SECRETS of the Shower Niche (Little Known Facts and Key Concepts)

by | Last updated Jul 1, 2018 | Shower Niche

Do you have questions about shower niches? You may not even understand the term. Not everyone does. Don’t worry, it’s all explained here. A shower niche is an increasingly common part of many shower or bath remodel projects. This article should uncover some of the mystery surrounding the shower niche, by revealing some little known facts and concepts. In general, it answers the question “what is a shower niche?”, and provides a guide to the different types of shower niches available.

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 and shampoo bottles, etc. It is a permanent recessed shelf (or niche) in the tile wall that is finished and waterproof, that allows you use the space inside the wall as extra storage.

To answer the question, “what is a shower niche”, we must define the two main types: “tiled shower niche” and “finished shower niche”. Each of these two niche types also have a few variations.

What is a Tiled Shower Niche?


The tiled shower niche is a shower wall storage recess that is entirely covered in tile. There are two options to achieve a tiled shower niche. When completed they will both look similar to the attached picture, but each are installed differently. Both options require a full remodel of the shower or bath, and cannot be “retrofit” into an already completed tile wall.

What is a shower niche - MDs-master-bath-Tiled-niche-scaled-to-350W-70jpg

Custom tiled niches:

The first, and possibly most common tiled shower niche is a custom built assembly. It requires a builder to construct a framed box between the wall framing before the tile backer board is installed. The box then needs to have tile backer board attached on all it’s surfaces, then carefully covered with a waterproofing membrane to prevent leaks. The importance of the waterproofing step is outlined in more detail below.

Pre-manufactured niche:

The second way to achieve a tiled shower niche is to purchase and install a pre-manufactured tiling niche (made by various manufacturers). This type of niche is designed to be ready for tiling as soon as it is installed. These niche products can be made from coated stainless steel, plastic, or foam board. The main reason for using these products is that they eliminate the need to build a water tight space in the wall.


These two methods to achieve a tiled shower niche differ in cost and complexity. The benefit of a “custom” niche is that you can have your contractor make it in any size or shape you like. The extra labor for construction and waterproofing will of course make this option more expensive. In contrast, the pre-manufactured box style niche only needs to be inserted into a hole in the tile backer board and attached correctly to the board and framing, before it can be tiled.

courtesy of Schluter Systems

What is a Finished Shower Niche?


To answer the question, “what is a shower niche”, we must also look at finished shower niche products. These niche products are also pre-manufactured, but designed with a finished surface that requires no tile application or other alteration. There are also two options for finished shower niches. Both options may seem similar, but they have important differences.

What is a shower niche - Angled-empty-niche-greentile-scaled-to-350W-70pg

Bonded niche:

The stainless steel niche pictured here is the type that can only be installed when doing a full remodel of the shower or bath surround. It is designed to be mounted to the backer board and framing, and then bonded to the waterproofing membrane before tiling. You can read more about the membrane bonding process in the article, Shower Niche Insert – A Responsible Redesign. A porcelain niche can also fall into this category if it is installed before tiling; it could then be bonded directly to the waterproofing membrane or directly to the backer board, depending on the installation.

How Important is Shower Membrane Waterproofing?

Stainless Steel Shower Niche – Choose the right one for you

Retrofit Niche:

The second type of finished shower niche is meant to be mounted into a hole in finished tile. They are usually fastened to the tile wall with polyurethane or acrylic mastic and may or may not, be bonded to the waterproofing membrane. These finished retrofit niches can be made from finished stainless steel, porcelain, ceramic or plastic and they they vary in cost considerably. Some retrofit shower niches are designed to install before the wall tiling is installed and therefore can be bonded to the waterproofing membrane. Other retrofit niches are designed to mount to the shower wall after the wall tile is installed, therefore they are not able to bond to the shower wall waterproofing membrane (see image with two white ceramic shower niches). A homeowner or contractor that is concerned with maintaining the waterproof integrity of the shower wall would want to be sure that the shower niche product they choose is designed to bond to the membrane.

What is a shower Niche? – Summary

A shower niche is a storage recess in the wall of your shower designed to store soap, shampoo bottles, etc. There are two main types: “tiled” and “finished”.


  1. Tiled shower niches come in two types:
    • Custom tiled niches require the construction of a framed box between the wall studs, covered with tile backer board and waterproofed. This type of niche is the most challenging to waterproof correctly.
    • The pre-manufactured niche is the easiest tiling niche to install and waterproof. The tile is applied to it’s surface, and they are available in only a few standard sizes.
  2. Finished shower niches also come in two types:
    • The bonded niche has an outer flange for bonding to waterproofing membranes and attachment to the framing. They can be made from stainless steel or porcelain.
    • The retrofit niche mounts into a hole in the finished tile & fastens to the tile surface with adhesive. They can be made from steel, porcelain or plastic & are not bonded to the waterproofing membrane.

In this article we have tried to uncover some of the mystery surrounding shower niches, and to provide a potential buyer the right tools to make a qualified decision. We hope that we have effectively answered the question, What is a shower niche?