how To Build a shower niche

Look no further if you want to create your own own tiled shower niche!

Hello once more. We are Dream Home Design and this is another post on shower builds.

In this article, I’ll demonstrate how to use Wedi Board foam tile backer board to create a floor to ceiling 11 inch wide vertical custom shower niche in your shower wall. Composite marble tiles and stainless steel shelves will complete the design. The completed niche is displayed below.

This guide will give you everything you need to create a 14-inch, 24-inch, or 48-inch tall shower niche, like this one, or one that is full height.

You can construct a really cool designer niche that will make your friends and neighbors green with envy by using my simple, step-by-step directions (and video clips!).

You may always read my Shower Niche Guide first if you’d like to learn more about shower niches in general before starting this project.

Therefore, let’s get started, shall we?

Step 1: Introduction – Selecting the Niche’s Size & Positioning

My customer initially questioned me at the beginning of the project about the benefits and drawbacks of horizontal shower niches versus vertical shower niches and which would be best to include in her shower project. My main point in my response was the benefits of framing.

Simply because I could provide the storage she desired and keep the niche neatly tucked away within the existing stud wall without the need for the challenging additional framing and risk associated with horizontal niches, my suggestion was to build a vertical shower niche instead of a horizontal niche.

Because she didn’t want any significant structural alterations and could easily fulfill her storage goals with a vertical design and numerous shelves, my client felt that the vertical design was the best choice.

We also chose a floor-to-ceiling vertical shower niche because my customer wanted plenty of storage for the shower but also thought we could create the appearance of a high-end architectural wall recess rather than just a straightforward shower niche.

We then discussed placement.

The longest shower wall was an obvious choice because it was sufficiently away from the valve wall to be inside the shower pan’s footprint, within reach, and outside of the “splash zone.”

My framed niche entrance ended up being 13 inches wide; this decreased to 12 inches following the installation of the backer board; and finally, this decreased to approximately 11 inches after the installation of the tile. It has a final depth of 3-1/2 inches and a 9-foot height (just below the top wall plate).

Fortunately, there were no outside walls around this shower, so I didn’t have to bother about adding more waterproofing and insulation. You should read my essay on Shower Niche Install Mistakes if you intend to install your own bespoke tall shower niche in an outside wall.

Decide on the height of your niche (off the floor) as well as the internal height of your niche if you were planning to construct a vertical niche that doesn’t extend from floor to ceiling.

Additionally, unlike me, you do not need to create a 12-inch rough opening for your niche. If you’d want, you can also quickly narrow your niche’s scope. Because my client wanted to add 12 inch shelves, I chose this width.

Read my posts on shower niche sizes and shower niche height if you’re thinking of constructing a smaller niche.

Step 2: Framing the Shower Niche

The first thing I needed to do was take some measurements to determine where the edge of the shower pan would end up because I wanted to line up the outer edge of the niche with the edge of the shower base tile.

These measurements, along with some anger over a misaligned stud wall, led me to the realization that the stud that was supposed to form the right side of my niche was really blocking the opening for my new niche.

Since it was severely deformed and would take too much effort to try to straighten it, I chose to remove this stud rather than relocate it to the right (see image).

However, I had to cut some horizontal braces in the right hand stud space first before I could remove the right side stud.

Task 1:

Remove the right side stud after cutting the horizontal stud braces on the niche’s right side.

Additionally, I had to make sure that both sides of my niche were braced with sturdy, double-stud, structural pillars because I was virtually cutting this wall in half.

Task 2:

Double stud posts are used to form a rigid niche frame by enclosing the left and right sides of the niche aperture.

The final step in turning an unassuming niche into a magnificent “curbless” niche was to remove a portion of the wall plate beneath the niche.

Although it required some care because I had to watch out for the drywall on the opposite side of the wall, as you can see in the video, it went really well.

Task 3:

Section of the bottom plate below the niche should be removed.

Step 3: Attaching the Foam Backer Board Panels

The fact that foam backer board doubles as a waterproofing membrane and a backer board makes it ideal for use in shower niches like this one. This spared me from having to put a waterproofing membrane within (and outside) the niche, saving me time and bother.

If the foregoing explanation left you perplexed and you’re not too familiar with the variations among tile backer boards, you might want to read my piece on shower tile backer boards.

To ensure that the seams between the niche panels and the wall panels face the inside of the niche rather than the shower, I chose to put the foam backer board in the niche first before attaching the panels to the remainder of the shower wall. The video demonstrates exactly what I mean when I say this.

Task 1:

The Wedi board at the back of the niche should be cut and installed.

Cut this panel so that it will fit into the niche very tightly. Apply a very little bead of Wedi joint sealant to each side to ensure that the panel seals against the framing but not the drywall there.

The backer board pieces for the niche’s sides were cut flush with the surface of the shower wall framing and sealed against the back panel using a bead of Wedi joint sealant.

And Wedi Screws and Washers are used to fasten them to the framing.

Task 2:

Backer board pieces at the niche’s sides should be cut and installed.

The shower wall’s left and right sides, where the niche is located, needed the last Wedi Board pieces to be installed. Wedi sealant was used to bridge the gap between these side pieces and the components installed on the L and R sides of the niche.

Additionally, the exposed Z-notch of the Wedi Fundo Ligno shower pan in front of the niche needed to be filled.

Task 3:

Install Wedi Board pieces to the left and right of the niche on the shower wall’s face.

Task 4:

Install a little piece of Wedi board to fill the Z-notch channel along the base perimeter in front of the niche.

