Building a shower wall is a home improvement project that can be completed over the course of a weekend or several days. There are several different kinds of materials that can be used for shower walls.
Shower walls can be constructed from glass block, cement, tile or cultured marble, in addition to other materials. In large part, the primary limitation on the materials used for the wall depend on whether the wall is to be freestanding or part of a surround that will enclose the entire shower.
Freestanding walls are often constructed from glass block or from tempered frosted glass. These materials allow for a certain amount of privacy, while at the same time also create a feeling of openness in the shower space.
Another material that is commonly used for freestanding shower walls is cement. Cement walls have the advantage of being malleable to almost any walls shapes. As a result, curved or unusual walls shapes can be especially appropriate for this material.
Shower surrounds are enclosures that shape the 3 walls that wrap around the shower space. There are several different common materials that are used for shower surrounds, including inexpensive plastic molded enclosures, cultured marble, tile, stone and fiberglass. Plastic and fiberglass surrounds are found in single-piece formats or in formats that have several pieces that snap together once installed in the shower space.
Preparing the Shower Wall
If a shower surround is to be installed, then the wall will need to be prepared for the surround material. If you are installing a shower surround for the first time, you will need to install cement board on the walls. Measure the cement board and cut to the size of the walls. Screw the board to the wall studs with galvanized steel cement screws.
Place a moisture barrier membrane over the cement board. Attach the membrane to the wall by stapling it into place along the edge.
If installing tile or stone, add a thin layer of mortar. For fiberglass or plastic, install a layer of adhesive.
Sealing the Shower
If you have installed tile or stone for your shower surround, then you will need to seal the grout with a waterproof sealer. For other types of surrounds, use silicone caulk around all joints and where the surround meets the shower pan. This will seal the shower from any moisture or water that may seep to the pan and cause water damage. For all showers, silicone caulk should be used to seal any joints along the door and around plumbing fixtures.
Showers should be resealed every few years to assure that the seal remains tight and does not become prone to leaks or water seepage. Occasionally, it may become necessary to remove all of the existing caulk and replace it with new silicone sealant. Also, tile and stone should be periodically resealed to prevent degradation to the grout.