If you’re looking to improve your shower storage and you only want a small scale shower remodel, you should consider installing a corner shower shelf.
In this post, I’ll go over a few of the best corner shelves I’ve installed as a bathroom remodeling contractor.
The first part of my list includes shelves that are generally installed during a full shower remodel. Some of these require tile modification and some don’t.
The second part includes shelves that can be installed into existing tiled showers. This includes Retrofit shower corner shelves and screw mounted corner shower shelves.
So let’s get into it!
The Problems with Corner Shower Shelves
Shelves that get loose and fall off prematurely is the biggest complaint I hear from my clients about their corner shower shelf installations.
And if they’re remodeling their shower, other clients have complained that all sturdy wall mount corner shelves are too big and clunky.
They also complain about water pooling against the wall, and soap scum and mold accumulation.
And still others told me that some stainless steel parts on their shelves have shown signs of rust when cleaning with chlorine bleach products.
Shelves Installed during Tile Installation
ln my opinion, the best and most secure corner shower shelves are made of rust resistant steel, and are mechanically connected to the wall.
A best way to achieve a solid, mechanical connection is via “installation legs” that extend into the grout line by at least 1/4″ on both walls. This way the shelf can be firmly supported on the tiles below.
The “install legs” must also be made of solid enough material so that they can hold enough weight, and not bend or dislodge when bumped.
A major drawback of some corner shelves is their small installation tabs. The tiny tabs on most of these shelves are not long enough to extend into the grout line, especially if the corner is not a perfect 90 degree angle (which is all too common).
Another big drawback is that some of these shelves (like glass and stone shelves) are too thick to install in the grout line, so a notch must be cut in the lower tile to accommodate them.
Stainless Steel Corner Shower Shelves
My “go-to” shower corner shelf has always been the Shelf-E by Schluter Systems because my clients liked the clean minimalist look of a single sheet of stainless steel.
It is a very nice and functional shelf, but I always thought it could use some improvements to address some of my clients’ shower corner shelf concerns.
As a result, I decided to design a stainless steel corner shower shelf of my own (with my brother Dave, actually).
I don’t want to brag too much about our shelf, but I will say that it is quite attractive (in my opinion) and it solves all the corner shower shelf problems that my clients have complained about over the years. You can check it out here (see image).
Redblock’s rb3 Corner Shower Shelf
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Glass Corner Shower Shelf
Glass corner shelves are popular because of their modern and minimalist look. They are often installed by inserting protruding “tabs” into notches cut into the tile. These are similar to the tabs of the stainless steel shelves mentioned above, but they are a lot thicker. That means that the tile must be cut on one or both sides of the grout line to allow the tabs to be inserted between the tile.
Alternatively, some glass shelves are installed with hangers, which are attached with screws through the grout line, into the backer board behind the tile.
Tempered Glass Curved Corner Shelf
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This image shows the type of glass corner shelf that is installed into notches cut into the tile during tile installation (imbedded into the thinset mortar).
If installed correctly, the tiles, mortar, and grout, will securely support the glass corner shelf and anything you choose to place on it.
It’s strength and stability is one of the biggest advantages of this type of shower shelf.
Glass corner shelves like the one above often have a slight green color, but clear glass is also available if you want to spend a bit more money.
Common complaints that I hear about glass corner shelves is that soap tends to slip off, they don’t drain water away, and they always look messy between cleanings.
Always make sure that the glass shelves you purchase are made from tempered glass or laminated “safety glass”. Untempered glass is very dangerous if it breaks, especially in the shower.
Tile Corner Shelves
Image courtesy of icreatables.com.
Tile corner shower shelves made the list because the are super solid and a popular DIY shower storage idea.
These are also popular because they’re inexpensive, and easy to make, because they are made of a single (or double) tile with a simple finishing strip pof tile across the front. A real advantage of these corner shelves is that they will always match your shower wall tile perfectly.
Some people like to use timber framing to create the structure of their tile corner shelves, then cover this structure with tile. This is always a bad idea because no matter how well you waterproof this framing before tile installation, it will absorb moisture. This means eventual swelling, grout cracking, rot and mold.
A better option would be to use a piece of foam shower board like Wedi Building Board.
For adequate rigidity, this type of shelf needs to be at least ¾” thick and imbedded into the thinset mortar on both sides during a full remodel. In other words, it is not a retrofit style shelf so it cannot be installed into an existing shower.
Ceramic Corner Shelves
8 inch Stone Corner Shower Shelf
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These corner shelves are made mostly of ceramic and occasionally from porcelain, and are cured and glazed in a kiln. This gives these shelves a durable waterproof finish.
Because this is a very old technique, and all the original wall mounted soap dishes were made this way, these shelves tend to have a more traditional (some would say “dated”) look.
Although the tabs on the edges look like they are designed to be mounted into the grout lines in an existing shower, closer inspection reveals that the tabs are much too big for this.
Installation of this shelf requires three notches to be cut into the lower tiles (on each side) to make room for these bigger tabs. That means it’s not a retrofit shelf and cannot be installed into an existing shower.
The greatest benefits of these shelves is that they are inexpensive and can hold a fair bit of weight.
Another benefit of these shelves is that they come in an assortment of different colors so you can more easily match them with your tile color.
A big problem with these shelves is that they can only be installed into perfectly square shower corners. I’ve heard clients complain that they are quite vulnerable to chipping before and after installation.
