Low maintenance shower surround suggestions?

seekingsunAugust 12, 2013

I love the look of a tile shower surround, but do not want to spend my life cleaning grout and fighting mildew! My current tub/shower has a seamless vinyl type surround and I still have to redo the caulk (top of tub seam) every month or so because of mildew. Better air flow will help some of that but I hate all this maintenance! As we are planning our bathroom gut and reno any recommendations or thoughts on a solution that provides less seams and maintenance? I have seen info on the solid surface system and perhaps something like that might work. We will have a 6ft tub so it must be available in that size. Or is tile not as bad as I think it would be?

Thanks so much! There is so much to research and decide so any leads would be very appreciated!

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When we were selling our old place and redid the bathroom, we decided to wipe down the caulk in the two inside corners and around the tub before getting out of the shower every time. We wanted the apartment to be ready to show at a moment's notice.

The apartment was on the market for two years and in the almost three years the bathroom was done there was no sign of mildew developing anywhere, except one tiny spot.

It took a few seconds at the end of the shower and probably added up to less time spent total over the period of two+ years than it would have to remove and redo the caulk One time let alone every couple months.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 5:08PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

We have porcelain tile, quartz bench, and patterned glass in our new shower specifically so I could use a no rinse shower spray after each shower. No squeegee, no wiping, no mold or mildew or mineral deposits. Great super quiet exhaust fan right over the shower on a timer switch. I use a product by Arm & Hammer called Clean Shower. I've used it for over 10 years with hard water in my 40 yr. old ceramic tile shower. Can't use it with natural stone,(I don't know why) or clear glass as it leaves a thin film (which washes off with each shower). A chemist invented the stuff when his DW put him in charge of cleaning the shower! Now there are several different brands available.

They used to have a commercial showing a container of it that you hung from your shower head, and it spray/squirted you shower automatically after you got out. Never saw one of those in person, but it had a limited reach so I imagine it wouldn't work in a long shower if they still make it. I just squeeze that trigger bottle about 15 times and walk away. No bending for me.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 8:57PM
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I put in porcelain tile (stone look) and epoxy grout. I wanted to be able to use bleach in my shower because I have well water and it grows mold easily. The grout required no sealer and it's as clean as it was when installed 3 years ago. I never squeegy it and never want to have to do that. I also decided to forgo the glass doors for the same reason. I can toss the shower curtain in the washing machine and I'm done.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 11:13PM
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1. Swanstone has an affordable shower system.
2. Cultured Marble companies make solid 3pc shower walls
and custom shower bases.
3. I just put in a Sterling tub surround and love it. But the other two options are more higher end looking....especially the swanstone. My parents had a Swanstone shower and it was beautiful.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 12:52PM
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A solid surface will give you the pluses and minuses that have already been mentioned; perhaps less maintenance, but at an aesthetic price if tile is what you want.

If you want tile, look to a non-textured larger format tile which will result in less crud sticking to the tile and less grout for crud to attach to.

Minimize crud up front by choosing your soaps and shampoos with a bit of thought towards cleaning. Example, several years ago we suddenly had a build-up of crud on the surfaces of the shower. We found out that our soap had changed it's formulation. We changed soap, and no more crud.

If you want a lot of grout lines, then consider an epoxy grout.

I also recommend for the bones of the shower to go with a topical membrane (Hydroban, Kerdi, RedGard, etc) on the walls and floor. Less deep wetting or the structure equals faster drying.

And as always, effective ventilation. Control the moisture and you'll help your cause. Thoughtful ventilation goes all the way to the exit point. Most people choose a nice vent then restrict the air flow with a poorly sized or improper length of duct.

My own master bath shower is a large walk-in. Topical membrane. Good ventilation. Standard-size tile with portland cement based grout. A properly sloped floor for good drainage. No squeegeeing, though on occasion I do use a hand held to rinse down the walls.

It pretty much self-cleans. I think it's been given a "hands and knees" good scrubbing maybe 3 or 4 times over the past 15 years. Looks fine.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 4:12PM
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Hey Mongo, good point about the soaps! I think a lot of the moisturizing soaps or even sunscreens you are washing off leave a film behind (Caress) and the quality of your water may also harden the film. I had to use CLR on the sides of our cast-iron tub to get it off, and it took several applications and actual scraping after it was loosened to get rid of it.

New shower will be walk in, no curtain, probably larger format tiles. Will definitely mention the epoxy grout, thanks!

There are solid-surface companies here that make tub surrounds out of Corian. It looks OK and no seams, but since my kitchen Corian is dark, the hard water has left a white "stain" near the faucet that will have to be sanded out. So a shower surround might need to be a lighter color to avoid something like that. I asked the vendor about it recently and he admitted the darker solid-surface colors can show hard water marks that can ONLY be removed with occasional refinishing.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 2:28AM
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I just posted about Kerlite on the Kitchens forum, but I swear I am not a salesperson, lol. I don't want to clean grout in the shower either, so we are using large sheets of Kerlite Plus on the 2 side walls. Each of the walls will be done in a single piece of material, so no grout lines! (The back wall is the accent wall using "smaller" (12x24") tiles in a brighter color with epoxy grout.)

