Shower bench built-in vs add-on

Joe Macker
November 28, 2019


Any opinions on the bench inside the shower. I am considering a built-in (typically the one that is on the opposite end as the shower fixture) vs an additional piece like a teak/bamboo stool.

Some advantages I see for the built-in is a clean look with tile that matches the rest of the shower.

Some advantages I see for the additional piece is that it can be moved to the center of the shower if you want to sit during the shower. It also typically comes with storage at the bottom. Easy to change in a few years if you need a different look.

Comments (31)

  • Kristin S

    In our house we're doing freestanding rather than built-in for those exact reasons. Our current built-in bench is pretty useless because it's too far from the shower spray so we've added a freestanding one, too.

    Joe Macker thanked Kristin S
  • scottie mom

    I recently redid a large shower and replaced the built-in with a teak stool. Looks better, more useful, for all the reasons you list. Much happier with it this way! I don't think anyone sits on the built in kind!

    Joe Macker thanked scottie mom
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  • Helen

    I recently remodeled and have a built in bench and completely prefer it to the moveable.

    I did have a moveable and it made it more difficult to clean the shower and was just an impediment in the middle of the shower. And if it isn't in the shower, then you have to store it somewhere.

    I love my new bench as it is much more comfortable and roomy and really enables me to relax in terms of grooming rituals in the shower. I have no idea why someone would prefer a freestanding stool - mine is very sleek and looks great with the rest of the shower. I had an additional hand held installed close to the bench so it's really easy for me to get full use from the bench.

    By the way, you don't tile a bench - you don't want to sit on tiles for starters and much like a curb, the preferable material to use is some form of solid. I used a remnant from my marble counter for the bench and curb but you can pick up solid pieces from a stone yard inexpensively if you didn't use a solid surface counter.

  • Kristin S

    A moveable bench is no more in the way than a built-in *if* you plan for it. They take up the same space, after all.

    A lot of this comes down to planning and personal preference.

  • bry911

    Do both...

    Teak benches are far more comfortable than either solid surface or tile, just plan a ledge to set your bench on and have one custom made to fit.

  • PRO
    Avanti Tile & Stone / Stonetech

    There are some great "attach to the wall fold down teak seats" that only take up room when in use.

  • nidnay

    In our build we did not do a built-in bench but chose to have a movable teak bench. IMO sitting on a built-in bench constructed of tile or a slab of marble is extremely uncomfortable...it’s hard and cold. I like the flexibility of the movable teak and it’s so much more comfy to sit on.

  • Oliviag/ bring back Sophie

    ive had both. I much prefer the moveable teak bench.
    the fixed slab bench was cold and tough to clean under it.
    i can move the sturdy teak bench where it's needed

  • kriii

    I vote for the movable bench. I put a little corner built in opposite the shower head just for propping my foot on when I shave my legs. l can add a movable bench when I'm older.

  • vinmarks

    We have neither in our current shower. Previous house had built in bench and we never used it for anything except for shampoo bottles and a foot rest for shaving. Current house I had them make a ledge at a height that was comfortable for shaving but could also hold shampoo bottles. I figured if I ever wanted a seat I would use a free standing teak seat.

  • Trish Walter

    I'd love to see pictures of what you all have done. Thanks.

  • sableincal

    We have a triangular slotted teak bench. Its benefits:

    It's never cold.

    It's never hard.

    It's never slippery.

    It's movable.

    I don't think it would hurt to have both options, though. Just in case.

  • nidnay

    Dry area where we have our bench, towels, and (gulp) scale, and the shower area with small foot stool ....

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  • PRO

    Both work. We have a teak bench that is very useful as a place to sit when watching little ones in the tub, and/or a place to spread out toys. The built in bench is adjacent to the showerhead & handshower, across from the tub.

    Bath toys kept on a clear plastic tray that gets stored in a cabinet under the sink when dry.

  • badabing2

    whatever you decide make sure your shower hose is long enough (like 5' or 6')

  • Joe Macker

    @badabing2 with the freestanding bench this is not an issue. You can move it closer to the fixtures. WIth the fixed bench, even 6' may not be comfortable depending on the distance from the fixtures.

  • Helen

    I have two hand held showers. One is in the standard spot by the fixed shower head and the other is installed close to the bench at a lower height so it's easily reached when I am seated at the bench.

  • Joe Macker

    @Helen at a higher cost, that is an option. But for smaller showers (<5'), I feel two fixtures on opposite sides seem too busy.

