What you need to know about building a shower niche

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Devonshire Hills, Studio Do Cabo Studio Do Cabo Modern Bathroom
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We know that life is fast and rough and that is why more and more people are opting for quick showers instead of relaxing baths. But that doesn’t mean that cleaning up in the shower can’t be revitalising and enjoyable! In fact, in the right well-equipped shower, that cleansing experience can be just as luxurious as soaking in a bubble bath (plus you use so much less water). 

And thanks to modern interior designers and expert bathroom renovators, gone are the days when a beautiful shower’s look is brought down via bottles of soaps and shampoos on those plastic shower caddy types. Because if a bathroom renovation is in your near future, consider asking the contractor for a shower niche…  

1. What is a shower niche?

In simple terms, a shower niche refers to a storage space built into the wall of a shower. This is used for various functions from storing soaps and shampoo bottles to displaying bathroom accessories. This permanent recessed shelf in the wile is finished to complement your shower / bathroom style and waterproofed so that it’s not damaged. 

A shower niche can also be known as a bathtub niche if it’s installed in a tub / shower combination, and more generally as a bathroom niche. 

2. How big must my shower niche be?

When building a shower niche into an existing wall, a good size will be 30 cm (w) x 60 cm (h). This allows the niche to comfortably fit in-between studs which are often 40 cm apart. With a glass shelf at 30 cm, this creates 60 cm of shelf space.

The usual depth of a shower niche is about 9 cm, which is the width of a wood stud and is generally deep enough for most soap- and shampoo bottles. 

3. Where do I place the shower niche?

If possible, don’t place your niche in an outside wall in colder weather climates. The niche space will replace valuable insulation. If you have no choice but to use an outside wall, remember to add in some form of polyurethane insulation, otherwise the tile may frost up on cold winter days.

In newly built walls, your contractor can adjust the width of studs for larger niches and ensure any plumbing or electrical pipes are not in the way. Although wider niches are more difficult in pre-existing walls, they are not impossible. Just remember that every time a stud is cut it could cause cosmetic damage to the wall it supports, so expect a little patching and painting in other rooms.

4. What are my options with tiling a shower niche?

First thing to know is that tiled shower niches are available in two variations:

1. Custom tiled niches which require the construction of a framed box between the wall studs. This shower niche box is then covered with tile backer board before it is waterproofed and then tiled. This option is often the most expensive, takes up the most time, and is more prone to mistakes. However, all of the niche types can be built to any custom size. 

2. The prefab niche, or preformed shower niche, is the easiest tiling option regarding installation and waterproofing. It can be made of plastic, foam board or stainless steel. As it has a tile-bonding surface, tiling is ideal. But they are only available in a few standard sizes. 

Sometimes your shower niche will require bullnose tile, especially when using ceramic tile with no colour throughout the clay body. Although it may present a problem with porcelain, it is rarely an issue with stone. 

You must specify all sides and back of your niche. If the niche is mosaic resting in larger field tiles, it is often best for all five of the surfaces (back, the two sides, top and bottom) to be mosaic. Should the tile be glass, it allows you to hide the cut edge behind the field tile, which is often the easier option. 

Whatever tile you opt for, keep the tile dimensions in mind when asking for a shower niche. It’s always easier to use symmetric tiles around the niche. For a clean-cut look, the tile line can end precisely on the niche. Try your best to avoid tiny tiles on one or both sides of the niche – rather frame it completely for a more striking look. 

5. What mistakes must I avoid with a shower niche?

• Shower waterproofing: Some contractors still don’t routinely install shower wall waterproofing membranes, which could result in leaks at the shower wall corners and the wall-to-base corners. 

• Retrofit niche installation. It’s never a bright idea to fit a retrofit niche into a hole in the shower wall and glue it to the tile by a tiny silicon bead, for that leads to water in the stud wall and lots of mould. 

• Compromising the wall structure. To put a custom horizontal-tiled niche into a wall requires removing a part of the wall studs that support your shower wall. If this is not executed properly by a professional, it can seriously compromise your shower wall’s structural integrity. 

6. The right professionals for your new shower niche

Kgodisho Solutions and Projects is based in Pretoria. As one of South Africa’s leading contracting firms, Kgodisho Solutions and Projects offers up a wealth of construction services to clients across Gauteng including Pretoria, Midrand, Soweto, Nelspruit, and Newcastle. 

This small-yet-dynamic multidisciplinary construction company is accredited with the NHBRC, making its team skilled and experienced to undertake any form of alteration, extension, and renovation – and that includes your forthcoming bathroom makeover with its super stylish and practical shower niches!

Speaking of sufficient (and stylish) storage, let’s look at 10 brilliant ideas for shelves in your bathroom.

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