Different types and styles of shower niches

Completed simple shower niche

Completed simple shower niche

Here is a photo of the niche I’ve used for these posts and these series of photos. If you simply want a regular hole in the wall the exact size of one tile this is all you need. If you don’t have any idea what the hell I’m talking typing about, start at the beginning here: Building a Shower Niche Part 1. More likely you’ll want to bling that bad boy out in order to make the neighbors and in-laws jealous, no?

That is what I will cover in this post. Hopefully you are reading this before you’ve cut a hole in your wall or anything else. The size, shape, location, just about everything depends on what you want your niche to look like.  I will only be able to cover some very general examples since there are, literally, endless possibilities for a shower niche.

If you have any questions pertaining to your particular installation you can always leave a comment below. I do answer every one of them – I’m just super-cool like that. :cool:

Porcelain niche with shelf and glass / travertine liner

Photo 1

You can click on any of these photos for a ridiculously large very detailed view of my lack of photography skills.

Every (except one) niche on this page was built in exactly the same way as I’ve described with these posts with only small variations in sizing, placement, etc. Small changes just to enable the design elements.

The first (photo 1) is simply a taller niche with a shelf in it (for your rubber ducky). The elements that make this niche stand out are the glass and travertine liner that run into the sides of the niche and the same liner on the back wall of the niche turned 90 degrees. Other than those it is built exactly the same as the one above.

To create a shelf in this niche I’ve used two of the bullnose tiles, the same tile used for the sides of the niche, and placed them back to back. You can use an epoxy or just regular thinset to sandwich them together. That’s it – that is your shelf.

Porcelain niche with shelf and glass / travertine liner

Photo 2

To install it just place it into the niche and figure out exactly where you want it to be. Measure from the bottom of it to the bottom of your niche and that is the size to cut the first two side pieces of your niche. They are the two pieces below the shelf supporting it.

The order of the pieces for the interior of the niche are back wall first, bottom piece, two short side pieces – the ones you just cut, shelf pieces – the two that you just sandwiched, top piece of bullnose, then the two remaining side pieces cut and installed after everything else. This ensures an exact fit for all your pieces.

In photo 2 is the niche in the other side of the same shower. Both niches are the same size. Due to framing they are not placed in the same spot in the field tile, though. In photo 2 the sides do not line up with grout lines. And you probably never would have noticed it. :D

That is exactly what I mean when I say type that it is not always possible to lay out the niche where you want it. Framing dictates everything you attempt to build into the wall. if it is a supporting (load-bearing) wall you don’t have many choices without major reconstruction. So either move the niche four inches or rebuild the side of your house. You choose.

Niche in subway tile shower with listello above

Photo 3

Photo 3 is another simple niche like the one at the top except it is built into a subway-style shower. The big thing about getting these to look right is ensuring the pattern follows through in the back of the niche.

The order of installation is the same – back, bottom, top, sides. However, the side pieces are twice as long as the height of the field tile, make sure you line up the grout lines or it won’t look right. It will look ‘busy’ (that’s what designers say, I have no idea what it means. I guess you don’t want your tile to look like it has a job.)

You can always offset the grout lines in the sides of the niche with the field tile, however, in doing that you must also offset the back of the niche with those grout lines. That will break the flow of your horizontal grout lines. You don’t want that, keep the horizontal grout lines flowing consistently.

Travertine niche in subway style shower with glass liner above

Photo 4

Photo 4 is another subway style shower with a shelf in the niche. The order of installation is the same, however, you need to find a larger tile to use for your shelf. The subway tile in the field will not work, they are too small. Your rubber ducky will fall down.

In this case I cut down some of the same tile in a larger size for the top, bottom, and shelf of the niche. Notice, though, how the pattern still flows all the way through the niche. Keep it consistent.

In both subway showers the liner is running above the niche rather than through it. You can do it however you want – its your shower. Whatever looks best to you is the right way. If you do run the liner through the niche, run it all the way through. Don’t stop the liner on the sides, have regular bullnose all the way around the niche, then continue the liner across the back of the niche. It breaks up the liner and looks like an afterthought.

I’ll send Guedo after your ass! :guedo: So don’t do that.

Porcelain niches with offset colored back and insert

Photo 5

Number 5 is a double niche with shelves in the center. There are several aspects of these that really make them stand out.

First, obviously, is the fact that the backs of them are a different color – the same as the liner. Really makes them stand out.

I normally do not place the shelves in the center of the niche, no real reason to have four identically sized shelves. On these, though, I decided to line them up with the diamond I placed between them. Flow Baby! Yeah! :dance:

You will notice, however, that the layout and everything else is exactly the same as the rest – top and bottom line up with a grout line and the design and consistency flows through the niches. Make it look like it fits! That is the secret and the difference between a professionally designed and installed niche and a hole in the wall.

Porcelin niche with shelf and on-point row running throughout

Photo 6

Photo 6 is the same as all the others with a shelf in them. Noticing a theme here? :shades: There are a couple of differences.

You will notice the diagonal (on-point) row flowing through it. You want to keep the pattern consistent so that if you look at the niche straight on the grout lines do not jump, break, or move. They are consistent.

The shelf is also lined up with a grout line. The flow is more important than a specific size or height for the shelf.

