If you are looking to install shower panels in a new cubicle then this article will help.
There has been a steady growth in the use of shower panels over the recent years. The reason for this is simple: tiles.
Although tiles look great when freshly installed, they start to deteriorate over time. Or rather the grout does. And showers are probably the worst area for highlighting this deficiency. Lots of moisture with frequent use means that grout is the perfect nursery for mould to take root.
It is difficult to eradicate mould once it starts. See our article on keeping grout white here or more information.
The Rise In Popularity Of Shower Panels
It is easy to see why there has been a rise in popularity of shower panels against this background. Tiles are simply too much hassle. People have not got the time or inclination to deal with their shortcomings.
Shower panels exactly the same job as tiles and are much easier to install. But they have to be fitted properly. And there are different recommendations. These depend on whether you are installing a new cubicle or fitting inside an existing one.
This article will concentrate on installing shower panels in a new cubicle.
For a new shower cubicle we recommend installing the shower tray first. Next, you should fit the panels. An finally fit the cubicle frame and door.
Fit the shower tray, following the manufacturers instructions. It is absolutely vital that the shower tray is rock solid. Any movement can lead to leaks in the long term.
Once fitted, seal the tray to the existing wall. Use a good quality sanitary grade silicone sealant. Smear the silicone up the wall slightly. This ensures that there is a skirt of sealant right around the tray. If possible choose a shower tray with built in upstands. This will ensure that it is impossible for any water to get under the panels, even if there is slight movement in the tray.
Panels First Or Doors First?
Most manufacturers recommend shower wall panel installation takes place before the door and side panel. Similarly, this will be the case for other shower shapes such as quadrants.
You will need to decide if the panels are going to finish flush with the edge of the cubicle/tray. Or fit them so they protrude past the enclosure frame slightly.
Either way, the edge of the panel will be visible. So a capping trim will be required to provide a finished edge. Most cubicles come with wall profiles that allow a reasonable degree of adjustment. This can help overcome out-of-true walls.
Some frame-less cubicle designs are less forgiving and might require the walls to be levelled prior to installation (either by plastering or by battening out the wall).
Frame-less wall brackets might need to be fitted with a packing piece to ensure a solid fixing – see our fixing through pages in our installation section. Standard wall profiles can usually be fitted without packing as they have a much larger surface area.
Sealing The Panels
In a shower area we recommend running a thin bead of silicone inside the joint of each panel. This ensures no water forces its way through. The joins are waterproof to static water but high pressure water (such as that provided by a power shower or mains pressure water) can force its way through if the shower head is pointed at the joint. The joint relies on the “springiness” of the plastic to form the seal. Sealing each joint is a very quick process and provides peace of mind knowing that the joint will be 100% waterproof.
Panels should also be sealed at the bottom where they meet the shower tray. We do not recommend the use of masking tape to create a straight edge finish for the silicone. This is because the solvent in the adhesive can affect the lacquer on the panel which could damage the finished surface.
We would recommend just using a neat bead of silicone smoothed off with a caulking tool or wet finger negating the need for tape. Any holes made for pipes or cables should also be sealed with silicone before completion.
You can seal the corner joints and where the panels meet the frame with a good quality silicone sealant or you can use trims – see the following page for more information:
Plasterboard And Other Backing Boards
Tiles are demanding when it comes to backing boards. Plasterboard (as seen in the photo above) works fine providing the grout holds. But any defects can cause water to penetrate and then the plaster acts like a sponge.
Tile backing boards are better because they are moisture resistant. Plywood is not ideal. It expands and contracts at a different rate to tiles which will cause problems relatively quickly. This slight movement will rack the grout and lead to water penetration.
Shower wall panels can use any of the above materials Or they can be used with a combination of them without any issues. It really is that forgiving a product to work with.
And, of course, shower panels can be fitted over the existing tiles if required. See our page install shower panels in an existing cubicle