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Find the best Shower Niche Height (and other placement tips)

Image of Woman in tub reaching towards shower niche - Shower niche planning post

Steve Gehrmann is a remodeling contractor (SKG Renovations) as well as a partner in Redblock Industries

This post will show you the best shower niche height as well as the best shower niche placement horizontally on the shower wall.

You will learn about what you need to consider when making your decision and what mysteries might be in the wall to restrict your choices for the perfect shower niche location.

This is Steve from SKG Renovations with another important addition to my shower niche series.

Standard Shower Niche Height from Floor

The standard shower niche height from floor is between 36″ and 40″ (to the base of the niche). The typical or standard shower niche height from floor for tub/ showers is between 25″ and 30″ (to accommodate bathers).

Shower Niche Height from Floor – Important Considerations

Although I’ve found that most people end up deciding on a narrow range of shower niche heights when presented with all the information, there’s still a vast array of different shower & bathroom niche heights out there.

This is because some people might be more focussed on accessibility while others are focussed more on aesthetics. I always recommend that all the practical issues should be considered first before aesthetics are considered.

For example, if you have a bathtub / shower installation and someone in your home is bathing regularly, you might consider installing your niche at an appropriate bathtub niche height for easier access while bathing (see Standard Shower Niche Height from Floor – section above).

Another important consideration is whether children will be using the shower. If so, you might want to find the “happy medium” between an ideal adult height and a height suitable to your children.

Perhaps you should install your shower niche low enough to double as a shower foot niche for shaving your legs? There may not be a lot of guys out there with this priority, but most women might consider it quite useful. 🙂

Shower Niche Height Cautions

A more practical and cautionary consideration would be to avoid installing your niche too low, due to the regular splashing and water immersion that occurs on the lower parts of the shower wall.

Maybe you’re concerned that your shower niche has not been waterproofed correctly and worried about the risk of mold growth inside and behind your shower niche (especially if it’s mounted on an outside wall).

If so, you might want tell your contractor to mount it higher up on the shower wall so the niche doesn’t get doused in water so often. Or you might want to consider installing a finished shower niche that’s impervious to moisture.

If your soap niche is mounted higher up on the shower wall, it’s also pretty likely that it’ll be easier to clean. Constant splashing can do a number on your bar soap, creating a sloppy soapy mess.

Shelf Height

A discussion about interior shower niche height has nothing to do with the shower niche height from floor. It’s all about the height between the shower niche shelves. To decide how high your shelf spacing needs to be, you need to figure out what you’re going to store in your niche.

Some people need only a place for their bar soap and a single shampoo bottle, while others need enough room to store bulk sized shampoo bottles.

If this is you, then you need some extra vertical height in your shower shampoo niche. And the only way you can get this is with either a custom built vertical shower niche, a prefab tile ready niche that’s mounted vertically, or a finished shower niche with a taller shelf height.

Either way, you’ll need to get your shelves spaced properly within the niche to accommodate these larger bottles. Most prefab niche brands do not have vertical models, and their smaller niches are designed only for average shampoo bottle height.

Average Shampoo Bottle Height

Shampoo bottle height ranges between 7 1/2″ to 9 1/2″. Larger pump bottles can be between 9 1/2″ and 10 1/2″ but you’ll need 12″ – 13″ of height in your shower niche for good access.

Standard Height for Shower Niche Shelf

A standard shower shelf height in your shower niche should be between 8-1/2″ to 10″ to accommodate regular shampoo bottle heights. A larger shower shelf space of 12″ – 13″ may be needed if you plan to use the larger pump bottles. A standard shower soap shelf height is around 3-1/2″.

Shower Niche Placement

When I talk about shower niche placement, I really mean horizontal placement. In other words, on which shower wall do you want your shower niche installed, and more specifically, in which stud bay.

To decide where your shower niche should go on the shower wall you need to first figure out if your niche (or niches) will be mainly serving a practical purpose, or if they are intended to be both practical and a design feature.

Once you determine this priority, the decision about where your shower niche should be located becomes a bit easier. Below are a few important things to consider.

Beware of Utilities

A very fundamental first step is to determine which of your stud bays contains utilities like drainage or water supply lines as well as electrical junction boxes or wire runs.

Any of these utilities can ruin your plans of installing a shower niche into a stud space that contains them.

Some of these utilities like water supply lines and electrical wire runs can be rerouted, but often this isn’t practical or cost effective.

It’s also difficult to plan in advance where you want your niche to be located because some utilities can be difficult to detect without first removing the wall board.

Shower Niche in Splash Zone

One of the most practical shower niche placement concerns is accessibility. Your shampoo bottles need to be within easy reach when you are showering.

That is why many people install their shower niches in the shower “splash zone”. The splash zone is the area that directly surrounds you when you are rinsing yourself in the water stream.

