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Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down Those (shower) Walls!

Sorry, but I have always had this fantasy of hiring a technician named Gorbachev, so I could hear our customers use that line. But, I can’t seem to lure the real one out of retirement and into a Fix St Louis shirt. Go figure.

Anyway, today we’ll be discussing those yucky walls around your shower or tub. If that sentence made no sense to you, you’re free to go. But for the 99% of you remaining, you know what I mean.

Those walls with those sickly, shiny avocado green squares that are supposed to have dry white stuff between them, but the white stuff is missing in places, or the white stuff is actually now black. Maybe a tile or two are sticking-out, missing, or a bulge of wet drywall behind it is shoving tiles out of place.

Or, those nicer shower walls and tub walls where gaps keep appearing on the perimeter of the bathtub ledge, or in the corners. Maybe there’s oversized gobs of hard, rubbery goop from the time your honey-doer-in-residence finally got around to doing something after months of being nagged.

So, it’s time to do something about those shower walls or tub walls. But, what? Here are your 5 choices:

1. Tub & Shower SURROUNDS
These very inexpensive, pre-formed plastic panels that are easily installed over whatever is on your tub/shower walls have their place. Maybe for a bathroom that is rarely used and seen (e.g. in a basement), or a bathroom that you want to remodel “right” but not “right now,” or a rental property. But, if you’re looking for quality and durability, read on.

Oops! When I said at the end of the last paragraph “read on”, I really meant the paragraph after this one. These are the national franchises who promise you a new bathroom in a day that, while still costing thousands of dollars, do not cost the many more thousands required to remodel a bathroom correctly. In a typical installation they will be placing a liner that is custom-fit to match the make and model of your tub, and the walls above the tub are often integrated. So what’s the problem? When, not if, water eventually penetrates and gets between the liner and the tub the liner may become distorted, destroying your multi-thousand dollar investment. Please trust us on this one. Don’t do it.

3. Ceramic Tile
Does the phrase “ceramic tile” conjure-up in your mind that bathroom with 4-1/4″ shiny squares colored pink, yellow, or avocado that scream 1950’s, with grout that is missing, turning black, or impossible to clean? Well, things have greatly improved since your home was built. Just go to a hardware or tile store and you’ll see all kinds of sizes, shapes, and colors — large tiles, mosaics, subway-style, glass tiles, and more. Many just love the way these tiles look, and ceramic tile is the right choice for them. But, you’ll still have grout that needs maintenance. So, read on.

4. Cultured Marble & Onyx
In many ways, this is the best choice. This stuff looks great, sorta like marble. Easy to clean and maintain because it’s all flat surfaces with no grout — just solid panels with caulk running along the base perimeter and vertically in the corners. Incidentally, it’s time to drop the phrase “cultured marble” from your lexicon. That’s old technology — a product that chips and offers fewer color options. “Onyx” (a brand name, actually) is the new cultured marble. It’s more durable and you will be very surprised how many colors it comes in. Give us a call and we can lend you some sample chips. Interestingly, installing Onyx usually costs the same as installing ceramic tile. That’s because while Onyx MATERIAL is more expensive than tile, it takes much less LABOR to install.

5. Composite Wall Surrounds
Chances are you’ve never seen these, so let’s imagine. You want the look of tile, but you don’t want the maintenance issues associated with grout. So, imagine a surface that is hard plastic (not ceramic) with a high gloss — a surface like a glossy tile. It is one solid surface, but it isn’t completely flat — it is molded with raised and colored squares that look like tiles, and lowered white channels that look like grout. This surface is actually part of a thicker board that has wood at the back, so it can be installed onto the vertical lumber boards in your walls (“studs”). This will typically be the most expensive of all options (although not by a whole lot), but it offers great styling and low maintenance. Words don’t do it justice, so give us a call and we’ll show you samples.

Well, you know the next part, which is always the same. At Fix St Louis we can do all of the above (although we will politely decline to install tub liners, for your own good). Oh, and if you do just happen to run into Mr. Gorbachev, please tell him we’ll leave the light on for him.