Shower Niche x 3
When we designed our home there were a lot of options and upgrades we could have added from the design center. It would have made things easier for us, moving into a high end finished home but that would have also come with a high price tag.
When we purchased our home they were offering some incentives, we were given a few thousand dollars to go towards upgrades at the design center but we were on a self inflicted tight budget and didn’t want to go over. We upgraded a few things that made sense not only with convince but also cost. Adding beautiful tile to our showers were not one of those items.
Our home has 3 full bathrooms. Two are the tub shower combination and the master bath has a separate tub and walk in shower. Each came with the tiniest shelf that wasn’t big enough to hold a bottle of conditioner, shampoo and soap. There is a bar of soap on the bottom shelf just to show how tiny they are.
We did customize our master shower a little and when asked if we wanted a soap shelf we said yes but what I thought we would get and what we received were 2 totally different things. When you walk through the model homes you have to realize they have added thousands of dollars of upgrades and there really isn’t much they are displaying that would be considered “standard”. So it is tricky to know exactly what you’re getting all the time. When they were framing the shower it looked like they were putting in a decent size shelf that I assumed they would wrap with cultured marble. I was surprised to show up one day and say this tiny almost useless shelf.
I lived with these tiny shelves for a very long time because I didn’t know what to do about it. Aside from pulling out all the cultured marble and retiling the tub and shower walls which I wasn’t ready to do. The standard install for our home was cultured marble walls around the tub and in our walk in shower. I really like the cultured marble. It is easy to keep clean and you don’t have to deal with all the grout lines that mold and turn ugly colors. I know it’s not as stunning as a beautifully tiled space but I’m okay with it. Except for the tiny not practical shelves our builder put in.
On a day when I was completely annoyed by the tiny shelves I began to wonder if you could pull the shelf piece out, cut the cultured marble without it shattering or cracking and install a bigger and prettier shelf. Monte was not completely on board but humored me as I tried to figure out what we could and needed to do.
Our first stop was Floor and Decor, a store with lots of tile options. We tried to explain what we were dealing with and asked if they had any suggestions. No one could confirm that you could cut the cultured marble that had already been installed. But they did have a plastic mold unit that we could put in the hole and then tile. It was a start but we were still really scared to cut the culture marble because it was not something we’d ever worked with before.
The house we purchased was phase 2 of 3 in our neighborhood so there was a lot of construction just up the street from our home for a couple years. One morning I happened to be out on a walk and passed a truck that had cultured marble in the back and installers going in and out of the house. I crossed the street and told the installer what we were wanting to do and ask if it was possible to cut the installed marble. He was incredibly helpful and told me it could be cut and we didn’t need to worry about it breaking or cracking. He even asked where I lived and said he’d leave a scrap piece of cultured marble by our door with a used grinder blade. He did ask if my husband had the necessary grinder, which I didn’t know for sure but it was definitely a step in the right direction. I would have sent Monte down to talk to him but he was out of town so I was on my own. I tried to ask all the important questions and write down the info he was giving me. We’d been walking through homes in various stages of construction to get an idea of what was behind the shower walls. We’d watched our home go through the different stages but wanted to make sure what we remembered was accurate.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think he’d actually get around to dropping off the scrap cultured marble or blade because I know how it is at the end of a long day, you just want to cleanup and get home. Personally I would have forgotten or misplaced the scrap price of wood he wrote our street address on 8 hours earlier. The extremely helpful guy did leave a piece of cultured marble and blade by our garage at the end of the day. Monte wasn’t incredibly excited when he got home from his business trip but he is always 100% willing to help me with my crazy ideas or pretends he’s willing. We had an Angel grinder that would work with the masonry disc. When Monte tried cutting the marble he was pleasantly surprised how nicely it cut and was no longer afraid to tackle the job. Lucky for me it cut ‘easily’ so we had that challenge figured out.
We next needed to figure out how to install the EZ Niche. A brilliant product but is usually installed before the walls are finished. We knew when we cut the existing shelf out there would be framing we could use to support the new niche and adhering it to the cultured marble wouldn’t be a problem but we were stuck with trying to conceal a purple lip to the niche that is usually behind the wall. We couldn’t just wrap the tile I had picked around the outer lip of the niche because the edges on the tile are not finished. We decided to frame it like a picture with marble subway tile that Monte cut in half.