That means it’s the most convenient place for your shower items to be, and the most obvious place to install your shower niche, right?

Well, not exactly….

There are a few good reasons why you don’t want your shower niche to be located here.

First, you may find it irritating to access your shower products when you’re standing in the water stream. Lots of splashing, water in your eyes….. you get the picture.

Another thing is the mess it creates if you’re a bar soap user. Your soap basically dissolves away as water splashes into the niche during rinsing. Messy, and a waste of good soap!

Another more serious reason is the increased risk of water penetration into your stud wall. If the niche interior is constantly soaked with water, there’s an increased risk of moisture penetrating into your stud wall.

This can be particularly problematic if your tiled niche is not adequately sloped on the bottom or if your waterproofing membrane has a low perm rating. Of course if your shower niche is not protected by a membrane at all, this may be disastrous.

Opposite Wall Niche Placement

A great way to avoid the risk of moisture penetration into your shower stud wall is to simply install your niche into the wall opposite the shower head wall.

Because this shower niche location is farthest away from the water stream, your niche receives much less water spray, so it stays cleaner, and the risk of moisture penetration into the stud cavity is greatly reduced (especially with no waterproofing membrane).

In other words, there’s a good reason why this is the most popular shower niche placement idea.

Shower Niche in Outside Wall

Generally speaking, an outside wall is NOT a recommended location for your shower niche.

Here’s why…

There are two main factors that determine whether moisture will condense within your shower wall (causing mold growth, dry rot, structural damage …..). These are permeability and insulation depth (or insulation thickness).

Your goal should be to decrease the permeability of the shower wall and increase the insulation depth to reduce the chance of condensation.

Because installing a shower niche reduces the insulation thickness behind it, you’re doing exactly the opposite of what you should be doing to keep this from happening.

And it could mean bad news.

See my article, 5 BIG Shower Niche Install Mistakes for more info. on this topic

Aesthetic Shower Niche Location

Many people that are considering installing a shower niche are concerned about how it might affect the look and feel of their shower.

It’s really quite understandable since they’ve spent huge amounts of time looking through tiles, fixtures and shower doors to find that perfect combination. The last thing they want is for their shower niche installation to ruin the whole look simply because they needed a bit more shower storage space.

One of the aesthetic factors that often influence my client’s decision about shower niche height, is the placement of accent tile. Because the shower niche creates an alcove in the shower wall, it tends to break the symmetry of the shower wall tile, and can interrupt the design of your accent tile.

If you’re planning on a horizontal pattern of accent tile across the niche wall, the shower accent tile height and pattern should also be considered along with the niche height if your goal is maintaining some design symmetry.

In my experience, the shower accent tile height ends up to be the same as the shower niche height. In other words, a strip of accent tile passing directly through the center of the niche is what most of my clients have always preferred.

A Shower Niche Showpiece

There is one way to ensure that your shower niche doesn’t ruin the cool new look and feel you’ve designed into your shower. Make it the star of the show, that’s how!

There are a lot of beautiful tiled shower niches that can accent or dominate the tile design in your shower. High vertical niches with accent tile on their back surface, long, bold horizontal shower niches or shiny finished stainless steel shower niches are great examples of this.

In other words, you can choose to feature your shower niche instead of hiding it.

Below is a floor-to-ceiling custom vertical shower niche that I built for a client recently with composite marble tile and sleek stainless steel niche shelves. I know it’s a little over the top for your average shower, but it shows what you can do with a shower niche to make it the star of the show.

Beta's curbless shower-top of BSN post-1548W

If you’re designing your shower niche to be the star of the show, just make sure that you consider that it will likely never be an empty showpiece. More likely your shower niche will be loaded with lots of the items that you use regularly in the shower.

But as you can see by custom shower niche image shown above, your personal care items need not ruin the aesthetic of your niche.

Using attractive soaps, washcloths, puffs, and decanting your shampoo into attractive pump containers can do a lot to maintain the look and feel that you originally intended.

Wrap Up

My aim was to write a post that gave you a bunch of info about the best height for your shower niche as well as the best horizontal location (which wall and which stud bay). I hope I’ve accomplished my goal and you got some useful info from it.

Please let me know what you think about this post and if you have any comments about it at all …… good or bad…. I really mean it!

And if you have some experiences or other important hints about shower niche height or any shower niche placement ideas, please let me know!  It is always great to hear from you.

There are 14 comments on this post:

  1. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Jill,

    Thank you for your comment! I’m very happy that you got something useful from my post!

    Steve

  2. Avatar photo

    Thank you for these great tips! We are installing the niche opposite the shower head…glad we made the right choice…

  3. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Francis,

    Thank you for your comment!

