Choosing the Right Shower Base for the Space
You need a shower pan for your next retrofit or remodel project. Great! But as you’re scrolling through endless product websites online, you realize this: there are so many options to choose from.
Where do you start? To help you comb through the options, here’s our guide for what you need to know about shower pans.
What is a shower pan?
A shower pan is a solid, single piece insert that’s installed on the floor of the shower with fiberglass or tile walls. The shower pan acts as the floor of the shower. It channels water into the drain and is properly sealed so no water leaks underneath the structure.
Shower pan vs. Shower base
Shower pans are also sometimes referred to as shower bases. But shower bases most commonly refer to the substructure underneath the shower floor, usually made of cement or mortar, that helps channel water into the drain and protects the surrounding shower alcove. Shower pans are the acrylic or composite insert installed on top of that substructure.
Types of Shower Pans: Materials
Shower pans are typically made out of four different types of materials: acrylic, fiberglass, custom tile and composite.
- Acrylic: While shower pans made from acrylic are typically reinforced with other materials, they are largely made of large sheets of acrylic that have been heated and stretched onto a mold. Acrylics are known for being reasonably durable (though not as much as composites), easier to maintain than tile or natural stone, and usually need fewer repairs.
However, when repairs are needed, they can be fairly costly, especially considering the likelihood of weak spots in the material made during the manufacturing process.
- Fiberglass: Fiberglass shower pans are made with a polyester resin that is mixed with woven glass fibers and then poured into a mold. They’re known to be a cheaper alternative to other types of shower materials and repairs are cheap. That being said, fiberglass is more susceptible to damage or stains and might need to be replaced sooner.
- Custom tile: While custom tile shower pans can provide an upscale look, they come with their own set of headaches, too. Tile showers require higher expenses both in materials and labor. The grout between tiles can be hard to keep clean and is likely to wear out over time. When installing a tile shower, there’s also the need to install a substructure underneath.
- Composite: Composites are engineered materials made of two or more different materials. The combination of different materials creates qualities that are far different from the starting materials. At Bestbath®, we use composites made from the finest materials, including durable gelcoat finishes.
The Best Shower Pan Material?
There’s plenty of materials to choose from when it comes to shower pans — but composite pans outrank them all, especially in terms of durability. While they can be more expensive in some cases, they’re easy to maintain, easy to repair, easy to install and able to last decades.
The Best Shower Pan for Tile Walls?
For traditional tile showers, you’ll need to install a substructure underneath to channel any water that leaks through the grout into the drain. Installing a single-piece pan, rather than a tile floor, eliminates the need for a substructure.
In this case, a composite shower pan is a great choice. They are built to be extremely durable and watertight, ensuring that no water leaks through or underneath the pan. This prevents water damage for years to come.
Shower Pan Options: Shapes and Sizes
Shower pans come in all different types of shapes, angles and sizes to fit any bathroom. Whether you need a neo-angle pan for a corner shower, a small 30” x 30” square, or a larger pan for a tub retrofit, Bestbath has a large selection to choose from.
Shower Pan Options: Thresholds
As is the case with sizes and shapes, shower pans come with all different types of thresholds to meet code compliance and clients’ needs or preferences.
- Barrier-free shower pans allow residents to step right in, with no risk of trips or falls.
- Beveled thresholds allow for easy wheelchair access, ensuring code compliance with ADA guidelines.
- Curbed thresholds range from as short as ½ inch to 6 inches tall.
- Temporary thresholds are a removable curb for barrier-free showers, a great option for multi-family homes or for those considering aging in place design.
Shower Pan Drain Locations
Working around existing plumbing systems is always going to be a hassle for a new shower install or retrofit. Luckily, selecting a Bestbath shower pan gives you the choice of where the drain should be located. You can also choose a trench drain or a side discharge drain, which can help you meet ADA, ANSI B, California Title 24, and other local code requirements.
At Bestbath, our construction begins with our stock of meticulously maintained molds. Each mold is cleaned and rolled into the spray room to receive the gelcoat, the smooth surface that forms the exterior of the shower.
After the gelcoat has been cured, a layer of barrier coat is applied to enhance the shower’s durability. To finish, we apply a layer of our composite resin material, stronger by weight than steel for reinforcement. For pans with thresholds that are 1” and lower, we add a ¼” steel bar to add extra strength and reinforcement for the pan.
Before distribution, each pan is fitted with leveling blocks to ensure the front and back ends of the pan are aligned with one another. As a result, our shower pans come to you factory-leveled, completely ready for installation.
One of the key benefits of choosing a Bestbath shower pan is the ease of installation, which can significantly cut down on labor costs. Once the floor is level and the walls are plumb, it’s a matter of hours until the pan is screwed in, secured and ready to use. Check out how easy installing our shower pan can be in this video.
The bottom line?
Choosing the right shower pan means understanding the specific needs of your job. But when you put a Bestbath composite shower pan next to just about any other, Bestbath’s value becomes clear. They are quicker and easier to install and maintain, saving hundreds in labor costs. Add to that an industry-leading 30-year warranty, and you can trust Bestbath shower bases will last for years to come.
Ready to take the next step? Contact us.