9 Dumb Mistakes You Can Avoid Choosing a Custom Shower Pan
Unless you’re a remodeling contractor, buying a custom shower pan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (or you might say, chore). However, here’s the problem. Making the wrong choice can not only be dangerous to your pocketbook but could cause you to ‘spring a leak’ into the floor below.
If this happens, you’ll be ‘re-remodeling’ (OK – it’s not a word, but plenty of people have lived through this nightmare) and redoing the whole doggone thing. Not a good day (or should I say weeks or months to get the shower back up and running).
So, whether you’re hiring a professional bathroom remodeling contractor or going to roll up your sleeves and DIY the job, you don’t want to be the victim of a shower base mistake which costs you an arm and a leg (and causes you to dip into your first-born-son-or-daughters college fund).
In this article I’ll layout out 9 dumb mistakes you need to know so this won’t happen to you.
Without further delay let’s check out the mistakes.
Dumb mistake #1 – You (and your contractor) assume you need a custom shower pan, but in actuality you don’t
When you have a weird shaped shower or have an off center drain which would be expensive to move, a custom base is likely in your future. However, there are cases where people think they need a custom shower pan, but they don’t. Here’s an example of this.
Let’s assume you have a ‘common’ sized shower (say 48” x 36”, 60” x 32” or 60” x 36”) and instead of the entry on the long side (i.e. the 48” or 60” sides) you want to ‘side load’ (as I call it) and enter on the 32” or 36” sides.
In these cases homeowners (and contractors) assume you’re S.O.L. and have to buy custom because the standard ‘alcove shower pans’ (these are bases which have flanges on the sides) only allow you to enter through the long side of a rectangular base.
However, there’s an option where you can use a standard pan – even if you’re side-loading. This option is called a ‘Flexpan.’ With the FlexPan the flanges are added at the job site so you can use a standard shower pan and enter in any direction. This ‘flex-ability’ (get it) allows you to use a standard pan (and save money) for what’s normally a custom sized shower.
Dumb mistake #2 – You install your custom shower base first, then you start looking for a glass or glass block enclosure to go with it
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten this call.
It starts out like, “Mike, I’d love to have a curved glass or glass block walk in shower. Can you help me with a base?”
So far so good. I reply, “Sure (after all I’ve still got to get my daughter through college so I can use ALL the money I can get).” I then ask, “Is your shower pan already installed?”
They say proudly (because they’ve finished the base), “Absolutely.”
I silently groan on my end of the phone line.
Here’s what I know they don’t know…yet. Curved glass enclosures and glass block curved walls are MUCH simpler (and more cost-effective) to do when you pull a ‘Stephen Covey.’ Not sure what ‘pulling a Stephen Covey means? Well – it means you ‘begin with the end in mind.’ To put this in shower pan lingo – you design the shower pan based on the curvature of the glass. When you try to do it the other way around, you’ll often find the standard curved glass systems won’t fit on your base. You’ll be S.O.L.’
Figure out the glass – then buy the custom pan.
Dumb mistake #3 – You assume you have to use the 3 ‘little t’s’ – teeny-tiny-tiles
There’s nothing more ‘fun’ (sarcasm intended) than cleaning grout joints between teeny-tiny-tiles in your shower base. As you know dirt falls to the bottom and somebody’s gotta’ clean it (and it sure isn’t your kids or spouse). They leave all the ‘glory’ of this tasty task to you!
Tile shower pans are a pain the butt to clean! Am I speaking the truth or not? And most people assume a custom shower pan has to have a tile floor.
Simply said, it doesn’t. Cultured stone bases or glass reinforced plastic wet room systems will give you a ‘shower floor’ which won’t (literally) bring you to your knees. Don’t get stuck with the maintenance pain of teeny-tiny-tiles.
Dumb mistake #4 – You assume the shower pan must have a glossy surface
While glossy surfaces can make a dark shower look brighter, they aren’t exactly high fashion.
A shower pan is the foundation of your shower. It (literally) does the dirty work. It moves water and dirt down the drain. It needs to be functional, but it’s perfectly OK for it to be understated. Let the ‘star of the show’ be your cool grout free wall panels or fancy-‘schmancy’ tile pattern (after all you’ll notice your walls more than you will your custom base).
So – if you want an understated (yet functional shower) don’t draw the attention to it with a high gloss shower pan. If you want low maintenance use a matte finish custom cultured stone pan. Or if you’re OK with the tile maintenance, go with a matte finished ceramic tile. Being understatedly elegant with a matte finish makes perfect sense, and it’s a fashion-forward approach.