Kerlite is a porcelain stoneware tile that is 3mm thick (3.5 mm for the plus version which has a fiberglass backing and is recommended if you need to do cutouts, like for faucets). We paid $200 per 100x300 cm (39-3/8"x118-7/64") slab (about $6.15 sq ft) for the Kerlite Plus in Via Tornabuoni from the Elegance series (one of the more expensive color series they offer). It is a really pretty medium gray that looks like limestone. They have several different different series that have patterns that look like different types of natural stone, wood, concrete or solids. Our color was a special order from Italy that took several weeks, but the local distributor also had some other colors in stock.

Kerlite comes in the following sizes:

⢠whole slab, 100x300 cm (approx. 39-3/8"x118-7/64");
⢠slab, 40x100 cm (15-3/4"x39-3/8");
⢠slab, 100x100 cm (39-3/8"x39-3/8");
⢠slab, 50x50 cm (19-11/6"x19-11/16");
⢠border tile, 4.9x100 cm (1-59/64"x39-3/8").

Our shower should be tiled in about 2 weeks, and I am really excited to see how it turns out.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kerlite colors

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 2:11PM
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Not to hijack but super interesting info kaysd, especially since I'm planning a master bath redo. Thanks!...gonna check it out.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 4:45PM
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Wow, that Kerlite is awesome. But where do you get it from? I looked on the website, and when I entered my address, just got a contact in Italy. Any tips?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 10:48AM
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Try Googling Kerlite and a city near you (for me: Kerlite Seattle brought up some distributors).

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 1:37AM
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I love the look of kerlite, but I wish you could get it without microban.

I once lived in a rental with a cultured marble surround, and that thing was completely bulletproof. Years of slovenly renters made no difference. I gave it a good cleaning when I moved in and it still looked like new, so if you can find a look you like, that's a good low-maintenance option.

edited for typo

This post was edited by writersblock on Sat, Aug 17, 13 at 12:16

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 9:52AM
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Kaysd - hope you post pics of your finished kitchen

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 9:19AM
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I agree with the posters regarding the Swanstone. We installed Swanstone in our shower and LOVE it! The choices are great & it's easy to maintain. We also used their shower pan too. Very happy with it.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 10:35PM
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Glad to hear that, emsjane. We are planning a Swanstone surround in a small bathroom, with their shower pan as well. I just don't need to clean a lot of grout in my future. I'm just hoping their "white" will look OK with the other white fixtures in the room, but I am probably worrying about nothing...

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 12:17AM
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Hi lori_inthenw,

Glad to hear you're going with a Swan shower surround & pan! Just in case you haven't seen the full selection of colors, here's the link below. There are lots of options in the white/off-white family. Hope this helps and good luck!

Chelsie Hellige, Swan Social Media Coordinator

Here is a link that might be useful: Swanstone colors

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 12:23PM
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Thanks for the link, Chelsie-- the abundance of options is what had me worried about making the right choice! Half the colors on my screen look "white." I just want a solid white that will look fine with Toto white (cotton) in the same room. The shower is not even on the same wall, so I am probably unduly concerned. But a recommendation from anyone would be welcome! Or maybe I can get out to look at some samples in person-- there are just a lot of other things on the decision list ahead of this, though...

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 12:53PM
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We just installed Swanstone walls and shower pan and just love it. Very easy to keep clean. We travel for our jobs & so many hotels use Swanstone walls, figured there must be a good reason for it. Just install it right and you should be very happy with it. We shopped around A LOT for our Swanstone & even found a place that had free shipping. Plus we got our framelss shower doors from Amazon. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 1:02AM
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emsjan-- did you get any kind of shampoo niches installed? (I'm not exactly sure how that works with Swanstone walls, although I found images on Google searches.) I know our contractor has installed our pan and bought our walls, I don't remember talking about that. Would like to know what the options are if anyone knows.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 2:49PM
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I've been lurking on this site for a while; this is my first post. I'm starting to plan a master bathroom remodel - will be totally gutted. Current shower has 2x2" glossy ceramic tiles - with lots of grout.

I'm considering thin porcelain, large-format tiles or slabs for shower and bathroom walls and, possibly, for the vanity tops and tub deck. Would like to hear about your experience with these products - installation, functionality, and durability. I am thinking about the 30"x30"x1/4" field tiles, although they come in 5x10' slabs as well.

I called 2 vendors of thin porcelain slabs; both directed me to local tile distributors to get samples (I was hoping to be able order samples over the phone).

So far, I've looked at samples of Artistic Tile's Max Fine line, which comes in 3 colors, but can be ordered in custom colors. I was thinking about the "Thassos" white color, but it looks like "whiteboard" to me, so now I'm leaning toward something other than pure white. The calacatta look-alike samples I saw were too small to see the veining and patterning. I was quoted a price of $38 per sq ft, not counting installation.Weight is 2.76 lbs per sq ft. They recommend 2-person installation, even with the 30x30 field tiles.

I'm planning to look at Stonepeak's Plane series, as well. They have more color choices.Their website shows an entire bathroom clad in Plane slab.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 6:06PM
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Welcome :) Why don't you start your own thread on this topic. It is new, I believe - these large tiles in extremely long lengths. I would imagine that the tile setter would have to be specially equipped. On another thread, maybe in the Kitchen Forum they where talking about this type of tile. I think they were stating that stone fabricators would be able to deal with these extreme lengths. Regardless, I think this deserves it's own thread.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 11:12PM
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