    Unless I’m misunderstanding you, 45cm away from the valve wall (measuring horizontally) would place the niche pretty much right in the middle of the splash zone. To be out of this zone, the niche would need to be installed a fair distance behind you when you are standing in the water stream.

    As I mentioned in my post, it’s not terrible to have the niche in the splash zone as long as you are OK with everything in there getting wet all the time. The benefit of course, is super easy access.

    Good luck with your remodel!

    Steve

  4. Avatar photo

    Hi Steve, a very useful article, thank you!

    So would you say a niche starting 45cms (sorry don’t do inches) away from the showerhead wall will be away enough from the splash zone?

    Best,
    Francis

  5. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Diane,

    I’m so glad that my post was helpful in some way. Two bathrooms is a big project… Hopefully you’re staggering the two jobs. It can get a bit overwhelming doing both at the same time. 🙂

    Good luck with your project!

    Steve

  6. Avatar photo

    This was a very helpful article and well written. We are remodeling two bathrooms and the niche issue popped up yesterday as we picked our tiles. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Remodeling, while messy, is exciting and fun with clever, beautiful storage options like niches.

  7. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Kad,

    Thank you for your comment!

    Generally I don’t like cutting out any more than two studs for a shower niche because it creates a bit to much flexibility in the wall. I prefer to build a new adjacent wall to contain the niche. This is the only way that structure of the original wall is left intact. Either way, to create a horizontal niche opening you need to install a structural header above the niche to carry the load above the niche. Your contractor will know what I mean. If not, he/she can Google it 🙂

    Good luck with your shower project!

    Steve

  8. Avatar photo

    Hi there, great blog! I would like to do a horizontal niche at the wall opposite my showerhead spanning the entire width, which is approximately 32 inches. We converted a tub/shower combo to a walk-in shower. Is it structurally safe for my contractor to cut into the studs to make the horizontal niche, and if not What steps must be taken to ensure it is structurally sound?

  9. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Linda,

    I’m probably not the best person to comment on the aesthetics of shower niche placement but I think that your focus on the practicality of your niche placement is great. As I also mentioned in my post, asymmetric niche placement can look great if it’s done right (in my opinion). I also think that if you put as much time and effort into this decision as you are, it can’t really turn out too badly.

    Good Luck with your project!

    Steve

  10. Avatar photo

    Doing a shower/tub in a niche. The valve wall and waterfall shower head are opposite the exterior wall. The adjacent, long wall is an interior wall 60″ wide. I want two niches, one when showering, one when bathing in the tub. Thinking of horizontal placement being 3/4 from valve wall to exterior wall (3rd of 4 stud spaces). Vertically want to line them up with the upper niche “featured”, bottom niche invisible. Am I crazy? Should they not line up? Field tile is 15″ x 31.5″, vertical.

  11. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Steven,

    Thank you for commenting!

    I think there is a little better symmetry when you center the niche on the tub because the valve trims and shower head are centered on the tub.

    Good luck!

    Steve.

  12. Avatar photo

    I have a dilemma on horizontal placement of niche on wall opposite shower head…should I center it on the tub or center it on the tile, which extends about 2 inches beyond the tub?

  13. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Lata,

    Thank you for your comment!

    Of course your safest option would be to install niche(s) in the valve wall since it’s not an outside wall. I know that this position is not ideal but if the niches are narrow in width, and there’s adequate space and support for a niche on either side of the valve/ water supply lines, it would definitely work. If you are not interested in this option, it sounds like your only choice is the outside wall.

    If you absolutely need to install you shower niche in the outside wall, you must ensure that there’s adequate insulation behind it (based on your local climate), and your shower wall has a good waterproofing membrane applied (see my waterproofing membrane post). It would be best if you consulted a local insulation contractor about what is adequate based on seasonal temperature variations, but I’d recommend a minimum of 3-1/2″ of fiberglass or 2-1/2″ of foam behind your niche regardless (no gaps!). If you can’t accomplish these minimums I would not recommend it. Make sure you look over the other install recommendations I outline in my shower niche posts as well.

    You could also install a prefab finished shower niche instead of a tiled niche since these can completely eliminate vapour transmission into the stud cavity. This can help a great deal, especially with marginal insulation behind the niche. The shower wall will always pass a little water vapor, but the niche itself will not (if it’s a solid stainless steel niche, that is).

    The H and W of your niche(s) will be based on your available stud cavity width, and the height is based only on personal preference.

    Good luck with your project!

    Steve

  14. Avatar photo

    We are building a home with TM, I am adding Niches in my mud set Master Bath via builder, Having hard time deciding which wall? I have only two walls…one outside and one where shower head is other wall is glass shower wall. Since you strongly feel that adding niche in outside wall is not a good idea! Any recommendation which wall and size should be HxWxL? Your guidance will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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