Which shower pan is best?
Of the many things we take for granted in our homes, a shower pan is perhaps the least exciting. But anyone who is remodeling their bathroom or fixing their shower should become acquainted with this humble fixture. Made to ensure the water reaches the drain — and not a lower floor — shower pans are the critical foundation for any sturdy, watertight shower.
If you’re replacing yours, or building a new shower altogether, you’ll need the right shower pan. The best is DreamLine SlimLine Single Threshold Shower Base in White.
What to know before you buy a shower pan
What a shower pan is
A shower pan is a waterproof floor cover that protects the subfloor from water damage. It’s a single piece typically made from plastic, ceramic, fiberglass or metal. Pans have a built-in drain that you connect to your plumbing. Any shower that isn’t a bathtub should have a properly installed shower pan to prevent mold, mildew and water damage.
Shower pan vs. shower base
Some DIY instructions confuse these two terms, which can make the task of home improvement harder. Shower pans are not the same as bases. While both direct water to your drain, a shower pan is an additional surface you install on top of a shower base, which is typically cast in mortar or concrete and shaped by contractors.
Types of showers
The type of shower and shower door you have will affect the shape of the shower pan you need. If you’re looking to do a conversion, you’ll need to make sure your new shower pan fits its new configuration.
Alcove and corner showers can have complex shapes that require careful planning and specific neo-angle or curved pans. Walk-in showers, on the other hand, use a simple square or rectangle base with a standardized pan size.
Installing a shower pan
Shower pans only require a few steps to install, making them a great DIY task. Most can affix to your shower’s base with mortar or adhesive. You then screw the pan into your surrounding wall studs and install the drain cover using a watertight gasket. When in doubt, however, it’s good to turn to a professional for installation help or inspection.
What to look for in a quality shower pan
- Fiberglass: With fiberglass, you’re trading cost for quality. It’s a cheap and readily available material, but prone to cracks, leaks and stains. Make sure you don’t skimp on installation and waterproofing.
- Acrylic, composite or PVC: Slightly stronger than fiberglass, these materials are cast from single large sheets of plastic or grafted with supporting material. They don’t require much upkeep, but if you damage them, repairs will be costly.
- Ceramic or stone: The most luxurious, high-quality option, cultured marble or tiling requires a greater investment in materials and labor. You’ll need a base to secure them to, and you have to grout each tile to prevent any seepage.
Every home has its quirks, and not even a room so utilitarian as the bathroom is safe from odd angles or wonky shapes. Standard square or rectangular pans are about 32 by 32 inches to 60 by 32 inches. Three-sided, neo-angle pans are similarly sized with a diagonal. If you haven’t replaced yours before, or don’t know the size, make sure you measure. Choosing the right pan size is highly dependent on the whims of a previous owner or builder.
Also called the curb of your shower pan, the threshold is how high it comes off your floor. Like all forms of home improvement, your shower pan is an investment in the future. This means thinking ahead.
The threshold might not seem like a critical consideration, but a couple of inches can make all the difference when it comes to preventing users from tripping and falling. You’ll want to balance the pros and cons of threshold height versus waterproofing. A clogged drain can quickly burst the levy of a low-threshold shower pan.
Drain location is critical. Purchasing a new shower pan only to find out it doesn’t line up with your pipes can be a nightmare. Make sure to take measurements and locate your plumbing before purchasing.
How much you can expect to spend on a shower pan
Fiberglass and plastic shower pans cost between $100-$300. Higher-grade materials such as cultured marble can exceed $700.
Shower pan FAQ
How do I know if I need to replace my shower pan?
A. Common signs that it’s time for a new shower pan are damage to the pan or water damage around it. Check your shower pan for cracks or movement. If it’s loose, replace it. If you see water staining on the ceiling beneath your shower or puddles of water on your bathroom floor after showering, it’s also time for a new pan.
How do I know I installed it correctly?
A. After you install your shower pan, test it out. Run your shower and check for leaking. You’ll also want to simulate the effects of standing water, so plug your drain for a bit and let a safe amount sit in your pan for five to 10 minutes and keep an eye on the seals. Drain it immediately, let it dry and reseal your shower if you notice any leaking.
What are the best shower pans to buy?
Top shower pan
What you need to know: This standard-sized 36 by 36-inch square shower pan is stain- and scratch-resistant and features a slip-resistant, textured floor.
What you’ll love: It’s made of glossy acrylic and features an off-center drain. It comes with a lifetime warranty.
What you should consider: It requires professional installation.
Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot
Top shower pan for the money
What you need to know: Delta’s acrylic shower pans are great for DIYers remodeling or refurbishing on a budget.
What you’ll love: This neo-angle pan has a medium-height threshold of 3.5 inches but a high base height of 4.6 inches. Made from polystyrene, it’s simple to install by screwing directly to your studs.
What you should consider: The high base height and threshold pose a fall risk for some users.
Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot
Worth checking out
What you need to know: You’ll have no issue completing that beautiful curved-glass shower with this pan.
What you’ll love: Made for corner installations, this pan has reinforcing flanges to prevent leaks down the walls of your shower. It’s cast in acrylic and has an anti-slip coating and a corner drain. The threshold on this one is high, at 4.7 inches.
What you should consider: This pan comes very high off the ground and can be hazardous for some users.
Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot
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Karl Daum writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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