Wall Kit Overview
The tile shower. The crown jewel of any custom bathroom remodeling project. Typically adorned with the latest in amenities, customers allocate a large portion of their budget to achieve the perfect showering refuge. So common is this among remodeling customers, the motivation for a custom shower seems to be a subconscious reflex to manifest an antithesis of their current shower – the plain, one-piece fiberglass shower unit.
Manufactured from molded fiberglass covered in a waterproof gelcoat surface, this type of construction provides an economical, low-maintenance design. Although limited in available colors, sizes, and accessory options (like grab bars), their low-cost, ease of installation, and leak-proof nature led to an almost universal adoption by builders across the country. Virtually every home built in the United States since the 1980s includes at least one.
Those seeking to update their existing bathrooms found tile to be the only viable option for a custom shower. No longer would the consumer be constrained by the limited product offering among fiberglass manufacturers; tile offered the freedom for meeting any size, color or pattern, and offered a solid platform for the installation of options like grab bars or shower head slide bars. Unfortunately, the nature of a tile install introduced drawbacks not experienced with the aforementioned fiberglass units – the grout provides a convenient substrate for the growth of mold and mildew and the complex construction of a tiled shower base opens the door to potential leaks, leading to costly repairs.
Enter, the wall kit.
Relatively unknown to the residential remodeling sector, wall kits have existed for quite some time. The hotel industry was among the first to adopt their use. Chosen for their low-maintenance and durability, wall kits provided the necessary solution for eliminating grout lines yet still providing a solid foundation for the installation of accessories like grab bars or towel racks. These early kits were usually a solid color – almost always white – and were installed on top of enameled steel or cast iron tubs. The monochromatic appearance led most people to believe they were showering in a regular fiberglass unit.
Much has changed in recent years. The lucrative residential remodeling market has provided the incentive for wall kit manufacturers to broaden their product offering; giving the consumer a wide array of colors, patterns, and textures, to choose from. Custom sizes and accessories can now be installed in virtually any manner.
The wall kit evolved as a way of bridging the gap between the basic fiberglass unit, and the tile shower. You could argue it’s the perfect solution for enabling a highly custom design of a tile shower, while providing the low-maintenance, leak-proof nature of a fiberglass unit. Below, we will examine some of the specific attributes that make a quality wall kit an intelligent choice for your next remodeling project.
What Is This Thing?
So what exactly is a wall kit and how does it differ from fiberglass and tile showers? Wall kits are customizable shower and tub shower wall systems that are composed of separate walls, a base (in the case of a shower package) and other accessories like seats, shelves, and niches. They are installed over waterproof sheetrock or hardiebacker, like tile does, and provide a seamless, easy to clean surface. Each wall kit is specialty made to order, allowing for a completely custom fit and finish.
Wall kits are available in two general versions – 1) wall panels only – installed above tubs to create a waterproof surround in lieu of tile or a one-piece fiberglass tub/shower, and 2) as a package – combining the walls and shower base; a perfect substitution for a custom tile shower.