9 Frequently Asked Questions about Solid Surface Shower Pans
Updated June 14, 2020
“I just hate the tile floor in my shower!” Jenny said to me. “You don’t see anyone else in my family on their hands and knees cleaning this nasty grout. I’m thinking about a stone solid surface shower pan, but I’ve got to warn you Mike I’ve got a lot of unanswered questions.”
Jenny’s comments to me are not uncommon. Most homeowners are sick of grout or tired of dealing with the inability to eliminate the discoloration and dirt off their builders-grade fiberglass base. Who has time (let alone the desire) to mix up vinegar and warm water, spray grout joints, then take a stiff brush and scrub the doggone floor? Who wants the frustration of not being able to get a fiberglass shower base clean? Is this really where you want to spend your time? Can you say, “NO WAY!”
These maintenance frustrations have many owners in search of a better solution. One growing option is the use of stone solid surface shower pans – but somehow they seem a bit shrouded in mystery. In this article we’ll unmask the mystique behind this product and look at 9 questions Jenny asked me (OK – she asked even more but in the interest of time I hope you don’t mind I left a few out!) which I bet a bunch of you have as well. In this updated version I’ve added bonus question #10 which I’ll bet any amount of money you’ll want to stick around for.
FAQ #1 – What exactly is solid surface? Is it Corian?
When you say the brand name Corian most people “get” what solid surface is. Corian is one trade name of a solid surface product. Basically it is a man-made stone and epoxy aggregate. The product is consistent throughout (meaning the colors goes through the entire shower base). Cultured marble shower pans are very similar to solid surface, except they have a protective gelcoat surface on the top of the shower floor. They are both durable and dense. In general you’ll find cultured marble or cultured granite shower pans are far more cost-effective than solid surface pans (note – there’s more about this in FAQ #10).
FAQ #2 – How difficult is it to clean this type of base?
The top layer of a solid surface (or cultured granite) pan is made of a tough, clear stain resistant resin which is polished with high speed buffers in the manufacturing process.
This top surface allows cleaning to be simple. Just take a cloth or sponge and wipe off with your favorite non-abrasive cleaner.
FAQ #3 – Is the base slippery? Can it withstand a lot of weight?
Solid surface or cultured granite shower pans – whether they are made in standard sizes of custom shapes have a non-slip pebbled texture at the bottom. This texture makes it safe. The fact that it is solid throughout makes it so it won’t bend and deflect like a fiberglass or acrylic shower pan (note – unless the acrylic pan has a supportive MDF surface underneath it). It is a superior product when you need a solution which can support a good amount of weight.
FAQ #4 – Can I get a ramp?
Yes – not only can you get a single ramp you can even get a double ramp for entry on 2 sides.
Since the material is solid throughout you will feel more secure rolling into the shower with a wheelchair and/or transferring into a solid surface shower bench seat when inside.
FAQ #5 – What’s the guarantee with solid surface shower pans?
It depends on the manufacturer. Some have a lifetime guarantee, others you’ll find with a 15 year guarantee. In either case, these bases are built like a tank and won’t last (unless you have an earthquake – or a crazy natural disaster).
FAQ #6 – Can a solid surface shower pan be made with a custom size, a custom drain location or does it only come in standard sizes?
In bathroom remodeling projects the needs to customize is often paramount – and as you know if you own an old home it seems that nothing was made “standard” – and you’re paying for it now.
With that being said you can get virtually any custom shape. How about a curved curb for a glass block wall? A curved front base? A base with an odd drain location so you don’t have to sweat the effort (and cost) to move the plumbing. If you need a custom shower pan, you’re in the majority of the people I talk to.
While customization is possible, it’s best to see if there is a standard size first that would work. Custom bases tend to cost 30-40% more than the standard pans.
FAQ #7 – What type of glass enclosure can I use with a solid surface or cultured granite pan?
Basically any type of enclosure you want. If you want a NEO angle corner shower you can get a base and the glass to match in several standard sizes. You can select a frameless, semi-frameless or framed glass system to pair up with your base (note in many cases there are pre-packaged glass, wall and base shower kits available so you’ll know everything works together). Generally the standard sized rectangular pans will be more cost-effective than pans which need to be designed for curved walls.
Even if you want a curved walk in glass block shower the pan can be shaped to “get ‘er done” as Larry the Cable Guy might say!
FAQ #8 – Can a solid surface pan be altered if someone in my family needs the assistance of a walker or wheelchair?
Modern medicine has helped us live longer but unfortunately our bodies don’t have the same mobility as in our younger days (ask any wife whose 45 year old husband is still playing softball). The need for a shower pan which can be changed down the road for a family member with less mobility can be a HUGE benefit. Most standard pans have a 4-5” curb to step over. When we’re younger this curb is no big deal, but as we get older this could become an insurmountable mountain.
What is important to know about solid surface pans is if you select a low threshold (which has a 1 ½” high curb) and then you need a fully ramped solution (maybe Mom or Dad are going to come live with you and they need this functionality) then a ramp extension kit can be added to the pan. This feature makes “aging in place” (a term I personally hate) possible, helping to save families substantial costs associated with nursing or assisted living facilities.
