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

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5 BIG Shower Niche Install Mistakes to Avoid in your Shower Remodel

It’s truly frightening how many shower niche install mistakes that can happen in a typical shower remodel, especially if your contractor is building you a custom shower niche.

But even if you are planning to go the much safer route and install a pre-manufactured tiling niche or finished niche, you still must adhere to a few rules and procedures.

Following this advice could save you the nightmare and expense of moisture and mold growth in your walls, and tearing out your dream shower to do the job correctly a second time.

This is Steve from SKG Renovations with a few tips you must know to avoid the 5 BIG shower niche install mistakes during your next shower remodel.

If you’ve not yet committed to a shower niche, check out my Complete Shower Niche Guide.

The 5 BIG Mistakes:

Don’t Skip the Waterproofing

Don’t Install a Retrofit Niche

Make Sure It Integrates with the Waterproofing Membrane

Don’t Compromise the Wall Structure

Don’t Install in an Outside Wall

Bonus Tip: Installing the Wrong Shower Niche Shelf

Don’t Skip the Waterproofing

Kerdi membrane in shower including valve seals and custom niche

If you plan to install a custom shower niche into your shower wall, and you want to avoid making one of the biggest shower niche install mistakes, you must make sure that you or your contractor doesn’t forget the waterproofing step.

When a custom niche is built well, it can look very sturdy, solid and deceptively waterproof. This is an assumption made far too often when shower niches are framed into the shower wall.

No matter how tight the joints may look in a newly constructed niche, they will not keep water from penetrating and running into the stud cavity if it is not properly waterproofed.

You may be thinking that a leak like this seems unlikely if the niche is properly tiled & grouted after construction, and you would be right… for awhile.

The constant water exposure and regular temperature changes makes the shower environment quite unforgiving. These environmental stresses cause all parts of the shower assembly to move slightly, mostly through expansion and contraction.

Without a waterproofing membrane, this movement almost always causes grout line cracking in your shower niche. It usually starts out as very fine cracks at the corners that can’t easily be seen. But even the smallest cracks will allow moisture to penetrate, moving easily through the backer board seams, to the framing beneath.

The rest you can imagine; moisture in the walls, which leads to mold, dry rot, etc.………. something you can easily avoid.

Whether you or your contractor uses a liquid or sheet style waterproofing membrane, it does not matter, as long as you don’t skip this important step during your next shower remodel!

More info on shower waterproofing: Shower Membrane Waterproofing – The Definitive Guide

Don’t Install a Retrofit Shower Niche

If you decide to install a pre-manufactured, or finished shower niche instead of a custom built one, you can avoid another shower niche install mistake by making sure that you never install a retrofit shower niche.

A retrofit niche is a product that is installed in the process of a new shower remodel project after the shower wall tile has already been installed and grouted.

During a complete shower wall reconstruction, the retrofit niche hole is cut out of the the tile backer board after it’s attached to the shower wall framing. The tile is then applied on the shower wall as usual, but the hole is left exposed so the retrofit shower niche can later be inserted into it.

The niche is placed into this hole, and the outer flange on the niche is pressed against the tile. A bead of silicon around its perimeter completes the installation.

It doesn’t take a waterproofing expert to see that this tiny silicon bead is the only defence against water running into the wall cavity. Does that sound sensible to you? If you said no, you would be correct.

It may seem like a slightly easier way of installing a shower niche, but it’s not really much easier than the membrane bonding finished shower niche products out there, and it violates the industries recommended “best practices”. It’s really not worth the risk.

Make sure it Integrates with the Waterproofing Membrane

N1014 partially mounted to show MBlock flange and membrane bonding
Image courtesy of Redblock Industries
Image of Schluter KERDI-BOARD-SN: Shower Niche 12"x12" (Amazon link)
Schluter KERDI-BOARD-SN: Shower Niche 12″x12″
Ad: The above Image is an Affiliate Link

To avoid this BIG shower niche install mistake, you must choose a shower niche with an integrated  waterproofing membrane bonding flange as seen in the two examples above.

The first niche shown is a finished shower niche. This niche is made from sheet stainless steel with a brushed finish so it does not require tiling.

The membrane bonding flange mounts on the backer board surface with screws, and the waterproofing membrane is attached to the top surface of this flange (as seen in the above image).

The other niche shown is a tilable foam shower niche that has a 1/2″ thick foam perimeter flange that also serves as a mounting flange and a membrane bonding flange similar to the stainless steel niche.

The difference is that this niche must be mounted on the framing instead of the backer board surface, so that it’s 1/2″ flange can be flush with the 1/2″ thick tile backer board that surrounds it.

These flanges are critically important to maintain the integrity of the shower wall waterproofing membrane.

See more info on shower waterproofing: Shower Membrane Waterproofing – The Definitive Guide

Don’t Compromise the Wall Structure

Another BIG one among shower niche install mistakes, is the construction of a custom horizontal tiled niche that compromises the structural integrity of the shower wall.

If you’re considering building / installing a niche in your new shower remodel project, you have likely seen many examples of this type of niche. These horizontal niches are the epitome of opulence, sometimes spanning the entire shower wall and offering a huge area for storage.

There is a way to install these shower niches correctly and safely, but unfortunately many contractors fail to accomplish this.

Long horizontal tiled niche - stock pic

Most horizontal niches are built into the back shower wall; usually the longest, and therefore, the most flexible wall in your shower surround.

