Everything you need to know about Wilsonart’s WetWall for showers and wet spaces.
Wilsonart is a manufacturer and distributor of engineered surfaces from Austin, Texas. Founded in the 1950s by Ralph Wilson Sr. as an expert provider of laminates for counters and walls their offerings quickly expanded to include composite counters, quartz, solid surface, wall panels, veneers, and adhesives. WetWall is one of the newest products offered by WilsonArt.
As a company they have sought to continue Ralph Wilson’s vision to provide innovations in the application, design, manufacturing methods and installation techniques of engineered surface for residential and commercial use. Their products are manufactured in the U.S. and distributed from warehouses in more than a dozen U.S. cities and Canada.
WetWall is a decorative, composite wall panel designed for wet spaces like shower and bathroom walls. It is waterproof, lightweight, durable, and easy to maintain.
The WetWall panels are comprised of a composite of mostly wood and plastic fibers bonded under high pressure. The surface is made of a decorative laminate that uses Wilsonart’s AEON technology to create a scratch, stain, bacteria, mold, and mildew resistant surface.
The panels utilize tongue & groove joining to ensure a waterproof seal at seams and bullnose edges for finishing edges. With an 11mm thickness the edges can also be finished with Schluter edges or installed with tile accents. The varied panel dimensions from 8” x 60” to 60” x 96” allows for a variety of custom installation options for varied needs and design ideas.
WetWall is suitable for any interior wet areas. Most often these panels are installed as walls of a shower or bathtub. Other popular applications include bathroom walls, especially surrounding a free-standing bathtub, and laundry room wall. In some situations, WetWall may be used as backsplashes or decorative accents.
The variety of WetWall patterns allows them to match or accent almost any room décor. Currently there are over a dozen design options to choose from with new colors and patterns being added to the Wilsonart catalogue each year.
There are some uses outside of wet areas that WetWall would be well suited for. These panels could be an ideal solution for wainscoting in playrooms, accent panels in a craft room and a variety of other applications. Use your imagination. Any area that you would like to have a beautiful, durable, and easy to maintain surface WetWall is a great option.
Benefits of WetWall
The WetWall panels are waterproofed by their high-density core and laminate surface. The surface is resistant to scratches and cuts that would allow water intrusion. Seams between panels are fitted with a tight tongue and groove fit and finished with a sealant that is formulated to be waterproof, last longer than bathroom silicones, and color matched to blend with the panel pattern.
Made in the U.S.
Manufactured in Texas WetWall is distributed through warehouses across the country. WetWall materials are made readily available in any market. If your nearest distribution location does not have what you need in inventory it can be shipped in as little as 10 days minimizing wait times to get materials.
Ease of Installation
WetWall is a lightweight product making it easy to carry and handle. The panels can be cut using common wood working tools. The pieces fit snuggly together and attach to the walls using an adhesive created specifically for this product. Since they can be adhered to cement board, drywall, plaster, or existing tile walls, it is not always necessary to modify framing to replace an existing shower. Training videos and literature are available making it possible for a skilled DIY homeowner to install WetWall themselves.
WetWall panel surfaces are mold and mildew resistant and are an anti-microbial to resist bacteria. Marks from scuffing, crayon, and markers can clean easily from the walls without damaging the surface or appearance. Non-abrasive cleaner and a towel will be all that is necessary to keep your WetWall surfaces clean.
Wilsonart offers some niche options that can be inserted into the wall panels without the need for blocking in the walls to support them. The WetWall panes have bullnose edges that provide a finished edge on the walls. The panels come in a variety of sizes that allow you to set the top of the wall to your desired height or have it extended to the ceiling. The panels can be cut and finished to allow options like Schluter edges, tile accents, custom sized niches, bench surfaces and uncommon shower dimensions. WetWall is the most easily versatile shower wall option in the market when it comes to fitting to a space and wall panel layout inside a bathroom wet space.
Cost of Investment
WetWall is priced in the mid-range when compared to other shower wall products. The price per square foot of material is greater than most tile and prefabricated shower surrounds that you can purchase from big box retailers. Per square foot it is cheaper than stone, glass, and solid surface materials.
