How much does it cost to install a porcelain tile shower?
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Porcelain Tile Shower Cost Guide
Updated: August 18, 2022
If you want a truly maintenance-free tile shower that mimics the look of stone, wood, or fabric, consider porcelain tile. Porcelain is an incredibly durable material made from compressed clay dust that has been fired to extremely high temperatures. It is moisture-resistant, crack-resistant, and stain-resistant, so it holds up well in shower and wet areas. Porcelain tile comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, and styles, and when coupled with the range of sizes for a shower, results in a wide range of associated installation costs. The average cost range for installing porcelain tile in a shower is between $1,500 and $3,000, with most people paying around $2,415 for 96 sq.ft. of tile, with 12-inch tiles on the walls and on the floor.
Porcelain Shower Costs
|Porcelain Tile Shower Costs|
|National average cost||$2,415|
Porcelain Tile Costs by Type
Porcelain tile is a unique material compared to other tile types. It comes in various styles and types that produce the look of other materials, depending on how it is made:
|Type of Porcelain||Average Cost per sq.ft.|
|Unglazed||$3 - $10 per sq.ft|
|Glazed||$5 - $15 per sq.ft|
|Polished||$7 - $18 per sq.ft|
|Metallic||$20 - $30 per sq.ft|
|Large Format||$20 - $30 per sq.ft|
|Mosaic||$20 - $30 per sq.ft|
Unglazed Porcelain Tile
The vast majority of porcelain tile is unglazed. One of the benefits of this material is that the color goes all the way through, so if the top chips, it will not show. No glaze means no cracks or crazing like ceramic tile, and it helps make the tile impervious to stains and easy to care for. Unglazed tiles may be matte or textured and have an average cost range of $3 to $10 a square foot.
Glazed Porcelain Tile
A porcelain tile may have a glaze to enhance its appearance. Sometimes, the glaze is the same color as the clay body underneath, or it can be layered to give the tile the appearance of fabric, wood, or stone. Some glazed porcelain tiles can be slippery underfoot, however. They cost between $5 and $15 a square foot on average.
Polished Porcelain Tile
Porcelain tiles can be ground down on the surface and polished like marble. This gives them a very high gloss surface that is incredibly reflective. Because porcelain is nonporous, you can get a brilliant shine that surpasses marble. Polished porcelain can be slippery when wet because there are no pores to hold your feet. They average between $7 and $18 a square foot.
Metallic Porcelain Tile
Many porcelain tiles may have a metallic glaze that contains metal particulates for a molten appearance. Because the glaze contains metal, it must be kept from certain cleaning solutions to avoid etching or marring the finish. These tiles cost between $20 and $30 a square foot on average.
Large Format Porcelain Tile
One of the best things about porcelain is that it can be formed into very large tiles, which means fewer grout lines. A large format tile is often ½-inch thick and up to 36 inches in width or length. Care must be taken during installation to avoid issues like lippage, where one corner of the tile sticks up higher than the surrounding installation. They have a starting cost of between $20 and $30 a square foot.
Mosaic Porcelain Tile
Not all porcelain tiles come in a mosaic form, but several floor tiles have matching 2-inch mosaics designed for use in areas like the shower floor, where larger tiles cannot be installed. This creates a more cohesive look for the shower. The tiles are arranged on a mesh sheet and installed 12 inches at a time. Costs start between $20 and $30 a square foot.
Porcelain Slabs for Shower Walls Cost
Porcelain tiles come in sizes up to 5 feet in length, which are known as porcelain slabs. These oversized tiles can be used on walls for a sleek, contemporary look with fewer grout lines. The walls must be absolutely straight and square for this installation to avoid lippage. While the cost of the slabs is often around $15 a square foot, installation costs are usually higher to accommodate the difficulties in cutting and setting the slabs. Expect to pay about $15 - $20 a foot in installation costs on top of the $15 a square foot material cost for a total of $30 - $35 a square foot.
Porcelain Tile Installation Cost
In many ways, porcelain tiles install like ceramic tiles, but with a few differences that impact the cost of the installation and project. Porcelain tiles are very dense, which requires using a diamond saw blade on a wet saw to make any cuts. The tiles cannot be scored and snapped. Many porcelain tiles do not have a bullnose edge for lining the tile, so the installer needs to make one using a bullnose blade on the wet saw and grinding down the edge of the tile. This is possible because most porcelain does not have a glaze and the color goes through the tile.
Most porcelain tile measures 12 inches or larger, which produces a contemporary look for a shower but requires extra steps during installation to prevent lippage. This includes back buttering the tile with additional thinset, hammering in the tiles, and occasionally using spacers that lock the tiles together on the walls.