Sometimes this is a bearing wall that the structural integrity of your home depends on, and sometimes it’s not. Either way, cutting a horizontal swath out the structural members of this wall to make room for a niche is a problem.

Most decent contractors will say that applying the correct structural framing around the niche will adequately fortify the structure. The problem is that these measures mostly address structural stresses applied from above, but do not often address the increased flexibility (reduction in rigidity) caused by cutting out the vertical framing.

The integrity of a tiled assembly requires significant rigidity in this wall to reduce the chance of grout cracking, tile delamination, and failure of the waterproofing membrane. Some contractors do not even install the minimal surrounding structure required, which profoundly compromises the wall’s structural rigidity.

Constructing a New Wall for your Niche

If your new horizontal niche will span more than a couple of wall studs, the safest way to build your shower niche into this wall is to construct a new wall adjacent to it, to contain the niche.

This new wall allows you to build / install your custom shower niche with only minimal support above the new niche opening because the entire wall is anchored to the stud wall behind it. Super solid, super rigid, and super safe, because the original wall structure remains completely intact.

Another huge benefit of this parallel wall design is that it basically gives you the green light to install your niche into an outside shower wall (see below for more details).

In my opinion, a typical structural header and jack stud assembly can still be acceptable in some circumstances if the wall is non-structural, but this assembly must be built flawlessly. Nothing is safer that the parallel wall design I mentioned above.

Talk to your contractor about it, because it’s extremely important that you avoid this huge shower niche install mistake.

Don’t Install in an Outside Wall

This installation is often a BIG shower niche install mistake because moisture can easily condense behind your niche if you don’t do this install correctly.

In general it’s always the best idea to mount / build your tiled or finished shower niche in a wall that is not an outside facing wall.

The problem is that the shower environment is a very moist one, and some of this moisture will always make it into the stud cavity through the wall tile, your tile backer board, and often through your tiled shower niche.

How much water vapor will move into the stud wall is entirely dependent on whether or not a waterproofing membrane has been installed on the shower wall and how well your shower niche resists moisture penetration.

The moisture permeability of your niche will vary greatly, depending on the type of shower niche you decide to build / install, and the waterproofing strategy, of course.

Worth the Risk?

With this moisture penetration problem in mind you can probably see why it’s risky to install your shower niche into an outside wall.

In most older homes, the stud cavity is only 3 1/2″ thick and the comfort of your home often depends on this space being filled with insulation.

Even in a relatively mild climate, the colder months can result in a vast difference in temperature from inside to outside. Only a small temperature differential can cause the moisture in this shower wall to condense on the inside of the wall.

Even without a shower niche, this can easily occur within a 3 1/2″ stud wall in the colder months, especially if there’s no waterproofing membrane on the shower wall. With a shower niche taking up most of the space in a 3 1/2″ stud cavity, moisture condensation in the wall cavity is virtually guaranteed if the temperature drops a few degrees outside compared to inside.

Of course, none of this will necessarily occur if the shower wall and niche are properly waterproofed, and there is enough space behind the shower niche for adequate insulation.

Needless to say, there is a complex series of factors to consider like stud wall thickness, local climate, waterproof integrity of your shower, and the quality and thickness of the wall insulation.

In other words, you should definitely ask a trusted local contractor before you decide to build a shower niche into an outside wall to avoid this potential shower niche install mistake.

Bonus Tip:

Don’t Install the Wrong Shower Niche Shelf

This may not be considered a BIG shower niche install mistake but as a shower remodel contractor I hear a lot of people express regret about choosing the wrong shelf option for their tiled niche.

Usually the cheapest shelf option is a tiled shelf constructed with wood framing (if a custom niche) or 2″ inch thick foam board (see below).

Schluter Kerdi Niche 12x20 with arrow pointing to shelf 150W
Image courtesy of Schluter Systems

This is often a the most regrettable shelf option because it’s difficult to clean (especially the corners), and the grout lines stain and get moldy.

Another alternative is the glass shelf. A bit more expensive for the material but it’s usually the “go to” shelf alternative for most tiled shower niches. These shelves are so popular because they’re subtle, modern looking, and considered attractive by most.

Custom built tiled shower niche, glass shelves, white metal edging
Image courtesy of SKG Renovations

However, many people complain that glass shelves are hard to keep clean and soap slips off too easily.

The most practical and coolest shower niche shelf in my opinion is the stainless steel shower niche shelf. In fact I thought it was so great that I decided to design one to meet my clients needs.

rb3-shower-shelf-installed-2shelves
Image courtesy of Redblock Industries

If you’re interested in this shower niche shelf or all kinds of other shower shelves, you can check out my shower niche shelf post.

Wrap Up

Installing a shower niche can be a deceptively complicated and risky endeavour, but it is possible to avoid the 5 big shower niche install mistakes.

If you need help with shower niche placement and design feel free to check out my Shower Niche Planning, and 9 Great New Shower Shelf Options posts.

Good luck with your new shower remodel project, AND enjoy your new shower niche!

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to ask any specific questions about shower niche installation. I am happy to help!

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 remodelling work in your home. Click here for my full Personal / Professional Disclosure.

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51 thoughts on “5 BIG Shower Niche Install Mistakes to Avoid in your Shower Remodel”

  1. Hi Mona,

    Thank you for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear about your troubles with your niche install.