When it comes to installation costs the labor requirements to install WetWall cost less than the installation of any of the materials listed above except for some prefabricated surrounds. Tile installation requires many more hours of labor and additional materials such as thinset and grout to install. Solid surface, stone and glass walls require more resources in the way of specialized tools, additional manpower and installation expertise. The added time, material and expertise for these other surrounds also translates into higher costs.
Disadvantages of WetWall
Not for Outdoors
WetWall is waterproof and able to handle shower temperatures; however, extended exposure to outdoor elements can compromise the material. Long term exposure to exterior elements can cause discoloration and bowing in the panels.
Not a Structural Material
The WetWall panels are not designed to bear structural weight. The lightweight nature of the panels allows them to have some flex. They can bow or even break if enough direct pressure is exerted on them. They will not function well as tabletops or vertical supports. The panels must be bonded to a sub-wall to provide structural strength for WetWall installation.
Some Experience Required
The installation of WetWall is mostly simple. It will still require woodworking tools and some carpentry knowledge to cut and fit the panels. Some knowledge and experience in working with drywall will be necessary to prepare the sub-wall and helpful in installing the WetWall panels. Homeowners may lack the tools or experience to confidently install these shower panels.
Temporarily Limited Design Options
Being a recently introduced product in the industry, the pattern and accessories list has some limited selections. The WetWall pattern options and accessories will work for most installations. There will not be options for some needs or design tastes until the product catalog has grown further to include more choices. There are not currently any tile patterns or alternative edges besides bullnose.
Wilsonart provides an easy-to-follow installation guide and demonstration videos on the WetWall website. The simplicity of installation makes it possible for a Do-It-Yourself homeowner to install the panels. The panels can be cut to fit using wood working tools and adhered to the subwall using an adhesive dispensed with a caulk gun. Installation errors can be expensive. WetWall panels are not forgiving of miscuts. If a panel is cut incorrectly and cannot be used a replacement has to be purchased to replace it. A reputable contractor will eat that cost if it is their mistake. This is one reason homeowners may opt to have a contractor install WetWall for them.
A complete shower replacement or redesign will also likely require additional trade skills in plumbing, framing, concrete, tiling, glass installation, drywalling and painting. These may require the employment of a licensed professional to ensure proper completion of your shower. It may seem appealing to hire different people to complete various parts of the project and to even do some of the work yourself to try saving money on labor. Finding a contractor who can complete every step of the project from start to finish will reduce the time, cost and risks associated with the project. A contractor may also warranty their craftmanship in the event of faults in the installation. Professional installation also changes the terms of the product warranty.
Care and maintenance for WetWall is incredibly easy. The waterproof and mildew resistant properties give the panels an easy to clean surface. It is non-porous and has no grout lines. The surface never needs to be sealed as tile does.
Soapy warm water will be sufficient for daily cleaning. Even though the surface is scratch resistant, Wilsonart recommends using non-abrasive cleaners and cloths for cleaning to ensure the appearance and long life of the walls. Beyond the recommendation to avoid abrasives and strong solvents (which will also void the product warranty) there are no limitations to your choice of cleaning solutions.
Does WetWall have a warranty?
Wilsonart’s WetWall has two warranties. The main warranty is a 10-year limited warranty on any defects with the material. Ask your installer for the registration card that comes with the panels or visit the website to print one and submit it for the warranty coverage. The second warranty is a limited lifetime warranty that is offered when the WetWall installation has been done by a WetWall Platinum Installer. Installers who have met the certification requirements with Wilsonart can offer this extended warranty.
Whether WetWall is best for your application depends on your needs and the desired look of your space. If you want shower walls without grout, that are easy to clean and maintain these panels will satisfy those needs. If you have a shower with unusual dimensions or need to accommodate customizations WetWall can meet those needs. If you want an economically priced product that installs quickly, this is the product for your project.
Check out the design options on WetWall.com to see if they have a color or pattern that will give your bathroom or walls a look you love. If you have additional questions and want to learn more, you can contact Wilsonart or your local dealer/installer.