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Bathroom shower renovation - solid surface, tile or ?

Cynthia Crane
last month

Long story but I'll try to make it short. I lined up a bathroom contractor last February for a renovation and agreed to have him install Onyx solid surface material for the shower walls and custom shower pan. (easy to clean vs. ceramic tile)


He was to have finally started my project this month (July) but informed me about a week ago that theres a 2 mo wait on the Onyx. (I found out from an Onyx rep today that its actually 3 mos!) I thought I'd made it clear to him that the project needs to be completed before my husband goes to graveyard shift for 6 mos starting mid-September. He should have ordered the materials weeks/months ago!


Now we're screwed unless I can resign myself to settling for tile, which can be done in a few weeks. Or just order the Onyx now that I really want and wait until next February to do the reno when my husband goes back to dayshift. Not an ideal situation because we've already gutted this bathroom and are having to use our very small guest bath.


My question is are there any other "good" shower options besides an Onyx type material or ceramic tile? If ceramic tile what is easiest to maintain? Large scale with a semi dark grout? My style is traditional/cottage (white tile, grout). Fiberglass is NOT an option, thats what we're replacing and we want to "upgrade" from that.

Comments (17)

  • Lyn Nielson
    last month

    i would wait for the bathroom finish you truly want.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting
    last month

    I have to agree but I like 12 x24 porcelain tile with matching grout on both bathroom floors and shower walls . BTW did you have a signed contract with the contractor with instructions to order tile and you would pay for those when they arrived?

    Cynthia Crane thanked Patricia Colwell Consulting
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  • PRO
    May Construction, Inc.
    last month

    I would wait for the Onyx since is what you truly want. Yes you could go with tile and have it done quicker but then you potentially run into not loving it later and wanting to redo again. The construction industry is experiencing long lead times for projects and materials. So if you can wait, then that is my suggestion. the Onyx will be nice as well.

    Cynthia Crane thanked May Construction, Inc.
  • Cynthia Crane
    Original Author
    last month

    Thank you all. My contractor is a one man show and very skilled, and no contract was entered into. He did a fine job on my guest bath in 2020 before the pandemic hit and I purchased all of the materials myself from various sources as he was ready for them. No contractor then either. But I am very disappointed in his lack of professionalism with this new larger project, ie sporatic responses to my texts, not ordering the Onyx months ago even though he said he'd be ready in June. Then June became July, now he seems to be ghosting me.


    I spoke to a local vender for Onyx and they tell me their installers are booked until January! Well, actually if I go with Onyx it will have to be after February anyway because of my husbands sleep/work schedule.


    I am annoyed beyond belief. I have waited 9 yrs for this bathroom reno. Its the last of many renos we've done our emptry nester home since 2012. I finally have enough money saved and I thought a contractor lined up. Now its all gone to hell-o!

  • tedbixby
    last month

    I know this doesn't help but I'm going through a reno that started in Feb and should have been finished in mid June if everything ran smoothly. But at this point, I couldn't give you a finish date. In all the yrs I've done reno work, I've never seen what has and is happening in the world of construction between contractors, lack of care of craftsmanship, and shortages. My Omega Master Cabinets were ordered in March and they arrived last week even though they were due in May. There are so many issues with them that I I have no idea when I'll get replacements and only can hope that what is replaced won't have to be replaced again. I could go on and on but I won't bore you nor will it help. You are not alone in your experience. Unlike many, you have options. Tile to keep moving forward or wait and get what you really want. You've waited 9 yrs for this, in the scope of everything is another 9 months going to be worth the wait? And at least by Feb you should have everything ordered and in so something else doesn't put the project on hold.

  • Julie K
    last month

    Have you considered using Corian for your shower? Corian Glacier White is a popular choice for corian showers. If you want a print like Calacatta/Calacatta Gold, then check out Living Stone which is basically Corian but with a print. You can order a custom Corian shower pan to go with your corian shower walls.

    Cynthia Crane thanked Julie K
  • Nancy in Mich
    last month

    Corian and other solid surface brands are the same through and through, no gel coat on the top. Some Onyx Collection materials have a gel coat, so are not entirely repairable by the homeowner. I have Transolid, which is similar to Corian. Love it! I would wait for the surface you want. Go ahead and get every single item for the remodel in your garage or storage before the builder even starts. If he wants to order things himself, you could offer to get the storage to hold stuff if you don’t have an empty garage. With all the material shortages right now, I would not start a project without everything on hand. That’s what I did back in 2018 and it went a lot smoother. My shower came in 3 big pallets and I had to hire some muscle to unpack it. I had them bring the shower components into the spare empty bedroom next to the bathroom. I was moving the bathroom wall to make the shower bigger, so the bedroom was going to be under construction anyways. I think I had the shower 6 months before my builder got to me. I had things in storage for over a year - everything from the bedroom, other things to get them out of the garage to give the contractor room to work. Ours was our only full bathroom. We showered at our gyms for months!

