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Types of Shower Pans (Bathroom Design Ideas)

Here we share our types of shower pans guide including what they’re made of, the different types, base options, the ideal material to use, and suggestions for bathroom tile walls. Bright bathroom with wall tile pattern cabinets sink and shower pan Nobody wants to take a shower on a flooded bath floor. That is why one must make a wise decision in choosing the right shower pan to retrofit or remodel the bathroom.

Unfortunately, the marketplace can be a dizzying place to look for the right bathroom shower upgrades.  It should be easy if one has a firm understanding of the different types of shower pans and bases.

What are Shower Pans Made Of?

Spacious bathroom with tub and shower pan Some people use the terms shower pans and shower bases interchangeably. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The shower pan is the structure where we stand when taking a shower. The shower base is the structure underneath the shower pan.

Modern shower pans are typically acrylic, although some products feature composite or fiberglass construction. High-end models come with custom tiles to complement the bathroom’s décor.

On the other hand, shower bases mainly come in cement or mortar. However, some manufacturers already prefabricate shower bases to include a top layer that functions as a shower pan. Read more about our guide on the different types of bathroom showers here.

Shower Pan Material

Bathroom with glass door and types of shower pans Choosing the best shower pan for the home requires understanding the four types of shower pan materials currently in use.

Acrylic

Bathroom with beige porcelain tile shower dark wood vanity arctic white quartz countertop freestanding tub shower pans Manufacturers create acrylic shower pans by heating and stretching large thermoplastic sheets over molds. The materials include other substances that reinforce the plastic, giving it reasonable durability and ease of maintenance.

Acrylic shower pans are typically more affordable than other types of shower pans. Unfortunately, they tend to form weak spots, which can lead to costly repairs.

Fiberglass

Contemporary bathroom with bathtub glass door and shower pan Fiberglass requires the blending of woven glass fibers and polyester resin to form an ultra-lightweight yet tough structure. Manufacturers pour the mixture over a shower pan mold.

Fiberglass shower pans tend to be less expensive than acrylic shower pans because of the easier manufacturing process. It is also more worry-free to repair. Sadly, this underscores fiberglass’s relative fragility compared to acrylic.

Composite

Bathroom with white quartz shower walls rainfall shower head and brown floating vanity with under cabinet lighting Composite shower pans offer strength and durability, depending on the materials used in the manufacturing process. Compositing is an engineering process of mixing at least two different substances to create an entirely new material.

For example, one can get a shower pan with a durable gel coat finish. The only downside to composite shower pans is their price tag.

Custom Tile

Glass door types of shower pans bathtub inside bathroom Tiles are popular shower pan materials for those who want to give their bathroom a more upscale look.

Unfortunately, they are expensive and require regular maintenance to keep the grout clean. Moreover, the tiles must sit on a substructure that can further increase the cost.

Shower Base Options

Spacious bathroom with shower area bench sink toilet and shelves A shower base forms the foundation of the shower pan, although many people use the terms interchangeably. 

Choosing a shower base boils down to concrete or molded stone, with the latter being more expensive. A concrete substructure can provide a stable platform for the shower pan. It is easy to work with and offers exceptional strength.

It’s important to not that concrete requires adequate surface waterproofing to help channel water seeping from the shower pan to the drain.

If one requires exceptional waterproofing without requiring additional layers, a wise choice is a molded stone.

One advantage of a molded stone shower base is that its topmost surface can already serve as a shower pan. Read more about our guide on waterproof wood flooring for bathrooms here.

Pre-made Shower Base

White bathroom with drawers tub and shower pan A fascinating option for homeowners is a pre-made or prefabricated shower base. All one needs is to allocate a space in the bathroom for the base, order the product, and mount it in place upon arrival.

The beauty of pre-made shower bases is that they reduce labor costs, energy, and effort. It is a matter of putting the fixture in its correct position, and one already has a fully functioning shower base. The other advantage is that many pre-made shower bases already feature an integrated shower pan. 

Of course, there will always be downsides to any product. The issue with pre-made shower bases is that one does not have the liberty of customization.

Homeowners must adjust their bathroom requirements according to the pre-made shower base’s design specifications. Read more about our guide on shower sizes here.

Custom Shower Pan

Contemporary bathroom with clerestory windows walk in shower concrete flooring types of shower pans Homeowners who want a shower pan designed and built specifically for their bathrooms should consider getting a custom shower pan. Such a fixture maintains the unity of design with the rest of the bathroom.

One can decide on the materials to use, including the pan’s gradient to optimize water drainage during shower times. They can pick the most durable and beautiful constituents that last many years while amplifying the natural elegance of the bathroom.

Unfortunately, custom shower pans typically cost more than pre-made shower pans and bases.

Best Material for Shower Pan

Bathroom with framed glass shower doors Composites make the best material for shower pans. While they are expensive, composite materials are hassle-free to maintain, worry-free to repair, and effortless to install. Moreover, composites can last several decades before requiring a complete makeover.

What is the Best Material for a Shower Pan?

Corian solid surface shower walls black countertop floating vanity with shower pan Budget-conscious homeowners can always pick a high-end fiberglass shower pan. However, they must understand this material’s unique properties if they want it to last many years.

For those who do not mind the price tag, an excellent choice is a composite shower pan. This material is robust, easy to install, and hassle-free to maintain. If it requires repair, which is often the result of damage from extreme circumstances, repairs are a cinch, too.

Families who want a good balance between price and durability might want to consider a high-end acrylic pan. It is not as expensive as composites but is sturdier and more durable than fiberglass. 

Best Shower Base for Tile Walls

Glass door shower porcelain bathtub and types of shower pans Homeowners with tile-walled bathrooms should consider installing a substructure underneath the tiles. The substructure will help channel water any water seeping through the grout and into the shower drain.

While a custom tile shower pan may seem a wise choice, a better option is to use a single-piece composite or acrylic pan. These pans no longer require a substructure underneath.

If one needs a shower base that lasts many years, composites are the way to go. These shower pans and bases will never leak, saving homeowners thousands of dollars from water damage.

Upgrading or retrofitting the bathroom is a breeze if one is knowledgeable about the types of shower pans available on the market.

While acrylic offers an excellent shower pan material, a better choice will be a composite pan. It is more durable and easier to work with if one does not mind its higher price tag.

See more related content at our article about the pros and cons of cast iron shower pans on this page.

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