Wall tiles are better for adapted bathrooms than wall panels.

When you’re adapting a whole bathroom to make it more accessible, you have two options when it comes to the walls.

Do you go for tiles or panels? 

Panels are fast becoming a popular choice, but for an accessible, user-friendly bathroom, tiles are the better option. And by the end of this blog, you’ll understand why.

Firstly, let’s clear up what we mean by the two terms.

What Is A Wall Panel?

A bathroom wall panel is a large, hard-wearing, completely waterproof wall covering designed to protect your walls from moisture. Depending on the size of your bathroom, you may need quite a few in different shapes to ensure the whole room is covered. 

Wall panels come in various constructions – PVC, acrylic and pressure laminated vinyl on an MDF core – and each has different pros, cons and price points. 

Sometimes people choose to use wall panels solely for the wall areas of their shower cubicles or wetrooms, rather than the whole room.

What Are Bathroom Tiles?

Yes, yes. Surely we all know what wall tiles are!

But just in case. Wall tiles come in many shapes and sizes and are a common wall covering solution for bathrooms where moisture is a problem. 

Coming in a variety of materials such as ceramic, terracotta, porcelain, limestone and granite, the style opportunities are endless with bathroom tiles. Grout is used between the tiles to make sure they form a complete seal across the walls, ensuring no moisture gets in, though this is semi-porous and is, therefore, susceptible to mould and discolouration as it ages.

Why Do People Choose Panels? 

It’s quite simple to understand how panels became popular. 

Fast And Cheap To Install

Lots of people opt for wall panels over tiles because they are often quick to put up and kinder to the purse strings. Tiling can be laborious, taking a professional a good few hours to complete depending on the size of the tiled area. 

Stylish And Versatile

Bathroom wall panels come in a wide variety of colours and finishes. From vibrant block colours to pretty florals, and elegant marbles to striped nauticals, there’s a panel out there for every style of interior design. 

Range Of Price Points

As well as being aesthetically versatile, the cost of shower wall panels stretches from cheaper PVC panels to luxury, highly-durable laminated MDF, meaning that you can use panels to protect your bathroom walls, whatever the budget. 

Why Don’t Wall Panels Work For Adapted Bathrooms?

It all sounds dreamy, doesn’t it? The thing is, wall panels make adapting bathrooms hard work, time-consuming and costly.

Let us explain.

When you’re adapting a bathroom, you’ll likely be implementing lots of changes, such as:

  • Adding plenty of handrails to help with balance
  • Replacing the toilet, sink and shower with wheelchair-friendly or otherwise accessible versions
  • Installing user-friendly shower screens 
  • Changing the colour scheme and flooring.

What most of these changes have in common is that the facilities and equipment need to be fixed securely to the bathroom walls. 

If your walls are tiled, it’s a simple enough job to drill through the tile, with a suitable drill bit attachment to fit a handrail, or to remove large areas of tile if necessary for bigger changes. Tiles are easy to work with.

Bathroom wall panels, on the other hand? Not so much. Panels are large, long strips of sturdy material attached to the plaster of the wall itself with a super-strong adhesive.

To remove wall panels, they need to be prised off by first removing any moulding and then wedging a chisel or crowbar underneath the edge of a panel and pulling. It can take a couple of hours to get around a bathroom. Then there’s excess adhesive to remove, and hopefully, no damage has been done to the plaster in the removal process.

And what about if only part of a panel needs to be removed?

If you’re looking at installing a wheelchair-friendly basin, for example, some modular designs give the impression of floating. They only take up a small footprint of the wall. Unfortunately, the removal of part of a panel means taking the whole thing off and replacing it with different-sized parts that fit around the adaptation… This procedure is both costly and time-consuming!

Of course, it is possible to drill into bathroom panels for some adaptations. But by doing so, you forfeit their complete water resistance and risk damage to both panel and wall if not executed with care. 

wall-hung basin

Tiles Are Best For Adapted Bathrooms

If you’re looking into adapting a bathroom, tiled walls are the way to go.

They might work out more expensive, but tiles last longer and are much easier to work with when adding accessible gadgets, facilities and equipment to make the room more user-friendly. 

In the early stages of adapting a bathroom and not sure where to start? There are so many different products out there it can be a bit overwhelming. Read our blog, ‘What Actually IS An Adapted Bathroom?’, for a comprehensive look at the different components you might want to consider changing.