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Steve Gehrmann is a remodelling contractor (SKG Renovations). He is also a partner in Redblock Industries along with his brother Dave.

This Complete Shower Niche Guide thoroughly explores the question What is a Shower Niche, by providing you with all the resources you might need for your important shower niche decisions (the different types, installation issues and where to buy them).

This is Steve from SKG Renovations. This actionable shower niche info comes from my experience installing all kinds of shower niches during my bathroom and shower remodelling career.

Ok, let’s get into it!

Included in this Post:

Answering the question: What is a Shower Niche?

Overview of the different Shower Niches Types

Shower Niche Design to help you pick exactly the right shower niche for you (pros & cons of each type)

Finding the perfect Shower Niche Height, Size, & Position in your shower wall

Avoiding the BIGGEST Shower Niche Install Problems

Shower Niches vs Other Shower Storage Options (shower caddies, shower shelves)

A Shower Niche Buyers Guide (Costs & Descriptions)

What is a Shower Niche?

A shower niche is a fairly common term used to describe a storage space in the wall of your shower or bath to store soap, shampoo bottles, etc. It is a permanent recessed shelf (or niche) in the tile wall that is finished and waterproof, that allows you to use the space inside the wall as extra storage.

Other less popular terms for shower niche include, built in shower shelves, recessed shower shelf, and shower shelf insert, to name a few of the less popular but also highly searched terms for shower niche. It can also be referred to more specifically as a bathtub niche if it’s installed in a tub/ shower combination, and more generally as a bathroom niche.

To fully answer the question, What is a shower niche?, we must also define the two main types: tiled shower niche and finished shower niche. Each of these two niche types also have some variations.

Shower Niche Types:

There are two main types of Shower Niches: Tiled and Finished.

M&D's master bath Tiled-niche - scaled to 350W - 70jpg

Tiled Shower Niche

Angled empty N1014 with green glass tile - product page

Finished Shower Niche

1.  Tiled shower niches come in two variations:

 i)  Custom tiled niches require the construction of a framed box between the wall studs. This shower niche box is then covered with tile backer board, waterproofed, then tiled. This type is the most costly, time consuming, and error prone of all the niche types but can be built to any custom size.

ii)  The prefab niche, or preformed shower niche is the easiest tiling niche to install and waterproof. It can be made of plastic, foam board or stainless steel and it’s surface is designed to be tiled upon (has a tile bonding surface). They are available in only a few standard sizes.

2. Finished shower niches also come in two variations:

i)  The membrane bonding niche has an outer flange for bonding to waterproofing membranes and attachment to the framing. They can be made from stainless steel or porcelain. These are much easier to install than a tiled shower niche.

ii)  The retrofit niche mounts into a hole in the finished tile & fastens to the tile surface with adhesive. They can be made from stainless steel, porcelain or plastic. This type is the easiest to install but DOES NOT bond with the waterproofing membrane.

Shower Niche Design

There are so many variations within the two broad categories of recessed shower niches (Tiled vs Finished) that it really helps to weigh the pros and cons of each of the shower niche designs.

Custom Built Tiled Shower Niche

The Custom Built Tiled Shower Niche can be built to almost any size, cater to any design scheme, and can be made waterproof. Vertical niches can increase storage with less cost than horizontal niche.

Cons:  Risk of water leaks if built poorly. Both are more costly than other types of shower wall inserts, especially the horizontal niche.

Custom Built Tiled Horizontal Shower Niche

A custom built tiled horizontal shower niche is a bold statement of luxury with a larger storage capacity than other niche designs.

Cons: The greatest amount of time (and cost) for construction, risks of structural damage during shower wall modification, and only a single recessed shelf for toiletry storage.

Tile Ready Preformed Shower Niche Insert

The tile redi prefabricated /preformed shower niche products are easy to install and already waterproof (sealed foam board construction).

Cons: Some say they are easily damaged during handling and only available in limited sizes.

Finished Shower Niche with Membrane Bonding

This style of shower niche is completely finished so there is no need for tiling, which means easier / cheaper installation, waterproof design, easy cleaning and membrane bonding.

Cons: Some say the look is too bold (stainless steel types) or too dated (ceramic types).

