Whether it’s for a renovation or simply replacing an old, dirty-looking bathtub, if you’re working on a bathroom, you’ll need to install a shower pan. Shower pan to catch falling water from the showerhead and shower walls and direct it down a drain, which is crucial to avoid damaging the structure around the shower. The good news: learning how to install a shower pan is actually quite easy.
What is a shower pan?
A shower pan is essentially the foundation of the shower. It’s the portion of the shower that sits on the floor. It has a built-in drain and a slight slope that directs the water coming out of the showerhead to the drain. They’re typically pre-made from fiberglass, acrylic, or coated metal, which makes them long-lasting and capable of carrying quite a bit of weight. They can also be custom-made with specialized membranes, pan liners, and tiles, as well.
The pan serves as the shower base. The shower pan installs first, with the cement board and tiles or shower surround installed on top of the pan’s rim. This creates a cascading effect that prevents water from running behind the shower and into the walls.
With that, it’s clear to see that shower pans play a very important role. They serve as the waterproof barrier between the shower space and the porous materials around it like wood, drywall, and insulation. Without a shower floor pan, those materials would likely suffer from water damage and begin to mold or rot, potentially causing both health issues and structural weaknesses.
What are the advantages of shower pans?
When it comes to designing a bathroom, there are a lot of advantages to using a shower pan. From simplicity and customizability to weight and safety, there are plenty of reasons one might opt for a shower pan.
Many smaller bathrooms don’t have the space for a full-size tub. Whether it’s an awkward layout or a repurposed space, the square footage simply doesn’t exist. In these cases, shower pans can come to the rescue.
Shower pans come in a variety of sizes and designs, such as those for alcoves and those for corners. The smallest of these pans measure 27 inches both deep and wide. While that’s not a lot of room for showering, it can make an otherwise non-functioning space into a full-functioning shower. This shower base will create the compact footprint that the rest of the shower will follow.
Simple to install
Installing a shower pan is actually quite easy, and most people can handle the job in a few hours. This is because manufacturers sell pre-made pans made for specific dimensions, and the toughest part of installing them is measuring the space correctly and figuring out the plumbing.
With the correct pan in hand, there aren’t any advanced techniques or trade secrets that a DIYer needs to know to install it. The pans themselves are also relatively lightweight and easy to maneuver, unlike a full-size tub.
As folks begin to age, stepping in and out of a bathtub becomes more and more dangerous. With limited flexibility and waning balance, that hump between the bathroom floor and shower surface can cause a lot of accidents. Installing a shower pan minimizes the risk.
While shower pans do control the flow of water, they have much lower thresholds than bathtubs. Older folks and those with disabilities are typically able to navigate these barriers without issue. There are even shower pans designed specifically for wheelchairs or walkers.
Also, for folks who prefer to enter the shower and sit, shower pans offer much flatter surfaces for shower chairs. These pans forego the significant slopes and curved sides of a bathtub, allowing the person in the shower to sit comfortably without fear of the chair moving out from underneath them.
How to install a shower pan in 5 steps
Installing a shower pan is one of the simplest parts of a bathroom build or renovation, since shower pans come pre-made, meaning you only have to measure correctly and fit it in place.
Tools and Materials:
- Shower pan kit
- Tape measure
- Power drill
- Plumber’s putty or silicone caulk
- Drain flange
- Adjustable pliers
- Exterior screws
- Sand mixture
- PVC primer, glue, and fittings
1. Decide on a pre-made or custom pan
The first step in installing a shower pan is to decide on a pre-made or custom pan. Pre-made pans are easier to install, while custom pans are more likely to bring a unique design to the bathroom.