During my bathroom remodelling projects I routinely install shower shelves of all kinds, including shower niche shelves, tiled shower shelves and corner shelves.
Because I get a lot of questions from my clients on this topic, I decided to write a post with all my best shower shelf ideas. In this post I’ll describe each type of shower shelf and tell you about the best and worst features of each (in my opinion).
Since there are so many types of shower shelves, I’ve organized them into categories (like “corner shelf”, “niche shelf” etc) and there are several different types of shelves per category. Use the images below to jump to the right shelf category.
Ok, let’s get into it!
Shower Niche Shelves
I’ve compiled a fairly complete list of the most common shower niche shelves below. They are arranged in order from best to worst (in my opinion).
Stainless Steel Shower Niche Shelves
I think stainless steel shower niche shelves are the coolest of all the built in shower shelf ideas. Most of my clients also like these shelves because they have a very low profile, a bold and attractive look, and are very practical to use. In my opinion, stainless steel is by far the best shower niche shelf materials.
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked by my clients to suggest a thin, modern shower niche shelf. I’ve had so much trouble finding any quality options that I eventually decided to make one myself – the rb3 shower niche shelf.
The rb3 shelf is a little narrower than the Schluter Shelf-N because it’s designed to mount about 1/2″ away from the back of the niche (rb3 image below).
The Schluter niche shelf is as wide as the niche is deep, so it mounts right into a grout line at the back of the niche.
This isn’t great in my humble opinion, because it makes it difficult to install a different “feature” tile for the back of the niche. It’s also difficult to keep the back corners clean and dry, so it tends to get a bit soap scummy and moldy.
However, as you can see in the photos above, both shelves are very sleek and modern looking. They provide a nice contrast to most shower wall tile and also match well with the metallic finish of most shower fixtures.
Another couple of great features of these metal shelves is that your soap will never again slip off the shelf onto the shower floor or turn into a gooey mess from standing water.
If you’d like to see a fine example of the rb3 shelf being installed into a custom tiled shower niche, you can check out my How to Build a Shower Niche post.
Would you like to know more about the rb3 stainless steel shower niche shelf?
Natural Stone Shower Niche Shelves
Natural stone shower niche shelves are a great option as long as they match fairly well with your surrounding shower wall tile.
The most popular stone shelf is made of marble because the muted grey and white tones are popular right now, and it’s fairly easy to cut and polish.
Ease of polishing is an important feature because it allows you to create an attractive sill that stands out proud of the wall. A very popular look.
This option is also attractive to the DIY’er because stone shelves can be relatively cheap and easy to fabricate if you can get your hands on some scrap material (more on that in the stone corner shelves section below).
However, I always warn my clients that they must be aware of the fact that marble is relatively soft and porous so it can stain and scratch quite easily.
Staining can largely be prevented if you seal your shelves once a year with a good stone sealer.
Scratches, on the other hand can be difficult to remove but they are also very rare in the shower environment, so generally not a big concern for most of my clients.
Granite shelves are a lot more rare because they are difficult to cut and polish but mostly because their coloration is too dark and too busy for most people’s taste.
Glass Shower Niche Shelves
The glass shelf is the most popular recessed shower niche shelf simply because it’s quite thin (usually 6 or 10mm width) and subtle in appearance. As such, it allows the niche to blend in more with the surrounding tile.
And if you’ve chosen to install a feature tile at the back of your niche, the tile design can be more easily seen with a clear glass shelf.
When you start looking around for glass shower niche shelf options you’ll find that the cheapest glass has a slight green color to it (especially on profile). For those that don’t like this green hue there’s clear glass available as well, but it’s a fair bit more expensive.
As nice as glass shower niche shelves might look in your newly tiled shower niche, I get a fair number of complaints about how bar soap seems to end up on the shower floor because the glass is so slippery. They also complain that water doesn’t drain away so the glass tends to get really messy as your soap dissolve away.
On last important hint if you are planning to install glass shower niche shelves is to make sure you (or your contractor) order tempered glass.
No matter how unlikely it is that you might break your glass shelves, you should not take the risk of installing untempered glass. An injury from broken untempered glass can be severe. You don’t want to take that chance.
Since I install shower niches in most of my shower remodel projects, I’m often asked if there’s an alternative to the large and clunky tiled shower shelf insert that usually comes with the larger foam tiling niches.
