The are numerous choices on the market today for use in a shower surround. When faced with this decision, you may wonder whether to use a one-piece shower surround, such as an acrylic surround, or whether to use tile. While there are multiple types of tile on the market, one of the most popular in use today is marble. Acrylic surrounds and marble surrounds both have their advantages and disadvantages. Selecting one or the other may be easier after learning about their appearance and care.
Marble is a metamorphic stone made up mostly of calcite. The colors and veins present in marble are due to the presence of other minerals in the stone, which gives each block of marble a unique pattern, coloration and look.
Marble is one of the softer natural stones, although it is hard enough to take a high polish. Like all natural stones, each marble shower surround will be completely unique, with its own coloration and veins.
Acrylic is a lightweight plastic, vacuum molded into shapes such as shower surrounds. The material is backed by fiberglass for heat retention and strength and the color of the product goes straight through.
Acrylic is lightweight and formed into several standard shapes and sizes. Colors are limited by the manufacturer, although most units are available in several colors, including white, biscuit, bone and gray.
Marble is a difficult material to care for in wet areas such as showers. White colored stones, such as bianco carrara, should never be used on the shower floor, as they can wick up impurities from beneath the drain and discolor over time.
All marble tiles are at risk of etching or staining when subjected to frequent water exposure. To care for marble in a shower setting, it should be sealed on a regular basis with an impregnating sealer, cleaned with a stone cleanser and dried with a squeegee between uses.
Acrylic is a low-maintenance material that does not stain or show scratches easily. It can be marked or dulled by harsh cleansers, so a soft cloth and non-acidic cleanser should be used. If acrylic does become marred or scratched over time, it can be easily polished by applying a liquid polishing agent such as Gel-Gloss or Gel-Coat.
A marble shower surround has an elegant and natural beauty unmatched by other materials. When properly cared for and maintained, marble tile surrounds can add character and design to a bathroom. The same marble can be installed on the floor of the bathroom and on the vanity top for a cohesive design. Marble tile surrounds will have thin grout lines, which should be sealed with the marble tiles.
Acrylic shower surrounds are fairly standard. When properly cared for, they can maintain their glossy finish for years. While they add little in the way of design or character to the bathroom, there are no grout lines to care for, giving a smooth, uniform look to the shower.
Cost and Installation
Marble tiles range in price from about $7 to $50 a square foot, depending on the marble. Installation is simple and can be done on a Durock or tile board backer. Marble tiles will allow you to build the shower to your exact specifications, allowing you infinite possibilities in size.
Acrylic units can run from $300 to $1,000 depending on size and manufacturer. The units can typically be installed in a matter of hours and can be used that night. Sizes are standard and customization is not an option, so the size of your shower must conform to the size of the surround.
- Photo Credit shower head image by Leticia Wilson from Fotolia.com
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