Step 4: Waterproofing the Shower Niche

I won’t go into great detail on the significance of shower waterproofing in this phase, so feel free to read my piece on shower membrane waterproofing if you want to learn more before continuing.

After the panels were fitted, my shower wall was essentially waterproof because in step 3 the panels were glued together with joint sealant.

The base of the shower niche, however, is still the sunken plywood flooring at this point in our construction. In order to waterproof it, it had to be lifted to subfloor grade.

Since it was only a quarter of an inch thick and I would be mixing up some mortar anyhow, I chose to just fill it with thinset mortar instead of installing a little piece of Ditra Heat Matt to do this.

Task 1:

At the base of the shower niche, thinset mortar should be applied with a 1/4′′ thickness. Make sure the slope is outward to encourage adequate drainage. The optimal slope is 1/16 inch from rear to front.

The niche and the shower pan are both curbless, which makes this project special.

The margin between the niche and the shower pan, as well as the margin between the shower pan and shower floor, must therefore be waterproofed in addition to the niche’s foundation.

Therefore, I made the decision to use one precisely cut piece of Wedi Subliner Dry Matt to waterproof all the horizontal seams (margins).

Task 2:

Over the shower pan seams and the base of the shower niche, install Wedi Subliner Dry.

I also chose to attach two Subliner Dry Inside Corners and two Subliner Dry Outside Corners to the base of the niche because the corners were still somewhat susceptible to water intrusion.

Task 3:

Apply two sets of Wedi Subliner Dry Inside and Outside Corners to the seam where the niche panels meet the floor to seal it.

Step 5: Tiling the Shower Niche and Installing Shelves

Before reading any further, feel free to read my post on shower tile installation if you’re curious to learn more about shower tiling.

Since this is a tiled shower niche and the specific tiles my customer selected are composite marble, I chose to leave the tile edges exposed on the niche’s sides. Although this requires a little more labor, I had to implement it for this build because it looks so amazing.

Exposing the tile edges also entails polishing them, which I will not discuss in this piece due to time constraints. If you’re interested, I will, however, go over the complete tile edge polishing process in my post on tile edge trim.

I tiled the shower wall on the niche’s right side first, then I tiled the interior of the niche.

Task 1:

On the right side of the shower niche, trim and install the shower wall tiles.

I had the option to tile the shower wall on the niche’s left side before doing the same for the rear, but I was eager to get started and see how it turned out.

Task 2:

The tiles at the back of the niche should be cut and installed.

It’s crucial to install the shower wall tiles on both sides of the niche before installing the niche side wall tiles so that the niche’s sides will appear absolutely level and straight.

Task 3:

On the left side of the shower niche, trim and install the shower wall tiles.

It was time to cut and install the side wall tiles inside the niche after the shower wall tiles on either side of it had been installed.

Additionally, because the shower niche shelves lie on top of each tile row (within the grout line), the shelf placement was also part of the installation process.

Task 4:

For the shower niche, cut the side wall tiles.

Task 5:

Install the shower niche shelves in the niche and the side wall tiles.

Because she wanted plenty of shower storage in her niche but didn’t want the heavy, bulky appearance of a tiled shelf or the slippery surface of glass, my customer chose to install the Rb3 Stainless Steel Shower Niche Shelves. She will love how these stainless steel shelves have a very low profile and fit right into the grout line area.

I had to slightly file the edges of these tiles in order to accommodate the shelves because they were just less than 1/8 inch thick and my grout lines were slightly larger than 1/16th inch. Keep an eye out for when I add a section covering this in greater detail to my post on shower tile installation.

By the way, you could install a glass shelf in place of the stainless steel ones I’m building if you like, but you would need to trim the side wall tiles a little to make area for the glass because they are considerably thicker.

If you’d want to view a wide variety of different shower shelves to enhance your shower storage, check out my post on Shower Shelf Options.

Step 6: Grouting the Shower Niche

As I’ve previously stated, I think that pre-sealing or epoxy grouting is an essential step for the majority of showers and tiled shower niches.

As a result, I chose to grout this shower niche and the remaining shower walls with Mapei Flexcolor CQ, my favorite pre-sealed grout.

I adore this product since it sets rock hard and remains water resistant for a very long period after installation (unlike some other pre-sealed grouts). The application process for this product, as well as the majority of pre-sealed grouts, is a little more difficult than it is for conventional cementitious grouts.

I would strongly advise that you practice using a pre-sealed grout on a tiny area before tackling a significant grouting project.

You can always use normal cementitious grout if you’re nervous about learning a new grouting technique. But after that, you’ll have to seal it every couple of years.

Task 1:

Grout the interior of the shower niche.

If you want to learn more about Flexcolor CQ and how to use it, visit my post on shower tile installation.

Step 7: Sealing the Shower Niche

If you install high-quality pre-sealed grout on your shower wall tiles and in your shower niche, as I indicated above, you’ll never have to bother about sealing your grout again.

As a result, I chose not to seal the grout at this time. However, because the majority of these tiles are made of marble, which is rather soft and porous, I did choose to seal the tile surface.

More information on grout sealing can be found in my piece on shower tile installation.

Task 1:

Use a quality tile sealant to protect the shower niche tile.

Task 2:

Put a very thin bead of silicon around the nook and shelf edges.

Wrap up

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post and learned how to build a stunning long vertical tiled shower niche to improve your shower storage!

I had a lot of fun designing this niche since it demonstrated how a straightforward shower niche can be elevated to the status of a spectacular architectural feature.

If you choose to take on this project and how it all went out, kindly let me know in the comments section below.

Please also leave a remark if you have any questions. I’d be delighted to assist you!

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