  • Helen

    @Joe Macker - My shower is a tub/shower conversion - I removed the old tub/shower and now have a shower that follows the footprint of the original tub. If I am sitting on the bench it is right by me so it is extremely easy to take it off and then replace versus having to stand up to take it on and off which obviates the functionality of having a bench.

    In terms of expense, in the scheme of things once the bathroom is gutted the cost of the extra shower head and running the pipe was minimal and subsumed into the high cost of everything else in the bathroom.

    I mention having the additional shower head close to the bench because I hadn't thought of it until it was recommended by my designer. Now that I am using the shower WITH the shower head close by the bench I really appreciate having it there and realize how much it enhances the functionality and enjoyment of my shower.

    I don't know what you mean by "busy" - my hand held shower is a thin model in the same oil rubbed bronze as the rest of my bathroom fixtures and is fairly unobtrusive and doesn't detract from my overall aesthetic design. Of course one can find my design busy even without the additional hand held shower head LOL

    My bathroom was designed so that it has features with an eye to aging in place.

  • smalloldhouse_gw

    Hmm. We're adding a bathroom and renovating 2 others. I'm curious what you all think of this kind of built-in bench, where it is part of the adjoining tub structure as in the picture below.

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  • Mrs Pete

    Some advantages I see for the additional piece is that it can be moved to the center of the shower if you want to sit during the shower. It also typically comes with storage at the bottom. Easy to change in a few years if you need a different look.

    Agree, and I'll add these thoughts on aging-in-place:

    - If you need someone to wash your hair, it'd be easy to move the stool/bench to a position for that to happen.

    - If you need real support, a stool/bench can be "traded out" for a hospital bath chair.

  • mxk3

    Smalloldhouse: I have that kind of set-up. It works fine for a place to sit when necessary, but it feels C-O-L-D on a bare butt -- spraying it down with the hand-held prior to sitting on it easily takes care of that, though.

  • nidnay

    I can understsnd why Joe feels like it would be too busy with two handhelds. He may prefer a more modern and clean look. I don’t even like the way ONE handheld looks in my own shower (I find the hose ugly). But, with many of the choices i made in my house build, I did my best to choose convenience, comfort, AND aesthetics, although sometimes there needed to be a compromise and convenience and comfort won out.

    I personally prefer the look of a built-in slab bench as opposed to a movable teak bench. But after living with the slab and knowing how very hard and uncomfortable it was, I chose the teak. I didn’t often sit in the shower, but on the few occasions I wanted to, I did not like the way it felt at all and actually avoided it.

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen

    When doing a tub deck that also becomes a shower bench, the slab needs to have a seam under the glass. That way the tub deck can be level, but the bench section can be installed with the proper slope so that water drains off of it. This requires precise math, and excellent framers, and stone fabricators. It’s easy to get wrong.

    In a large bath, adding the second handheld by the bench, on a separate valve, makes a lot of sense. No cold bench that way! That leaves the main head for most quick showers, and you still have a handy hose for shampoo rinsing.

    A portable bench makes the most sense for someone needing physical assistance. Unfortunately, most portable shower benches are not that sturdy, and can actually lead to slips and injuries. That’s why the fold down benches are more popular for those needing assistance. The wood bench dogged into a wall is an interesting idea. How well it would work would lie in the waterproofing details and the detail of how it dogs into the wall.

  • Lisette Mauch

    Free standing would be my preference, because of flexibility. As @Mrs Pete pointed out, this can be swapped out for a sturdier bath bench/chair as needed, which also has the benefit of being able to face into the spray or away from it as might be needed.

  • HU-527663426

    We bought a nice teak bench from Frontgate for our large master shower. We learned that stone benches are cold and hard when we found them in vacation rentals. For a much smaller shower upstairs, we bought a really teeny tiny corner teak bench. That one basically holds a rolled up towel so that the person can bring the towel in with them into the shower and place it on the bench. If you have a really skinny butt you could sit on that one, but I think it’s more meant just to hold your towel and some products.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    No bench please. Who sits in a shower anyway? Put a toe catch in the corner for the ladies to shave their legs and call it good.

    If you must bench, best to make the walls independent of the bench as to not interrupt the waterproof plane of the walls. Proper detailing is critical.

  • Trish Walter

    @Joseph Corlett, LLC some people want a bench.

  • HU-527663426

    I wrap in towel and then sit on my teak bench after my shower to shave legs, and use the hand shower which is mounted nearby, lower on the wall. Sometimes I just sit there a while to relax before getting out.

  • HU-527663426

    Teak also looks nice. It introduces a warm element into the shower area which a lot of times is tiled in white or another light color.

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