Finished Shower Niche without Membrane Bonding

This type of shower niche also has a finished surface so there is no tiling or finishing required however, they are mounted into a hole in the shower wall AFTER the tiling is complete.

Cons: It does not integrate with the waterproofing membrane, increasing the risk of leaks.

Get more details on this topic from my Shower Niche Design post.

Shower Niche Height, Size and Position

Once you have figured out your preferred shower niche design, then you need to figure out how large, where and how high you want your new niche.

How large you want your shower niche is related to your preferred niche design, but you must also consider it separately to determine your practical needs.

Do you want a large shower nook with plenty of storage for a large family, or is aesthetics more of a priority for you?

Where should your niche be positioned? Do you want quick access to products while standing in the water stream, then a valve wall placement, or middle of the back wall might be appropriate.

Are you concerned about water constantly spraying in the niche and water logging all products?  Then placing your shower niche a little further from the valve wall might be prudent.

And what about height? Are you vertically challenged or perhaps you have kids that will be using the shower regularly.  You must pick a height that suites all your needs.

Get more details from my Shower Niche Planning Guide, my Shower Niche Height post or my Shower Niche Sizes post.

Shower Niche Install Problems

No matter which shower niche you decide to install or where you install it, there are some important guidelines that must be followed to avoid making a few very regrettable mistakes.

Shower Waterproofing

Many old-school contractors still do not routinely install shower wall waterproofing membranes.

As such, leaks at the shower wall corners and the wall to base corner are common with no membrane.

Retrofit Niche Installation

Fitting a retrofit niche into a hole in the shower wall and gluing it to the tile by a tiny silicon bead is always a bad idea.

The inevitable result is water in the stud wall leading to mold…… you get the idea.

Integration with the Waterproofing Membrane

Most finished shower niche products do not have built in flange for attaching to the waterproofing membrane.

Whether you buy finished niche or a prefab tile ready niche, you must make sure it is bonded to the membrane.

Don’t Compromise the Wall Structure

Construction of a custom horizontal tiled niche involves removing a section of the wall studs that support your shower wall.

If this procedure is not done correctly by someone qualified, it can seriously compromise the structural integrity of the shower wall.

Outside Wall Installation

It is generally not recommended to mount a shower niche in an outside wall, especially in older homes. 

You can probably get away with it in a milder climate if the stud wall thickness is 6″ or more but you should check with a local building professional.

Get more details from my 5 BIG Shower Niche Install Mistakes post.

Shower Niches vs Other Shower Storage

Perhaps you’re contemplating which of the many shower storage options will work best for your existing shower, OR you’re ready to remodel your shower and install permanent recessed storage.

Shower Caddy

A popular and cost effective temporary shower storage option is the classic shower caddy. These can take the form of racks suspended between you shower floor and ceiling or be hung from the shower head or shower door.

Caddies can be very effective for many years, but can also fall apart and some can cause damage to your shower floor or ceiling.

Shower Shelves and Racks

Other more permanent but slightly more obtrusive shower storage are the wall mounted soap shelves and shower racks.

These come in a infinite array of styles and sizes in stainless steel, coated steel, wood and plastic varieties.

Floor Racks & Baskets

And slightly more obtrusive again are the floor racks and baskets. These storage options can be more useful because of their larger size and multiple shelves.

The downside is that they tend to take up valuable floor space and tend to get kicked and tripped over.

Shower Niches

The only permanent shower storage option is the shower niche, which requires a full remodel of your shower.

A shower niche is fully recessed into the shower wall so it, and all your shower items, stay out of your way during showering.

A very clear downside is the excessive cost compared to the other shower storage options available.

See more Hanging Shower Caddy ideas here.

Shower Niche Buying Guide

What is the cost of installing a shower niche?

If you are buying a finished shower niche the costs will be more clear, but what does a tiled shower niche cost to install?

Shower niche costs are often not clear to the customer, especially if the bathroom remodel contractor is not breaking down the costs in their quote.

Even a novice can guess that the tiling of a shower wall without interruption is considerably faster and easier than tiling a wall with a shower niche in it. The niche hole involves extra framing (often), as well as meticulous waterproofing and a more complicated tile installation.

I wrote a “Buyer’s Guide” post to outline the costs in more detail, to help the consumer be more informed about their choices.

