A shower pan is a waterproof barrier that goes beneath the tile floor. The shower pan collects water that might seep through the tile and grout and channels it to the drain.
In this article, I will help you understand the different types of shower pans and everything else you need to know about them. Take a look!
Types of Shower Pans by Material
Shower pans are usually grouped by material. The materials include acrylic, composite, custom tile, and more. Here’s a breakdown:
1. Tile Shower Pans
Tile shower pans are usually a high-end option – because they are expensive to purchase and maintain. But, you have the chance to get a pan that matches the bathroom walls and floor.
For this type of shower pan, you have two options: buy a tile-ready floor pan, or install the tile over concrete.
The latter is my favorite since you can customize the appearance, shape, and size. That means you also have some control over the cost since you decide the complexity of the design.
However, since the tile is not waterproof, you will need to set and coat the tiles using waterproof material. Notably, tile shower pans are high maintenance since they are prone to staining.
2. Stone Resin Shower Pans
A stone resin shower pan will be the answer if you want something elegant that can go with any décor. They are made of a mixture of natural stone and synthetic plastic and are also pretty durable.
Something else I love about these molded stone pans is that they are easy to clean and you don’t have to worry about mold and mildew.
Even better, stone resin shower pans don’t require grout, which can be a nuisance when it comes to cleaning. They are also quite easy to find online and at your favorite hardware store. But if you’d like to be a little extra, you can have one custom-made for you.
3. Cultured Stone Shower Pans
Cultured stone shower pans are engineered stone bases, usually mixed with resin. Different stones can be used, but the most common ones are marble, limestone, and granite.
Since they have a gel coating, cultured stones offer 100% protection against leaks. They are also less vulnerable to scratches and deterioration.
Besides, these shower pans are not slippery since they have a textured surface. The color options will also blow your mind – they are over 40.
Bear in mind that they are quite heavy, so a cultured stone shower pan is not a good choice if you are looking for something light and easy to maneuver. But it’s the way to go if you are looking for something that will last.
4. Porcelain Shower Pans
Porcelain is quite a sturdy material, making it a perfect choice for a shower pan. It is usually a mixture of natural clay, water, and other organic materials. It is usually hardened by heat, making it very heavy and durable.
However, the porcelain shower pan will chip in the event of hard impacts. Since it’s a smooth surface, it is resistant to scratches. But it’s rather slippery. The durability makes it a good choice for high-areas. While they fall on the expensive side, you definitely get value for your money.
5. Acrylic Shower Pans
Acrylic shower pans are usually very light – usually made of molded plastic. Their moderate price makes them a pretty common option. I find it quite a bargain since they are durable and affordable.
They are not likely to crack or chip. They are also highly customizable so you can get different patterns, shapes, and colors of your liking.
Most importantly, they are low maintenance. All you need is an all-purpose shower cleaner, and you are good to go. You can even hack it with DIY cleaning solutions. Installation is also pretty easy.
6. Fiberglass Shower Pans
Fiberglass is best known for affordability – it is made from polyester resin and woven glass fiber. Like acrylic, fiberglass is also durable and less susceptible to breakages and cracks. It is also customizable, although the options tend to be fewer.
However, you have to be careful during cleaning. If you use too abrasive cleaners, your pan will scratch. You also have to be cautious of water stains and mineral deposits.
7. Marble Shower Pans
Who doesn’t love marble? It’s simply irresistible – so sleek and chic. The same can be said about marble shower pans. Since marble is a natural stone, you can expect it to last several years without shattering.
But it comes at a price – be ready for that. If you are keen on saving a few pennies, you can go for faux marble, which is just as beautiful but not so long-lasting. You can use an all-purpose cleaner or a stone polisher to clean your marble shower pan. Maintenance is pretty minimal.
8. Concrete Shower Pans
Getting a concrete shower pan is like signing a deal for life – the pan will be there for years. If you trust your DIY skills, you can pour the concrete yourself. Just remember to lay a liner or rubber mat before pouring the concrete.
The only stumbling block is that the colors are limited – they are mostly available in white, gray, and black. But then you don’t have to worry about chipping and heavy maintenance.
9. Composite Shower Pans
Composite shower pans blend two or more different materials – usually plastic and fiberglass resin. Once the materials mix, the outcome is completely different from the individual materials. If you choose to get a composite shower pan, you need to install it before any tiles.
