Has the time come for a complete bathroom renovation, or perhaps you just need to fix the shower up? Whatever your reasons, it is important to know what you’re getting and that you are purchasing the right type of shower wall panel for the job.
After all, you don’t want to discover that it’s the wrong size or material, or that it isn’t as watertight as you expected. To help you figure out which path to take, we have taken the time to create this comprehensive and detailed guide on shower wall panels.
It’s a complete buyer’s handbook on how to choose them, how to fit them, and everything in between. We even have a little FAQ at the end to answer all of your most pressing questions, as well as some of our favourite models for you to look at when you’re ready to buy.
After renovating my bathroom last year, I felt like I would have benefitted from an article like this one. We’ve done the hard work for you, so all you need to do is grab a hot drink, slide your slippers on, and kick back while we take you through absolutely everything you need to know.
You might be confused and stressed now, but you won’t be by the end of this guide.
What are Shower Wall Panels Made of?
There are actually three main types of material for shower wall panels, and while you may find others out there, the three we go through in this section are certainly the best for the task.
This is usually the cheapest type of shower wall, and so is perfect if you are on a budget. This is because it is one of the most common synthetic plastics and can be reformed into numerous shapes – making it a versatile material to use.
These shower walls are also the lightest of the main three, due to the absence of a solid mass in the core; instead using what is known as a vertical cuboid construction.
Their low price does not affect the overall quality either, and you will find that they are just as reliable as some of the higher end products on the market.
They can be used in both residential and commercial environments, and some brands will even include more than one wall in the pack so that you are able to waterproof it effectively.
If you are searching for a very slim shower wall panel, acrylic is usually the one you want as they can be up to 5mm thinner than their counterparts. However, due to their dense construction, you will also find that they are heavier than the PVC panels on the market, and this is also due to the fact that the core is solid.
One of the benefits of acrylic is that they can come in a range of bold colours or be semi-transparent, giving you a little more variety when decorating your bathroom. They are just as durable and hygienic as the PVC models, but the increased weight and the material can mean that they are more expensive to buy and deliver.
Further Reading: Shower Enclosures for Low Ceilings
These are also known as MDF shower wall panels, so when you are searching for the laminated models, you might have this name pop up instead. These are the thickest and the heaviest walls on the market, and in many ways, they are the best one to go for when you are renovating your bathroom.
However, this does mean that they are usually more expensive to buy. The core of this particular type of wall also has a high-pressure laminated backing on both sides, which makes it incredibly waterproof.
You can pick from a massive selection of designs as well – everything from a marble effect to bespoke images that you supply to the manufacturer. It’s an incredibly versatile wall panel that really allows for your personal touch.
What Surfaces Can Bathroom Wall Panels be Fitted on?
Shower wall panels are often some of the easiest items to fit in your bathroom, and this is mostly because they are quite simple to fit on surfaces that might be deemed slightly uneven. They can also be fitted directly over existing tiles and wall coverings, which makes them hassle-free and a lot less stressful to install in your home.
Of course, a smooth and plastered wall remains the best surface. However, if you are fitting them in a commercial building, then you may find that they need to be attached to batons or to the stud wall.
However, the tradesman that you hire to do the work for you will be more knowledgeable on the topic. If you plan on undertaking a commercial task yourself, we strongly recommend you do thorough research in methods and regulations before you start the job.
How to Install Shower Wall Panels
We have sourced a great video for you to watch when you are looking to install your shower wall panels, so make sure you take the time to really study it so that you know exactly what to do. Additionally, we have also provided a very brief run-through of each of the steps below the video.
Step One: measure both the height and width of the area in question.
Step Two: mark the cutting lines on the panel and protect the edges with strips of masking tape.
Step Three: remove the excess wall panel, then sand them until they are smooth.
Step Four: Fit the panels together, and then use sealant to attach them to the bathroom wall.
Step Five: Repeat the process (as seen in the video) with all the panels you have for your bathroom.
