Tiled showers are very durable, but even the sturdiest tiles will eventually give in with constant exposure to heat and moisture. When this happens, most people opt to retile the shower area. However, retiling can be expensive, and it can be hard to find tiles that match your bathroom design. A good alternative is to use shower inserts.
One-piece shower inserts are large pieces of material that you lay over an existing surface (damaged or not). They are designed to fit various shower styles such as curved, square, and neo-angle walls. They also come in different designs and materials.
Inserts cost much less than tiles because they use relatively light (although still durable) materials. Also, you won't have to pay for labor or installation because you can install them on your own. The underlying tile can serve as coverup for small leaks, so you don't have to replace them unless they are severely damaged.
Shower inserts are easier to maintain than tiles because they come in one piece, so dirt won't seep in and damage the grout lines. You can easily wipe mold and stains away with soap and water. Most insert materials are water-resistant and hold up well in humid environments, such as steam showers.
The main disadvantage of shower inserts is that they are not as sturdy as tile work. While tiles are built onto the shower floor, shower inserts are simply laid over the surface. This can cause water to drip under the insert, which can lead to stains and leaks.
Most one-piece shower inserts are made from synthetic materials or composites. Commonly used materials include plastic, acrylic, and fiberglass.
Plastic. Plastic shower inserts are usually made from polyethylene, also called ABS plastic. This is the same material used in boats, poles, and bulletproof vests. They are highly resistant to heat and moisture, but they are prone to mold and mildew buildup and require regular cleaning to prevent stains.
Acrylic. Acrylic is also plastic-based, but usually lighter and thinner than ABS. It has excellent water resistance, which makes it popular for bathroom accessories like shower enclosures and handles. One drawback is that it tends to chip and crack easily, although you can cover up small leaks with a special acrylic paste. Acrylic inserts are best for small shower enclosures and children's baths.
Fiberglass. Fiberglass inserts are made from plastic reinforced with fine glass fibers. This construction makes it extremely hard and durable, but also heavier, bulkier, and more expensive. Fiberglass inserts can withstand constant exposure to heat and humidity, and will last much longer than plastic and acrylic. They also provide excellent insulation, making them ideal for those living in cold areas.
Tub liners are a popular accessory for shower inserts. Many manufacturers offer tub and shower liner sets, in matching patterns and shapes. This is a good option if you have a tub-and-shower enclosure in standard size. You can also have a set custom-made and installed if you have an unusually shaped