    I would suggest that you get rid of the niche if it’s already causing problems. After a shower wall is tiled, it’s too risky to attempt to repair or re-build a shower niche at this point.

    Your best bet it to remove some tile around the niche, open the wall, remove the niche, install some new bracing between the studs, insert insulation to re-fill the niche cavity, then patch the hole with a new piece of backer board (attached to the new bracing).

    After the board’s perimeter is patched, taped and sealed, they will need to apply a new piece of waterproofing membrane to cover the patch. Make sure the new membrane overlaps the old one by at least 2 inches. Then tile and grout!

    Good luck! I hope the repair works out.

    Steve

  2. Hi there,

    I have a niche install on an outside wall and now is bad condensation, I have the builders coming back to rectify. But I would be grateful if you could let me know what would be the best way to do this? Both if we wanted to keep the niche? And if we wanted to block it up, what materials ways should this been done to ensure the integrity is restored?

    Many thanks
    Mona

  3. Hi Lydia,

    Thank you for your comment!

    If I understand you correctly, you have furred out the wall to create a ledge upon which you will affix a marble shelf. Assuming this is correct, I would suggest that you install the shelf before the tile. The general rule is to install the horizontal finished surfaces in the shower before the vertical. That goes for shower floor and wall tile but also stone shelves and ledges.

    Generally speaking, it’s not good to install the vertical tile (or stone) first because water that runs off the vertical tile surfaces could settle at the gap between the floor and wall tile. If the sealant is compromised here, water could recede into gaps with nowhere to drain. If horizontal tiles are installed first, the water would have to move upslope under the wall tile in order to make it to the wall, which is much less likely. This makes it a much safer install.

    You should also make sure the shelf is sloped slightly outwards. Your bar soap will probably slip off the shelf, but you don’t want water pooling at the base of the wall tiles regardless of how well you’ve sealed this margin.

    Bonus tips: Make sure you seal this shelf with a good grout/stone sealer. Marble can discolor quite easily if not sealed, but you should always keep it clean because sealers are not perfect (nor permanent).

    Good luck!

    Steve

  4. Hello Steve,
    Really good article. In our new shower, we built a knee wall in front of an exterior wall to put a shelf on. My question is about the installation of that shelf. We want to use a single-piece of marble for the shelf. The wall behind is subway tile, and another accent tile to the left. Is it okay (or preferable) to install the shelf itself last, or should we install the shelf prior to tiling the surrounding walls?

  5. Hi Rich,

    Thanks for your comment! It’s always great to hear from a fellow contractor.

    Yes, I agree that the structure required for a horizontal shower niche is the same as what’s required for a window in an exterior wall.

    I think it’s great that you use rigid foam to insulate behind the niche because of its high R value. With 2×6 exterior wall framing, there’s always a bit of room for some insulation behind a typical shower niche install. It becomes a much bigger problem when the wall studs are 2×4.

    Cheers,

    Steve

  6. I’m a tile contractor. You can absolutely do this as the writer mentions if done correctly. I just did a 52″ linear niche in an exterior 2×4 stud wall cavity. It’s accomplished with framing protocols to comply with your local codes. Frame it like a window! Windows go in exterior walls so you treat your niche framing as you would a window going in. Run a 2×8 or 2×10 header, king stud jack stud, ledger and cripples. Behind the niche you waterproof the exterior wall board with red gard, then a thin later of insulation. All of our cavities we use 3 inches of foamular rigid foam board giving an r value of r15 before tiling. We use hydro ban and laticrete sealant and water proofing. We also ran lighting by philips Hue strips in the niche. It’s a rock solid installation with hydroban vapor and waterproofing barriers. Just remember…FRAME it like a window and waterproof!

  7. Hi Betty,

    Although your outside wall may not be subject to the same temperature changes as an exposed outside wall, foundation walls like this can be troublesome because of moisture. No matter how well sealed, every foundation wall will be relatively moist. The amount of moisture in this wall will determine your best move so you should really get a local expert to advise you.

    Regardless of the results, I would install another stud wall adjacent to your existing wall and insulate this wall. Depending on the degree of moisture, I may not insulate the existing wall so air can circulate between the shower wall and foundation wall.

    I would also suggest installing an extremely good sheet waterproofing membrane. See my waterproofing membrane post for more info.

    There is a lot more I could say on this, but I think you get the picture 🙂

    Good luck with your shower project!

    Steve

  8. These are all so informative!

    I am in the midwest (St. Louis) and planning a shower niche in a basement bathroom on an outside wall that is completely underground as well as having a 6′ deep front porch beyond that so there will be no outside air hitting that wall at all. The wall is framed with metal studs and reinforced with wood and there will probably be some air circulation at the tops of the walls above the drywall ceiling into the joist area because the metal studs are not very air tight. The bathroom wall is 5′ long, and once you get past that, you are in an unfinished space next door.

    Can you tile right on the concrete wall, use the waterproofing membrane all around and have good results? It will be a single 30″ square niche.

  9. Hi Janine,

    It depends a lot on how cold it gets in the garage but even if it doesn’t reach freezing temperature, moisture could still easily condense in the stud cavity. In other words, it’s very difficult to say for certain if it will work out well in the end, but there are ways to dramatically reduce the risk if you really want to build this niche.