What are the Benefits Over Tiling?
A lot of the debate over tiling vs panels is down to personal preference, because there are some that like to have a traditional tile in their bathroom, and others that prefer the easy maintenance that comes with shower wall panels.
There are some benefits to using the wall panels over tiling though, and we have listed each of the reasons below for you to consider:
Things to Watch Out for: A Watertight Seal Most of the Time
No matter which material you choose for your shower wall panel, they are going to be waterproof, and that is one of the big factors that draws people in.
You just have to be careful and ensure that the areas where the panels join are fully sealed to prevent any water from seeping through – especially when it comes to the corners. A lot of the time you can use regular sealant or some sealing strips that will help keep everything nice and watertight.
If you are using trims and joints, make sure that they are from the manufacturer of the panels to ensure that they not only fit properly, but that they also work as intended. Every corner and joint needs to be done, and there is no such thing as over-sealing in order to protect your walls.
Things to Watch Out for
Size and Format
You need to make sure you are getting the right size and type for your bathroom. You will find that you can buy the shower walls in either a panel format of strips, each of which is equally easy to install, with the strips being better suited to small areas that are in need of panelling.
Generally speaking, the average width for the wall panel will be around 1000mm, although there are some brands that will offer you something thinner than 600mm, and others that even go up to 1300mm or more. It all depends on the brand you choose, as well as your own requirements.
Typically, the height ranges from 2000mm to 2400mm, as this is the standard height for most bathroom walls. It is possible to get taller panels custom made if needed. If you are just doing your shower, you shouldn’t need more than two (maybe three) panels and a joining trim.
If you are looking to do the whole bathroom, however, you’re going to need quite a few. You should also check the fittings, as some will have a tongue and groove design for complete security, and others will have slightly looser fittings that need some extra sealant.
Further Reading: Guide for Descaling Shower
Styles and Finishes
There are actually a good number of styles available for wall panels, especially when you consider that it is a comparatively new market when looking at something like tiles.
If you go with cheaper models and brands, you will find yourself limited in terms of what you can get – usually, they will only be available in black or white, and you may find a marble effect in there as well. However, if you are willing to spend a little more, there is a lot of variety.
Metallic designs are quite fashionable within the shower wall panel market at the moment, as are bold and bright colours. As we mentioned earlier, you can even get some manufacturers to print a bespoke image on the panels for you to really personalise it.
For many, the extra expense is worth it to create their dream bathroom, and honestly, the results can be amazing.
Tile Effect Bathroom Wall Panels
These are really exciting because they take away from the flat design of the wall panels and add a new dimension to them; creating the illusion of real tiles on your wall.
It adds a whole new element of design to your bathroom, and while there are not a huge number of brands that manufacture them at the moment, the ones that do are fantastic and more companies are starting to take the effect on. So, if you want tiles but without the hassle, why not consider a tile effect panel instead?
Can You Fix Accessories to Bathroom Wall Panels?
This is such a big question, and the reason it is not in the FAQ section later on is because it is probably one of the top things that customers ask manufacturers before they buy.
The short answer is that yes, you can definitely fix accessories to the panels without issue. They have been designed to take things like the shower valve and holder, so you won’t have any issues with that.
However, if you are looking to attach heavier items (like a shower chair or grab rails), it is strongly advised that you install them onto a load bearing wall instead of the panel so that the weight can be fully supported without any risk.
So, there are some restrictions to the accessories you can fit, but the standard ones will be able to be installed without issue.
Also Read: How Thermostatic Showers Work
Products for Your Consideration
We are committed to finding the best shower wall panels UK for you, and that is why we have gathered a few of our favourite products for you to look at. Our top five are listed below for you to browse through at your leisure.
Best Price Shower Panel – The Cladding Store
This particular shower wall panel might be made from PVC, but you also get the benefit of a gorgeous and realistic slate design that will leave you feeling wonderfully relaxed when you step into the shower.
