Tile is the traditional material used for shower and tub walls. When properly installed, it will also last for decades. The most common tile used for tub and shower walls is installed on concrete products, such as the "Wonderboard" and "Durock" concrete boards, or on a site mixed concrete base. Some new and lighter weight fiberglass materials are also being successfully used as tile substrates in wet areas.
Plasterboard, even the so-called "waterproof" plasterboard, such a "greenboard" or "tile backer board" is not a recommended substrate for tile installation in a wet area. Similar poor results are being experienced with tile installation on plywood.
When concrete board is used, the board should be fastened to the framing with screws. All joints, corners, and blemishes need to be taped and mudded. The tile should be installed with thinset, preferably mixed with a latex "milk", and grouted with a high quality grout, also mixed with a latex "milk".
Tiled concrete shower bases require an "easy test" drain, a vinyl membrane, and expert work. Built-in benches or other horizontal surfaces in a shower and custom built tubs, also require vinyl membranes.
Pre-fabricated shower bases made of a concrete product or fiberglass are available in various sizes and shapes and can be used with tile walls and various other types of shower wall materials.
The quality of the actual tile used in a tub or shower area is relatively unimportant to the longevity of the installation. Budget priced glazed tile can be successfully used if properly installed.