    The most important part of this project will be your undertile waterproofing. I would suggest that you apply a VERY GOOD sheet waterproofing membrane, not a liquid membrane. You need a membrane with a very low perm rating like the Durock sheet membrane or Wedi Subliner Dry. This will reduce the amount of water vapor entering the wall to the bare minimum.

    Installing porcelain tile on the shower wall instead of ceramic with a sealed grout like Mapei Flexcolor CQ, will also greatly reduce vapor transmission into the wall.

    Thirdly, I would insulate with spray foam if possible. Foam board is not ideal because it is important to fill the entire cavity behind the niche with insulation (no voids). It would be great if you could fur out that wall to make it a bit thicker. This would allow you to add a bit more insulation behind the niche, but either way you should use spray foam because it has a greater R-value per inch of thickness.

    It would also be important for you to remove the vapor retarder plastic sheet in this wall. This sheet will only provide a condensation surface for moisture. Best to get rid of it.

    Lastly, I also have to warn you about the risks of installing a long horizontal niche. I suggest that you please re-read that section of my 5BSNIM post so you are aware of the risks, and the additional structure required for this type of installation.

    Sorry for all my rambling but this is important stuff…. Good luck with your shower project!

    Steve

  10. what about a niche the full length of a 5 foot shower. It is an exterior wall to a garage that is insulated. We are in Chicago which of course gets very cold in winter. Should we still stay away from a large horizontal niche on the wall to the garage or will it be ok using foam board and spray foam behind niche?

  11. Hi Lorenzo,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I am not too concerned about cutting out 1 wall stud to accommodate your shower niche, as long as the appropriate structure was installed to reinforce the wall and support the niche.
    A single porcelain/ ceramic soap dish may not have been considered a significant breach in the original shower wall but a shower niche may be a different story. You would have to check with your local building authority about this.

    I would be more concerned with the use of Kerdi Board to replace the 5/8″ drywall of your shower wall. I have never seen any “fire rating” on any foam backer board. I would guess that using Kerdi Board in this situation compromises the firewall. In other words……when the people at UL gave you their opinion, they may have assumed that the tile substrate was fire rated drywall, not foam backer board.

    Unfortunately, I’m not really qualified to say what your HOA may do in this situation. I think it would be a good idea to get some kind of written assurance from your tiling contractor that your shower was rebuilt by qualified installers following the industry “best practices”. That may be your best evidence for your HOA in case they have any questions.

    I’m sorry that I couldn’t provide you with more reassurance.

    Steve

  12. Thank you for the article. We already completed a shower wall niche in our HOA-controlled townhouse in a shared wall. We cut into the firewall, which we’re nervous that the HOA will make us tear out and redo, but every unit has a cheap soapdish insert that penetrates their firewalls anyways. I have consulted experts (Underwriters Laboratories Architectural Division) who say that thinset mortar and porcelain tile is naturally fireproof anyways, so that should meet or exceed the wall’s fire rating. One of the vertical 2×4 studs was cut and framed into a horizontal rectangle to the two adjacent studs, and it did not seem to be load bearing wall, and the framing was properly reinforced. The tile company that did the work used Kerdi-board backing and appropriately waterproofed everything prior to tile-setting. Does this design sound OK? The work doesn’t seem to compromise the structural integrity of the wall (the work all remained on our side of the shared wall), and it seems appropriately fireproofed and waterproofed. Is there anything that you can tell me that might ease my concerns about the HOA wanting to inspect our unit “for any potential damage to shared walls” which they said they have the right to do “from time to time” as written in the CC&R? The work was done by a licensed tile company who does impeccable work. I’m nervous that an HOA Board member without the training nor expertise to judge these things will simply order us to tear it out and rebuild the firewall or something like that. Any advice would be appreciated.

  13. Hi James,

    Thank you for your comment!

    Because the Schluter prefabricated shower niche is made of foam board, I would not recommend pulling the tile. Chances are that you will destroy the niche in the process. That would be a lot worse than pooling water. I know it’s frustrating to see but I think you’re stuck with it unfortunately.

    The encouraging thing about prefab foam niches is that it should never leak even if water pools at the base (unless it’s been damaged). Just make sure you seal the grout well so you can more easily clean off any mold and soap scum that may collect.

    Cheers,

    Steve

  14. Hey there
    Thanks so much for the helpful article. My builders have just installed a Schluter prefabricated niche but have forgotten to slope the tile so water is pooling. Is attempting to pull the tile and replace it the best idea?

  15. Hi Joe,

    Thank you for your comment!

    I think you know what I’m going to say…….. You should not be installing your niche on a 3-1/2″ outside stud wall…… not even in northern California. The temperature variation between inside and outside is large enough to cause condensation behind your niche if any moisture makes it behind your niche. And some moisture will pretty much always make it behind your niche.

    If your wife is absolutely against the idea of a shower niche on one of the inside walls, have you considered installing surface mounted shower shelves instead? Schluter makes some very nice ones! Just a thought.

    Getting back to your question…… Yes, installing a Schluter foam niche will be better than installing the diy niche you described. It would work better to reduce moisture behind the niche. If you absolutely need to install on the outside wall, you should certainly install a foam niche but I would go one step further and install a SUPER GOOD sheet waterproofing membrane on the entire wall and in the niche as well. I usually discourage the layering of waterproofing products but in this case you need to do all you can to limit moisture transmission.

