Solid Surface Shower Walls 2018

Uncle Paul’s Choice: KOHLER K-97618-W11 Choreograph 60″ x 32″ x 72″ Shower Wall Kit

So, you have decided to remodel the bathroom and you have the best shower walls on your mind.

Why not?

They look stunning, are easy to install (or so you believe), low on maintenance and most importantly, will be a permanent solution to grout.

Only, you cannot make up your mind on which one to choose.

If the hard-selling sales guy at the store is to be believed, then only the most obscenely expensive, one-piece shower walls can ensure that you end up with the grout free wall that you’d originally envisioned.

Everything else is a gimcrack that will have you crouching on your knees, scrub brush in hand, in less than three months.

The caveat is that most people aren’t willing to spend that kind of dough. Add the expense of getting the shower walls professionally installed and you have just blown past your original remodel budget by about 60%.

We know just what you feel. We have been there and pondered for months on what would be a cost-effective and easier alternative to those ridiculously expensive shower walls. Finally, we decided to dig up some information for ourselves.

Guess what we discovered? The best bathtub walls are not expensive at all. In fact, they are far from it. And everything that the sales rep told you is probably half-baked.

That’s precisely why we created this guide to help you with your purchase and shopping decision.

To help you further with your decision-making process, we have selected some of the best shower walls in the market currently.

These are from Kohler’s famed Choreograph range of shower walls. Each one is made of Kohler’s patented composite material and has near flawless customer ratings to back them up with.

Here we go.

Kohler Choreograph Reviews 2018

KOHLER K-97618-W11 Choreograph 60″ x 32″ x 72″ Shower Wall Kit

First up, we have the Kohler K-97618-W11, a stunning, three-piece shower wall that mimics natural stone in its finish.

It has an off-white background with contrasting, deep veins that run diagonally as well as randomly across the surface. Kohler calls the color Crosscut Biscuit.

The colors are muted and hence, blending these with your existing bathtub or fixtures should not be a problem at all.

Easy installation

The Kohler Choreograph shower wall kit includes everything that you need for an easy and fast installation.

There are three walls, two of which are 32” x 72”, whereas the third one is 60” x 72”.

Two 72” corner joints are thrown in for a seamless installation.

The walls are about 3/8” thick which make them easy to modify or cut if need be. And the joints ensure that the caulk and silicone are neatly concealed.

All shower walls from the Choreograph range have a factory finish. This eliminates the need for edges or wall trims. Personally, we like them just fine. But that’s subjective, right?

Just in case you don’t like the finish, you can always buy aftermarket trim kits that fit these walls.

No grout

Most people opt for solid shower walls to get a permanent solution to grout.

The seamless design of these Kohler walls clubbed with the perfect smooth finish leave very little room for grout or mold.

These are also extremely easy to clean. All that it takes is a few rubs with a squeegee and you should have them sparkling new again.

One of the best things about the collection is that there are tons and tons of accessories from Kohler that blend in effortlessly with these shower walls.

That includes barres, floating shelves, hooks, lockers, stools, and trims. You can customize the shower area just about any way that you fancy.

Why we love it

  • Superb aesthetics
  • Three-piece wall system
  • Heavy duty composite material
  • Mimics natural stone with the veined patterns
  • Subdued, muted colors for easy blending with existing tub and fixtures
  • Smooth finish for easy cleaning
  • Caulk and silicone gets concealed
  • Factory finished walls eliminate the need for trims
  • Easily trimmable for fixtures
  • Lots of compatible accessories available from Kohler

Things to watch out for

  • Always inspect the box before you sign the document. Despite being extremely durable, sometimes the walls can get cracked in shipping.

Conclusion: If you are looking for a veined, natural stone look for your shower remodel, then the Kohler Choreograph K-97618-W11 should be on your wish list. It is backed by Kohler’s excellent quality construction. Hard to go wrong with this.

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KOHLER K-97619-W09 Choreograph 60″ x 32″ x 72″ Shower Wall Kit

The Kohler K-96719-W09 is another stunning shower wall from the Choreograph range.

Kohler has two different finishes in the Choreography collection both of which mimic natural stone patterns. Our first pick was the crosscut design which has a smoother and muted finish. This one is the sandbar cut, which features darker, horizontal vein cut patterns running across the panels.

Although it looks like a natural stone with grooves, there are no actual grooves on the pattern. It has a smooth, matte finish that makes it almost impervious to grout and mold.

Durable Serica material composite

One of the reasons why Kohler’s range of bathtub walls are touted to last forever is because of their proprietary composite material called Serica. For the uninitiated, it is a blend of crushed stone and fiber reinforcements which give it unparalleled durability.

Ever seen Kohler’s commercials? You can see a guy going at one of these shower walls with a hammer. That’s how durable these are.

At the same time, the matte finish and perfect rendition of natural stone make it easy to blend with any décor theme.

Tailor-made for DIY installation

While product manuals talk about professional installation, any DIYer with a basic set of tools like a table saw or a hole saw should be able to install this easily. Just ensure that you set up a basic jig that applies pressure on the panel until the adhesive dries.

