Need more storage in your bath or shower? A shower niche is a proper term for those built-in shelves you see in many showers. You can add this feature to nearly any shower enclosure with not too much effort. There are several prefab shower niche styles available, and the amount of work involved depends on how seamless you want the final product to look.
What is a Shower Niche?
Niches are simple small alcoves that allow you to store your soaps and shampoos in the shower. Some custom-built showers have them integrated into the design, but most standard baths have flat walls. Save for the tiny edges of the tub; there’s no place to put your stuff!
The storage problem is more complex than it may at first seem. You can’t just add shelving into your shower—the space is already tiny, and you can’t afford to have anything in there that isn’t completely water-tight.
The best part of shower niches is that they are integrated into the wall. They are designed to fit in the space between wall studs and to use those few inches between the walls as storage. As a result, you won’t find extremely wide or long prefab shower niches for sale. If you have to modify the studs, you’re getting into a much larger project.
Shower niches come in two basic styles—tiled and prefab. Both styles are available in various shapes and sizes, and you can get most with one or two shelves.
Tiled Shower Niches
If your shower or bath is tiled, you can add a tiled shower niche for a seamless, integrated look. As long as you can match the tile, it will look like it came that way. Or, for a custom look, find a contrasting tile that accents the overall design of your bath. The niche is the perfect place to put accent or patterned tiles without overpowering the entire design space!
You can make a tiled shower niche from scratch, but it’s a pretty involved project. To do it, you would frame shelves between the wall studs. That would then get a tile backer board and be thoroughly waterproofed. Finally, it would be tiled at the same time as the rest of the shower.
The advantage of the completely custom approach is that it can be pretty much any size, and it can be custom for your shower. It’s usually done as the shower is getting constructed, however, and seldom after the fact.
A prefab tile niche takes this concept but simplifies it. Instead of building the shelves from scratch, you purchase a preformed shower niche made to be tiled. In some ways, this is even better than building one from scratch because the plastic or fiberglass prefab model will already be waterproof.
To install this style, the prefab unit is placed in an appropriately sized cutout in the wall. It’s secured and then tiled as the rest of the shower is. The final product looks the same as a completely custom installation but with a lot less work.
Prefab Shower Niches
The alternative to a tiled niche is a standard prefab niche. They are generally made from stainless steel or porcelain.
This niche style has an outer mounting flange that covers the shower walls and creates a waterproof seal.
Shower Niche Design Features
Ready-to-Tile or Finished
Shower niches have two finished looks. Either they are tiled, or they are not. If a niche isn’t tiled, then it is sold as a “finished” niche. These are typically made from stainless steel or porcelain.
Ready-to-tile niches can be made of pretty much anything that tile will stick to. Extra points are given to entirely waterproof materials, though. The least expensive and most versatile material is simple ABS plastic. This can be molded into any shape by the manufacturers, and the result is lightweight and strong.
Many sellers also make niches out of foam or cement-board.
Over-Mount versus Flush Mount
Prefab niches can be mounted into the wall in two fashions. Both of these designs have a flange that is designed to be screwed into the wall studs. The niche must be attached to the stud so that it is strong enough to support some weight. You never know when someone in the shower might slip and grab onto the shelf for a bit of support.
Over-mounted niches feature a very thin but wide flange that sits on top of the wallboard. The screws then pass through both the wallboard and the studs for a secure fit. Since the flange is wide, there’s some room for error when you make the cutout.
But since the niche’s flange mounts on top of the wallboard, they will never be completely seamless. With a bit of thin-set, the edge can be faired out. Once tiled, it takes a meticulous analysis to tell.
Flush mount niches are designed to mount precisely flush with the wallboard, but they require a little more care to install. The cutout must be perfect. The niche will then sit entirely in the cutout, with the flanges getting screwed only into the studs. You must then fill any gaps with waterproof sealant before tiling.
Besides the lack of fairing necessary with flush mount units, the smaller flanges mean that they can be mounted in tight spaces that over-mount styles cannot.
Finished niches that are designed to attach right to the wall have a flange and a membrane bonding system. This means that a waterproof joint needs to be established, usually with silicone sealant.
Best Prefab Shower Niches
Best Prefab Shower Niche — Redi Niche Single Recessed Shower Shelf
The Redi Niche is the perfect simple niche for a finished, tiled look. This particular one is 16 inches by 14 inches and measures 4 inches deep. However, other sizes are available, including short and long 6-by-16 versions and a large 20-by-16 double-shelf version.
To install the Redi Niche, you need to ensure that the space between your wall studs is precisely 16 inches. These are simple plastic units, and they secure into the wall by screwing into the studs. If your studs are too far apart, the Redi Niche won’t secure properly.
The neat thing about the Redi Niche is that you can combine the different sizes to make multiple shelves in your shower. Combine this 16-by-14 unit with a smaller 6-by-16 narrow shelf to create a two-shelf system.
Once the Redi Niche over-mount flange is secured to the wall, you can tile it as you do the rest of the bath. Since it’s a simple shelf, you could also use it in the kitchen for extra storage near the sink or near a spa or jacuzzi.
Best Double-Shelf Shower Niche — Novalinea Double-Shelf Ready-to-Tile Recessed Shower Niche
Made from strong ABS plastic, the Novalinea shower niche is an easy to install and attractive way to add extra storage to your bath. It measures 25-by-17 inches overall and comes with a double-shelf. The shelf is divided into two shelves, but you can install it either vertically or horizontally in the way. Like other prefab niches, the Novalinea needs to be directly attached to frame members in the wall. The larger shelf in the niche measures 14.8 by 14.2 inches, while the smaller shelf is 6.2 by 14.2. Both shelves are 3.55 inches deep.
Smaller single-shelf versions are available. Novalinea also sells a flush-mount version, if you’d rather go that route. This one is an over-mount version, but the mounting flange is only 0.15 inches thick, so fairing it out should be straightforward with a polymer-modified thinset.
Best Tileable Niche— Schluter KERDI-BOARD Shower Niche with Shelf
While the other niches have so far been ABS plastic, this one is made of the popular KERDI-BOARD shower material. If you’re installing a shower using other Schluter products, adding this niche is a no-brainer. This shelf is waterproof and ready for tiling.
The shelf in the Schluter niche is entirely customizable, depending on your situation. Additionally, you can remove the shelf and add glass or marble shelves—whatever works best for your bathroom decor.
This tileable niche measures 12-by-28 inches and fits between standard studs. It’s the most customizable niche because you can make it look however you like. It will look great with all the toys you want to outfit your shower with, like that new Bluetooth shower head you’ve been eyeing.
Best Stainless Steel Shower Niche — C&G Bathroom Solutions Stainless Shower Niche
If you’d like an even easier install, check out the C&C Bathroom stainless steel niche. This 12-by-12 inch unit has an over-mount flange that is designed to adhere right onto the shower wall. It provides a modern, elegant touch to any bathroom.
The finish is brushed nickel, but the unit is made entirely of 304 stainless steel. It’s completely waterproof and resists rust and corrosion. C&C also sells this unit is lightly polished or black colors, but all are made from 304 stainless steel. The sharp look of this modern accent will go great in luxury bathrooms with the best shower heads and fixtures.
Shower niches, like adjustable height shower heads, are one of those shower accessories that can make showering so much easier and more convenient. With everything positioned right where you want it, bathtime has never been so much fun.