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Is there some way to tile shower walls in an earthquake zone? We are concerned that the house may shift and crack the joints. We have a non-standard size, so solid surround is quite expensive. Tile would be cheaper.
Tile is done in quake zones all the time. If you get a shake bad enough to damage your tile, you've got more serious problems to be worrying about.
Tile has always been cheaper than solid surface materials such as cultured stone, but more expensive than products like Marlite and Pyonite (Formica-like products ). Don't even think about those pvc or vinyl faced masonite products, they are not worth the packaging they come in.
Go ahead, install your tiles. If they fall off the wall, replace the missing ones. Oh, buy about 15-20% more tiles than you need and store them away.
I am worried more about cracks in the mastic allowing water penetration behind the wall than tiles falling off. (It's easy to deal with what you can see.)