What is a Prefab Shower Stall?

Dreamline Wall Kit
Dreamline Wall Kit. Dreamline via Amazon

A prefab shower stall (prefabricated shower stall) can provide homeowners with a complete shower stall, as opposed to the classic but painstaking method of building a tiled shower from scratch.

"Prefab" shower means that the fabrication of the shower stall has been done off-site at a factory, leaving only assembly to be done at your home.  Besides transferring the majority of the mess to a location other than your home, this method also means that the shower can be completed in a few hours, rather than the several days required to custom-build a tiled shower stall unit.

1.  Interlocking Multi-Piece Units:  The Do-It-Yourself-Friendly Option

The most common and easiest type of prefabricated shower unit to install is the multi-piece shower. It consists of several components made of acrylic or solid surface which interlock to form a cohesive unit.  Typically, this complete package includes a shower pan or bathtub, two separate side pieces, one larger back piece, and front doors (optional) or the front is left open and covered with a shower curtain.

2.  Wall Kit Only:  Even Friendlier For DIYers

Wall kits include everything listed above, except for the shower pan or tub.  

Shower/Tub Wall Kit Best Pick:  Buy From Amazon - Swanstone Veritek Tub Wall Kit

Swanstone Veritek is a three-piece wall kit:  one back panel and two side panels.  This product's greatest selling point is that the ledges and soap dishes are molded straight into the plastic, saving you from adding these accessories.

 Also, the back panel is one single panel, not an adjustable panel like this next one, the QWALL.

Shower/Tub Adjustable Wall Kit Best Pick:  Buy From Amazon - DreamLine QWALL Backwall Kit

The name is deceptive; this wall kit actually includes all necessary sections:  back wall and two side walls.  The QWALL is more affordable than the Veritek.

 However, there are fewer shelves (two) and they are made of tempered safety glass rather than molded into the panels.  

Shower-Only Best Pick:  Buy From Amazon -  Sterling 32" x 32" Shower Stall

This Sterling unit is a shower only, with a square 32" by 32" footprint.  

3.  Single-Piece Units:  Professional Installation Only

Single-piece prefabricated showers are typically more expensive and more difficult to transport and install. The main body of the shower stall is a single, molded piece. The single piece units have fewer spaces for mold and mildew to grow and are structurally more solid. Even so-called single-piece units are not truly single-piece since the door is a separate piece. Also, what appears to be a single-piece unit is actually separate pieces that were expertly welded together back in the manufacturing plant.

Call a bathroom remodeling company for installation of these one-piece shower units.  One thing to keep in mind: are your doors large enough to allow a single piece unit to come through? Many older houses have narrower doorways, making this impossible.

Summary

In years past, the prefab shower stall was looked upon with disdain as a cheap, ugly, and temporary alternative to the more traditional method of tiling a shower from scratch.

 But with the advent of improved materials and molding techniques, pre-fabs are finding their way into higher-end homes.  Still, homeowners should weigh the merits of a prefab shower against a tiled shower.