Most showers we build have curbs, excluding 'curb-less' showers that can be prohibitively expensive. Lately, I've been getting the nagging feeling that while our clients are at the tile store, the sales rep isn't speaking to them about how they want their curb finished. It seems like a negligible detail, but I'm here to tell you that when you are dealing with the expense of a stand up shower, not to mention that you have to live with it for as long as you stay in your home...It is quite important.
The curb of your shower sees a lot of action....your glass door will sit on top of it and it will see a lot of water and soap residue. In my opinion, you want to think about the ease of cleaning this surface...so the least amount of pieces is logical. The best option is a 'solid surface' top...a solid piece of granite or other type of stone. The downside to this option is the added cost and the visit to a granite store. I advise that you let us install said granite because from our experience granite installers are among the least conscientious tradespeople. It's common for us to see a curb with no slope (to direct the water into the shower) and they will often cut the piece the wrong size...adding to the time frame of the project. The curb from this Cumming, GA shower is sold at the tile store and it is an option that requires no middle man and we install this piece to perfection.
The next option and one that I recommend if you don't want to use a solid surface, is a tile top with Kerdi Profiles which are used as an edging for the tile. They come in many types of finishes, shapes and colors as you an see from the link. I think they add a nice subtle detail to a shower when you notice they match the drain color and the trim kit of your fixtures. Again, there is a small added cost of the profiles...It will add an extra $50 to the cost of your shower...Well worth it for a spot on finish! This Roswell, GA shower you see below is a brushed nickle A-100 by Schluter Systems. Notice there are only two grout joints and we install these so there is no added time or effort to the shower build.
The final option and my least favorite, is whole tile with the raw edge exposed. When the tile is natural stone there is no problem because we can custom make the curb tops and sand them to a perfect finished edge as you see in this Sandy Springs shower below...Looks great!
Now this is a recent shower I built that left me wondering if the higher ups ever had the discussion with these people about their curb top. I do not know because I wasn't part of the design process. If I was I would have pushed for a different, more functional look. This is a porcelain tile and what I end up doing for the top is ripping them to size with the front edge being a factory edge and the back edge being sanded as well as the material allows. I try to give it the illusion of a finished edge. It is not ideal. You end up having a naked front and back tile edge. If it were my shower I would have used an oil rubbed bronze Quadec Profile to match the drain. I understand that often times people do not like the looks of these profiles but they really improve the functionality and longevity of a shower because you don't have to worry about the tiles chipping and the look is improved because you don't see the sharp edges. The image below is an example of the raw tile edge look.
We could edge with bull nose but it adds so many unnecessary grout lines and the quality of bull nose has truly declined. Think about grime and soap scum in those grout lines and the bull nose always has to be cut to fit the curb top. We can't depend on the manufacturers to consistently send us good bull nose. We CAN depend on Schluter Systems to produce a good product....so just like our taste in vehicles and fashion design changes through the years, maybe we can learn to accept an updated look in our showers and do away with antiquated bull nose. When we're thinking about design we should think about being judged 20 years in the future and not about our tastes that may be caught in a time freeze.
Ultimately, I'm writing about MINOR details but I think about these things because I am a perfectionist. You can't be a good tile guy if you aren't. My final words are to implore you to think about edging on curb tops and your edging for wall tile when you're in the planning stages. It's a small detail but it is an important detail for a beautiful, overall finish.