How to Build a Shower Shelf

Installing a custom shower shelf is best done as part of a bathroom renovation when a re-tiling of the shower or tub enclosure can allow for proper placement. Location of the shelf is a matter of personal preference, but two factors merit your consideration. If you have a tub/shower combination, you may wish to position your shelf on the side wall for easy reach while sitting or standing. A stand up shower stall is better serviced by a shelf positioned at eye level, centered above the water splash area and placed below or to one or both sides of the shower spigot.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Straight edge
  • Tile layout plan
  • Diamond 4-inch grinder
  • Vacuum
  • Level
  • Silicone cement
  • Silver duct tape
  • Jam sticks
  • Bull nose tile
  • Silicone grout
  • Grout sealer


  1. Surface Mount Shelving

    • 1

      Measure your shelf and plan your tile placement so that an opening is left in the location where your shelf will be installed. The shelf will be installed after the rest of the enclosure is tiled, grouted and sealed. The lip of the surface mounted shelf will rest on the surrounding tile.

    • 2

      Apply silicone cement to the back perimeter of your shelf and the inside of the opening.

      Slide your shelf into the opening.

    • 3

      Check for level and tape your shelf into place using silver duct tape. Support the shelf at the top and bottom with jam sticks braced against the opposite wall of the enclosure. Wipe off excess silicone and allow the cement to dry overnight.

    • 4

      Remove the jam sticks and duct tape. Edge caulk the shelf with silicone. Allow to dry overnight.

    Built In Recessed Shelving

    • 5

      Measure your shelf. This install will be done after your backer board is installed and before the niche tiling takes place. Trace the hole where the shelf will be installed using a straight edge, level and pencil. The face of the shelf will lie flush with the backer board. Lay tile until the bottom of the niche location is reached.

    • 6

      Cut the insert hole out of the backer board using your diamond 4-inch grinder. Vacuum all debris.

    • 7

      Apply silicone cement to the back perimeter of your shelf and the inside of the opening.

      Slide your shelf into the opening.

    • 8

      Butter bullnose tile with tile cement and lay the tile half way over the niche edge. Use spacers to keep the tile in place. Finish tiling the rest of the surround. Allow to dry overnight.

    • 9

      Apply grout and work it in between the tiles. Allow to dry overnight. Apply grout sealer according to package directions. Allow to dry overnight.

Tips & Warnings

  • All materials are available at your local tile or home improvement outlet.
  • Take care when handling ceramic or porcelain shelves. Brace lightly to prevent cracking or breaking.
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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images

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