Building Shower Niche


Tips and Tricks for building shower niche in this 2 part series for the perfect look of lining up your tiles and grout lines like a professional tile setter.
This first post gives you the basic understanding when setting up for a shower niche, but the second part will show you the actual tips and tricks to getting your grout and tiles to line up in the second part.


Building Shower Niche


When it comes to building showers these days a lot of people are looking to have some form of a niche to put their shampoo, soap, etc. on.

One of the key tips that I will mention to you right now before we get any further is when you purchase tiles regardless of cost the size that the manufacturers say they are are not the actual size. For instance when you buy a 12″ x 12″ tile you will find if you measure it, you’re probably getting anywhere from an 11 5/8 up to 12 3/8 inch tiles. So when you’re setting up for a niche to have a proper measurement for height and width, you need to know the exact size of your tile and grout gap to line things up correctly, or it’s not going to work.

photograph of building shower niche

Make the tiles suit.

The second post “Build Shower Niche” for part 2 will explain in a lot more depth about how to do this and achieve the best possible look even when you change the tiles for a different size altogether.

There are a few different styles of showers to consider:


  • Bathtub with tiled walls
  • Shower with acrylic base and tiled walls
  • Totally custom shower tiled from floor to ceiling


Regardless of which type of shower you choose to build, you can have a niche in either type of shower shown above. When your planning on installing a niche, you only need to be concerned about what you can do with the wall design to create the niche required.


Photograph of shower niches

Centre out the best you can with the tiles

The real consideration is the type of niche and at what stage are you planning on the install.


  • Right from the beginning before any of the build has started and knowing what tiles you will use.
  • From the beginning of existing walls and knowing what tiles you will use.
  • Before or during the build but without knowing the tiles to be used.



Right from the beginning before any of the build has started and knowing what tiles you will use


When you plan on building a shower and know what tiles you are using, you can place your niche at the proper height and width to match up to the tiles your using. Doing this is the easiest way to configure your niche when creating a new shower. You can set the size of the niche by height and wide during the framing stage. To make sure the structural integrity is still there, you would frame with a header while giving you the size required to make the niche match up to where you want your grout lines and tiles to appear on the wall.


photograph of custom shower niche

Centered with 2ft tiles on 16″oc

With newly constructed walls, you can make your niche wider than 16″ oc (oc = off centre).




  • You’re using a 1ft x 2ft tile on a horizontal lay where you can have one full tile set into the wall at full size.
  • You could also stack one niche above the other 1ft x 2 ft with a 1ft x 2ft tile spacing between the two niches.
  • You could create one bigger niche by having two tiles in the niche for 2ft x 2ft.
  • Another option could be 1ft x 4ft by making the niche wider.


As you can see when you are building from scratch, the choices are yours to make the niche the way you want.



From the beginning of existing walls and knowing what tiles you will use


With this scenario, you can only do the above niches if you alter the current structure of your walls which is possible but is not as simple as from new construction. So where going to look at this one from the point of view where we are not going to alter the structure but merely add a niche. By just adding a niche you are only going to open up the wall so that you can fasten some horizontal cross members for the top and bottom of the niche between two existing wall studs.


Now that we are dealing with existing walls your studs are on a 16″ oc with some older homes ranging from a 12″ or 24″ oc depending on where and when the house was built. We will look at the 16″ oc as the new standard.

photograph of shower niche design

Make the niche fit in a pattern.



  • With the same 1ft x 2ft tile on a horizontal, only a centre portion of the tile that can fit between the studs can be used.
  • The concept of having two niches will still work one above the other with a tile between them.
  • You can still do the stack with the two centre portions of the tile in the niche.
  • The fourth option is not going to work because of the studs at 16″ oc.



Before or during the build but without knowing the tiles to be used


The hardest and sometimes will not even match up when you have no tiles to get any measurements from until after the niche is in place. If this is the case what can you do. As a contractor, people are always wanting things to be perfect and having things matching up yet half the time you do not get the options of starting the project from the beginning but get called in to finish something and make it look great. Well, the good news is I have another post following this one that will show you tips and tricks to create that perfect look after the fact. In part 2 of Building Shower Niche, this post is for anybody needing to know how to build your niche after the walls and niche are in place and now it’s time to tile with different tiles.