The panels are in fact, designed for at-home installation and in-field trimming. So, you should not face any problems customizing it to fit your shower.

You can even install it directly over the tiles.

All outside edges and joints are covered with the joints provided in the package. This gives you a perfect, professionally-installed finish and aesthetics.

Why we love this

  • Darker, sandcut pattern
  • Three-piece design
  • DIY installation possible
  • In-field trimming possible
  • Can be installed directly over tiles
  • Durable Serica composite material
  • Blend of crushed stone and fiber
  • Smooth, matte finish
  • Easy to customize according to the size of the shower
  • Joints included in the package for covering caulk and silicone

Things to watch out for

  • Same as the earlier model. Just keep an eye for in-transit damage or even manufacturing defects. Please remember that minute variations in the patterns are completely normal with shower walls like these.

Conclusion: Another winner from Kohler’s Choreograph range. Just pick the look that best fits your bathroom décor.

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KOHLER K-97614-0 Choreograph 48″ x 36″ x 96″

The next one is the Kohler K-97614-0, a large-sized three-piece shower wall kit. This one has two 36” x 96” walls and one 48” x 96” wall making it perfect for large bathrooms with extended shower areas.

Unlike the earlier two designs, this one is plain white. So, if you hate wrecking your brains thinking about color-matching the panels with the color of your tub or sink or other fixtures, you can go with this one.

It’s a no-brainer. White blends with just about anything.

Off-White with accents available

While the manufacturer mentions the color as white, it is not exactly pure white. It’s an off-white color. You have the option to buy accent panels in a different color to accentuate the look of the design.

Ditto with the joints which are available color-matched in white or in metallic colors which provide a neat contrast.

One of the caveats about white panels is that they need more frequent cleaning because they can be unapologetic about stains or dust. But Kohler’s Choreograph range of shower walls is ridiculously easy to clean. All it takes is a quick wipe with a cloth.

In the rare event that the panel gets damaged, you can contact Kohler’s ASR network for easy assistance and on-site repair. Kohler has one of the most reputed customer service teams in the business and service issues are sorted in record time.

A dishwasher-safe range of accessories

Being a large-sized shower wall, most people look to accessorize the Kohler K-97614-0. There are a whole range of color matched and contrasting accessories available for purchase. The color-matched ones, in particular, create a perfectly seamless look when paired against the white background.

All accessories are dishwasher safe.

If you are unsure whether the white Kohler choreograph is the one for your shower area, you can always request for a sample. Kohler usually ships it out in a couple of weeks.

So plan beforehand.

Why we love this

  • Large-sized shower walls
  • Perfect for customizing according to the size of the shower area
  • Off-white
  • Blends easily with existing fixtures and tub
  • Easy to clean
  • In-field trimming and alterations possible
  • Easy to install
  • Comes with matching corners to create a seamless look
  • Lots of matching accessories

Things to watch out for

  • In transit damage, frequent upkeep (Although easy)

Conclusion: Have a large-sized shower area with grout-filled tiles or punctured walls that beg for an upgrade? Give the Kohler Choreograph White large shower walls a try. You won’t be disappointed one bit.

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KOHLER K-97616-T02-0 Cord Texture Choreograph 60″ x 36″ x 96

We also highly recommend the Kohler K-97616-TO2-0, especially for homeowners who find the plain white one too simple for their liking.

This one has a cord texture in the same white background. That’s like a series of closely knit horizontal lines that runs throughout the walls.

It adds a certain charm to the design that some people find lacking in the plain white finish.

Everything else is identical to the earlier model. It is a three-panel design with two 36” x 96” walls and one 48” x 96” wall, it is made of durable Serica composite and has a color-matched joint system that hides caulk and silicone.

Installation is extremely easy and professional help from Kohler is just a phone call away.

If you didn’t like the white, maybe the Cord Texture will catch your fancy.

Give it a shot folks!

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Swanstone TI-5-010 Veritek Five Panel Tub Wall Kit

Kohler’s Choreograph range often draws direct comparisons with Swanstone’s Veritek shower walls. That’s what prompted us to dig up some information about this one.

Turns out that Swanstone lives up to a lot of the hype.

This is a good quality shower wall at a great price.

It has a five-panel design, unlike the three-panel Choreograph. There are one large back panel, two side panels and two apron strips that ship with color-coordinated caulk.

Molded-In shelves

Both the side panels have molded-in shelves which avoid the need for separate accessories. Of course, if you wish to accessorize it with grab bars and the likes, there’s no dearth of choices from Swanstone.

The design of the shower wall is very eye-pleasing. It is white but looks more or less like textured tiles. However, it has a smooth, even finish. So, you won’t be plagued by grout problems, ever.

It is 1/4-inch-thick and made of Veritek, which is their proprietary compression molded surface that Swanstone claims does not chip or crack. It is non-porous, so no mold either.

However, there have been a few instances where the surface has cracked. And it’s not repairable like Kohler either. So, any modifications that you make to the surface will be cosmetic and there will be variations.

Swanstone offers a limited lifetime warranty on their Veritek range for household applications. The warranty is reduced to five years for commercial applications.

