Finding a grout free shower pan which won’t fade, crack or can work in an odd shaped space isn’t easy.
I can tell you this. Homeowners HATE, HATE, HATE grout, yet still feel like they get ‘stuck’ with a shower pan with teeny-tiny grout joints they must maintain day after day after day because they can’t find a better alternative.
This dislike of grout – combined with faded (or worse yet- cracked) shower pans is what makes homeowners, builders and remodelers alike start digging into cultured stone or solid surface shower pans. When they start this research, the questions come fast and furious. However, the ‘answers’ are buried in self-serving web sites from manufacturers who are only ‘hawking’ their products as the greatest things since slide bread or tofu ribs (OK – I was just checking if you’re still reading with the tofu ribs reference).
As Colonel Nathan Jessup (from my favorite movie A Few Good Men) would say, I know you want the truth about cultured stone shower pans, and quite frankly I think you CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH.
The goal with this article is simple. I want to give you the truth about solid surface and cultured stone shower pans. Sure – our company does sell two lines of this product. However, we also sell acrylic, and ready for tile pans. So, all of our shower base ‘eggs’ (so to speak) aren’t in the same basket. We aren’t motivated to ‘push’ any one product. Our goal is to educate and guide you to your best choice.
Here’s the answers to 9 frequently asked questions about solid surface pans you need to know.
FAQ #1 – What are cultured marble or solid surface shower pans?
Solid surface shower pans are a cast polymer product. It’s a mixture of acrylic modified polystyrene which is made in a mold to create a finished shower pan. You’ll see them called by different names including cultured marble, cultured granite, cast polymer, polymarble and solid surface.
What it all boils down to is it’s a waterproof engineered stone base. These bases are thick, durable and built like a tank.
FAQ #2 – Are these shower pans slippery
I remember as a kid (back in the old days, yes I know I’m sounding like an old guy now) in Warrensville Heights growing up in our modest ranch home and sharing a bathroom with my big, ugly older brother Frank (sorry Frank, but the truth hurts). We showered (although not often enough to suit Mom) in a tub/shower with a bathmat to prevent slipping. Back in those days the tub manufacturers didn’t have the anti-slip requirements we (fortunately) have today.
While you may be concerned about a ‘stone’ base being slippery – you don’t need to worry today. On the bottom of cultured marble shower pans you’ll find a textured surface to make it safe. The shower pan won’t be slippery.
FAQ #3 – What colors of cultured marble, cultured granite or solid surface pans can I get?
This is an area where cultured marble and cultured granite pans blow away fiberglass and acrylic (which generally only come in white and biscuit colors). One manufacturer has a color range of 51 options. That’s almost too many if your spouse can’t make up their mind if their life depended on it. I know some of you are nodding your heads right now.
Another cultured marble company we work with has 18 cultured granite, 13 marbleized and 2 quartz patterns.
Today, the following equation doesn’t need to apply to your shower pan:
SHOWER PAN DESIGNS = BORING COLORS
FAQ #4 – Can these shower pans be designed with barrier free (or no threshold) entries for those with a mobility challenge?
Here’s the good news. We’re living longer.
Here’s the bad news. Our homes aren’t well designed for us to live longer.
You know this reality if you worry every day about your Mom climbing over the tub rail to take a shower – and you know Dad isn’t alive to help her anymore if she falls.
Bathrooms (and bathtubs especially) are dangerous. This is why sons and daughters push (ever so gently – or not) their Mom or Dad to convert tubs into walk in showers (and preferably a barrier free walk in shower).
The safety of your shower can save huge hospital bills and tough times in rehab. Cultured marble shower pans can be designed with either low profile or ramped barrier free entries. There are even options to create a zero-threshold entry which is at the same level as the bathroom floor (a sleek, contemporary and safe design).
FAQ #5 – Are solid surface or cultured granite shower pans heavy?
I can answer this question in one word….
If you’re looking for an easy to maneuver shower pan, cultured stone isn’t the way to go. On the other hand, if you want one which will last and is built like a tank you’ll be saying ‘sign me up.’
To give you a general feeling of weight if you’re replacing a 60” x 30” tub with a cultured stone shower pan it will weigh between 100 and 120 lbs. Get help from a buddy to install it. It’s not a one-person job!
