In this Shower Niche Buyers Guide I will review products from each of the 3 categories of shower niches. I have chosen a few products that are popular in bathroom renovations today – products that I have personally installed as a bathroom remodel contractor.
The objective of this post is to allow you to find the best shower niche option for your next shower remodel project.
My reviews will start with a brief description of the product. I’ll also include the product cost, estimated install labor cost, and links to sites that sell it.
Ok, let’s get into it!
Three Niche Categories:
*The custom built tiled shower niche is obviously not a self contained unit that can be purchased and installed like the other two types. As such, I will attempt to provide some perspective of the price of both materials and labour, with a few assumptions of size, style and placement, of course.
1. Prefab Shower Niche
Note: This shower niche category includes products that are designed to be tiled (tile ready shower niche). This means that the total installation costs must also include labor cost for framing attachment and tile installation. A very rough labor estimate of this service would be $250 – $350 (depending on type of tile and size of niche).
Kerdi Board-SN Shower Niche (12″x20″)
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This is one of the most popular prefabricated, or prefab shower niche products available because it can be customized by installing your own shower wall tile and/or feature tiles. There are a few sizes available so you can choose the one that best suites your needs.
This is the style of prefab niche that is made out of 1/2″ thick foam board with a fabric-like coating that is designed to bond with most standard thin-set tile mortars. This type of niche is also called a “tile ready shower niche”.
It is relatively easy to install but it requires some framing to be installed behind it’s mounting/ bonding flange so it can be fixed firmly on all sides and firmly bonded to the waterproofing membrane.
Since this prefab shower niche is made out of foam board, it’s pretty important to follow the manufacturers install instructions when attaching it to the shower wall to ensure proper support.
It should also be mentioned that the foam boards that these niches are made from can be damaged or perforated fairly easily so they require careful handling during installation and tiling.
Also keep in mind that most of these preformed shower niches are designed to fit between two adjacent wall studs, so alterations to the structural framing is generally not required.
There are many other foam board style prefab (premade) shower niche options available from other manufacturers (most are slightly cheaper), but most people choose this tile ready shower niche because Schluter Systems is one of the most trusted brands.
Total Cost (Approximate): $336-$436 (materials and labor)
Other Foam Niche Brands
Other reliable brands of these tile ready, foam board niches include Wedi, Laticrete, & Hydro-blok.
Wedi Niche (16″x22″)
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The additional benefit of the Wedi and Hydro-Blok niches is that they both have a cement coating on their surface which improves tile bonding and rigidity.
The prefab foam shower niches are all generally very similar, but I prefer the Wedi and Hydro-Blok niches because of this cement coating.
ABS Plastic Prefab Shower Niches
Redi Niche, by Tile Redi (16″x20″Hx4″D)
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This is also one of the most popular prefab shower niches available but it is made out of plastic (ABS) instead of foam board. This niche also comes in a few sizes to suite your needs, much like the foam board shower niches.
In general the plastic shower niches are a great alternative to the foam board prefab niche.
Their mounting procedures are also the same, so this niche also requires additional framing for full support of the wallboard and niche mounting flange.
They are preferred by some because of their increased rigidity while others feel that they are more of a hassle to use because an acrylic based tile adhesive is required for tile fixing, rather than a standard thin-set mortar*.
Personally I believe that foam board and plastic prefab shower niches are basically equivalent, as long as they are mounted according to the manufacturers instructions.
The Redi Niche is also sized specifically to mount between the wall studs so alterations to the structural framing is generally not required.
Other reputable manufacturers of plastic prefab shower niches include EZ-Niche and USG Durock (*apparently standard thin-set can be used with Durock prefabricated shower niches).
Total Cost (Approximate): $314 – $414 USD (materials and labor)
2. Finished Shower Niche (Premade, No Tiling)
Note: This shower niche category includes products that are finished so there is no extra labor cost for tiling. However, there would still likely be a labor charge of around $50 – $100 for backer board cutting and framing attachment.
There are TWO main sub-categories of “finished” prefab, or premade shower niches available, Membrane Bonding Shower Niches (attach to waterproofing membrane)*, and Retrofit Shower Niches (do not bond to waterproofing membrane)*.
* Each of these two categories can include products made from stainless steel, ceramic or plastic.
Membrane Bonding Finished Shower Niches
This shower niche is constructed of welded 316 Grade brushed stainless steel sheets, has a 3mm slotted shelf, and bonds seamlessly with any shower wall waterproofing membrane.
As such, this premade shower niche is very durable and most importantly… it will never leak. Not in one year, not in 10 years, probably not even in 100 years. It is by far, the best shower niche option currently available (in my humble opinion). FYI, I’m a little biased because my brother and I designed this niche and sell it online.
One of the many things that makes this niche unique is the slotted shelf that’s welded into the niche structure. Water drains away, allowing your soap and everything else to stay dry between showerings.
It also includes a built in tile border flange (or tile edge trim) that borders your wall tile and eliminates the need to install any tile edge trim profile around the niche’s perimeter.
There is one other finished, stainless steel, premade shower niche available from Easy Drain which also incorporates a mounting and membrane bonding flange into its design. A very solid product as well but a little more expensive and a little more complicated to install.
Total Cost (Approximate): $575 (materials and labor)
This type of premade shower niche is made completely out of ceramic and has a finished glazed surface. The higher radius (curvy) look of it conveys a bit more of a classic feel compared with the more modern tiled niches or finished stainless steel shower niches.