Easy installation

At just 90 lbs, you can easily install the Swanstone shower wall panels yourself. Swanstone provides detailed instructions in the manual. And there are ample tutorial videos on YouTube as well.

The only possible grumble that we have with this is that the package doesn’t ship with the adhesive needed to glue this to the wall or tiles.

You will have to buy those separately. And depending on the actual size of the shower wall (that you might customize), you will need at least 4 tubes of the adhesive. So, that’s an added cost.

Also, there’s just one tube of sealant or caulk included. If you feel that you might need extra, be prepared.

None of these are deal breakers though.

Why we love it

  • Cheap, easy replacement shower wall
  • Tile-like design
  • No grout or mold
  • Non-porous surface
  • Easy to install
  • Five-panel design
  • Made of Veritek material
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Things to watch out for

  • A few cases of the surface material chipping. It is non-repairable and any attempts to repair might lead to surface variations.
  • Adhesive not included in the package

Conclusion: The Swanstone TI-5-010 Veritek tub wall is a budget-priced alternative to Kohler’s Choreograph shower walls. It looks amazing and is easy to install. But the quality is not as good as Kohler. That’s kind of expected at this price point though. So, if you are looking to remodel on a budget, you might want to consider the Swanstone T1-5-010.

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Factors to Consider

Here are some of the most important factors to consider when you go shopping for shower walls.

One-piece shower walls vs. Three/Five-piece models

The first and most important decision will be choosing between a one-piece and three or five-piece shower wall surround.

As the name suggests, the one-piece shower surround is one, single acrylic structure with no seams or joints in between them. The big draw is that the fewer the number of joints, the lesser the chances of grout forming.

It is one continuous pattern that looks seamless.

However, these are not only overpriced but riddled with problems that are best avoided. For example, if there were to be a plumbing problem, you’d have to remove the entire structure. Also, these have thinner walls as compared to three-piece models.

Not to mention that you will end up buying a lot of extra additional trim pieces to accommodate this into your shower area.

A three or five-piece system, on the other hand, is cheaper, comes custom made to fit existing bathtub walls and prevents wall buckling due to natural contraction or expansion.

True, there will be seams. But with a good quality sealant system, you should have no problems.

So, despite what the sales guy wants you to believe, we highly recommend a three-piece or a five-piece shower surround.

The size of the tub/shower area

You need to measure up the shower area or the bathtub. Most tubs are 60” in length but the width varies. Select a tub surround that matches the tub size or is easily customizable to fit your tub size. Always remember, you do not need to replace the tub while installing a new surround wall. Just pick shower walls that match the tub.

The material

Shower wall surrounds come in a variety of materials from premium composite solid surfaces to cheaper alternatives like acrylic and plastic.

Your choice will depend on your budget, the aesthetics that you are aiming for and the kind of performance and longevity that you expect from the wall surrounds.

Premium Composites

Premium composite solid wall surrounds are undoubtedly the best of them all. They are available in a stunning array of colors, patterns, and styles that can match tiles as well as textures. You can choose from walls to match granite or marble or natural stone, like quartz. Trim-kits are easily available which prevents the need to install tiles around the edges. These have an average lifespan of 30 years or even more. The cost ranges from $600 to $1300 and more.

Fiberglass composites

Fiberglass composites are cheaper than premium composites, but design options are limited. On a positive note, these are chip and scratch resistant. And installation is easier. The average cost is $300 to $700.

Acrylic bathtub surrounds

If you are looking to redo the shower area on a shoestring budget, then acrylic wall surrounds are your best bet. Mind you, these are pretty flimsy and installed directly on to drywall. Some models have features like shelves and soap dishes. But the quality is nothing to write home about. At best, these will last in low use showers only.

The installation

The ease or the difficulty of the installation will depend on the material you choose. Thicker surround walls can usually be attached directly to the studs. This is a slightly complex installation procedure that requires you to strip the drywall around the tub down to match the lips of the surround panels to the stud. Trims may be added later to cover the edges. Thinner materials like acrylic can be attached directly to the wallboard.

Most solid wall surrounds do not require professional installation. Even if you have bare minimum expertise with DIY remodel tasks, you can install these yourself.

Structural constraints

Sometimes, there are structural constraints in the tub or shower area that might make a direct installation difficult. In such a scenario, plan in advance for any cuts or trimming that you might have to make. If you have chosen thicker materials, then you might want to look for specialized tools that allow you to cut through these with ease.

Aesthetics

While shower walls are available in hundreds of colors and designs, sometimes you just cannot find one that matches your bathtub or other fixtures. This can happen even with plain, solid colored wall surrounds. To cite an example, we spoke to a customer who bought a plain white composite shower wall. But their tub was whiter than the wall. It was a clear mismatch. In such situations, try and match the tub with some of the extra fixtures like molded shelves, shower seats or dishes. Otherwise, get the closest possible match.

To sum it up

There you have it, folks. Our experience and reviews of the best shower walls. If it were us, then we would pay a little extra and get a surface like Kohler Choreograph that has an average lifespan of 30 years.

Its available in all the designs and styles that you’d need and is repairable and customizable on site.

But again, if you have budget constraints, the Swanstone shower wall is also a great choice.