Dumb mistake #5 – The drain is right underneath your feet! Yuck!
Effective design is smart design.
And as you know, shower drains get clogged (and don’t I know this with my teenage daughter’s suuuuuuper long hair!). Because drains get clogged, your drain location matters.
To me one of the stupidest things you’ll see (and you’ll see this often in 48” wide shower with center drains) is having to stand smack dab in the middle of the drain. This is not only uncomfortable, but when your daughter clogs the doggone thing up – now you’re standing in the middle of dirty pooling water. Can you say, yuck?
In a custom shower pan – this problem can be designed away. If possible (assuming there’s not an issue with a joist obstructing below), locate your drain a foot in front of where you’re showering. It’ll be a nicer shower experience for you – even WHEN (not if) your daughter gets things ‘gunked up’ with her hair (note – Jade, I still love you. And yes, ‘gunked up’ is a technical bathroom remodeling term!).
Dumb mistake #6 – Not thinking long term and your shower curb forces you to re-remodel your remodel
My co-worker Ryan was talking to a potential nationwide shower wall panel dealer. This customer told him a story about a friend who contracted cancer and required a double knee amputation. How unbelievably sad is that?
This challenging health problem (to say the least) is requiring a complete redo of this man’s bathroom. The curbed shower pan no longer works.
One of the big benefits of building (or buying) your own custom shower pan is you can ‘think ahead.’ You can design for the ‘possibly expected’ (you’re thinking your aging Mom or Dad may live with you) or the ‘tragically unexpected’ future needs of your family (an accident or health issue throws you a terrible curve ball).
When designing a custom shower pan make sure you think through the curb height options. Would it make most sense to build a bathroom with a one level shower? Would a low-profile shower curb work OK?
Think twice about your curb design so you’re only remodeling once!
Dumb mistake #7 – Not blowing up the ugly round bright chrome shower drain cover
I’m going to apologize (as Larry the Cable Guy might say) to the shower drain manufacturers out there. However, shower drains are usually the ugliest element of a shower base. IMHO – round drains are the ugliest and most ‘old-schooley-ish’ drain option out there. They scream out behind-the-times. In addition, if you’re tiling the base (maybe you’ve got a fetish and just LOVE to clean grout joints…but you’re in therapy to get over this problem) it’s hard to cut around round drains.
There are better choices to ‘partially’ turn your ‘ugly-duckling’ shower drain into a swan. Here’s 2 ideas:
- Idea 1 – Use a square brushed chrome drain. It’ll give you an updated look, and it’s simpler (if you’re tiling) to cut around a square drain than a round one.
- Idea 2 – Get a ‘hidden drain.’ To me – the best shower drain is an invisible one. Hidden drain plates are (as they used to say on the Count Chocula commercial for those of you who remember that) ‘magically delicious’ – or as ‘delicious’ as a shower drain can be.
Dumb mistake #8– Trying (and that is the operative word) to DIY the slope of your shower pan
Standing water in concrete-based shower pans are accidents waiting to happen. Pooling water causes leaks. Nobody wants that. The biggest reason for pooling water is ‘custom-on-the-job-made,’ slopped shower pans. This ‘old school’ method – while ‘cheap’ to do – causes ‘big-mitakes’ (as my Mother-in-law liked to say).
When it comes to showers lasting, a ‘cheap’ method equals a bad method.
Insist on buying (or your contractor using) a waterproof pre-sloped shower pan. You can find pre-sloped waterproof ready for tile shower pans, custom cultured stone pans or acrylic pans which will do the trick.
Don’t be ‘penny-wise and pound-foolish’ as my Dad used to preach to me.
Dumb mistake #9– Assuming white is the only color possible in a grout free shower pan
In the old, old days of the Model T, Henry Ford was known to say, “You can have any color car as long as it was black.” For many ‘crank- ‘em-out’ shower pan manufacturers you can substitute ‘white pans’ (or choose biscuit or bone colors if want to live on the wild side) for ‘black cars.’ Your shower base is as boring as that old black Model T. This may not ‘float your boat.’
If style (and grout free) are your thing –check out fun patterns of custom cultured stone shower pans. There are colors like ‘gray and white lightening’ and even shabby chic offerings like country gray marble which can turn a ‘boring pan’ into fun fashion.
Unfortunately, there can be a heavy price to pay (or re-pay) when you make a bad custom shower pan choice. There are lot of options out there (and manufacturers who tell you, theirs is the ‘one and only good one for you’). However, the most important thing for you to know is……
It’s all about you (and your family).
The design, the look, the cost of a custom shower pan needs to put you (and your family) front and center. If you’re confused about custom shower pan options –call us at the numbers below.