Now that we had a plan and purchased the EZ Niche, the chosen tile and marble to serve as a picture frame to our end product it was time to start the process. The first one we did was our guest bathroom. Monte took an exact knife and cut around the installed shelf to loosen the silicon and popped it out, it was super quick and easy. After it was out we were left with a hole in our cultured marble that had wood framing behind it. Depending on where the studs were helped us decide where to install the EZ Niche and whether to install it vertically or horizontally. We made sure the Niche was big enough to cover the hole left from the tiny standard shelf piece. For the guest bathroom I decided to hang a Medium EZ Niche vertically. With a marker Monte traced on the cultured marble the size of hole he needed to cut. Since we had tried cutting a scrap piece of cultured marble we knew it was going to be a dirty job. I took all the towels and decor out of the bathroom and hung plastic from the floor to ceiling at the bathtub to try and contain the mess.
Trust me when I say it was messy. There was an inch of dust in the tub from cutting one little hole. Poor Monte, I don’t know how he was able to see where he was trying to cut. The white dust hung in the air for quite awhile. After the project was done the whole bathroom required a major cleaning but so worth it.
Monte used Silicon to adhere the EZ Niche to the cultured marble then mixed up some thin set to start installing the tile I picked. For the guest bathroom I chose a 10 x 11 one piece tile . I thought it would be easier that way. Boy was I wrong. It was difficult to get it spaced correctly. It was also tricky because it was in a small space. It took a couple sets of hands to hold it while the cement set. After we got it hung and grouted it was looking pretty good. I was wanting something classy, I like the look of the arabesque tile. Monte was the brains behind framing around the insert. I don’t think I understood exactly how it was going to work and look but I’ve learned to trust Monte and know he knows what he’s doing. Because there was a lip on the niche and we wanted the tile frame to sit flat he cut a notch out of the back of the marble tile so it could sit flat against the cultured marble and also cover the purple lip from the EZ niche. This was not a lengthy project but did take a little bit of time working through all the steps.
I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. We had bought a large and medium EZ Niche, holding a large purple niche up before we cut the hole looked too big. I decided the medium would look the best. After it was installed I wished I had chosen the large but it was a lot better then what was there previously.
Something to note about the EZ Niche is each side has a subtle slope so water doesn’t settle on the shelf. It is also 100% closed in so water can’t get behind the cultured marble. There are a few options of size and shape to choose from. You could even combine them but since we were doing this project backwards we settled on a simple rectangle shelf. I’m so lucky to have such a talented supportive husband.
The next bathroom we tacked was our ‘boys’ bathroom. They are country kids at heart so I wanted a more rustic look. I found some perfect barn wood looking tile that was the perfect size. We followed the same process as the guest bathroom and installed a large EZ Niche horizontally and added different tile. I didn’t want grout lines so we pushed the tile together as tight as it would go and only grouted the fine cracks. I love love love the way this one turned out.
The final shower shelf we removed was the master bath walk in shower. I had an idea of what I wanted in my head but I could not find a tile that would work. I walked around Floor and Decor a few times, Home Depot, Lowe’s and any other store that I drove by with tile. Our son and DIL were visiting and I had her come with me to Floor and Decor one afternoon. After walking around the tile aisles we were walking through their different displays they’ve put together. I saw a tile that was what I was looking for except it was too big for our little project. I looked at it for a while and decided I could buy the tile and have Monte cut it into quarters. Sadly on that day they were sold out but said it was popular and would come back into stock in a couple months.
I kept checking to see if it was back in stock, finally they happened to have a few boxes. There were 5-6 different designs on the tiles. After I picked the design I liked and could be cut into quarters I assumed I could buy what I wanted but I wasn’t able to open the boxes and pick out what I was going to use. But I could buy the box and return the unused tile. They did have a few loose ones that I picked through and then bought 3 boxes to insure I would be able to find enough of the design I wanted. It ended up not requiring very many so I only had to open 1 box after I used the loose ones I’d purchased and was able to return the rest.
Monte removed the existing shelf, hung plastic to try and contain the mess, cut the opening bigger and installed a large EZ Niche horizontally. I felt a little bad making Monte cut the tile in quarters but it was so worth it. They turned out amazing and looked beautiful after they were installed. I did want grout lines for this one so we did use small spacers to create the look I was after. It was exactly what I wanted. We had a lot of discussion about centering the tile. We knew it wouldn’t work out exactly so we were back and forth between centering the first tile in the dead center and not having any other full 1/4 tiles, We also considered starting at the bottom or top and working our way out from the center. I struggled trying to decide and finally went with centering it and starting on the bottom and working our way to the top. For a moment I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision but after it was finished I don’t think it would have mattered if you started the top or bottom as long as it followed the tile pattern.
I love the way these shelves look and am very happy with the way it turned out. It wasn’t terribly expensive but the marble we used for the framing was a little pricy. Each unit worked out to about $150 which included the EZ Niche, tile and marble. We did these projects over a few months so it wasn’t such a hit to our budget. I’m so glad we made the investment and upgraded the look in our bathroom.