Loo Academy

Shower Wall Panels vs Tiles: Which One Is Right for Your Bathroom?

Do you go “grrr” at the thought of cleaning grout when you spruce up your bathroom?

shower panels vs tiles

Or perhaps you are moving into a new home where the bathroom has no “face” to lift, leaving you desperate for advice on a durable and cost-effect waterproof wall treatment? 

Look no further with the best advice and information on shower wall panels vs. tiles right here.

All About Bathroom Tiles

Ceramic tiles for bathrooms have been the wall treatment of choice for decades.

The tiles themselves are easy to clean and reasonably cost-effective.

Yet, a closer look may change your mind.

Pros of a Windowless Bathroom

  • Hygienic surface
  • Wide range of designs
  • Endless customization options 
  • Readily available everywhere
  • Most handymen know how to install tiles
  • Eco-friendly and naturally sourced materials

Ceramic tiles certainly have a range of pros that may sway most buyers to installing these traditional ceramic tiles in bathrooms and kitchens.

Available in a wealth of colors, designs, and patterns, you can create any decor scheme to suit your bathroom taste.

Cons of a Windowless Bathroom

  • Better quality tiles can be expensive
  • Messy installation 
  • Installation takes a long time
  • Grouting becomes moldy and requires constant cleaning
  • Heavy and may require special delivery
  • Walls need specialized and often expensive pre-treatment
  • Pressure changes in walls can lead to tiles cracking 
  • Problematic when pipes need repair or replacement

Simply put, the most off-putting of installing tiles is… installing tiles.

It’s messy, and it takes a long time to clean and install.

Tiles have to be individually cut with specially designed equipment to fit around bathroom fittings.

And the grouting is the real “grrr!”

These lines often need cleaning and replacing.

Additionally, tiles often hide mold behind them when incorrectly installed, which can be a nightmare for a homeowner.

All About Shower Wall Panels For Bathrooms

When I first heard about shower panels for bathrooms, I thought this referred to those sliding doors you used in grandma’s shower.

What a pleasure to discover you can now use laminate or composite panels to cover the whole of your bathroom’s walls!

Pros of a Windowless Bathroom

  • Easy installation (and it requires NO grout!)
  • Less preparation of walls as you only need to waterproof your existing drywalls, then cut and paste the panels and use adhesive
  • Clean and no-muss-no-fuss installation
  • Requires less specially designed equipment for installation
  • Lightweight, so travels well
  • Easy maintenance and cleaning
  • Cost-efficient and affordable options
  • Range of options available for different looks

I won’t lie; I really like the shower panels simply because they are easy, easy, EASY!

While some of the options may work out a little more expensive than ceramic tiles do, you would be surprised by how much their convenience and maintenance will save you in the long run.

Cons of a Windowless Bathroom

  • Limited range and design options when compared to ceramic tile
  • Designs can look “plastic”
  • Not very customizable
  • Some panels are heavy due to being “custom stone,” which can be a real problem when you need to get them upstairs
  • Not as commercially available
  • Not as easily placed on shaped walls
  • Manufacturing process can be less eco-friendly (we’re just waiting for a version made with recycled plastics and we’ll all be smiling)

The main reasons to love shower wall panels are their ease of installation, their completely waterproof qualities, and how easily they clean.

They definitely make for an outstanding choice, but let’s compare the two for final verdicts.

Shower Wall Panels Vs. Ceramic Tiles: Side-by-Side Comparison

Choosing between these two bathroom wall treatments can be a real challenge.

However, with careful consideration of these parameters, you can make the best choice for your space and budget.

Installation Convenience

Shower wall panels are much easier to install than ceramic tiles.

However, if you have a shaped wall such as with a snail shower, you would do better with ceramic tiles, which can be cut and placed according to the curve of the wall.

While the laminate and PVC panels are flexible, the joints between panels aren’t, which could cause leaking on walls that aren’t flat.

Ceramic tiles take longer to install, but when done correctly, they provide a long-lasting finish that can be tailored for any surface or space.

Winner

My choice is the shower wall panels as most bathrooms have flat and level walls, which makes the installation of shower panels easier than ceramic tiles.

Cost-Effectiveness

Although there are cheap ceramic tiles available on the market, these often result in cracked surfaces and unexpected costs due to breakage during the installation process.

While the panels may seem more costly than some ceramic tiles, if you factor in the costs of delivering ceramic tiles, the extra costs of preparing the walls, grouting, specialist equipment hire, and clean-up after, the shower wall panels are definitely more cost-effective.

Winner

My choice is the shower wall panels due to the lower installation costs.

Durability And Maintenance

Ceramic tiles have a long life span, but the grouting lines are their weak point, and these often require replacement, and if the tiles are hollow backed, you may end up having to strip perfectly good tiles away to clean up mold pockets. Tiles usually don’t survive being stripped off the wall, resulting in a full refurbishment.

Shower wall panels are long-lasting, and since there’s no grouting, you can easily remove them as needed for maintenance; plus, there’s no chance of mold build-up.

Winner

Clearly, my choice is again the shower wall panels because they last longer and have maintenance options that don’t involve a remodel.

Waterproofing And Grouting

Experts will tell you that if you are dealing with a dry-walled bathroom, you need excellent waterproofing, or you will soon sit with saggy or moldy walls. This can be expensive and messy. Since the grouting between ceramic tiles isn’t waterproof, you could encourage damp and mold forming on your drywalls.

With shower wall panels, the area covered by each panel is much larger (often ceiling to floor), and you don’t have as much chance of damp or mold forming. The joints between panels are also fully waterproof, unlike grouting lines.

Winner

For best in damp proofing, my choice is the shower wall panels.

Aesthetic Considerations

Okay, so you have way more options for decor schemes with ceramic tiles. They come in every imaginable design, pattern, and color, and they can be cut into shapes and mosaics to give you any look you could possibly want.

Shower wall panels aren’t available in as many options, and some of the options look a little fake when they try to imitate tiles. More expensive options will give you a better high-gloss finish, which may be worth the extra cost.

Winner

While I love the shower wall panels, my choice for aesthetic appeal has to be ceramic tiles in this case.

FAQ

Are shower wall panels cheaper than tile?

Yes, shower wall panels are cheaper to purchase and install, and maintenance costs are also substantially less in the long run.

Which are the best shower wall panels?

Laminate or MDF shower wall panels (panels that are made over a medium density fiber core) are the best quality and are the most affordable too. While thicker means heavier, they last longer and are scratch-resistant.

Can shower wall panels be cut to size?

Yes, laminate or PVC panels can be cut with a carpenter’s knife, and they are easily shaped to fit bathroom features.

Which is best to drill into, ceramic tile or shower wall panels?

If your bathroom has special fittings, you will need to drill holes. Ceramic tiles can be drilled very carefully and with specialist drill bits, but the risk of cracking remains. Shower wall panels drill easily and with no risk of cracking. They do require the hole to be sealed with silicone sealant though to remain waterproof.

Can shower wall panels be installed over ceramic tiles?

Yes, you can absolutely install shower wall panels over ceramic tiles, provided there is no water damage or mold already behind the ceramic tiles. You would also need to ensure the shower wall panels are thick enough to prevent the pattern of the ceramic tiles underneath from showing through.

The Final Rinse

With my upcoming bathroom remodel, I am definitely opting for shower wall panels instead of ceramic tiles.

The cost, convenience, easy maintenance, and modern finish are the dealmakers, in my opinion.