The options for material to use for a stall shower today are many, but the basics are the best. If you are not going for high end material then there are several good options.
You can install a fiberglass base and wall set, or a fiberglass base with ceramic tile walls. The most costly is a custom tile base with tiled walls.
1. Fiberglass base and wall kit – This is your most affordable option. This material is also the quickest and easiest to install. The fiberglass comes in many stock sizes and models, with differing wall textures, shelves, towel bars and seats.
I will only install fiberglass models that are the same color throughout the fiberglass. This way if there is ever a scratch or crack, you will always see the same color. Cheaper models have a gel coat over a different colored fiberglass. I also like the models that do not need to be caulked, because you will need to recaulk every few years.
You are limited to the sizes made, which does become a problem at times, especially in smaller bathrooms. After several years the walls and floor do need to be cleaned well periodically.
For your budgeting dollar this is the best deal, when installed you have a finished product, there are no loose ends to tie up.
2. Fiberglass base and ceramic tile walls – The reason to use a fiberglass base is that the real cost of a custom shower is in the base installation.
There are many different styles and sizes of sturdy fiberglass pans and they are all very affordable.
After the pan install the walls must be covered in an approved cement board. Then install your tile to give a custom look, but with a budget price. By choosing an affordable tile and installing some nice accents like a shelf or a few decorative tiles, you can have an elegant shower look with a bargain price.
What I like about the fiberglass pan and wall kit is that you always have the option to remove the walls. This way you have the pan in place and you can tile the walls. The big savings is leaving the pan in place.
3. Custom shower base and walls – This is by far the nicest installation, but it also has the biggest price.
The high cost comes from the installation of the shower pan. First a plumber must install his pan, and then the tile man must cover all that with a coating of cement, all before beginning to tile. If this is done right the job looks fantastic, but if there is a problem then it is a big problem.
I would only install this as a high end product or in a house that I know I will be staying in for a long time. The only other time I will install this is in an odd shaped bathroom where we just can not fit all the fixtures and a pre-formed shower.
The key here is to know your budget and do your homework.