I’m referring to the built in shower shelf that’s supplied with most of these niches. It’s a 2″ wide block of foam that has a tiling membrane bonded to its surface (see below).
After this shelf is tiled, it measures more than 3″ thick. In fact it doesn’t really end up looking like a shelf at all. It effectively splits the niche into two separate sections; more like two separate niches.
The biggest problem is that this shelf effectively eliminates a lot of the interior storage of your preformed foam shower niche. As such, most of my clients prefer to install a lower profile shelf instead.
Corner Shower Shelves
Shower corner shelves are probably the most popular category of shower shelves simply because they usually easy to install, and they look a lot better than a caddy.
Because this is such a big category of shower shelf, I thought it would be a good idea to write a post entirely dedicated to corner shower shelves.
Check it out (link above) if you want to see all the corner shelves preferred by myself and my clients.
Shower Niches (or Built in Shower Shelves)
I had to include Shower Niches into our discussion about shower shelves simply because many people refer to a shower niche as a shower shelf or ” built in shower shelf “.
And a shower niche is indeed a shower shelf, but it’s also much more than a shelf, taking many different forms with different construction methods & materials.
This makes the shower niche a bit too complex a discussion for this humble shower shelf post.
However, I do have a favorite shower niche that I’ve installed many times for clients. It’s a great choice for people that appreciate the aesthetic of finished stainless steel and want total confidence that their niche will never leak. You can see this niche below.
Full disclosure… my brother and I designed this niche and we are partners in the company that sells it, so I am a bit biased 🙂 .
If you’d like to explore the world of shower niches, feel free to check out my Complete Shower Niche Guide.
Caddies & Other Shower Shelves
Although shower caddies are also shower shelves, this category of shower shelves is also far too big to cover in this post.
That’s why I decided to show you only a couple of my favorite shower caddies in this section.
You can see those caddies below, but you can also check out my Shower Caddy post to see these and many other shower caddy ideas.
Floating Permanent Shower Shelves
Permanent floating shower shelves like the one shown above are usually mounted at the grout line during shower wall tile installation. These floating shelves are distinguished from others by its anchor leg, which imbeds into the mortar layer behind the tile.
Other than the permanent floating shelves that screw into the shower wall, there are not many of these types of shelves on the market. The only practical version that I’ve found is the Stainless Steel Shower Shelf-W by Schluter Systems (see pic above).
Although this is the most secure way to install a floating shower shelf, I don’t believe that these shelves are safe, secure or even practical.
A shelf like this really doesn’t make sense to me unless it’s mounted well above the head of anybody that uses the shower.
The center region of the shower wall is no place to install a shelf that protrudes out 3″-4″ unless it’s mounted on the valve wall (between the valve assembly and shower head usually).
It’s basically an accident waiting to happen.
You could quite easily injure yourself by brushing up against it, and you could permanently bend it by accidentally knocking it up or down. Either one of these unfortunate events would probably be uncomfortable 🙁 but it could also fracture the weld that connects the shelf to it’s anchor leg.
If this occurs, the shelf could not be straightened or repaired without removing the tiles. Something to be aware of when your planning your shelf placement.
Ceramic Shower Shelf
These shelves are the very “old school” soap dishes that were common in the 1960’s to 80’s. There were also versions of this fixture that were recessed into the shower wall cavity to give them a lower profile.
They were usually in the center region of the shower wall in easy reach of someone in the shower, but not too high to accommodate someone in the bath as well.
I can’t say that these are my favorite shower soap holders but they are very practical albeit simplistic in design.
These days most people prefer a more multi use storage compartment like a larger shelf or shower niche so they can store the various items they routinely use in the shower.
Floating Suction Shower Shelves
Suction Cup shower shelves are probably the most popular shower shelf idea when it comes to online sales volume. This is obviously because many hapless contractors never seem to include any built in shower shelves or recessed shower storage in any of their projects.
As a remodeling contractor I don’t often install these suction shelves but curiously, my clients often ask for my opinion about them. As such, I’ve made a point to look up a few of the better ones for clients that aren’t remodeling their shower and don’t want to drill into their shower wall.
In my experience, most people with inadequate shower storage end up installing shower shelves (permanent or temporary) if they don’t like the look of the standard shower caddy…….. and that’s a lot of people! That’s why I thought this post might be helpful for some of you. I really hope you got something out of it.
And make sure you leave me a comment or question about anything shower shelf related. I always look forward to hearing from you guys.