10. Cast Iron Shower Pans
Did you know that cast iron can make more than just kitchenware? In fact, it makes a sturdy shower pan material, and the stability is incredible.
The only tradeoff is that cast iron is so heavy that installation is very involving. But on the other side, cleaning is easy. For extra safety, you can put a slip-resistant finish to minimize slips.
11. Stainless Shower Pans
This has got to be one of the most durable options out there. It is a good idea if you want a shower pan that will go well with your existing setup. Installation is pretty straightforward, and you can use a silicone sealer to waterproof the edges.
However, it only comes in one color. But you will appreciate the fact that stainless steel is stain-proof and rust-proof. That makes it very easy to clean and maintain.
Choosing a Shower Pan
From what we’ve discussed, you have so much to choose from. But at the end, you have to pick one. So what’s it going to be? Here are a few tips to help you make the best decision:
Choose the Shape
The shape of your shower pan can be anything you want. But the most common ones are round, square, rectangle, and neo-angle. The ideal shape will depend on factors like how much room you have to work with and, of course, your personal preference.
For instance, if you have limited space in the bathroom, you might consider a semi-round pan. But if you have plenty of space, a rectangular pan can give you a more luxurious feel.
Choose the Color
Shower pans are not exempt from interior décor rules. Although the color varieties you get greatly depend on the material you choose, don’t pick blindly. Even if you don’t get a shower pan the same color as your wall tile, at least pick something of the same shade.
Remember never to mix warm and cool colors. And if selecting a color is too much work for you, you can never go wrong with white. It goes with almost everything. You can also pick black – but you have to tread carefully here – it might not go well with a rustic theme.
Deciding the Material
This is usually the tricky part for most people. But essentially, it boils down to the tradeoffs you are willing to make and how much you have to spend. For instance, the marble would do if cost is not a problem.
But if you are on a rather tight budget, you can consider low-cost options like fiberglass. Another important factor that most people forego is maintenance. Stain-resistant materials are usually a good choice – they don’t need much energy and time to clean.
Frequently Asked Questions about Shower Pans
What is a Shower Pan Threshold, and what are the Types?
A shower pan threshold refers to the front edge of the shower. It is the part where you step over to hop into the shower. Here are the three types of shower pan thresholds:
This threshold type features a sloped entrance. It guarantees easy access, especially for users in wheelchairs or users.
This is what you find in most homes. It can be as low as half an inch or as high as six inches.
For this type, you step right in. This minimizes the risk of tripping or falling.
This is usually a removable curb threshold. That means it can convert into barrier-free. It would be ideal for a multi-family home.
Is a Shower Pan the Same as a Shower Base?
Although most people use these two terms interchangeably, a shower pan differs from a shower base. A shower pan is a part you step on, while the shower base is the structure beneath. The similarity is that they both direct water into the drain and are made of waterproof material.
Do I Need Both a Shower Pan and Shower Base?
Yes. A shower base is a must-have for any bathroom, whether it has a shower pan or not.
Who Installs a Shower Pan?
Shower pan installation is a plumber’s job. But thanks to the internet, anyone can do it – including yourself. However, a professional plumber is your best option to ensure the right slope angle for proper drainage.
Do You Have to Replace the Entire Shower Unit when Changing the Shower Pan?
A shower pan is a separate component and is not structurally connected to the rest of your unit. Therefore, if you’d like to replace your shower pan, you can leave everything else intact.
Do I Need a Shower Pan?
Absolutely yes. A shower pan protects your floor and subfloor from leaks, which grout and concrete cannot do.
When was the First Modern Shower Invented?
Waterfalls inspired the idea of modern showers. It is how our ancestors would clean themselves up, besides bathing in pools or lakes. It wasn’t until 1767 that the first patent for a shower was granted to William Feetham.
The shower relied on a hand pump. But the first hot water shower only came around in the 19th century, which was also when indoor plumbing was invented.
What are the Standard Sizes for Shower Pans?
Standard shower pans range from 32 by 32 inches to 60 inches. Neo-angle shower pans designed for corner showers usually measure from 36 inches to 60 inches in diameter.
Why do Most People Prefer a Curbless Shower?
It’s primarily for aesthetic purposes. A wall-to-wall bathroom floor makes the space look larger and more elegant. But besides the aesthetics, a curbless shower minimizes the places for mildew and grime to collect. But it calls for additional labor, making it more expensive.