Homeowners planning a bathroom remodeling project featuring a new shower are often faced with a dilemma. Is it more viable to build a custom tile shower or install a prefabricated shower? Both have their pros and cons, but the deciding factor boils down to budget, personal taste, and convenience.
With the increasing popularity of improving shower areas in general home improvement, more homeowners are starting to take notice of their shower area. A newly enhanced shower area features either a prefabricated fiberglass shower or custom tile shower, including frameless glass doors. However, there is a significant difference in price between the two.
Prefabricated Fiberglass Shower
Prefabricated fiberglass showers are shower assemblies constructed off-site at the factory to be delivered on-site in one or a few pieces. These units are covered in Gelcoat for abrasion and scratch resistance, which exudes an off-white or white appearance, but they can be customized to a variety of colors. Every unit has a smooth finish and is equipped with shelving, moldings, and a door. Each unit consists of a shower pan and wall panels, both of which can be integrated into a complete shower assembly (one-piece unit) or multi-piece assembly.
Types of Prefabricated Assemblies
There are three types of prefabricated assemblies:
- One-piece unit: Includes wall panel and shower pan but fixed together to form a single cohesive unit. This type is suitable only for new construction due to its bulk and size; it won’t fit through existing doorways. Because it’s difficult to transport and install, it requires the tools and equipment present on a construction site.
- Interlocking multi-piece assembly: Includes wall panel and shower pan that are installed separately on-site. This type is convenient, especially where an existing shower pan needs replacement.
- Wall assembly: Includes only wall panel. This type is an excellent choice if your shower pan doesn’t need replacement. This assembly is installed snugly to cover up an existing tub.
Pros and Cons of Prefabricated Fiberglass Shower
- Quick installation: A new shower area can be finished by moderately skilled DIYer within a day as compared to a custom tile shower, which usually takes a week or more.
Ease of maintenance: Prefabricated shower is easy to maintain when stains start to appear. A simple soap-water solution and a thorough scrubbing will do the trick while custom tile showers require a specific cleaner to do the job.
- Cost: Due to mass production in factories, the price of a prefabricated shower has decreased significantly as compared to a custom tile shower.
Watertight construction: Prefabricated shower has significantly fewer joints, which can be waterproofed with ease using standard sealants, whereas a custom tile shower requires a thorough waterproofing of the substrate.
- Lightweight: Prefabricated shower is plastics, which is lightweight.
- Limited sizes: Standard prefabricated showers are only available in standard sizes. However, custom sizes can be made, which is significantly more expensive, in the range of custom tile showers.
- Difficult repairs: When a bulge or crack appears, refinishing or relining are two options you can consider, which are difficult and quite expensive.
- Generic appearance: Prefabricated showers have few design options from which to choose.
Custom Tile Shower
A custom tile shower is done from scratch, on-site. It requires a certain level of artistic skill to come up with a themed appearance, but fret not; there are designers who can combine an array of tiles with different sizes, patterns, and colors. Plus, professional installers are needed to work for this type to have an acceptable shower area. For these reasons, custom tile showers are significantly more expensive than prefabricated showers.
Pros and Cons of Custom Tile Shower
- Numerous design options: Custom tile shower are involved in the design stage of the project, which means, the imagination is its limit.
- Versatile size: It is constructed from scratch with virtually any size available.
- High ROI: The average ROI of a custom tile shower is 65%, according to Remodeling Magazine’s recent Cost vs. Value Report
- Expensive: Custom tile showers are generally more costly than prefabricated showers in the range of a few hundred dollars.
So what to choose, is it prefab or custom? It’s really up to you. If you don’t have a budget for customization, you can opt for the best prefab shower units and complement it with a good-looking door and unique fixtures. If you do have the budget for customization, go for it. You can then recover your expenses after future resale.