    I don’t really understand how you are going to get a 2″ space behind your niche in a 3-1/2″ stud wall but if your niche was super narrow and the shelf protrudes, I guess you could pull that off. If you can get foam behind it, professionally installed spray foam would be best. Fill the entire wall if possible (or at least the stud cavity) and place the niche into the wet foam). If you can’t do spray foam, a 2″ thick insulating foam sheet can be placed behind it. Just make sure there are no voids at all. No gaps, no cracks…. nothing. I would even buy a can of spray foam so you can spay around it and use it to set the niche into.

    Good Luck with your project!

    Steve

  16. Great article. So, I’m thinking about installing my niche on an exterior wall- 2×4 studs. Stucco exterior. I live in Northern California (near Sacramento) where temps are 40-102 degrees. Can I get away with installing a shluter niche? Will it help with moisture behind the niche? Or, can I go my original route (diy niche with permabase) and install a longer (depth) niche shelf so my wife’s bigger shampoo bottles will fit BUT also have a 2” cavity behind the niche to apply foam or insulation? If foam is best… what kind of foam? Will that look ugly? Will it work?! I’ve attached photos. My wife had an idea of keeping the longer side wall niche-free for aesthetics. Any suggestions would help me!

    https://imgur.com/a/VzM68Wu

  17. Hello again Dona,

    Thanks for your comment!

    You should keep in mind that the factors that create moisture and mold growth in the shower wall are water vapor, a temperature differential between the outside and inside walls, the amount of insulation, AND a condensation surface (like a plastic vapor barrier, or foil wrap).

    The EZ niche is PVC plastic so it has a relatively low permeability but the niche and rest of the wall assembly, will always transmit some moisture into the shower wall.

    If you have a 2″x6″ stud wall there will be some room behind the niche. I would suggest that you pack loose insulation around the niche and behind it. Don’t leave any air spaces around the niche or in that particular stud cavity (to eliminate air circulation). I would suggest that you not use the foil wrap. This just introduces a condensation surface into the wall and you don’t want that. Even in a mild climate like San Diego, you can get enough of a temperature differential for moisture to condense in the shower wall if you provide a surface upon which to condense.

    Beyond that, you must do everything you can to limit water vapor transmission through the shower wall.

    In conclusion…..it would really be best if you installed your niche in an interior wall instead. If it’s not possible, have you considered installing wall mounted shelves? There are some great corner shelves available. Just a thought.

    Good Luck!

    Steve

  18. Hi Steve
    We are doing a shower remodel where the niche will have to go on an external wall, no choice. We will be using a prefab EZ-niche, thank you for the suggestion above of coating it with red guard for substrate adhesion, we wouldn’t have thought about using that since the niche is water proof by design. In regards to the insulation question – we don’t have the option of building a secondary wall so we’re thinking of lining the area where the niche will go with the thin foil bubble wrap type insulation (Reflectix). We live in San Diego so very mild climate and the wall is a north facing wall that is in eternal shade and because it’s on the side of the house closest to the neighboring house it doesn’t even ever get wet. Thoughts? TIA!

  19. Hi Kristen,

    Thank you for your comment! I’m super happy that I could provide you with some helpful advice!

    Steve

  20. Really appreciate the info on the structural issues with long niches. They had framed one out but not structurally so after reading this and showing this to my contractor we are re-doing a small niche within existing framing to be safe. So you saved us potential issues down the road. Thank you!

  21. Hi Tamara,

    Thank you for your comment and Congrats on your new home!

    Unfortunately, attempting to remove tiles in the niche or anywhere on the shower wall is a difficult and risky procedure. Chances are that you will damage the waterproofing membrane (if there is one) or damage the backer board (might even be gypsum wallboard). If this happens, you will make things a lot worse than they already are. Because of the poor workmanship that you have noticed with the tiling and niche installation, there is a pretty good chance that your shower niche has been compromised and moisture has already been leaking into the stud wall.

    Instead, I would check to see if there is any signs of water infiltration by cutting a hole in the drywall on the other side of the wall that the niche is mounted into. To patch the drywall is pretty easy if you look it up online. If everything looks good behind the niche (no moisture or mold), then I would leave the niche alone until you do a full shower remodel. And if the niche is mounted in an outside wall, this is a whole other ball game. You can read more about this in my waterproofing post.

    If there is a problem behind the niche (or the niche is mounted in an outside wall), I would only recommend that you fully remodel your shower so that a waterproofing membrane can be installed with a properly sealed niche box.

    If there is no moisture issues behind the niche, you could consider applying new tile over the old tile at the back of the niche. Here is a primer that allows you to do this: https://www.custombuildingproducts.com/media/59976485/mbp_ss129_114.pdf

    I know that this is probably not what you wanted to hear (sorry about that), but I wanted you to know what you’re getting into when you mess with an old shower wall.

    Steve.

  22. Hello!

    Thank you for so many informative articles, your website is very helpful! We recently bought our first home and most of the tiling appears to have not been done well. I think we will eventually be replacing all the tile because of this, but right now my biggest concern is the tile niche in our guest bathroom. It is poorly installed, crooked, the tile is ugly, and the caulking/grouting is very messy. Plainly, it looks really bad and we would like to remove and retile the back of the niche.

