There are a number of options for covering shower walls, including fiberglass panels, PVC panels, natural stone tiles like slate, ceramic tiles, and acrylic shower panels. For a standard size shower, one piece insert units are available; these work well in a corner shower, which has two walls, or a stall shower having three walls. For smaller and non-standard shower sizes, the walls can be covered with single acrylic panels trimmed to fit, corners between adjacent panels are seamed with silicone sealant or caulking.
Among the benefits of acrylic panels are it’s resistance to mold and mildew; since there is no grouting for mold and dirt to adhere to, cleaning and maintenance is simple and easy. When using the non-standard size panels, however, the caulked/sealed seams between panels can introduce problems.
The quality of seams is highly dependant upon the workmanship of the installer, and leaks may form over time. Caulk seams can have mildew growing behind the caulk if there is any moisture buildup over a long period of time. Water ingress behind the panels can cause drywall rot and costly repairs since it will not become visible until too late.
Another problem is that trimming the panels to fit your shower is tricky and can easily ruin a panel. A fine tooth hacksaw should be used and the panel needs to be firmly supported so splitting or cracking does not occur. These disadvantages are not a problem if you stick with the standard size insert type wall panels, however.
Installation of acrylic shower panels is done on top of moisture resistant drywall. The panels are too thin to take much pressure against them, so must be supported with a solid backing, in case of falls and slips in the shower.
Fastening against the drywall is done by adhesive beads applied to the rear face of the acrylic panels. After the panels are fastened to the wall, silicone sealant or caulking is applied around the edges to complete the water seal.
Acrylic Shower Wall Manufacturers
There are many companies supplying acrylic shower walls, each with their own unique formulations and range of colors and sizes. A short listing of some the more well known manufacturers would include the following:
- Advanced Technology Inc: This company makes a product called ClearCore; it is a .060 inch or .120 inch thick acrylic laminate product with a translucent layer over faux wood finishes of various colors and patterns. The company is located in Greenville, North Carolina and makes laminates, wall coverings, backsplash panels and ceiling tiles, among other items.
American Standard: Manufactures acrylic shower units with a proprietary process called IdealCast. They incorporate structural composite material bonded to the back of the acrylic for higher structural stability.
Clarion Bathware: Pennsylvania based manufacturer of vacuum formed acrylic shower inserts.
Kohler: The Kohler company, which also makes faucets, showerheads and other bathroom fixtures, uses a type of plastic called VIKRELL which is similar to acrylic, but has better resistance to alkalies. The alkalies in soaps, shampoos and cleaning products have been known to cause colors to fade in some acrylic shower walls.
Cleaning Acrylic Wall Panels
Acrylic panels are sensitive to the type of cleaner used on them. Abrasive cleaning powders should never be used, as acrylic scratches easily. Use s soap that is as mild as possible, such as plain dishwashing soap.
Soaps and cleaning products which contain alkalies should not be used, as they will cause fading of the finish colors and even cracking. Use a soft rag or cloth to clean with and never use steel wool or scouring pads.