Should You Install a Pre-Fabricated Unit or a Tiled Shower?

You know that part of your bathroom renovation is to put in a new tub/shower combination, but you really are not sure if you should purchase a pre-fabricated unit or if you should go a little higher end and construct a tiled shower unit. There are benefits to each one, but it really depends on what you want out of the bathroom and in some cases what you are willing to spend.

A pre-fabricated unit is built in a factory and is then shipped to your home in one or more pieces, and then it will be installed and sealed in your bathroom. A tiled shower or tub surround is built from scratch and is installed on site; it can be pre-designed if there is a pattern to your tile but it is built on site from scratch. One thing to be careful of with pre-fabricated units is that because they are built before they get to your home you have to make sure they will fit through the doors and frames, especially if you have an older home. If you are set on this type of unit then you may want to consider a multi-piece product to make sure it will fit through your doors.

Pro Tip: if your bathtub is in really good condition you can either buy a pre-fabricated wall surround or a tile surround without having to renovate the whole area.

Pros of Installing a Pre-Fabricated Unit

  • Fast: whether you are hiring someone to do this or doing it yourself you will probably have a new shower by the end of the day

  • Budget Friendly: these units are generally cheaper than tiled shower surrounds

  • Weight: they are lighter so they can be installed in areas that may become problematic at some point

  • Flexible: if the floor moves or the tub shifts a little this unit will not crack, and it is very unlikely the unit will leak when properly sealed

  • Easy to Install: if you want a project you can tackle yourself this might be a great one for you

  • Seamless (or few seams): this means it is easier cleaning for you when there aren’t any seams

Cons of Having a Pre-Fabricated Unit

  • Limitations: because they come ready to go from the factory you are limited on the colours and designs; there is smaller variety than if you choose to install a tile surround.

  • Sizes: they are only available in a predetermined range of sizes, so if you have a unique sized or odd shaped area it may not work out for you

  • Too Big: one piece units are quite large so while they may fit in the space you have they might not actually fit through the doorways of your home to get to the bathroom, so make sure you measure the pathway to your bathroom as well as the space before ordering

Pros of a Tile Installation

  • Custom: the design will pretty much always be unique and will be unlike anything else you see because it is built on site from scratch

  • Greener: if you are looking to make your home a little more eco-friendly there are tiles available that are made of anywhere from 40-60% recycled materials, and there is very little, if any, aesthetic difference between recycled and brand new tile so the bathroom will not appear recycled

  • Sizing: since it is built custom it can be made to fit into any area, even those small, odd spaces

  • Resale: if you are going to be selling your home any time in the future tile surrounds tend to provide a higher resale value than prefabricated versions do

  • Small Spaces: since there are not any large pieces to bring into the home for this type of surround you can easily install it in older homes where there are usually really tight spaces.

Cons of a Tile Installation

  • Cost: because this option is really custom it is usually much more expensive than its prefabricated counter parts

  • Not DIY Friendly: this is a really difficult kind of installation to do and even if you have some experience with home renovations it is often recommended you hire someone to do this

  • Water Leaks: if the tub shifts or the floor shifts then you are likely to see cracks in the grout which can lead to water leaking

  • Slow: due to the time it takes for mortar to cure this type of installation will not provide you with a same-day shower option, so if this is your only bathroom then that might be something to consider

Overall there is not one option that is always better than the others but if you know that there are limitations to some part of your bathroom renovation it might dictate which option you go with. Either way you go a brand new tub surround, either pre-fabricated or custom tile, it will spruce up your bathroom and give you an area of your home you will be proud to show off to everyone who visits you.


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