FAQ #9 – What color are available in these pans?
In one line we carry there are 56 standard colors of solid surface shower pans. In another line there are 24 colors of cultured granite shower bases. You won’t find it challenging to match your bathroom décor. Solid surface shower bases are available in gloss granite and matte finishes.
FAQ #10 – How much do solid surface or cultured marble or granite pans cost?
Now this question is the ‘biggie’ – unless you’re ‘made of money’ (like Dad used to tell you he was …NOT!). And like most conversations about any products the final cost depends on a number of factors. In the case of cultured stone panels it will depend if it’s a standard or custom sized pan. What type of drain you’d like to get (a standard round drain will be cheaper than a linear drain – for example). It will also depend on the shape of the glass enclosure (curved glass enclosures will cost more than a pan with a straight glass wall. To really get specifics on the cost of solid surface shower bases or cultured granite shower pans read How much do standard and custom sized cultured marble and granite pans cost or click on the picture below.
OK – how did I do? Did this article answer your burning questions about solid surface shower pans? Is this product a good choice for your home? Please comment or call the numbers below to get more information about solid surface bases, wall panels or complete shower kits with glass enclosures.
For more information or an estimate on remodeling a shower or nationwide material supply for the various wall panels and solid surface pans call The Bath Doctor in Cleveland (216-531-6085), Columbus (614-252-7294) or for nationwide supply Innovate Building Solutions (877-668-5888).
If you’re a remodeler or builder and want practical advice on remodeling products, industry trends, marketing and sales tips to grow your business (and cut day to day hassles), start reading my newest blog – Innovate Builders Blog. It’s packed with ideas you can use now. Click here to Sign Up for the Innovate Builders Blog.
Julia – one company we work with – Onyx offers a simple guarantee on their cultured granite vanity tops and bases and that guarantee is ‘forever!’ I will tell you the quality between cultured marble, cultured granite and solid surface manufacturers varies greatly – and the specific materials used in these bases is not the same. I would look at the warranty provided by the manufacturer you are considering before proceeding. Are they a ‘strong player’ in the market? This is one industry where ‘one product, certainly doesn’t fit all.’ Research, find out the warranties and look at the reviews from the manufacturer(s) you’re considering – Mike
In my current and last house the bath sinks were of cultured marble, made in the 1970’s. All had cracks and stains around the drain, and in a couple that got used heavily, the gloss coat had spalled off. I was told this was because of the expansion and contraction difference between the metal drain fitting and the culture marble, and that years of hot water running on the metal drain caused the cracks and staining. Has this problem been solved with newer materials? As an architect with 44 years of experience, I have seen this dozens of times in homes I have been employed to remodel. Now that I am remodeling my own home, I like the advantages of the solid surface shower base, but will steer clear of them if this is still a problem.
Peter – I did check in with 2 solid surface shower pan manufacturers and neither of them make a ‘tub depth’ type unit you’re thinking about. Basically There isn’t enough demand for them and they would also be quite heavy and expensive. There are acrylic (deeper depth) units which are nicer than fiberglass you may want to look into – Mike
Peter – I’m going to check with a solid surface shower pan manufacturer to see if they can help. I have never ordered a pan where the side walls where 20″ high (the length and the width you give here are obviously no problem at all. Let me see what I can learn and report back to you. Mike
I want to replace a jetted fiberglass garden tub (68Lx42Wx20H) with a custom made right hand drain shower pan with the same dimensions. The dimensions will fit into pre-existing tiled enclosure.
I scanned several sites and only found one that will custom make to those dimensions.
Where do I turn?
I’m glad you found the article was of value. Two bases which are durable and simple to clean are both the solid surface shower pans and also the contemporary reinforced acrylic pans. If you consider using either of those feel free to call us (or have your contractor if you’re using one call) and we’d be glad to help you with wholesale pricing. Mike – 877-668-5888.
Thank you so much for the information. We’re remodeling our basement bathroom and replacing a fiberglass neo-angle shower. I hated the acrylic base and walls almost from the beginning, because they felt flismsy and cheap.
Then later on, I hated it even more when I couldn’t get anything to look clean no matter how hard I tried. I’ve been thinking about going with a solid surface base, but nobody could tell me much about them. Thanks!!
Bebe – I’m glad you’re finding the solid surface shower pan is working out well for you. Most people think they will be slippery – but with the non-skid bottom surface they are not. The cleaning is also a big bonus for this type of base. Thanks for sharing your experience! Mike
I just finished a beautiful new tile shower with a Corian pan base & bench. Absolutely love it! The Corian is wonderfully smooth on my feet & backside when sitting but not slippery at all. Super easy to keep clean! Very very happy with it!
Jana – I’m glad you found the article of value to you. Let us know if we can help you further. Mike
Hello Mike Foti,
After any years of listening to contractors,
I now find myself researching for what’s on
The market.. your article was informative.