FAQ #6 – I’ve heard cultured stone shower pans are outdated. Is this true?
I’ll answer this question with the ever-so-vague politician-inspired answer of yes and no. OK – here’s what I mean.
Some cultured marble patterns are a blast from the past. They look like they belong in a rerun of The Brady Bunch or back in the days when you were actually proud to sport your mullet (check out my college picture below so you can have a laugh at my expense. I’m on the left).
Some of the cultured stone companies use ‘rounded’ molds which don’t inspire an Interior Design-Magazine-esque sense of fashion. They look old and tired.
On the other hand, some manufacturers are getting ‘the memo’ they need to infuse contemporary style into their offerings. Check out this fashion-forward textured stone shower pan. They come in matte white and matte black with stone, slate and even a wood finish. They’re sleek. They’re contemporary. They’ve even minimalist in design.
Cultured stone and solid surface pans don’t have to look ‘old school’ – IF you find products which have been designed with today’s styles in mind (which are often matte finishes or solid colors).
FAQ #7 – Are solid surface or cultured stone shower pans expensive?
While expensive is a relative term (I don’t think Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos (even after his divorce) would be worried about the cost), cultured stone shower pans aren’t the cheapest ones you can buy. However, IMHO they’re an excellent value.
For example, if you’re looking for a ‘standard sized’ pan (let’s say 36 x 36, 48 x 36 or 60 x 32) you’ll find they’re in the $500 to $950 range. On the other hand, if you want a custom pan, most will be in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.
While you’ll pay more for a stone base than a fiberglass or acrylic one – you won’t have to worry about a cracked pan. And if you’ve ever dealt with a cracked pan you know it can destroy your remodel and damage the floor below.
As the Fram Oil Filter commercial used to say, “Pay me now, or pay me (it should have said more) later.”
FAQ #8 – Can I get custom sizes and different types of drains with cultured granite and solid surface pans?
This could arguably be the #1 reason to use a cultured stone shower pan. If you have a custom sized shower and you HATE, HATE, HATE grout this pan is the answer.
With a cultured marble pan you can specify your drain location. You can use designs with an offset walk in design, a NEO angle for your corner shower or even a curved pan. You can ever specify (when you choose the right manufacturer) the style of drain you want (square, rounded or a stylish linear drain).
And sometimes choosing a custom shower pan can save you big money because you can specify a custom drain location, so you don’t have to move plumbing.
FAQ #9 – Can cultured stone shower pans work with different types of glass enclosures and wall panels?
The reason my company got into using cultured stone pans was because the prefabricated glass block walls we build cannot be cut. This means the shower pan must be designed around our wall. And this is a powerful reason to consider a cultured stone pan. Simply….
The pan can be designed around the shape of your glass wall.
The ability to get a complete system where the base fits the wall ensures your general contractor doesn’t waste time (and your money) attempting to install a finished base which doesn’t fit to the glass wall enclosure you’d like.
In addition, cultured stone shower pans are ‘wall surround agnostic.’ By this I mean you can use any type of shower surround wall panel system with them. Since I’m a bit on the lazy side when it comes to home maintenance (OK – if you ask my wife – I’d prefer to blog about 100X more than do home improvement projects) I prefer grout free shower wall panels. While you can use any type of wall system with these bases (from ceramic tile to cultured marble to acrylic to PVC composites), I prefer laminate shower wall panels because they’re stylish and eliminate maintenance.
So, you may be asking are cultured granite shower pans the end-all, be-all of shower bases? I’d have to say no. Are they a strong (literally) alternative you can count on to not crack and break or cause a big repair? I’d answer 110% yes.
If you’re looking into the best shower pan for your next project and are confused by the choices – I get it. Feel free to call me (or one of our team – note – the rest of our team (fortunately for you) is better looking and smarter than me) please click on the link or call the number below. We’d be honored to help you not only sift through the choices of shower pans, but also wall panels and glass enclosures.
If you need help designing a shower, getting pricing on shower wall panels, glass enclosures, contemporary shower accessories or sturdy shower pans, or finding an installing shower dealer we’d love to help. Call Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888 or The Bath Doctor at 614-252-7294 in Columbus. For a remodeling project contact Cleveland Design and Remodeling at 216-658-1270.
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), read 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.
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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