower with style. But which material is better?

Both acrylic and tile have their distinct advantages and disadvantages. One may work better for you based on your specific situation.

modern bathroom

In this article, we will cover the different aspects of acrylic and tile to help you decide which material is a better choice for your shower.

Acrylic Shower Walls

At its heart, acrylic is a type of plastic known as polyacrylate. Acrylics have been used for paints, tanks, barriers, medical devices, and windows.

Acrylic began being used in bathtubs in the late 1970s, and over the years, it has become a popular choice for showers.

Acrylic has become a widely used material because it is non-porous, which gives acrylic fantastic waterproofing capabilities. This also allows acrylic to fight against the growth of mildew and mold.

Acrylic shower walls give your bathroom a clean, bright, glossy look. But acrylic does lack the variety of styles and finishes afforded to you by tile.

Though acrylic lacks a variety of styles, it is known as a material that is easy to clean and maintain. In most cases, you can wash your acrylic shower with simply soap and water. Additionally, there is no grout to deal with in an acrylic shower system.

Tile Shower Walls

Tile is made when clay goes through a process called dry processing. Tiles have been a popular choice for showers and bathrooms since the 1920s.

Over the last 100 years, tile has remained a mainstay in showers across the world. Tiles have remained popular due to their natural water-resisting abilities and by being relatively easy to clean. However, the one major complaint that tile shower walls receive is having to clean or replace the grout.

Over the years, tile has evolved through many styles, colors, and finishes. With tiles, you can combine different colors and styles to create a look that is all your own. The idea of style options or a custom design is appealing to many and cannot be achieved in an acrylic shower.

Tile remains a time-tested choice that continues to serve people well after over 100 years of service.

Acrylic vs Tile: Things to Consider

Cost

At first glance, tile seems like a cheaper option. Depending on the style and quality, tile can be relatively cheap or very expensive.

Even with less expensive tile you still must pay for the mortar and grout or for a professional installation which brings the price of a tile installation equal to or well over the cost of installing acrylic panels.

Verdict

Acrylic. Acrylic in most cases is less expensive.

Durability & Lifespan

Both acrylic and tile shower walls are pretty durable. Also, both surfaces can resist scratches and, with proper care, can last for the life of your shower. However, both materials have an issue that can shorten their lifespan.

Acrylic surrounds have seams that can crack or deteriorate and cause the growth of mold. The same is true for tile, except the mold will grow due to cracked or worn grout. Both acrylic and tile can last anywhere from 15 to 30 years.

Verdict

Tile & Acrylic. Both materials are durable and, with proper care, can last for the life of your shower.

Maintenance

Both tile and acrylic are easy to clean and maintain. Either material can be cleaned with soap and hot water.

While broken tiles or bad grout can be replaced on a tile wall, there is no way to repair severe damage to an acrylic wall, and you will be forced to replace it entirely. Though grout can be an irritating issue with tile, it can be maintained or replaced.

Verdict

Tile. Tiles and grout can be replaced while damage to an acrylic surround requires the replacement of the entire unit.

Ease of Installation

Hands down, installing an acrylic panel is a much easier job than the tedious work of installing tile. Acrylic panels come in one to three-piece surrounds that are generally easy to install.

Tile, on the other hand, requires a degree of skill to install correctly. This is why many people pay a professional to install their tile.

Verdict

Acrylic. Acrylic surrounds will give you a much easier installation.

Design Options

Tile definitely will give you many more design options than acrylic. The style variations given by acrylic could be counted on your fingers, while tile gives you hundreds of design options and combinations. Through tile, you have the opportunity to pursue unique custom designs.

Verdict

Tile. Tile gives you the option of many styles and design choices.

Final Verdict

Both of these materials have their strengths and weaknesses. When you look at things to consider, you can see that acrylic and tile come out neck and neck in the above categories.

Tile has the edge in maintenance and design options, while acrylic is less expensive and easier to install. And both materials are durable and carry a similar lifespan.

So the choice comes down to you. If the style and design are most important to you, then tile is an obvious choice. On the other hand, if cost and installation are most important, then acrylic is the way to go.

Personally, I would go with acrylic because saving money and installing things myself is crucial to me, plus I don’t like dealing with grout.

On the other hand, my wife would choose tile because design and style are more important to her. It truly comes down to what you value in your bathroom and what you can afford.

Whether you have chosen tile or acrylic, you have made a good choice because both of these materials have a great lifespan and can serve your shower well.

James B. Parker

I was taught carpentry at a young age by my father. After highschool I worked with my father as a Union Carpenter for six years.

Though I no longer practice carpentry professionally I still do projects at my home and for family and friends.