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4 Go-to Shower Niche Shelf Options for your Tiled Shower Niche

Image of guy in shower hitting his elbow on a shelf

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

Because I get a lot of questions from my clients on this topic, I decided to write a post all about shower niche shelves (shower shelf inserts that you can install in your tiled shower niche).

I’ll be discussing the most popular shower niche shelves, which I’ve arranged from best to worst (in my opinion).

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

If you were interested in corner shower shelves, or shower niches you can click the associated links to see posts that I have written on these topics.

Ok, let’s get into it!

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Topics

Stainless Steel Shower Niche Shelves

Natural Stone Shower Niche Shelves

Glass Shower Niche Shelves

Tiled Shelves for Shower Niches

Stainless Steel Shower Niche Shelves

These types of shelves are often call shower shelf inserts because they’re specifically designed to fit (insert) into certain preformed (prefabricated), tile-ready shower niches. They are also often referred to as built in shower shelves.

I personally think these shelves are the coolest of all the built-in shower shelves.

Stainless steel is also the very best shower shelf material (in my opinion), especially if you’re lucky enough to get one made from #316, Marine Grade stainless steel (more on this later)

Most of my clients also like these shower niche shelf inserts because they have a very low profile, a bold and attractive look, and are very practical to use.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked by my clients to suggest a thin, modern built in shelf for their tiled shower niche. I’ve had so much trouble finding any quality options that I eventually decided to make one myself – the Redblock 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 (see rb3 image below).

Image of Redblock RB3 Shower Niche Shelf
Installed RB3 Shelf

The Schluter niche shelf ( also a shower shelf insert ) is as deep as the shower niche that it’s designed to fit into (Kerdi-SN), 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 in the corners.

However, both shelves are very sleek and modern looking. They both 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 built in shower 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.

Click the image to find out more about the rb3 stainless steel shower niche shelf.

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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

Custom built tiled shower niche, glass shelves, white metal edging
Image courtesy of skg-renovations.com.

The glass shower shelf insert is one of the most popular built in shower shelves 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.

One last important hint if you’re planning to install a glass shower shelf insert, 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.

Tiled Shelves for Shower Niches

Since I install prefab foam shower niches in many 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).

Image of Schluter Kerdi Board 12"x20" Shower Niche (Amazon link)
Schluter Kerdi Board 12″x20″ Shower Niche
Ad: The above image is an affiliate link.

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.

Wrap Up

In my experience, most of the clients I work with don’t like the standard tiled shelf option for their shower niche, but even more aren’t really aware of any other option. That’s why I thought this post might be helpful for some of you. I 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.

There are 24 comments on this post:

  1. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Tim,

    Thank you for your comment!

    I would not recommend just adhering the glass shelf to the tile on the inside of you niche with an adhesive. The only safe way to attach these shelves is to rest them on top of the side wall tiles (within the grout line) or with some other kind of mechanical attachment. In other words they should be installed during the tiling stage, not retrofit.
    As well… because glass shelves need to be relatively thick to be safe and stable, you will always need to trim the side and back wall tiles of your niche (during tiling) in order to make room for them.

    Please also make sure that the glass shelves you plan to install are tempered or laminated glass (safety glass).

    Good luck!

    Steve

  2. Avatar photo

    Thanks for the helpful comments on shelving. What is the best way to mount glass shelves inside a tiled niche?
    Thanks
    Tim

  3. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Ellyn,

    It sounds like a great idea. Lots of light and regular moisture is great for plants!

    As a shower remodelling pro, my main concern is always about waterproofing, so I must address this first.
    If the window is likely to get wet during showering, you must make sure that the perimeter of window well is fully waterproofed (if it’s not already). This is an extremely important and involved procedure so I will assume that you’ve already taken care of this.

    As for shelf, I can’t recall ever installing a shelf within a window well, inside a shower so I may not be much help. Maybe you could suspend a shelf from one side of the window well to the other? Keep in mind that this shelf would need to be structurally solid enough to span window width.