    The shower is tiled in plain white subway tiles and this is what is bordering the niche. We don’t mind these. The back of the niche tile is what we would like to remove, the sides and border tiles are fine. I can’t seem to find any information about removing and replacing tiles in a shower niche though, so I’m just not sure how to go about this. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you again,
    Tamara

  23. Hi Jennifer,

    Thank you for your comment.

    The beginning of your comment is a bit cryptic but I think I understand what you are asking. I am assuming that at least one of your shower walls is a brick wall, and this is the wall where your want your shower niche to be installed.

    If the shower wall is brick, it is likely an outside wall. Even if it is not, I would still suggest the same solution (below).

    An outside facing shower wall no matter how it’s constructed, needs to be insulated adequately. That means that between the brick wall and the tiled shower wall, there needs to be an adequate amount of space filled with insulation, to prevent moisture from condensing in the wall. There also needs to be an adequate waterproofing membrane beneath the tile layer to limit moisture transmission into this wall.

    The only safe way to do this is to build a new wall adjacent to the brick wall. You can then insulate this wall and install your shower niche into it. You still must allow enough wall thickness to be able to insulate behind the shower niche as well, especially if it’s a tiled shower niche. You can find more details in my Shower Niche Install Mistakes post.

    Good luck with your niche install, and let me know if you need anymore info!

    Steve

  24. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your article. We are upgrading a bathroom on a bungalow we both. All brick wall. No tiler we asked will put in a niche into the shower. They said its too difficult to do . Do you have any advice or suggestions please?

    Thanks
    Jennifer

  25. Hi Ashley,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I’m assuming that the edges of the tile are exposed around the perimeter of the shower niche…. not a great look.

    I’m sorry to say that it would be extremely difficult to add tile edge trim around the niche perimeter after the shower wall and niche are already tiled. The problem is that most trims have a flange or “anchoring leg” that’s designed to be placed into the mortar beneath the edge tile.

    It is possible to find a trim with no anchoring leg but that would mean that the tile would have to be cut away at the corner to make room for this trim piece. This would be a VERY difficult procedure even for the most skilled tile installer, and it would really only be possible with ceramic tile. The trim is called Quadec by Schluter Systems.

    Sorry I couldn’t come up with an easier solution. And please let me know if you have anymore questions.

    Steve.

  26. Hi Steve
    Our contractor installed a shower niche and tiled the wall and niche however my husband doesn’t like the finished product as there is. I trim around it Is it too late to add some type of trim now ?

  27. Hi Phil,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I don’t see any problem with this other than the fact that you must construct your own custom niche box to acheive the unique height and depth (rather than using a preformed niche). The extra 2″ cantilever shouldn’t be a problem as long as it’s supported fully underneath.

    Because standard wood and metal framing materials are not great to use in niche construction, might I suggest that you instead construct it out of Kerdi Board or some other brand of foam board? I would use the 5/8″ or 3/4″ thickness for extra structural stability, cut to size and glued together with a polyurethane sealant like Dap polyurethane sealant. Just make sure that you use 1/2″ foam board for the perimeter mounting flange since it needs to be mounted flush with your 1/2″ shower tile backer board.

    Although this niche should be totally waterproof, I would also suggest that you apply a good quality waterproofing membrane to the interior of the niche when you’re waterproofing the shower wall, just to be safe.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Steve.

  28. Hi Steve,
    I am remodeling my master bath down to the studs. The long shower wall backs a walk in closet. I’m considering building a 24 x 24″ niche, 6″ deep (by pushing into the closet. I asked the clothes if they mind, they don’t care). The outcropping will be cantilevered from the studs so I will take extra care supporting it.
    Do you see any problem doing this?

  29. Hi David,

    Thank you for your comment. Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.

    I am not a big fan of most PVC (plastic) tilable shower niches. I have chosen to avoid the uncoated plastic niches in my installations simply because of the mortar bonding problems they seem to have. If the mortar contains enough polymer adhesive, I guess it could stick reliably to the plastic surface, but as an installer I would never take this risk. The only way I would install the EZ Niche or the Redi Niche is if a liquid waterproofing membrane (like RedGard) was first applied to its surface. The Durock Shower Niche is the only plastic niche that I would ever recommend because it has a coating applied to its surface to facilitate mortar bonding. I have installed this niche a few times and it seems like a solid product.

    Good Luck!

    Steve

  30. Hi Michelle,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Yes, our stainless steel recessed shower niches can be finished with any type of shower panel or shower board. The “tiling” flange that surrounds the niche, is designed to extend out from the mounting surface a full 1/2″ so that you can surround the niche with tile as thick as 3/8″, but you can also surround the niche with an acrylic, stone, or glass shower panel if you like. The only difference is that if you install a thinner panel like the acrylic type, the perimeter flange will protrude a little from the finished acrylic wall surface. You should keep in mind that the niche must be attached to the shower wall before the acrylic/glass/stone panel is installed so that it can overlap the mounting flange (M-block flange) and bond to it via a sealant. You can refer to our mounting directions to get more details if you like, or you can email me at [email protected]

    Steve

  31. Hello,

    Can these Niche shower box’s be finished with shower boards as oppose to tilling?

