When choosing material for shower trays, floor, benches and surrounds, it is important that it has as low absorbency as possible, making it resistant to mold, fungus, and rapid color change in wet environment. It shouldn't be sensitive to soaps, shampoos, and chemical agents used in the bathroom, and should be easy to clean and maintain. Shower finishing fabricated from non-porous artificial stone materials will be practical, low maintenance, resistant to stains, and retain its fresh appearance for years to come.
All these requirements are met by acrylic solid surface which is often used for making shower trays and surrounds. The absorbency of solid surface is almost zero, so shower trays and walls fabricated from it do not mold even in very damp shower rooms. Bacteria and fungi do not grow on solid surface, neither they have a chance to thrive on dirt and moisture trapped in microscopic crevices between the joining parts, as these crevices simply don't exist in solid surface products. Moreover, all jointing angles are usually rounded, leaving no sharp corners. Acrylic solid surface can be used to create a shower tray, a bench, a shower wall and wall cladding of any shape or size.
In addition to solid surface slabs, well-known acrylic solid surface manufacturers also sell standard shower trays in various sizes and shapes. If you want to avoid overpaying, keep in mind that a standard, factory-made solid surface shower tray will be cheaper than a custom-made one at the fabricator's workshop. The price can differ significantly. Therefore, it may be a good idea to browse the catalogues of acrylic stone companies before making a decision to order a custom-made shower tray from the fabricator. In them, next to the acrylic stone slabs, you will find examples of shower trays. The color of factory-made shower trays is usually white, and the selection of shapes and sizes is limited, but perhaps the available options will be sufficient for you, and you will save quite a bit.
Solid surface can be used to clad shower walls or to build a separate shower wall or surround. The solid surface wall can be curved, surrounding the shower from all sides and without any corners (see photos). The solid surface splashwall or finish can be seamlessly joined with the solid surface tray, so that no gaps and no joining marks remain. The edges of the panels can be slightly rounded (through desirable radius) along the edges and corners to avoid sharp angles. The solid surface finish looks completely seamless. Water droplets from shower walls do not penetrate through the joints between the shower components near the base, and rounded angles allow easy cleaning.
In the shower room, acrylic stone can be combined with other artificial stone materials such as ceramics and porcelain, engineered quartz, or sintered stone. Shower floors and benches can also be made from these materials. The only disadvantage of manufacturing shower floors, e.g. from ceramics, is that it is impossible to round off and completely conceal the joints. If an acrylic shower tray looks seamless, shower floors made from other types of artificial stone materials won't look as such. It will be visible that they are composed of separate planes (see photos). Moisture and dirt may accumulate more in the corners, which will require frequent scrubbing with a brush.
The absorbency (porosity) of all the mentioned artificial stone materials is very low or non-existent, so such shower finishes, trays, and benches won't mold and will be easy to clean. Ceramic and porcelain, engineered quartz, and sintered stone look elegant in the bathroom and are not sensitive to moisture and cleaning agents. Another significant advantage of artificial stone materials is the thinness of the slabs. Artificial stone finish is lighter than natural stone finish because the panels are thinner. They take up less space on the walls, weigh less, and are more convenient to carry and install.
Sintered stone, or ultracompact surface, is a pricier alternative to other types of artificial stone. This excellent material is practical and highly suitable for shower walls and floors. However, it's not likely that in the bathroom, you are going to fully utilize all of its positive qualities (such as exceptional hardness, resistance to extreme heat, fire, and cold). To avoid overpaying for shower finishes, it might be better to choose other materials, such as ceramic or porcelain, which offer a similar appearance.
Natural stone in the showers also looks impressive. A seamless shower tray can be carved out of natural stone block, but this comes at a higher cost. However, a natural stone shower tray or natural stone flooring may be less practical than fabricated from artificial stone. Natural stone in the shower will require more maintenance than artificial materials. To maintain the pristine appearance of natural stone, moisture must not be allowed to linger on it, and it needs to be regularly impregnated. Otherwise, natural stone will become stained, and mold may appear.
All natural stones are porous. Water absorbs into them like into sponges, and it evaporates very slowly. Stone impregnators solve this problem by filling and sealing the stone's pores so that water cannot penetrate them. However, impregnators need to be used regularly; it's not enough to impregnate just once. Over time, the impregnant washes out and evaporates, requiring reapplication. Typically, natural stone products need to be impregnated once a year, but in the bathroom, the stone will need to be impregnated more often.
Among natural stones, granite or quartzite are the most practical in damp environments. Marble, travertine, or onyx are much more sensitive to moisture, acids, and substances found in cleaning agents. When having a shower tray, floor, or walls made of these sensitive stones, extra caution is necessary. Acids corrode marble, onyx, and travertine more than granite or quartzite, and they are more prone to color changes from chemicals.
Any natural stone, even gemstone, is suitable for shower room walls that won't come into contact with water, while in damp shower areas it's more practical to choose artificial stone. Although you can maintain the excellent appearance of stone everywhere, the main question is how much time and effort you want to dedicate to it. Natural stone will look great over time without care only in dry rooms, where there's no moisture or heavy water vapor. If you neglect to maintain natural stone in a damp room, it may quickly lose its appearance and color, and you will notice mold growth after some time.