What is a Poured Shower Pan, and Do I Want One?

What is a Poured Shower Pan, and Do I Want One?Search for a “pan” on Amazon and you’ll get over 100,000 results, which include everything from sets of gourmet cookware to a heavy-duty transmission pan for your RV. Who knew? Another type of pan that’s likely not found within Amazon’s search parameters is a shower pan–that part of your shower that makes up the floor and directs the water down the drain. In fact, you’ve probably stood in the shower hundreds of times without even realizing you were standing in a pan!

What, then, is a poured shower pan and how does it differ from a standard shower pan? How do you know if you want one? What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of installing a poured shower pan? Why do we even need to talk about this?! Can’t we just discuss recipes that belong in pans, such as Rice Krispie treats and brownies?

Defining the Difference

All thoughts of baking aside, the significance of any shower pan lies in its slope, which allows the excess shower water to roll off of it and go down the drain. The slope cannot be so great, however, that it proves hazardous to the person showering. The second all-important factor is its ability to remain water-tight, so as not to permit water to leak into the subfloor below. The two types of shower pans used in construction are poured (concrete, or sometimes call mud beds) and pre-fabricated kits (most often made of molded, coated fiberglass material). Both types have inherent advantages and disadvantages, as outlined below.

Poured Pans

Pros:

  • A poured pan may be created in any shape or size, allowing for maximum flexibility in design.
  • The tile installed over the concrete of the poured pan creates a custom look, and can be designed to complement any aesthetic.
  • If repairs are ever needed down the road, it may not be necessary to remove the entire shower pan; if the leak can be localized, a small portion of tile and concrete could be removed to make needed repairs.
  • Again, the flexibility of this type of shower pan allows you to work with the position of the existing drain rather than having to work the design around it.

Cons:

  • A poured pan required a higher skill level to install, and knowledge of required slope-to-drain ratios. Both the plumber and the tile installer work to complete the project.
  • If your project is on a tight timeline, a poured pan may not work well into your schedule, as the process it more time-consuming than a traditional pre-fab pan.
  • Over time, grout joints in the tile installation–if not maintained properly–can weaken and crack, allowing water to leak into the subfloor.
  • A poured shower pan is much heavier than its pre-fabricated counterpart, and must be supported with proper framing. The tile and grout also hold in moisture from the shower.

Pre-Fabricated Shower Pans

Pros:

  • A pre-fabricated, fiberglass shower pan is lightweight and easy to install, and does not require specially-skilled craftsmen for the job.
  • The installation of a pre-fabricated shower pan is a much quicker process than a poured shower pan, with no waiting time between steps (such as pausing the project for concrete to cure prior to the installation of tile).
  • As pre-fab shower bases are made of fiberglass–in a solid piece (with no joints), they form a tight seal over the subfloor, and repel both water and vapor.
  • Pre-fabricated shower pans come in a variety of standard shower sizes.

Cons:

  • The look of a pre-fabricated shower pan does not say “custom,” as does its poured pan counterpart.
  • The installation of a pre-fab shower pan must align perfectly with the existing drain layout, as the hole in the pan is inflexible and cannot be changed.
  • Fiberglass can be difficult to keep clean, as soap scum can accumulate and attract dirt, leaving a dull grey film on the bottom of the shower.
  • Though not likely to leak, if repairs are needed at some point, the entire shower pan would have to be removed in order to access the subfloor.

Whichever type of shower base you end up selecting for your new basement bathroom, trust Sheffield Homes Finished Basements and More to install it correctly and give you a beautifully completed project! We’ve finished hundreds of basements in the Denver metro area and in northern Colorado. You can trust us to design a space that works for your family, your budget, and your timeline. Call us today for a no-obligation estimate: 303-420-0056

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