    Thank you

  32. Thanks Jay. It’s great to hear that people like yourself are getting some useful info from my posts.

    Steve

  33. Hi Brad,

    I would have to agree with you. It could certainly cause a problem in the long run even if you have a waterproofing membrane beneath the tile. If there is no membrane, it could already be a problem. The only thing you can do to fix it is to try to gently pry off the base tiles and re-attach them with a proper slope. I would only try this if you DO NOT have a waterproofing membrane beneath your tile. If there is a membrane, you will likely destroy it and this would be worse than leaving as is. It will also be difficult to get these tiles off without breaking them so you need some spares that you can use as replacements.

    Good Luck!

    Steve

  34. Hi,
    Recently my bathroom was remodeled with a niche installed. The bottom tiles of the niche slope back towards the wall resulting in a lot of water building up to almost 3mm in depth against the back of the niche. They say it is not a problem but I disagree. What do you suggest?

  35. Hi Daphne,

    I am hoping that there is at least a framed box in the stud cavity behind the wall so there’s a solid surface to apply this tile……. You know that this box should also be waterproofed correctly to prevent water from getting into your wall. It could be quite disastrous if he does not do this correctly. Maybe you should read over my Shower waterproofing post to find out more about waterproofing a shower niche. You can also check out my Shower Niche Guide if you’d like to see an example of a “tiled niche” and the tile edge trim that your contractor was likely referring to. I might also suggest that you get another contractor in for a second opinion about the work. To be frank, it sounds like this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.

    Good Luck!

    Steve

  36. Hi!

    you guessed right….at this point the niche is useless unless we re-do everything. My contractor is suggesting that we simply put the tiles in the hole that has already been made (with enough slant to make the water run down but also not too slanted so my bottles can’t stay on it) and add a sort of aluminum transition trim (not sure that is the correct word but what we would see on the floor usually but a thicker one around the tiles). I speak english and french so translating it directly I believe he said an L-angle edging trim ? I did a bit more research and I have seen some people do it this way (I guess the old fashion way??) . Thanks Steve for taking the time to reply !

  37. Hi Daphne,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Wow! I’m not really sure what to say about this one.

    I looked at the niche in the link you provided. You are correct that it is designed to be a tile ready niche, not a finished niche. If I’m understanding your situation correctly, there are a few problems with this installation, needless to say.

    Firstly…… As you can see by the screw holes around its perimeter, this niche is designed to be screwed into framing members that your contractor should have installed prior to installing the tile backer board (the board that the tiles are attached to). If there is no exposed framing that you can see to attach the niche on 3 sides, it will be impossible to install this niche correctly at this stage.

    In a normal installation, the tile backer board is installed with a hole just large enough to allow the entire niche to be screwed directly to the framing installed earlier. Its mounting flange would then be flush with the backer board surface with a slight gap around which would be sealed and waterproofing membrane installed. The membrane would cover the niche mounting flange so no screws were visible. The shower wall tiles would then be installed.

    I’m assuming from your description that your contractor did not do this, but if he installed the back framing I described above, the niche could still be attached, the gap sealed, and a strip of waterproofing membrane applied. This would be relatively safe but not ideal. This would also assume that the wall tile could still be continued seamlessly around the niche and into its interior.

    If my above assumptions above are incorrect, I’m sorry to say there may be no good solutions to this problem other than starting over and doing it correctly.
    Although not a great solution, your only other choice might be to install a retrofit niche with and overlap flange (as long as the whole is exactly the right size, that is).

    Let me know if you need more clarification or if you’d like to give me more details for further assessment.

    Steve.

  38. Hi! my contractor just bought a shower niche (link below) and wanted to leave it as is. I find it looks really cheap and asked him if we can find another solution. The problem is that the hole is there ready for the niche but all the tiles have been put down already around it.

    He is now suggesting to just put tiles in the open space if I don’t like the box I linked below….Is there anything to keep in mind? The box he bought is usually made to tile over (based on research I just did) afterwards. Now I have to sort of find a box that can be inserted inside and have a bit if a lip all round or do as mentioned before, cover in ceramic….

    https://www.rona.ca/en/double-shower-niche-16-x-20-white-65595330?viewStore=41450&cm_mmc=-_-1697454409-_-65797565026-_-pla-789828216667&gclid=CjwKCAjw4NrpBRBsEiwAUcLcDAruYjqrXkjrAeHtFSlvPDKOxDTXp7kFtnt49WGO_GIerPjBFBflfxoCYe0QAvD_BwE

  39. Hi John,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I am not sure I understand exactly what you are describing, but it sounds like your contractor is creating a waterproof recess out of hydroban board to accommodate the niche. This is what I am assuming.

    Regardless, it’s difficult to predict what will happen if it’s installed over the membrane before the wall is tiled. The problem is that there is still only one layer of adhesive that keeps water from getting behind the niche regardless when it’s mounted. Even if the wall cavity that contains the niche is completely waterproofed, water may still get behind it with a single retrofit flange. If this happens, it could eventually cause mold growth or tile delamination even if water doesn’t get into the wall cavity.

    Maybe I am not understanding your situation correctly, but if you wanted a finished niche and you want it to be completely waterproof, I’m just wondering why you didn’t purchase one that’s designed to integrate with the waterproofing membrane. That would make things a lot easier.

    If I’m misunderstanding you, please provide some more info so I can make a better assessment.

    Steve

  40. The niche that my contractor purchased is a retrofit model. It will be on an inside wall. We will be using Laticrete Hydroban board to waterproof the shower including the niche cavity. If we leave 1/4″ spacing (1/8″ around) to thinset around the niche cavity to install over the waterproofing membrane, do you feel that will be sufficient?