The measurements are suited to pretty much every bathroom as well, coming in at 2.6m tall, 1m wide, and 10mm thick. The tongue and groove fittings also mean that you are guaranteed an incredibly well-sealed result that will give you peace of mind while you are washing.
Despite being incredibly lightweight, you will find that each of the panels you buy is strong and reliable, able to hold your smaller accessories with ease after installation.
There is even the option to buy the panels in white or chrome if that’s more to your taste, and you can get a stunning trim on each of those options.
Best PVC Shower Wall – Victoria Plum
This particular shower wall is made from PVC, a strong but lightweight material that will really stand the test of time. Additionally, it has been designed with a tongue and groove fitting that will make the installation process easier, as well as provide you with a more watertight finish.
The dimensions are excellent as well and suited to most bathrooms with a height of 2400mm, a width of 1000mm, and a depth of 10mm, making it a standard size for shower wall panels.
The overall design is also great, featuring a classic brick look that will really add a rustic touch to your bathroom as well as leaving a traditional finish.
It has the power to transform your showering experience in all the right ways, and the price is quite reasonable considering both the material and the added design.
Best Material Shower Room Accessory – Frontline
We all need cabinets and accessories in our bathrooms, and this could be your top choice because it is made from MDF, which is considered to be the best material, due to its incredibly waterproof nature – both in terms of shower wall panels and accessories.
This particular cabinet has a gorgeous oak finish that will match even the most sophisticated aesthetics within your bathroom, and the fact that the doors are made from natural stone particles adds a little extra something to the whole thing.
Due to the MAF material used, the entire unit is resistant to water, and will also not mark easily in a humid environment. The interior storage has two incredibly spacious shelves that you can use for storing all of your toiletries and cleaning essentials.
The recessed handles add to the sleek appearance, and the soft closing doors mean that they are both quiet and less likely to be damaged.
Best Acrylic Shower Wall - Soak
Acrylic is another great material to choose for your shower wall panels, and this model is certainly the best in our eyes, and the fact that it actually comes with a bathtub is a massive bonus.
This panel is actually a curved model that wraps around the bath to provide you with a really easy installation that will leave stunning results.
The tiled effect is incredibly realistic and brings a whole new design element to the bathroom, and the actual bath can also be used as a shower for more versatile cleaning options. You can even choose to drill the bath to the wall or leave it as a freestanding model; it all depends on your tastes.
It also comes with rubber seals for the wall, bath, and glass screen, providing you with all of the items you need to ensure it remains totally watertight. Reasonably priced considering it comes with a bath, it’s certainly one to consider.
Best Tile Effect Shower Wall – Milano
This is another one that has the bath included in the price, making it superb value for money while also incorporating everyone’s favourite style of shower wall panel.
The tiles effect comes in a slate grey, which means that it suits most aesthetics quite nicely and will leave you feeling truly relaxed when you are in the bath or taking a shower (since this model allows for both).
The bath actually widens at the top to give you plenty of room to wash each day without getting water everywhere. The acrylic walls are durable, and relatively lightweight – especially when compared with the MDF versions.
It is very easy to install, with plenty of room on the panels for you to install the taps and valves needed to get the water flowing, which means that you can customise the appearance of your new bathroom in any way you like.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best way to clean shower wall panels?
Our top advice is to avoid abrasive cleaners that contain chemicals because it could end up staining the panel or leaving it ruined. Instead, you should clean them regularly using either a pure vinegar spray or a diluted solution (depending on how bad the stains are).
You can also use dish soap or diluted ammonia to clean the walls – the latter being perfect for really tough stains. As a related note, you should always use a soft sponge or cloth to clean the walls.
Never use a Brillo pad or steel wool as these can be really rough on the walls and leave marks, or simply cause damage that cannot be repaired easily (if at all). You should also keep the bathroom ventilated at all times to prevent things like mould and mildew from growing.
What about watermarks in hard water areas?