    If it is only 12″ to 14″, I would suggest a stainless steel shelf because it could span this distance without additional structural support. A 3mm SS shelf could also fit neatly into the grout lines without disturbing the waterproofing membrane or requiring any tile removal.

    If it’s larger than 14″ a relatively unsightly shelf structure would have to be built to span the window. This would be a lot of work and probably not worth doing.

    Maybe you should just search online for a very narrow rack that can rest on the sill and anchor onto the side walls somehow. It may be hard to find such a thing but it would would probably be the easiest solution.

    Good Luck!

    Steve.

  4. Avatar photo

    Bathroom puzzlement ….. I am installing a glass shower and there is going to be a small window in it (HOA will not allow it to be removed) lucky the window is on the 3rd floor and there is a stand of trees (evergreen) so no one can see in. I’d like to put 2 or 3 shelves inside the window for a couple of plants – any suggestions?
    Thanks

  5. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Kellie,

    Thank you for the compliment! I’m so glad that my shower shelf info was useful to you in some way.

    Steve

  6. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Emily,

    Thanks for your comment!

    There are different types and qualities of resin shelves. Plastic/epoxy resins are usually mixed with other materials like stone (stone resin shelves). I do not install resin shelves vary often. I always prefer (and recommend) to use real stone shelves because you never really know what your going to get with a resin shelf. The corner shelves I install the most are the very low profile stainless steel shelves from Redblock and Schluter.

    Good luck with your search!

    Steve

  7. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Troy,

    I’m happy that you like our rb3 shower niche shelf, but unfortunately we only make it in the 12″ size (no custom sizes). Sorry I couldn’t help you out.

    Good luck with your project!

    Steve

  8. Avatar photo

    I really like the Redblock Shower Niche Shelf but my niche is almost 12-1/2” wide (tile face to tile face). Do you make custom widths?

  9. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Harriett,

    Thank you for your comment!

    I don’t really have any problem with porcelain shower niches per se… I am just not a fan of retrofit shower niches. There are porcelain shower niche inserts with mounting flanges that integrate with the waterproofing membrane, but these are not so common. Of course a tiled niche can also be made to match almost any design scheme. It just comes down to personal preference.

    Good luck with it!

    Steve

  10. Avatar photo

    We have a art deco bathtub-shower, and just replacing the tile wall beside the built in tub. We have purchased the porcelain soap face towel holder to be installed lower close to the tub. Then also we found the porcelain oblong shower niche to be installed above the soap holder as on is standing up in the shower. Now that I’ve read your article, having thoughts on that porcelain shower niche. Thinking maybe have our tile guy making the shower niche out of tiles we purchased.

  11. Avatar photo

    Hi Pamela,

    Thank you for your comment. I’m so glad that you got some useful info from my post!

    Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s a great idea to use a marble tile as a corner shelf, especially if you’re planning to use it as a shaving ledge.

    Marble is quite soft and has cleavage lines randomly throughout its structure. This can cause it to crack very easily if it’s too thin, especially if weight is applied to its surface.

    I would recommend a minimum of 2cm marble piece be used for any corner shelf regardless how big it is. I would not even take a chance on using a granite tile for a shaving ledge even if it’s a much stronger stone. Tiles are just too thin to be used for this purpose.

    Good Luck!

    Steve

  12. Avatar photo

    I really appreciate your expertise on these topics and your willingness to share it. I was wondering if you had a thought on using a piece of marble tile as a corner shelf (instead of the thicker 2 or 3 cm corner piece of marble you reference above). Instead of a shelf for your shampoo/soap, it would be lower and would be used for resting one’s foot when shaving one’s leg. Could I use the thinner stone tile (cut in half diagonally) instead of the thicker piece of stone? Thanks.

  13. Avatar photo

    Hi Luke,

    Thanks for your comment!

