Whether you take your shower over the bath or inside a cubicle your shower walls will need to be waterproof. More people opt for tiles rather than the alternatives mainly because of unfamiliarity. But the alternatives are not news. They have been around for years and are tried and tested. Using bathroom cladding in showers is becoming very popular and it is easy to see why.
Shower cubicles have a nasty tendency to develop leaks in the long term. 9 times out of 10 the culprit is the tiles or more specifically the grout. Builders can and do use the wrong formulation for the job. This results in grout cracking and water getting through.
Even if faulty grout does not lead directly to a leak it causes lots of other issues. The big issue being mould.
It is far too common a sight to see a nicely tiled shower with absolutely awful grout. Our gallery has plenty of photos of horror stories where mould has taken root and spoiled the look of a shower. And once it has started it is very difficult to get rid of. See our article on keeping your grout clean for more information.
Cladding To The Rescue!
This is where bathroom cladding proves to have huge advantages over tiles. There is no grout – so there is nothing to leak and nothing to turn mouldy.
It has taken a while but customers are finally accepting that there are better alternatives out in the marketplace to tiles. It helps that the cladding industry has moved on in that time as well. There are now very attractive looking designs available that were simply not an option in the past.
There is no denying that tiles look beautiful when freshly installed so there are now designs that emulate this look. Digital printing technology means much more complicated designs are achievable with cladding. Tile-effect panels and even mosaic-effect panels are available that would be a welcome addition to any bathroom design.
Originally cladding was just plain white. Then it appeared with a marble effect pattern printed on it and now there are a whole host of designs. But surprisingly white and marble are still the most popular – bathrooms in the UK are physically small so customers opt for the lightest designs to help keep the room feeling bright and airy.
We have an article that highlights all of the exciting development and design that are now available here
The Installation Process
Unlike tiles, cladding requires no preparation and is installed straight over the existing substrate. So that means it can go up over
- plasterboard (drywall)
Make sure the substrate is dry, free of dust or soap residue (for tiles) and you are ready to go. The standard way of installation is to start in the corner of the shower and work away although this is not critical.
The shower tray needs to be installed first – this is critical. Do not fit the cladding first.
Decide whether you are fitting the cladding to the cubicle height or all the way up to the ceiling. Measure accordingly and cut the panel to size.
For a smooth surface such as tiles or plasterboard you would apply a “snake” of adhesive to the rear of the panel and stick it in place. For uneven surfaces apply blobs of adhesive to the panel and push it back with a straight edge for it to find its own level.
Sealing Between The Shower Wall And Shower Tray
This is the most critical joint in a shower cubicle so it is vital that it is sealed correctly.
If you are installing a new shower tray as part of the refurbishment then it is imperative that it is rock solid. Make sure that it is well supported underneath so that it cannot flex. Any movement of the shower tray will break the seals and cause a leak. Apply silicone sealant to the sides of the tray that are going against the walls and push it into place.
Where the silicone squeezes out at the top smear it up the wall slightly to create a “skirt” of silicone around the tray. Install the cladding and then seal again. This way you end up with two seals. If the front seal ever parts company the water cannot go anywhere to cause damage due to the seal behind the panels.
Silicone does not turn mouldy as readily as it does with tiles as the grout enables moisture to get behind the sealant. Mould then grows through the silicone from the rear. The lack of grout stops this process from occurring with bathroom cladding.
Seal The Joints When Using Bathroom Cladding In Showers
Although this isn’t 100% necessary it is advisable to seal each of the vertical joints of the cladding. Only a thin smear of silicone is required – too much silicone will hinder pushing the panels home and could spill onto the front surface. If silicone does get onto to the front wipe it off immediately before it sets.
Customers have asked whether bathroom cladding can be installed horizontally. This is not recommended. It is possible but it is much harder to install this way and each joint would need to be thoroughly sealed.
It is worth spending extra on the silicone sealant that you use. Cheap silicone is a false economy and will not last as well as a top quality product. If you are spending several hundred pounds on a refurbishment then do skimp on something that costs less than £10.
What Size Panels Should I Use?
There are two distinct sizes of panels that can be used in shower. Large shower panels that cover the whole of one wall in one span. And narrower panels that slot together to give you the waterproof surface.
Both types of panels will do the job but is one better than the other?
The answer is “not really”. A proportion of people will prefer to cover the wall in one go without the need for joins. The larger panels will achieve this but have the downsides of being more expensive and harder to cut.
Narrower panels work out a lot cheaper and are easier to fit. If you follow our guidelines above on sealing the joints they perform exactly the same as the large sheets.
We have more on this in our article Does Size Matter?
We hope you can see from this article that bathroom cladding is perfect for use in showers.
Not only is it completely waterproof but it is totally maintenance-free and will never harbour mould or mildew. There is no grout to rake out, nothing that needs constant bleaching to keep it looking clean.
You just fit it and forget about it.