Tile Vs. Tub Surrounds: How They Compare

If you're installing a new tub as part of an overhaul of your home, you'll have to choose between a one-piece tub surround that uses one molded piece for the tub and wall surfaces, and a multi-piece tile wall. Both of these definitely have their fans because the advantages to both are so specific -- what one type of tub wall has, the other lacks. Switching from one to the other, should you decide you don't like your initial choice, isn't the hardest task, but it is also not the easiest and not one that you can undertake on a whim. So, choosing the style of tub surround you want is definitely a decision that takes consideration. Looking at what the styles have to offer is the best way to make your choice.

Customization and Aesthetics

Separate tiles are going to offer a lot more variety than a one-piece tub surround simply because you have more pieces. Ceramic tiles are available in several colors and sizes, so you can give your shower and tub a retro look or create patterns with the different colors. Glass tiles allow you to give the shower walls additional depth as the translucent glass makes the stall appear a bit roomier and more artsy.

On the other hand, a one-piece surround is usually available in neutral colors that go with everything. Since it's not that easy to change your shower stall when you want to redecorate, it's easier to have a neutral color that matches most other towel and accessory colors. If you plan to change the surface look of your bathroom often, or if you have several different sets of towels, bathmats, and accessories, a one-piece tub surround might be more suitable.

Ease of Care

The one-piece tub surround wins for ease of care. A smooth surface that's easy to wipe down and that doesn't accumulate a lot of mildew makes cleaning the bathroom go a lot more quickly. You'll still need to be on the lookout for soap scum and some mildew, but these are usually quick to disappear with basic household cleansers.

Separate tiles aren't difficult to clean, but the extra grout lines make mildew a more distinct possibility. Even if the grout is sealed, the crevices can trap more moisture and develop more moldy growth. This will require more bleach-based products to clean off. Plus, colored tile shows soap scum more easily, so even a little soap scum will affect how the tile looks.

Ease of Repair

One-piece surrounds are fairly durable and don't chip like ceramic can, so repairs aren't a common issue -- but if something does happen to the walls of the surround, it's more difficult to repair them without leaving signs. However, if you're not planning to do anything like bathe animals (whose claws can scratch up a tub easily) in the tub, you might never have to do any repairs on the surface.

Tile, though, can be chipped out and replaced. While ceramic tile can chip, you can, in turn, remove the broken tile and replace it. So it's a little easier to repair tile walls without making it look like something was ever wrong.

If you want any more information about how having a tub surround versus a tile wall would affect your everyday use of your bathroom, contact a bathroom remodeling contractor or home fixture store such as Clifton Mirror & Glass. No matter your situation, there is a tub and shower enclosure type that is right for you.