The particular model shown has a mounting and tiling flange so it can be bonded to the waterproofing membrane. The mounting flange has no mounting holes so it must be fixed in place by glue or thin set mortar..
It also includes a tile border flange so there’s no need to install a trim around the niche perimeter.
This model also has handy built in shelves. These particular shelves are extremely slippery so your soap can easily get away from you.
I have installed this style of shower niche before so I can say that it is definitely possible to attach it to your shower wall waterproofing membrane but it’s not very easy to do.
Because the mounting flange of this premade shower niche is quite thick, you must recess it into the surface of the backer board to make room for your tile.
This procedure will weaken the backer board, so it would also be a good idea to support the perimeter with some back framing.
Total Cost (Approximate): $220 – $270 (materials and labor)
Retrofit Finished Shower Niches (does not bond to membrane)
Note: This sub-category includes only finished shower niches, so there’s no tiling involved. This niche requires a hole to be cut in the backer board, but there is no framing attachment. You can assume around $50 – $100 labor for this work.
ALFI brand ABN1224-BSS Shower Niche, Brushed Stainless Steel
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This is yet another type premade shower niche (or prefab niche) constructed of welded stainless steel sheets with a polished stainless steel finish (a few other finishes are available).
This finished prefab shower niche differs significantly from the finished shower niche products above because it does not have an integrated mounting/ bonding flange so it cannot be screwed to the shower wall framing and will not bond to the waterproofing membrane.
It is mounted simply by pushing into a square hole cut into the tile and backer board during a shower remodel. There is an overlap flange that is glued to the finished tile surface with a bead of silicon.
As such, this kind of niche is often called a reftrofit shower niche, shower niche insert, because it simply inserts into a hole in your shower wall after your entire shower has been constructed, tiled, and finished.
Some would argue that this is the biggest flaw of this style of niche because the integrity of the waterproofing membrane is so important in all modern shower rebuilds.
The only protection you have from water leaking into your stud wall is a single bead of silicon that attaches the niche to the tile.
As such, I do not recommend installing this style of shower niche.
The retrofit shower niche (or shower niche insert) is the easiest shower niche to install of all the niche types.
Kohler also makes some premade, aluminum, retrofit shower niche inserts you can check out as well: Kohler Pilaster Shower Niche – Home Depot
Total Cost (Approximate): $234 – $284 (materials and labor)
This is another retrofit style of shower niche insert. It’s a finished ceramic niche that’s produced and sold by the same manufacturer as the above ceramic niche, but this one includes a retrofit (overlap) flange rather than a membrane mounting flange.
Similar to the premade shower niche above, this niche just slides into a hole that is cut into the backer board during a remodel. The shower wall is tiled around the hole and the niche’s overlap flange is glued to the finished tile with a bead of silicon.
As with all retrofit (or shower niche insert) style of niche, this niche cannot be screwed to the shower wall framing and does not bond to the shower wall waterproofing membrane.
As I mentioned before, I do not recommend that any shower niche be installed if it cannot bond to the shower wall waterproofing membrane because if the increased risk of moisture leakage around it’s perimeter.
TOTAL COST: $235 – $285 (materials and labor)
Swanstone Solid Surface Single Shower Shelf – $142.92 for model: 4.3″ D x 15″ W x 22″
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This again is a premade retrofit shower niche insert constructed of plastic (acrylic) that mounts in an identical manner as all the rest of the retrofit shower niches.
According to the installation instructions, it comes with adhesive strips to allow you to attach it to the tile surface. Similar to the others, it does not bond to the waterproofing membrane.
The primary difference between any plastic shower niche insert and a steel or ceramic niche, is that the surface will eventually discolor and become brittle with exposure to heat and light (as all acrylics do).
This means that it will not last as long as the other two retrofit shower niche insert types, even if it is cared for gingerly. Something to keep in mind.
I do not recommend this niche because it does not bond to the shower wall waterproofing membrane.
Total Cost (Approximate): $193 – $243 (materials and labor)
3. Custom Built, Tiled Shower Niche
Some would say that the best shower niche is one that you can build yourself from scratch. That is why I thought that I needed to include this in my review.
Although it’s difficult to estimate costs for a custom shower niche because of varying materials AND labour costs, I can definitely say that it’ll be significantly more expensive than installing any prefab shower niche.
To provide you with some perspective, SKG (my company) charges a minimum shower niche cost of $650 (materials and labour, including tiling) to construct a custom built, tiled shower niche of approximately 10″ x 12″ (with one glass shelf). This assumes that the appropriate tile backer board and waterproofing are incorporated in this installation.
As you would expect, this cost increases as the size increases. It will also be significantly more if the niche spans more than one stud cavity (width between two adjacent studs) because additional structural support framing is required.
Here’s a custom shower niche I built recently. You can see by the image below that it’s a floor to ceiling custom niche made from Wedi Building Board, and finished with composite marble tile and stainless steel shelves. You can click the image for more info on how it was constructed.
Whether it’s a prefab finished shower niche, prefab tile ready shower niche, or custom shower niche, there is much to consider when choosing the best shower niche for you and your family. I hope that my practical shower niche info, reviews, and costs, has provided you with some insight. Good luck on your journey!
If you are still confused about the fundamentals of shower niches, check out this post:
And don’t forget to leave a comment or any questions you may have about the different shower niche types and models. I’m excited to hear from you!
This post is for information purposes only and should NOT be interpreted as professional advice. You should always consult a licensed local contractor before undertaking any remodeling work in your home. Click here for my full Personal / Professional Disclosure.