We not only offer a bunch of options (from several manufacturers), but install these ‘bad-boys’ in our local markets (or can refer you to one of our authorized shower wall dealers across the country)
The bottom line is we’ve dealt with the good, bad and the ugly of shower pans in our history (OK – some people just have all the glorious jobs – ha! ha!). Let our experience help you.
Can I (or my team) help you with technical questions or pricing a custom shower pan or wall surround kit?
For nationwide supply of custom shower pans and innovative shower surrounds call Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888.
For a Cleveland bathroom remodeling job call The Bath Doctor in Cleveland at 216-531-6085 or in Columbus call 614-252-7294 for shower pan and wall supply.
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If you’re in the building business, click here if you’d like to learn how to become a shower wall panel dealer or call and ask for Mike at 888-467-7488.
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Mary – with a custom shaped pan like this it will obviously be best to get an actual drawing – however with I do know of one or two manufacturers who could make a custom pan like that. For the glass you’ll need a company who makes ‘curved and bent glass.’ We don’t sell curved and bent glass – but it can be quite expensive (and very stylish). Since the biggest cost of this project will be the shower glass – I would start with a specialty company which makes curved and bent glass (which is unlikely to be your local glass shop). Send them a rough drawing and see what the glass will cost. Then if that works for you, I’d look at a custom shower pan.
Hope this helps – Mike (877-668-5888)
OK I stumbled on your website and although we are about to embark on our 7th DIY bathroom remodel…(complexity from new floor and one piece shower stall to the last being moving ALL the plumbing and installing jacuzzi tub, walkin shower with custom cement shower pan and penny tile and stone floor.) Anyway we are looking at a custom pan because we think we would like one curved tile wall in our small guest bath.
Not sure I can describe but 35″ left wall, 42″ back wall, 45″ right wall and front wall curving out to about 50″ and making a “J” shape that has about 20″ opening to the left wall with low or no threshold.
Finally my question . Do you make custom pans with curved walls? What would be the cost?
Matt – you are absolutely correct – but back in the day I used to enjoy eating both those cereals – but now I have to watch my sugar – yes getting old is a drag……thanks for reading – Mike
These are awesome tips. I’m getting ready to DIY our bathroom, and I learned a lot. One thing I’ll take issue with – it was the Lucky Charms that were magically delicious, not the Count Chocula. :-)!
Jesse – our company can sell these products directly to you. Call 877-668-5888. Mention that you live in the Columbus area. Thanks – Mike
Where are some good “affordable” places to order custom shower pans and solid surface walls in the columbus area?
Kitt – you may be able to find pipes which can help you use your existing shower pan. Although you should first make sure the base is the right size and layout for your bathroom. If not – I’d look at returning the base and get one which better suites your needs – Mike
Hi Mr Mike. My name is Kitt and my husband’s name is Drake. We have been living with his uncle for the last 10 years now in the house his grandparents built. Our bedroom has a small bathroom and after years of leaking the floor is rotten and rhe shower pan is cracked. Lots of problems. Anyway we bought an acrylic pan and the lady at lowes said it had to be a center drain bec of the size of 4he pan. We got home today and it’s a corner pan with a corner drain. Is there anything we can do pipe wise to fix it? Can we buy a pipe that turns or curves so that it connects from the drain to the pipe so we can keep the pan? Help please
Ernie – we have a product which can do this for you – feel free to call us at 877-668-5888. It’s a contemporary reinforced acrylic pan – here’s a link to our web page on this product – Mike https://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/contemporary-acrylic-shower-pans-bases
Hey Mike – I’m in Cleveland and in a pickle! I have an old shower pan that is 48 (depth) by 32 (wide). I’m trying to find a pan with the threshold (entry) on the 32 inch side. Any suggestions?
Ernie -Cleveland, Ohio
Bobby Ray – thanks for your question. Yes – you’ll want to put the shower pan in first before you put in your walls (and it doesn’t matter what type of walls you use whether they’re marble, stone, laminate or tile.). Let me know if I can help further – Mike
Bobby Ray SHAFER
I have marble got for free. Would like to do walls with not sure about the pan yet. Probably need to size shower first. Trying not to cut sides marble. Should pan go in first. And forget about saveing. Size of sides one wall is up second wall can up were needed new contractions. Wanting bigest size without looseing bedroom space.
Brock – thanks for the nice comments. I’m glad you found the post of value – and enjoyed the humor along the way. It’s hard to learn much of anything when we’re bored! I try to have some fun as I’m giving a few points about bathroom remodeling along the way.
Dude, effing great post. Love the humor, too!