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  1. I’ve always loved the look of the shower and bath tub niches, but I’ve never had one. I don’t think I will attempt to add one anytime soon, but I’m glad to know it can be an option. I think I will probably seek some outside help from either a trained professional or at least someone who’s done it before though. I love the pictures you showed. Are these from niches you’ve done personally?

    • Travis Smithers

      Hi Brittony when it comes to niches you do want to make sure you know what your doing so there will be no leaks. To answer your question all the pictures I have been showing are photographs of what I do myself. Some people want boarders run through the niches and some don’t or they want varying sizes and some times multiple niches. Either way I do it all and make it happen to look as good as possible.

  2. Travis, these niches do look amazing, but as Brittony said I’d rather leave it to a professional such as yourself. There are many DIY tasks that I’d happily ‘have a go at’ myself but this isn’t one of them…. 🙁 However, for those who are keen to do it themselves, and who have the confidence, I reckon you have definitely given them some really good instructions on how to do it properly, so well done 🙂

    • Travis Smithers

      This is one of the main reasons I have decided to feature a DIY section throughout my site. By being able to read and see what is involved with doing some of the different renovations, anybody thinking about taking the DIY approach can enter the renovation knowing what they can or can not do according to there abilities.

      I have also incorporated DIY training videos that can be purchased for anybody that really wants to learn what needs to be done almost step by step right away of all the key trades in one location. This saves someone the hassle of having to try and find the right procedures for each required task. You can learn what needs to be done and how its done and always have the option to revisit your course material for an easy refresher.

      Its all about knowing what is involved with any particular renovation so that you can make the best informed decision as to what you do or do not what to do.

  3. Hello,
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge about shower niches. Would you say that it’s a good idea to buy a prefabricated shower niche? What is the advantage of building one from scratch? Can you also share some information on building a light inside the niche? I have seen that, but how do you go about doing that in a safe manner?

    • Travis Smithers

      To answer your questions lets take them as you listed them.

      First the prefabricated shower niches are fine if they are the size you require. Most people usually want a size that can not be bot as a prefab and the prefab niches cost more money sometimes.

      The biggest thing about putting lights in the niche is making sure you have a proper seal around the fixture. Most of the lighting systems to be used in a niche would be low voltage and GFI protected in case water was ever to penetrate so there would be no issues of electrical shock. Think of your outdoor deck lighting how the rain does nothing to it because of the way they are sealed. Your biggest issue is to make sure you have a proper seal between your niche’s tiles and the light fixture to have no water leaks getting into your walls causing damage.

  4. Hi Travis,

    You really have a great site here, I really wish it was here a few years ago when I was remodeling my 2 bathrooms. I re-tiled above both bathtubs. I was looking into putting in a couple niches but didn’t know how.
    In the end I didn’t bother because I had the top of the tub to put things on, so it worked out for me.
    I will definitely refer to this site in the future when I do more remodeling!
    Thank you.

    • Hi Randy and happy to hear your installs worked out for you. Although I have been doing renovations for some time now ,I have just started with doing the DIY and extra parts to my site that I never use to have. Hopefully as time goes forward I will be able to start to help many more people through the Internet than in the past.

  5. my wife and I remodeled our second bathroom a couple years back after a pipe burst. We did put a niche in and one thing I would advise is to make sure it is deep enough to hold larger bottles of shampoo and soap. Ours is not very deep and making it less functional. Do you have a recommendation as to how deep the nich should be ?

    • That is one of the big things about putting in a niche. Most walls, are made with 2×4 studding, which gives you very little room for larger bottles. If you’re lucky to be dealing with a load bearing wall, you’ll have 2×6 studding, which will give you plenty of space. What I usually do for narrow niches, is have the shelve tip slightly to the back so the bottles will lean inward and not fall down into the shower. By doing this, you’ll need to wipe the small amount of water from the back of the niche. If you leave the water there, it will not cause any problems if you waterproofed and installed the shower properly. It’s more of a safety thing to keep stuff from falling around your feet, so you do not slip on them while showering.

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