Otherwise, the tiles are installed like ceramic. Installers start at the bottom center of each wall and spread up and out, and they grout the next day after the thinset mortar dries. Because of the extra steps and the difficulty in cutting the tile, most installers charge around $14 a square foot for installing porcelain on a straight set pattern and up to $16 a square foot for large format and other patterns. For 96 square feet of tile, this makes installation around $1,200 - $1,800 out of the $2,415 total.
Pros and Cons of Porcelain Tile
Porcelain is one of the hardest, densest materials for tile construction. It is water-resistant, stain-resistant, and crack-resistant. It is very low maintenance, can be cleaned with nearly everything, and does not require sealing. Porcelain tiles are available in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and colors and can produce contemporary looks with large format tiles.
Porcelain is more difficult to work with, however. It requires a diamond blade to cut, and a diamond drill bit with cooling oil to drill holes for bathroom accessories and showerheads. It is often thicker than other tiles, and large format tiles are more likely to cause issues with lippage and cracking if they are not installed properly. For this reason, porcelain is often more costly to install than other materials.
Porcelain Tile Care and Maintenance
Porcelain is a low-maintenance material that does not require special cleaners or sealers. However, some polished and glazed surfaces can be scratched, so they should not be cleaned with anything abrasive. Metallic-glazed porcelain should not come in contact with any acidic cleaners, including those containing vinegar or lemon juice, because they can etch the surface of the tile.
Otherwise, you can clean the porcelain with your favorite bathroom cleaner and a lint-free cloth.
Ceramic vs Porcelain Tile for the Shower
Ceramic and porcelain are both man-made tiles containing clay, but they are very different in terms of manufacture, appearance, and care. Ceramic tile is made of a wet clay body that has a glaze. It is often thinner and smaller in size than porcelain, but it comes in large format tiles up to 16 inches. The glaze on ceramic tiles eventually cracks or crazes, which exposes the clay body underneath to staining. This means that ceramic will ultimately need to be sealed to help prevent stains. Porcelain does not crack or craze and never needs sealing.
Ceramic tiles are often less expensive to cut and install than porcelain and come in more shapes and solid colors. Porcelain is designed to look more like another material like stone, wood, or metal. This means that the appearance of a porcelain shower and a ceramic tile shower is very different.
The colors, sizes, and patterns of ceramic tile often make it more expensive in a shower, despite the higher cost of installing porcelain. The same size shower tiled in ceramic costs around $2,400, while porcelain is around $2,415.
Enhancement and Improvement Costs
Old Tile Removal
If you are retiling a shower, you need to remove the old tile before installing the new tile. Tile removal costs around $5 a square foot in addition to installing the new tile.
There are many types of shower pans and bases. You can purchase an acrylic pan that does not require tile for around $100, a pre-made pan that is ready for tiling for around $30, or your plumber can build a pan for about $200 or more, depending on the material.
Every shower should have a waterproofing membrane over the studs and below the backer board to help protect the walls. This costs around $10 a roll.
The best underlayment for a shower is a cement backer board designed for wet areas. Backer board costs between $9 and $14 a sheet.
While less common in the shower than in the rest of the bathroom, you can install electric in-floor heating in this area using a fiberglass mat installation style. This has a cost of around $20 a square foot installed.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- You may save money by shopping around for your tile, and then hiring a contractor, rather than purchasing the tile from the contractor.
- In a tub/shower combination, a tile flange is required to facilitate good installation. Not having one could make the installation more difficult, resulting in higher labor costs.
- Showers come in many different shapes, sizes, and configurations, which impacts the cost of the project. Different plumbing, benches, and floor plans affect labor and material costs.
- Some installers offer discounts if you have your shower tiled at the same time as other areas of the bathroom, such as a floor or countertop. Check with your installer before you begin to see if any discounts are available.
- Tiling your shower is a great time to update your plumbing since the walls will be open for the installation.
- How much do porcelain slabs cost?
Porcelain slabs typically cost around $15 a square foot for materials.
- Is porcelain or ceramic tile better for showers?
Both are good choices for showers, but they have very different appearances, which can affect your choice.
- Is porcelain tile too slippery for a shower floor?
Your shower floor should be tiled in 2-inch squares or smaller. The amount of grout in this installation makes the shower skid-free, not the material.
- Does porcelain tile need to be sealed?
No, porcelain tile does not require sealing. However, if you have glazed or polished porcelain and want to increase its slip resistance, you can apply an impregnating sealer to the surface.
- Can you replace only the grout on old tiles?
You can. The old grout can be cut out using a church key or utility knife, and then new grout can be applied.