    Cynthia Crane thanked Nancy in Mich
  • Cynthia Crane
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Thank you Julie and Nancy! My contractor works with Onyx and has a relationship with a rep for them and I'm perfectly happy using it. If I do not hear from him this week I will move on to secure a different contractor and possibly explore other solid surface brands. I have already talked to a couple of contractors who are booked through the rest of this year. Later this week I will be visiting a local bath and kitchen shop that is a vender for Onyx.

    Waiting 6 mos or so is not a big deal but what is an issue is that my contractor could have ordered the material back in March or at any time since then. In June he indicated he expected to be able to start our project in mid July. I told him prior to gutting the bathroom a couple of weeks ago that we were moving forward on that in order to help him out because I know hes very busy. Then in mid July he could just walk into a clean slate and let her roll. He could have told us before we did the demo not to bother just yet because of the delay getting the Onyx. For that reason alone I really should kick him to the curb.

    Nancy I really appreciate your advice to gather the materials now! I actually have room in my garage and have been using my dining room as a workroom for some decorating projects since last March. I even sold my dining table and have 2 6 ft work tables set up in there. I anticipated using this set up while the bathroom reno is going on, which I'd expected to haved been completed by now. I've not had the use of my dining room as such and now I will not until the bathroom is completed probably next March! Another reason to be extremely annoyed with my contractor for not ordering the Onyx when he should have.

    Ted, thanks for sharing your story, sad though it is! I hope your nightmare is over soon.

    Another tiresome comment I keep getting - from venders - is about the continually increasing prices. I visited a granite/quartz dealer last week, same story. I'm turning a vintage sideboard into a vanity for my bathroom. I will be working on that in my dining room turned workroom.

    Thank goodness this is the last room in our empty nester home that needs renovating!

  • tedbixby
    last month

    If I had a contractor whose previous work I was happy with and in the current climate of the construction world, I wouldn't "kick him to the curb" as there is a pretty good chance that the next guy is going to do something you aren't going to be happy with- no matter who recommends them. Been there done it. And one thing I know, is that the majority of contractors are not business minded people (no offence), nor are they organized and they don't have the support staff to keep them on track. Their focus is on the job they are doing at the time and not tomorrows, next week or next month's job. It's easy to blame them but how do we all do when we got our plate overloaded. I'm not making excuses - far from it but just commenting from my observations and interactions with contractors through 7 reno's.

    And I don't consider my reno a nightmare as it is the way things are and if I did, it would only be adding stress to myself and I'm not going to let a contractor/s have that power over me.

    And you may as well get use to the increases in pricing. As long as there is a demand, product shortages, and shortages in the workforce, along with higher wages that need to be paid this story is going to be around for a long time and not just in the construction world.

    Good luck with your project.

    Cynthia Crane thanked tedbixby
  • Nancy in Mich
    last month

    I am with Ted about keeping your contractor. If you have someone who will install a shower, who already has experience in doing the material you are using, then keep him and get on his schedule! I waited three years for my contractor to be free. He had done all of our previous renovations on two houses, so I trusted him and knew I could work with him.

    I wonder if part of the issue with not getting the shower ordered was cash? I paid for all of my materials upfront because that is how my contractor and I work. For tile shops and such where there is a contractor discount, he would order and pick up the materials, but I paid. I know that most contractors add a percentage to the material cost when they pass it on to you in their bill. My guy does the opposite - he passes his discount down to me!

    You might ask your contractor if you paying up front for the shower will help him to get it ordered now for next year’s construction.

    Best of luck with your project. It sounds fun and creative!

    Cynthia Crane thanked Nancy in Mich
  • tedbixby
    last month

    Cynthia-out of curiosity if the project was going to start this month it sounds by thanking Nancy for the idea to start gathering materials now, not having the sideboard/vanity completed and only started shopping for a countertop last week that you weren't really prepared for this project to start this month or if it had, it may have come to a stop because of you not being prepared?

    Cynthia Crane thanked tedbixby
  • Cynthia Crane
    Original Author
    last month

    Thank you Nancy and Ted for the advice on keeping my contractor! I kept thinking perhaps there was a very good reason he wasnt communicating with me very well. You really made me understand that he may be so focused on his current job(s) that its difficult for him to keep up with my texts. I havent sent that many though! I try not to and have been extremely patient and kind with him.


