Here’s the dilemma. The customer wants a recessed shampoo niche. But once the walls were opened up there’s no good place to put one. There’s either wires and pipes in the way or the stud bay is too narrow. The only good place to install one would be on an exterior wall which would leave a big gaping hole in the homes insulation. So what’s the best way?
To rule out an exterior wall for a shower niche can sometimes mean that you just can’t put one in a shower. But do you just ignore the giant cold spot (or hot spot, depending on your climate) and put one in anyway?
A recessed shampoo niche in an exterior wall- with insulation
Here’s a method that I have come up with to make the best of both worlds. A compromise. You still get the recessed shampoo niche in the shower and some insulation as well. Here’s how it works:
Most exterior walls are 2×6 framing. I recommend buying a pre-made foam niche such as one from Laticrete or Noble. They come in a variety of sizes and are made to fit in a typical stud bay. Some come with shelves and compartments.
We know insulation is rated in terms of r-value. The foam niches are made from a foam called polystyrene. This type of foam has an r-value of 5 per inch. This would give the pre-made foam niche an r-value of 2.5.
Now the pre-made foam niches come 4 inches deep. This is to allow for 3.5 inch wall stud (common in interior walls) and 1/2 inch tile backer board. Since the niche will go on an exterior wall (5.5 inches instead of 3.5) this gives 2 inches of unused space.
Down at your local home improvement center you can buy 2 inch polystyrene foam. I bought this blue foam from Lowes and it comes in 24×96 inch size and costs approximately $30. This is what i use to fill the 2 inch space behind the niche. With an r-value of 10 (remember: 5 per inch) added to the 2.5 from the niche gives you an r-12.5 wall. Less than a normal 2×6 wall with an r-19 value but still better than a window.
Currently I’m not aware of a way to purchase smaller sizes of the 2 inch foam. It’s not that the cost is overwhelming but you would only use a small piece of it. I wish you could buy by the foot. If anyone has any ideas on how to buy smaller pieces please share in the comments section.
This is what I’ve come up with for a way to install a recessed shampoo niche in an exterior wall without leaving a big hole in your wall’s insulation. If you have a way to improve upon it or see any issues that I may have overlooked please let me know in the comment section.