  41. Hi Feldhaus,

    Thanks for your comment.

    You didn’t mention how much of your 64″ wall will be occupied by the proposed horizontal niche, but as long as there is room for a narrow stud bay on each side of the header (around 6″- 10″ each side), you should be OK. This of course assumes that you will be adequately fortifying the structure in this wall.

    The removal of studs in a non bearing wall really just increases the flexibility of the wall. This extra flexibility can be limited by installing a structural header over top of the niche opening. A steel beam would be great, but it’s not really necessary. A standard 8″ wood header would do the job as long as it’s assembled and installed properly.

    The more accurately the new header, jack, king and cripple studs are cut and attached, the less flexible this wall will be. Using construction adhesive in the joints around the header and installing blocking between the remaining stud bays, will also significantly increase the wall’s rigidity.

    Good luck with your project!

    Steve

  42. Steve, great article! We are currently in a remodel and was thinking of this horizontal niche with a light in the top corner. The contractor brought up some of the issues with this in various projects. We have a bathroom that is 64″ wide, do you think that is too large to do a Horizontal Niche in the current wall? I was even thining if it was perhaps we could use small steel beams to support the weight. Its a non-load bearing wall but there is a floor above, I found your article great as it talked about considering other issues, not just weight from above.

  43. Hi Jessica,

    Thank you for your comment!
    I would recommend that the entire perimeter mounting flange of the niche be supported by backing, and that the niche be attached to the backing on all 4 sides. All these foam and plastic niches can distort if not fully supported.
    When it comes to tiling substrates, it is always better to take this approach because you do not want this assembly to flex or your grout lines will eventually crack.
    Good Luck with your project!

    Steve

  44. Hi Steve! Is it absolutely necessary to put a cross beam (blocking) where a pre-fab niche would go? I can’t find anything online about it being necessary but the man at the tile store that sold me the niche suggested it. Thanks for your help!

  45. Hi Mikal,

    Thanks for your comment!

    You are correct to be concerned about installing your shower niche in an outside wall unless there is at least 3″ of insulation space behind the niche.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, it is a very typical alcove style shower with a 6′ back wall (outside wall) and two 4’6″ side walls, one of which is the valve wall.
    My suggestion would simply be to install a tall vertical niche (with shelves) on the wall opposite the valve wall. You say that you’re hesitant to do this, but it is the most common place to install a standard shower niche (other than horizontal). It is the area one would usually step into to wash themselves, away from the water stream. As such it’s very convenient to install the niche in this area because it’s in easy reach.
    Also, being a full 5.5′ away from the shower head, it is basically the driest part of your shower. Even if water does end up in the niche, you shouldn’t be concerned as long as you trust your contractor to construct and waterproof it correctly. Here is a link to my shower waterproofing post if you would like to read more on the topic.

    And please let me know if you need more help, and good luck with your project!

    Steve.

  46. Mikal Sommerdorf

    I am currently working with a contractor on my shower remodel. We are doing an accessible shower for my son but the bathroom will also be used by guests who come to visit. We were initially looking at doing a horizontal niche but it is an exterior wall. We live in the Seattle area and so now I’m thinking this is not our best option. We were wanting the most storage possible for our items we use for our son as well as for our guests to put their items in there as well. The shower will be 4’ 6” x 6’, with the 6’ wall being the exterior wall. We are having a shower head with diverted valve for a separate shower wand installed which is limiting the location of the niche on the wall with the shower head and I am not a fan of placing the niche along the back wall in direct line of the shower spray. Any ideas on how this might work best?

  47. Hello again Christie,

    Thank you for commenting!
    The fact that you live in Florida does make “the outside wall problem” a little less of a problem than if you were living in an area that experiences more extreme temperature fluctuations seasonally. The issue is really all about the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors. As far as I can tell, your part of Florida experiences temp’s from the 40’s (F) to the 90’s (F) so there is enough of a temp variation to create a condensation problem behind the niche (if it was mounted in an outside wall with inadequate insulation behind it). But it really has to do with the thickness of your outside wall. If your outside wall studs are 2″x6″ construction, I believe it may be possible, especially if the wall was sprayed with polyurethane foam insulation (best R-value per inch and awesome vapour control). To be sure, you really should consult a local contractor familiar with the insulation and vapour control requirements in your area. In other words, there is a good chance that it may be possible.
    Otherwise, you can place your shower niches wherever you want. You can place them beside each other horizontally or vertically on the back wall. The only thing I would suggest is that you keep them out of the “splash zone” just because it’s more convenient to access when you are showering. Why not just mount them directly adjacent to where you were planning to mount them (vertical mounting on the back wall, a few inches from the corner)? Many clients tell me that they like the asymmetrical look and it’s very convenient to access. With the high volume of users in this particular shower, practicality should really be your highest priority in my opinion.

    Good luck with your project!

    Steve

  48. Steve, I originally planned to put two of the N1014 stainless niches stacked vertically a few inches apart on the rear wall of a tub shower combo (opposite the shower head). This bathroom serves a bunk room that sleeps 8, hence wanting more storage.

    However, I just realized that is an exterior wall in our bay front home in Florida. 🙁 So now I’m contemplating what to do. What about horizontal placement in the long wall?Vertical placement on the long wall? I’d love if there are pictures to see the different options.

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