    Lack of preparedness on my part had nothing to do with his putting me off. He knows I have the floor tile we need and will have all the fixtures etc purchased and ready to install when he needs them. He knows I have stripped the wallpaper and gutted the bathroom, all in anticipation of a mid July start date, so he'd have a clean slate to walk right into. I dont know how much more prepared I can be.


    He knows I'm doing the makeover on the vintage sideboard for the vanity and he has suggested doing the top in Onyx, but again, he's not provided any pricing or asked for a deposit or anything. I decided to have a look at granite or quartz so that I can make a comparison, and the lead time on that isnt very long. I am a self employed working artist and am fortunate to be able to take off all the time I need to work on the vanity, which I've already started. It cant be done until the shower and floor go in so I'm not worried about having it ready to install when the time comes. The granite cannot be measured and cut until the vanity goes in.


    Money isnt the issue either and I'm sure he knows I'll pay for any materials at order time. When he did my guest bath I had him give me a list of materials and supplies he needed and I made a trip to the local big box store to get them while he remained at my home working on that bathroom.


    I will wait a few more days then text him again and if that doesnt result in anything then I'll pursue one of several other Onyx skilled contractors that have been referred to me.

  • tedbixby
    last month

    I had an in-depth discussion with my tile guy today regarding the tile job that is now into it's 5th week and still counting when he promised it would to be a 2 week job. It has set all my other contractors starting dates off. I'm mentioning this because during our talk he mentioned that he is so overwhelmed by all the jobs he and his small crew have and is having difficulty turning work away even though he knows it is affecting his work and customer service. I mentioned that prior to him starting I texted him 6 times over a 2 week period and it took him over a month to respond. His reply was that he was sorry but he said if you only understood the number of text I get a day that if I spent time answering each one, I wouldn't get any work done. He understands that he needs to change his way of doing business if he wants to continue to keep customers happy by responding to text/calls in a timely manner and start and deliver the job when promised. I found his take on texts interesting and only makes sense how time consuming they could become for a contractor.

    Cynthia Crane thanked tedbixby
  • Nancy in Mich
    last month

    Joe! Perfect solution.

  • Cynthia Crane
    Original Author
    last month

    Oh my goodness Ted! Well, now I understand a little better. And I did text my guy again a couple of days ago to let him know that the Onyx is now 15 weeks out, not 2 months, and that we must get it ordered now. He said he'd call but hasn't yet. I hope things go more smoothly for you soon!


    So yesterday I met with the owner of a local vender for Onyx and got to see several shower showrooms. He was very helpful and I learned a lot from him, and he is to submit an estimate to me today. Hopefully that will include a breakdown of all the materials so I can give that to my contractor to price. He works directly with an Onyx rep so may be able to offer a better price. Another reason I'm trying to be patient with him.


    He also said that most of these contractors may be very skilled in their craft but arent particularly organized and good with admin duties. I believe it! My contractor is a small biz one man operation so he's juggling a lot!


    Joe I'm familiar with Schluter Kerdi products from when I was considering ceramic tile. Im choosing the Onyx instead but if I'd gone with tile I intended to tell my contractor I want that used instead of traditional backerboard. I learned of it from another contractor that I considered hiring who said he gives training on it in Baltimore. Sounds like great stuff! We have a guest bath to use and altho we gutted most of the master we left the shower stall and the flooring in place so dont need the Schluter product installed but appreciate your passing on your idea.

  • Cynthia Crane
    Original Author
    last month

    Well I'm compelled to share the lastest on my project. The short story is I've received my estimate from the local kitchen/bath shop. The figures for the walls for a 34 inch (wide) x 45 inch (deep) alcove shower - $2,208 - and low profile pan with drain - $1,195 not including installation. Total - $3,403


    I have no idea what the installation cost is to be. My contractor has bailed and I am in search of his replacement. But I really think I may have dodged a bullet with this guy. I believe he wanted to do a simple Onyx shower replacement and this ain't it. Fortunately, I already have 3 other firms lined up, both small and large, to come by and discuss my project.


    I requested figures from Lowes but they have stopped carrying Onyx and are currently looking into Swanstone and Transolid for me.


    My desired design involves enlarging the depth of the existing 34 x 34 alcove shower to 45 in, and removing a small section of the wall on one side to create a knee wall where there will be a glass panel installed. This connects at a right angle to the shower entrance/door area (which I now know is called a return).


    Mind you, the Kitchen/Bath company I just solicited an estimate from has no problem with my desired design. Their price for a 3/8 inch clear glass shower frameless door set up (34 inch) with attached side return panel (16 inch wide) mounted on a knee wall - $2,968 installed.


    Total for a 34 x 45 alcove shower with partial frameless glass wall connected to glass door - $6,371 plus installation on the Onyx panels and shower pan.


    For those of you in the know, I'd like to have your thoughts on these figures. Would be much appreciated!