Tile experts - Help, please! Niche with marble shelf

tina_maApril 4, 2012

My bathroom reno is progressing more slowly than I would like, but that gives me time to do more research on the logistics of installing a marble shelf in the planned shower niche. My inspiration is stacyneill's tall niche on the plumbing wall in her daughter's bathroom, most recently interpreted by kercove. My tub/shower surround is 3x6 subway field tile, and the niche will be 12" wide by 18" tall. My plan is to use marble tile cut to depth for a shelf 6" up from the bottom, and then have a 12" recess just above. My GC's tile guy picked up a Noble niche, the kind with two separate compartments, and a 12" finished interior width. When I asked why, I was told that he was concerned that the tile lining the single cavity box wouldn't be strong enough to hold the weight of the 3/8" marble tile cut to size. I can understand that a 12" wide tile in a 12" wide niche might not be held up by more than the thickness of the subway that will be applied to the side depth, but then I see all the beautiful niches here and wonder how it's done. Are these all made from scratch, or can the single cavity Noble be made to work? I really would like the clean, unbroken look of the field tiles without a row where some of them will have to be trimmed down to accommodate the 2" partition divider on the 2-part niche. I would really appreciate your insights; thanks in advance!

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Hi Tina,

Not a tile expert by any means, but I just finished a niche that was also inspired by Stacyneil's.

When I asked the tile guy if I should pick up one of those prefab niche liners, he said that he prefers to do them from scratch so as to best accommodate whatever tile is being used. (Fewer cuts, etc.) For the marble shelves, he likes to use thresholds, which are thicker than the 12" marble tiles I was going to have him cut into shelves.

Our tall 10" wide niche fits all of our big pump bottles, misc stuff like shavers and bars of soap perfectly! In our case, it worked out so well that he did it without the prefab thingy-maybe yours could, too.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 11:09PM
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The thickness of the tile will hold the niche shelf, no worries.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:37AM
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DH built all of our niches. He just made a simple box for the guest shower, and larger ones that had more space, and shelves for the hall bath and MB. The sizes/shapes/placement were dictated to some degree by our storage needs, pipes and wiring within the walls themselves, and our tile sizes/shapes. Even at that, DH ended up tweaking the niches after the tile guy started laying the first rows of tile in order to maximize the use of full, rather than cut tiles, and to minimize the need to "shrink" the niches at all (to allow for those full tiles). Stressful while the work was being done, but well worth the results.

Guest bathroom:

Hall bathroom:


    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 11:10AM
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All - Thanks for helping me out ~ again!

I suspect that the pre-formed niche, which was designed to 'make it easier' is actually having the opposite effect.

Cat_mom - what did your DH use to build the boxes? And did he waterproof them?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:03PM
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DH here. Conventional wood framing, then hardbacker, which adjoined to the rest of the hardbacker that formed the shower walls. In other words, the niche is simply part of the wall. Warning -- if possible, frame the niche at least 2 inches larger than your desired final niche opening dimensions, and don't seal with Hardibacker, nor sparkle with thin-set, until your tiler does the actual tile layout measurements. Depending upon where the tile lines lay, you may want to add layers of Hardibacker to fill so that you don't have to notch tiles at the corners. Then, we waterproofed the entire hardbacker surface (walls and nook) using three coats of Laticrete's Hydroban product (rolls on like thick goopy paint, dries to form a rubber-like seal). According to our tiler, if/when water gets behind the tile (wall or nook), it slides down the Hydroban and exits into the tub. Had to shim walls to make sure the Inside edge of the Hardibacker overhangs the raised lip of the tub, so that water sliding down behind the tile exits inside the lip of the tub. Apparently, an alternative to shimming the studs is to notch the framing so the tub lip sinks into the framing by 1/4", which lets the Hardibacker's inside edge sit inside the lip of the tub. That also helps the tiler bring the tile down inside the tub lip without angling the last row of tile in to clear the lip.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 12:29AM
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Here's our niche from our previous home.
We loved it.... our tiler used inexpensive dark brown marble tiles.
One for the top and one for the bottom of the niche. He used bullnose tile for the sides.
Then for the shelf he sandwiched two marble tiles together so that the finished sides were facing the top and bottom and the unfiinished sides were together. Finally he cut a strip to cover the "sandwich" line of the two tiles and applied it across the front of the shelf.
I liked the heft that the doubled up tile gave to the niche.
The photo makes it all appear bowed but it's just the lens distortion on the camera.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 7:02PM
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We did tubs with marble niches, copied from my mom whose tile guy came up with it. He used white marble thresholds. These are not the thresholds that you may be thinking of that you see in houses. They are 5 or 6" deep and thick with a bullnose edge. They may actually be called window sills. They look great and are thicker and more substantial looking. They came from Tapcu in Atlanta.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 12:01PM
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Plus they are not expensive. They give the look of a 2cm marble slab with bullnose edge but you don't have to find the slab or remnant to work and you have no fabrication costs. They come in multiple widths and lengths so he bought one that was big enough to do both tubs and just cut to size.

Tapcu also has travertine thresholds that we used in the boys baths for their shower curbs and their niche shelves. They also were not expensive and look really nice. My boys showers have a realistic looking travertine look porcelain tile (not perfectly smooth but with a few divots like real travertine that was filled with grout) and they make the whole shower look like it was travertine.

I'll link the tile if it helps for the boys - it looks great in person and was very affordable! It is also very widely available.

Here is a link that might be useful: Light walnut porcelain tile

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 12:06PM
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I found a picture of my mom's niche in one of her baths with a marble shelf. This is how ours looks - don't have a picture of ours. This is a single shelf but our boys have double shelves and we did them the same way, except the upper shelf is flush against the sides and does not have the overlap of the lower shelf.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Thanks to all for your inputs. My GC is on board with my plan, and he has worked out all the issues with the tile guy. I should have ungrouted pictures by tomorrow!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 9:54AM
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So, here's a picture of the niche with shelf, ready for grout. I wish I could have had it slid just a tad away from the wall, but we ran into clearance issues with the plumbing. Oh well, I'm sure it will disappear once it's all grouted in white. Thanks for all of your support!

Here is a link that might be useful: raw niche

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 8:49AM
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