Stone Corner Shelves
8 inch Italian Marble Shower Corner Shelf
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I believe that these 2cm stone shelves can be one of the best looking permanent corner shower shelves, if they match well with the surrounding wall tile.
I really like this shower shelf idea because it can be inexpensive, a lot more structurally solid than tile, and looks more professional and attractive.
When a stone corner shelf is imbedded into thinset mortar during shower wall tile installation, this shelf can carry an immense amount of weight, making it great shelf or corner foot rest.
Stone pieces like this are generally available in a 2 cm thickness, but 3cm can also be found with certain stone varieties for a bolder look.
The 2cm shelves are pretty easy to find online, but I must warn you not to be enticed by the cheaper stone corner shelves (in the $20 – $30 range). I have found that many of these tend to be broken when you get them, or they fracture during handling and installation.
If you call your local stone fabricator they often have dozens (sometimes hundreds) of stone remnants too small to sell to their regular buyers.
And because they have no use for all this extra “junk” they regularly send it all to the local dump. If you speak to them nicely they will often cut and polish a small piece for you for dirt cheap.
And if they won’t cut and polish it, you can probably still buy a small piece from them and try cutting and polishing it yourself. It’s actually not that difficult! There a few good DIY posts online about cutting stone and polishing stone, if you’re interested.
If you’re starting a shower remodel project and you’re considering some built-in shower storage (or recessed shower storage), check out my new post “How to Build a Shower Niche“.
Corner Shelves for Existing Tiled Showers
If you’re only interested in a very small scale shower remodel and want to increase your shower storage, installing a shower shelf in the corner of a your already tiled shower, is the easiest way to accomplish this.
There are two categories of corner shelves that can be installed in shower that’s already tiled. These are Retrofit Corner Shower Shelves and Screw Mounted Shower Shelves.
Retrofit Corner Shower Shelves
How do you install shelves into an existing tiled shower?
The easiest way to install a corner shelf into an existing tiled shower wall is to use a retrofit corner shower shelf. They install easily into the corner grout line by simply removing some grout, and do not require drilling through the waterproofing membrane during installation.
Stainless steel corner shower shelves are among the most popular corner shelves because they have a very thin profile, can match most metallic fixture finishes, AND can be installed into the corner of almost any existing tiled shower wall.
As I mentioned previously, my favorite stainless steel corner shelf is the shelf that my brother and I designed. The rb3 Corner Shower Shelf.
The reason it belongs in this Retrofit Corner Shelf section as well as the above section, is because it can easily be installed during a full remodel OR an existing shower, as long as the grout lines are 1/8 inch or larger.
Redblock’s rb3 Stainless Steel Corner Shower Shelf
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The best thing about retrofit shelves is that they can be installed fairly easily and they don’t penetrate the shower wall waterproofing membrane if installed carefully.
The main disadvantage of the retrofit shelf is that if you need to remove grout to make room for the mounting tabs. This requires a bit of skill if your planning to use a power tool (like a multi-saw), but it can also be done very safely if you drill some pilot holes and use a hand tool designed to remove grout.
Screw Mounted Corner Shower Shelves
BESy Shower Corner Caddy
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Screw mounted shower shelves are slightly less secure than those installed during tile installation, but they’re much more solid than the temporary shelves like Suction and Adhesive Shower Shelves.
That makes these shelves popular for people needing stronger, more reliable shower storage but are not interested in a full shower remodel.
The main problem with screw mounted shower shelves is that the screw anchors mount into the tile backer board. That means you must drill through the tile and waterproofing membrane in order to attach them.
Breaching the waterproofing membrane is generally not a good idea even if the drill holes are very small.
However, if you choose an install location opposite the valve wall (outside the splash zone), and surround the screw holes with silicon, I’m generally OK with this kind of installation.
Another problem is that most of these shelves utilize plastic screw anchors to secure the shelf in place, and these anchors are not reliable when used with tile. They are usually not long enough, and the tile hole is too slippery to keep the anchor in place, which causes them to wiggle out over time.
The best way to install these shelves is to find a location that allows you to screw at least one of the mounting screws into a wall stud so the screw can hold firmly. However, this can be a challenge considering there is not often a stud located a few inches out from the corner where the screw is to be attached.
Corner Suction Shower Shelves
Corner suction shower shelves are one of the most popular type of temporary shower storage shelves because they are generally inexpensive and super easy to install.
However, I don’t recommend these shelves simply because they do not last, and they’re not nearly as sturdy as the other options I’ve mentioned above.
As compelling as it is to buy this “easy shower storage solution”, most people end up abandoning their suction shelf when it crashes to the shower floor in the middle of the night.
Adhesive Corner Shower Shelves
Not surprisingly, adhesive shower shelves are also super popular because they are inexpensive, easy to install, and they can look a lot like permanent built-in shower shelves.
The problem is that they don’t even have structural stability of a some suction shower shelves, let alone a permanent shelf because adhesive pads are unreliable in a wet environment and will eventually fail.
As such, I don’t generally recommend the installation of any of these shelves.
I hope you’ve got some insight from my shower corner shelf post, and will now be more confident with installing your own corner shower shelf in this this very small scale shower remodel.
I’m sorry if it wasn’t as comprehensive as you’d like, but there are so many different varieties of corner shelves that I felt the need to narrow it down to those I’ve had experience with, and those that I preferred.
If you think I’ve missed some important info or I should have covered one of the categories better, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to include it in my next update!
Good luck with your corner shelf search and your small scale shower remodel!