You will also notice (I hope by now) that the bottom of the niche does not line up with a grout line. Remember when I said typed that it wasn’t always possible or feasible? That is what I meant. In this case it wasn’t very feasible. If I did line it up on the top and bottom it would either be 17″ tall with a shelf – that’s small, or 30″ tall – that is ridiculously huge. It actually looks better with the L-cuts. If you choose a grout that matches your tile you will never notice it. Or, you know, if you haven’t read any of my posts – ever – you would probably never notice it.

It’s all right to break the rules! Well, the design rules, anyway. There is nothing set in stone (that’s a pun, in case you missed it. A tile guy pun.) If it looks good to you do it. I’m just giving you guidelines to have a more professional looking installation.

Double niche with solid-surface bottom below accent row

Photo 7

Number 7 is another rule breaker. A couple of ways. By now you should be able to spot them. Pay attention, there will be a quiz later.

The only grout line that matches is the top. Neither the sides nor bottom match. Looks like hell, huh? Or at least doesn’t look right. It’s because I did not build the niche spaces, the framer, homeowner, and drywaller did. Please do not do that then expect your tile guy to create perfection. Perfection does not start with the tile guy, it starts with the plan. Plan first! Whether you are the tile guy (or girl) or not.

I do have it there for a reason, though. Notice the vertical grout lines in the niche sides? Those are six inches deep. That’s great if you have the space in the wall. But, if you don’t you do not want that back piece to be 1/2″ wide, that looks like hell.

I’ll get guedo again :guedo: so don’t do that.

The bottom of those niches is also a solid surface material rather than bullnose tile. These are products such as corian, surrell, granite slab, etc. If you use something like that it allows you to extend the niche shelf out from the wall a bit.

Marble shower over-under niches in on-point shower

Photo 8

Photo 8 is (an awesome shower!) a marble shower. All of the shower walls, as well as the ceiling, are on-point (installed diagonally). I want to apologize ( I don’t do that often, by the way :shades: ) because this is the best photo I have of the niches themselves. I was so happy with the outcome of that shower I nearly pissed myself with joy and forgot to get good photos of the niches. So I’ll just have to describe how awesome they are.

The wall the niches are installed into is a diagonal wall and, as such, I was able to make the niches a foot deep. Talk about rubber ducky storage!

The most difficult thing about placing niches in an on-point shower is that you will not be able to line up the grout lines. No big deal, it doesn’t make a difference in this application. The hard part is making the cuts in the field tile up to the niche look right. They have to be perfect. Install your entire niche and hold up your tile to the sides of it exactly in the right spot to mark them. Then take your time cutting them. If you slip or make a small mistake – start over. Just take your time, it’s worth it.

All the sides and top and bottom of these niches are full tiles which I bullnosed on the edge. Doing this eliminates any grout lines inside the niche. Nice and clean. The secret to this application is to install the entire niche then cut the field tile to it rather than the other way around.

Marble shower niche with arched top

Photo 9

Photo 9 is another marble shower (I like marble). This particular niche has a solid piece of marble slab on the bottom for the shelf, which allows it to stick out a bit, and a small arch in the top.

This is only a small arch so it only had four pieces making up the top of it. If you click on it you can barely make out how they step around the arch.

You can do this with regular bullnose or, with natural stone, you can bullnose custom pieces to fit. Doing that also allows this niche to be five inches deep without vertical grout lines in the sides of the niche.

You will also notice that the sides extend past the vertical grout lines in the field tile. The grout lines follow through in the back of the niche – everything lines up.

Ceramic niche with arched top and frame. On-point tile throughout

Photo 10

Number 10 is another arch. In this case the arch is framed. That simply means that the bullnose pieces are placed on the outside of the niche to form a frame around it.

Notice, again, how the pattern follows through the niche. This is one way to do an arch with ceramic or porcelain and regular sized bullnose. Doing this you can also make the niche as deep as you want since the tiles inside are simply field tiles which are cut down to size.

Ceramic corner niche with arched top and frame. On-point tile throughout

Photo 11

There is another way to so an arch with regular ceramic or porcelain and standard bullnose. That is photo 11.

The bullnose is placed inside the niche as normal but the top pieces are cut into smaller (shorter) pieces to conform to the slope of the arch.

Install everything around and in the back of the niche first then do the top arch pieces. With the field tile already installed it helps guage the sizes you need for the arch. Try to work it out so that they are all the same size.

And follow your pattern through the niche, damnit! Oh, sorry, did I mention that before?

All of the niches except number 7 (that was already framed in and finished before I showed up) were built nearly identically. The same as the simple niche I’ve described in all these posts, the one at the top of the page.

They were all framed the same (except the arches) and cut and created after part of the field tile was installed. Doing it in that manner will ensure that your design flows and your niche is not an afterthought. I hate that!

Don’t do that! You know what happens. :guedo:

If you have any question pertaining to your specific niche installation just leave a comment below and I’ll get back with you as soon as elvenly possible. (That’s just like ‘humanly possible’ – but with elves.)

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  • Jeff

    Easier to start with a Noble Co. preformed niche, its already waterproof and ready to receive thinset and tile.

    • Roger

      And they never fit the installation perfectly. And they’re over 50 bucks. :) I build each to fit into the installation I’m putting in that shower. You can’t get a preformed niche that will do that.