It is true that those who live in hard water areas will tend to have watermarks occur more frequently, and so will need to clean their shower walls more.
However, if you buy a shower wall panel that is incredibly glossed, the reflecting light will massively reduce the appearance of the marks on your shower walls. That way, you don’t need to worry too much if you miss a day or two of scrubbing the walls down.
Can you put wet wall panels on top of tiles?
Yes, you absolutely can. Many have installed the wall panels over existing tiles and had absolutely no issues with things like leaking.
However, if you do decide to place them on the tiles, we do recommend that you do everything you can to ensure the area is incredibly watertight to prevent any damage from occurring.
Those who did not take the proper precautions have often found the wall behind the tiles became soaked over time. So, do it right, and everything will go well.
What is the best adhesive for shower panels?
This is a question that everyone will have a different answer for, because a lot of it depends on your own personal preferences with regards to brand and type.
Silicone sealants tend to be the most popular because they do an excellent job of ensuring that no moisture is able to get past. It can be a little tricky to get it right on your first time, so do make sure you don’t rush it.
Often, it is worth investing in a gun for the sealing job (you can attach the tube to it for better precision, aim, and results). These tend to be quite inexpensive and are unlikely to cost you more than £10.
The sealant is often around the same for a small tube, but it can be a lot higher depending on the brand you choose. Showerwall is a good brand to go for, and it can be found on Amazon.
Is there a waterproof paint for shower walls?
There is loads of waterproof paint on the market, and all of it can be used on your shower walls. It’s the ideal thing to buy because it helps to prevent things like mould and mildew from growing on it, but it also stops peeling and chipping from occurring because it is able to withstand a steamy and damp atmosphere.
When you are in your local hardware store, you will find that it is usually labelled at kitchen and bathroom paint because both rooms tend to need the same kind in order to make the paint last longer.
Usually, a high gloss paint will also be effective at repelling water, but the ones made specifically for the job are often the best ones to go for.
What is the best wall covering for a bathroom?
Our opinion is that shower wall panels are the best thing, especially since you can get so many different variations in terms of colour and design.
Plus, with a coat of waterproof paint, everything is left incredibly secure and watertight. Other than that, you have a few different materials to choose from, each of which is listed below:
- Tiles. Look great, can be sealed with sealant but not guaranteed.
- Waterproof paint. Looks nice, not as effective when paired with a regular wall.
- Beadboard. Looks great in classic bathrooms, only gives partial coverage.
What are some of the main things I should consider?
Your new bathroom panels can cost anything from less than £100 to well over £10,000, so you need to make sure you set a budget and stick to it throughout the renovation process. There are loads of really good budget-friendly styles to consider, so don’t worry if you don’t have a lot to spend.
You want your bathroom to last a long time, and something that offers longevity is always a massive plus. Take your time when choosing your shower panels so that you can make sure they are everything you wanted and planned.
Most importantly, your bathroom needs to be fully functional and suited to your needs, including the shower wall panels that you decide to invest in. Make sure they are good enough to hold any of the smaller accessories you need, but also that they can be fully integrated with your current system.
This is also an essential, because the design tells people who you are – shows them your tastes and style. There are loads of different designs for your shower wall panels, including the tiled effect, high gloss, and the bespoke images. There are so many possibilities you may just find yourself spoiled for choice.
Hopefully, this has been an informative adventure through the world of shower wall panels. Teaching you all about the do’s, don’ts, and everything in the middle.
Plus, the products that we have specially chosen and listed here should hopefully be an excellent guide when looking at which panels to buy, and which are going to work with your home and design plans.
We only pick the ones we trust and love, so you have our guarantee that you are getting a reputable and excellent quality result. We can’t wait to hear about your dream bathrooms and the panels you have chosen.
What did you think of our guide to shower wall panels? Did it tick all the boxes or leave you wanting more? We love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave us a message with your thoughts and feelings in the comment section below.