It’ll hopefully help you qualify your niche options based on their actual cost (material and installation).

Wrap Up

I hope you were able to get some useful advice from my What is a Shower Niche post (and the linked content) to help you during your shower remodel project.

If you’d like to write a comment about the array of Shower Niche topics I’ve covered in this post or what topics I may have missed, please let me know in the comments below.

I look forward to hearing 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 remodelling work in your home. Click here for my full Personal / Professional Disclosure. *

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8 thoughts on “Complete Shower Niche Guide (Helping You Choose)”

  1. Hi there,my shower has 3 walls..the wall with the valve (which is an interior wall) across from that is an exterior wall and the back wall that is in between is also exterior. Contractor suggested niche installation on the wall across from valve wall but it’s (exterior) and now I’m worried. Should I skip a niche altogether? The wonder board has been installed and I didn’t see any cross wood installed between the studs before the wonder board went up. I assume he cuts the wonder board and puts niche inside hole? Would He not then be ripping the plastic that covers the installation? I didn’t think you were supposed to have rips in the plastic. Can he install these cross pieces after the hole is cut? Or was this a step he already missed. I’m nervous things aren’t being done right. My valve wall had no insulation or plastic put in either- contractor says interior walls don’t need it. ???

  2. Hi Kat,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Yes, You should be concerned. Water vapor is likely to condense in the stud wall behind the niche if your contractor installs it in this way.

    In general, it’s not a good idea to install the niche in an outside wall because most (or all) of the insulation must be removed to make room for it. Even if it’s mounted in a 2×6 stud wall, there would still not be enough insulation behind it.

    Cutting a hole in the vapor barrier plastic (without sealing it against the niche somehow) only makes the situation worse. And there should also be cross framing installed prior to the backer board installation so the niche can be securely attached to the framing all around.

    Insulation and vapor barrier plastic is not required for the interior wall. Insulation could optionally be installed in this wall to serve as a sound insulator.

    In this situation I would recommend against installing a shower niche in either of these two outside walls. Read this post to find out the only way that I would recommend mounting a niche in an outside shower wall.

    Sorry for the bad news 🙁

    Steve

  3. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your question.

    It’s always best to direct product related questions to our support email ([email protected]), but we only sell our product in our web store (redblockindustries.com/shop). Our business is in Bellingham WA but we have no retail location at the moment.

    Steve

  4. Hi is it practical or even possible to add a niche to an existing shower wall?
    The shower is not damaged and we like the tile job as it is. We are VERY concerned about compromising the integrity of the wall and whatever we find behind the wall. Thank you

  5. Hi Rene,

    Thank you for your comment!

    I’m sorry to say that I don’t believe that there’s a safe way to install a shower niche into an existing tiled shower wall. There are niches out there that can be installed into a “hole” in your tiled shower wall, but I don’t recommend these because they don’t bond with the shower wall waterproofing membrane. These niches are glued to the tile surface with a single bead of silicon, which ends up being your only line of defense against moisture infiltration.

    Even if you wanted to install one of these sketchy niches, they’re also not designed to mount into an existing shower wall because it would be very difficult to cut a hole into the wall without damaging the entire assembly.

    Sorry for the bad news.

    Steve

  6. Hello Steve,

    Thank you for all the information you have provided. I would like to have the contractor install a horizontal niche across the entire back wall. Is there any reason NOT to install such a niche on the same wall where a bench will be built.

    I thank you in advance for your response

  7. Hi Joan,

    Thank you for your comment!

    If the new wall is structured properly (with a strong header assembly), I believe that it’s an OK idea to install a full length horizontal shower niche as long as there’s no shower bench installed on this wall. As I mentioned in my Shower Niche Install Mistakes post, I would always prefer to install a new 3-1/2″ stud wall in front of the back wall to contain the new horizontal shower niche, shower bench or not.

    If you are installing a bench on this wall, I would STRONGLY suggest that you install the extra wall. This wall should be firmly attached to the ceiling, floor, and existing shower wall. This will give it the needed rigidity for a shower bench. I would even install some horizontal blocking in the existing wall to further increase rigidity. A bench causes a lot of wall deflection. This is a recipe for disaster (in my opinion), if additional structural measures are not taken to stiffen the entire assembly.

    Good luck with your project!

    Steve.

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