cost of tile vs solid shower surround

marymtJuly 27, 2009

I've been reading discussions about shower surrounds (and many other topics -- you guys have some great ideas and beautiful bathrooms!) But I've not seen a post specifically addressing costs of tile vs solid surface. If cost were no issue, I'd tile the shower to the ceiling, but probably use a solid surface pan (because I'm not good about cleaning after every shower and I know a tile/grout floor will get very icky very fast).

To cut costs, I looked into some of the solid surface shower surrounds recommended here. But many of those (Tere-Stone, Soterra) are more expensive than tile by far! The best price I could find for something that is (for me) aesthetically pleasing was for Swanstone decorative beadboard panels. For a 4 x 3 shower, the pan, walls, and trim would cost $2100 (if purchased from a discount online site; local supplier is $2700 plus tax). Presumably labor isn't too costly, as these should be easy to put up.

I know that to tile the same area would probably cost less than $800 for materials (figuring $5/sf plus listellos plus grout, thinset etc.). But where would the labor costs take me?

I'm not sure I'll save a lot of money by not tiling, if any at all -- even if I add a niche and listello border. I will need to get estimates, but I wonder if someone can confirm my suspicion -- wouldn't it be actually cheaper to tile? Labor would have to be close to $2000 to get significantly above the Swanstone option. Do you think it would?


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We are in the middle of switching gears, changing from our original plan for a Swanstone shower to one covered in tile. After I ordered the Swanstone, with all the accessories, and it sat in the garage for over a year because of construction delays and life just getting in the way, DH told me that he really wanted tile instead. Grrr. Now I have a Swanstone shower that I can't use. Maybe someone else will want it. I could make 'em a great deal. :)

Anyway .... back to the topic .... because I'm tiling the shower myself, it will cost significantly less than the Swanstone. Our shower is the same size as yours, so here's how ours breaks down:

$40 for 4 sheets of 1/4" Hardi-backer (to go over the sheetrock),
$41 for a bucket of Redgard,
$200, approximately, for the 3 x 6 subway field tile
another $100 or so, I think, for trim tiles and bullnose tiles,
$50 for assorted thinset and grout stuff
for a total of about $450, I'm guessing. (I have to order the tile later this week.)

I imagine there would be a considerable labor savings with the Swanstone surround, if you can get it past your DH ... I couldn't.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 11:08AM
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We figured the same thing - the pretty beadboard swanstone shower panels I wanted were WAY more than tile. We went with the solid surface pan (corian in our case since it had to be custom but I would have been happy to use swanstone) and tiled shower. We tiled it floor to ceiling including ceiling with niche, kerdi, a bit of complexity (herringbone and borders) and it was $4k for tile labor including the floor with border and 4' high tile wainscot in a large bathroom. I LOVE my shower... it's the total perfect compromise for me.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 3:55PM
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We also looked into both, and ended up going with tile. There are so many beautiful tiles out there, and many aren't very expensive. Final numbers on our reno aren't in yet, but I do believe we saved overall, even considering tile labor costs.

The other thing that swayed us was actually looking at the swanstone. When we went into the showroom and saw it, it really looked, well, hotel-y, so to speak, and not as nice or special as we wanted for our family bath. So I think it's also a matter of taste.

Bottom line, I would also go with a solid surface for the pan and tile the rest.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 10:44PM
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Thanks to it's 3-for-3 so far, go with tile walls but solid pan. A friend tells me that Swanstone and other solid surface products are connected directly to the framing, that you do NOT use cement board behind them. Is that so? I guess you'd also save on the board, then, but I'm still worried about water intrusion at seams and corners.

The good thing about the shower pan is that not only is the floor unquestionably waterproof and (presumably) easier to keep clean, but the corners are solid, which has to be cleaner (???)

I should probably start a new thread, but has anyone had experience with stainless steel pans? I wonder if that makes more sense than the acrylic/Corian units. (But wouldn't it be loud?)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 8:02AM
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We remodeled a bath a few years ago with Swanstone panels and pan. It cost around $1700 for the materials, as I recall, but it was super easy to install (cuts with a saw, glues to the studs). We put a cove molding on the corner and caulked it to keep the water out.

I don't have anything really new to add to the comments above, other than you have to decide what's more important to you in the mix of cost, look, ease of maintenance, watertightness (SS wins on the latter two). Whether tile costs more than SS depends on what tile you pick. I don't know what install labor costs, as we're DIY-ers. But generally I think tile (materials + labor) should cost less than SS.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 7:35PM
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Thanks again to all.....had a contractor out yesterday, and it is true that if it's just down to cost, a decent tile with simple design (e.g., one listello trim) combined with solid surface pan will be less than Swanstone beadboard panels by far. As weedyacres put it, the Swanstone wins on maintenance and watertightness, and I like the beadboard look -- but with cost not a factor, given that this is the master bath, I think we'll go with tile. Thanks for your input, as I was able to ask the right questions when discussing with the contractor.

For others with the same question, I can also tell you that the cost difference between a solid surface pan installed vs tile floor installed is about $1500 additional for the tile floor. (At least that's what I was quoted; living in Washington DC metro area.) While I love the look of the tile floor (especially that pebblestone posted recently!), this is a place where we can save and have easier cleaning and maintenance.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 7:56AM
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We did a cultured marble shower; 2 walls 4 X 4 X 96" height, with pan, a large 13" X 18" shampoo niche = $1,600.

Frameless, water repellant treated, thick glass, 2 full walls = $2,550.

Total $4,150.

Included were a brushed grab bar, draincover, a towel bar and shower door handle. They also installed the shower bar, the faucets and hand spray.

Certainly not cheap, but oh, so easy to clean!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 5:23PM
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I am a general contractor reading these postings to find some solid surface material for a client. I can tell you to get a decent looking and waterproof job the labor for a tile surround will be significantly higher. Also: don't even think about attaching your solid surfacing material directly to the studs. Even though the material itself is waterproof, never rely on caulking at the corners to prevent water intrusion. Always install the solid surfacing material over a waterproofed wall!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 6:41PM
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One thing that helps prevent what you called Icky is make sure that who ever installs your tile seals it. Another thing that causes this issue is after many people shower they close the bathroom door, which leave the steam closed up and causes mildew and mold.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fiveash Renovations

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 8:17PM
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