Shower shelves -- also known as niches -- are custom-built design elements within showers. While they serve a functional purpose -- to hold shampoo bottles, soap and other hygiene products -- they also help create a visual focal point within the shower. The layout and framing of the shower shelf is important so that it is installed in an area where the tile naturally folds into the shelf. While it might seem like a good idea to frame the shower shelf in during the framing of the house, it is actually better to wait and do it according to your shower layout.
- Tape measure
- Drywall screws
- Tile spacers
- Utility knife
- Circular saw
- 2-by-4 material
- Safety glasses
- Construction adhesive
Install the shower underlayment, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Framing in the shower shelf, after installing the underlayment, allows you to better control the layout so that your shelf falls along the natural grout lines of your chosen tile for the installation.
Lay out the shower walls with some pieces of tile laid out on the floor with tile spacers between them to simulate the finished shower wall. Measure the dry-laid pieces with a tape measure and transfer those measurements to the wall. Draw level and plumb lines to represent the grout lines.
Center the shower shelf between two vertical wall studs in the area you want the shelf to go. Adjust the height of the shower shelf by using the dry-laid tiles with the level lines on the wall. The goal is to have the shower shelf installed in such a way that the top and bottom of the shelf naturally fall along the horizontal grout joints for the wall tile so you can avoid ugly cuts.
Cut the underlayment out for the shelf. Save the square piece you cut out for the face. Measure the distance across the inside of the shelf area between the studs and mark a piece of 2-by-4 material accordingly. Cut two pieces to length with a circular saw but cut the pieces about 1/16-inch longer than what you actually need to create resistance when you install the piece.
Tap the two pieces into place along the top and bottom of the shower shelf within the cutout between the two studs. Check their placement within the shelf; you want the top and bottom recessed slightly, the same depth as the thickness of the underlayment so when you add the underlayment, they are flush with the top and bottom of the cutout. When they are at the right placement, sink screws through the face of the existing underlayment on the wall to lock the wood in place.
Apply construction adhesive to the back of your saved square cutout. Push it into place in the niche so that it forms the back of the shelf. Use scrap underlayment material on the top and bottom sections of the shelves so the 2-by-4 material is covered. Waterproof the shower, along with the shelf, before installing the tile.
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