    Sorry, but I have not seen any wood corner shower shelves out there. It seems to me that this could be a good idea if manufactured properly, but maybe it’s too risky to manufacture a wood shower shelf.

    Good luck with your search!

    Steve.

  14. Avatar photo

    Great article, it was very helpful. Was wondering if they make any permanent wood corner shelving (teak maybe) for the shower?
    Thanks?
    Luke

  15. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Emilio,

    Thank you for your comment!

    The Schluter corner shelf is a fine choice. It has small mounting tabs that insert into the grout line space, so the waterproofing membrane beneath the tile is not breached during installation. The weight of the shelf is also supported by the tiles beneath so it’s quite sturdy. The only disadvantage is that you need to mount both sides in a grout line, so if your grout lines don’t line up on both walls (in the corner), you are out of luck.

    As I mentioned in my post, the problem with screw mounted shelves is that their installation requires holes to be drilled through the tile and waterproofing membrane. Not good.

    FYI, Your builder may have had a bad shower niche experience, but they’re not all bad. If a tiled niche is installed correctly, it will never leak. There are also finished shower niches that are even easier to clean and completely impermeable to moisture.

    Good luck with your new shelves!

    Steve

  16. Avatar photo
    Emilio Paiva de Brito

    Hi there, after reading your blog I’m looking at this corner shelf for my new bathroom this summer. Since I live in the UK, I googled the schluter corner shelf in my matt black and found it here:

    https://www.tilingsuppliesdirect.co.uk/product/schluter-shelf-e#.YDFnHuj7SUl

    Would you recommend this over a normal metal basket type of corner shelf that screws into the tile like this?
    https://www.victorianplumbing.co.uk/arezzo-matt-black-wire-corner-shower-basket?campaign=googlebase&gclid=CjwKCAiAg8OBBhA8EiwAlKw3kvAPo1y6qw_2jjd2e2Q6ORK_wvkefZkmsb-pBMm5XUCpNe-I8ETQoRoCrdgQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

    I’ve had suctioned corner shelves in the past and hated them, and I’ve been warned away from shower niche’s by my builder who got rid of his in his own home due to accumulation of mould.

  17. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for your comment!
    I’m glad I could help you plan for your next remodel project.
    I hope your grandkids appreciate the new shower!

    Steve

  18. Avatar photo

    I appreciate the thoroughness of your article. This will help us better plan for an upcoming shower remodel to be used by our grandkids.

  19. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Ryan,

    Thank you so much for your comment! I am super happy that my blog has helped you prepare for your bathroom remodel.

    Steve

  20. Avatar photo

    What a great article and website! I’m getting ready to remodel my bathroom and am so glad I found your website. Thanks!

  21. Steves User Profile Image

    Hi Melissa,

    To answer your questions…

    The Schluter stainless steel shower niche shelf comes in matte black.
    I haven’t seen a lot of quartz or quartzite shelves available online. Most of the stone corner shower shelves available online are marble.
    Stone shelves need a lot of support so they should all be installed during tiling (mounted in grout line) so they can be supported by the tile beneath.
    You can find lots of 2cm and 3cm remnants at your local stone fabricator. They often will cut and polish small pieces for you if you provide them with a simple drawing with dimensions. Most fabricators end up with remnants after almost every job. And they usually dispose of a bunch of it every year because they can’t sell it and they need the space. This means you can get some great deals on almost every type of stone imaginable if you find the right fabricator.
    I would not buy a 2cm backsplash online. It’s too fragile to ship. The width would also likely be too narrow for a corner shower shelf. Best to get one locally from a stone fabricator.

    I hope you find the perfect shower shelf for your project!

    Steve

  22. Avatar photo

    Stainless steel is an interesting option. Have you seen them in matte black? What about quartz or quartzite? Could those work well too if installed during installation? Is it possible to find remnants and is cutting and polishing difficult? If quartz would be suitable, I’ve seen 2cm vanity backsplashes available online. Could you use those?

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