How to Compare an Acrylic Shower Pan to a Cultured Marble or Granite Base
Shopping for shower pans can be a pain in the rear. There I said what most of you were thinking. There’s a ton of options and this part of your bathroom remodeling project isn’t exactly the most exciting item you need to complete the job.
However, as anyone who has had a shower pan fail in the past knows, not getting this decision right can have expensive consequences (like having to replace everything above it if the base fails).
While there are many types of shower pans (including fiberglass and tile which I won’t cover in this article), I personally spend A LOT of time talking about acrylic and cultured marble bases. And that’s NOT because of my ‘wild, jet-setting’ lifestyle, it’s because my business wholesales and installs thousands of shower pans in a year.
And with this experience here’s one thing I can tell you with 100% certainty….
Both acrylic and cultured marble or granite have their place.
But I know there’s only ONE THING which matters to you, and that’s what’s best for your project. So, to guide you through this decision I’m going to present 9 critical factors to help you make the right shower pan choice for your remodel.
- Critical factor #1 – You need a shower pan which is sturdy.
- Critical factor #2 – You need a shower pan which works for your budget (a budget which isn’t as big as you’d like).
- Critical factor #3 – You need a shower pan which is simple to clean.
- Critical factor #4 – You need a pan where you can keep the drain where it is.
- Critical factor #5 – You need a pan which is not back-breaking to install.
- Critical factor #6 – You need a pan with color and pattern options.
- Critical factor #7 – You need a pan which is safe.
- Critical factor #8 – You need a pan you can get quickly and won’t be damaged in shipment.
- Critical factor #9 – You need a pan with a long guarantee.
In this article I’m going to ‘get you to the bottom’ (OK – that was a bad shower pan pun, but I resemble that remark) of this difficult – but I’d contend very important decision. And I promise to ‘give it to you straight.’ Neither of these types of bases is the right choice in all situations. You need to understand which of the 9 factors above are most important for you, and then make your decision accordingly.
So, without further delay let’s dig into the 9 factors.
Critical factor #1 – You need a shower pan which is sturdy …and the winner is…CULTURED MARBLE OR GRANITE
If you’ve experienced a cheap fiberglass pan which cracked, or an expensive tile pan where the tiles are barely hanging on, you know having a pan you don’t have to worry about cracking or chipping is a good thing.
And if you’re looking for the ultimate in durability a cultured granite pan is at the top of the list. After all it’s an engineered stone with a thick (and heavy) bottom layer.
Factor #2 – You want a shower pan which works in your budget (which isn’t as big as you’d like) …and the winner is…ACRYLIC.
Just like your Dad used to say, you’re not made of money. And the costs of this bathroom remodel are skyrocketing at every turn. You want (OK, you NEED) to save money somewhere – and you’d like to do it in less noticed areas of the bath remodeling. However, you don’t want to compromise quality.
And if your goal is to keep costs down, you’ll hands-down want to choose acrylic shower pans. Acrylic pans cost 30% to 70% less than cultured marble or granite (and note – cultured marble and cultured granite are comparably priced to one another).
However, I WOULD NOT recommend getting the cheapest acrylic pan you can find (some are simply not built well). And if you want more input on the best acrylic pan for your money read How much do acrylic and fiberglass shower pans cost (with 5 buying tips you need to stop making dumb mistakes).
Factor #3 – You DESPERATELY want a shower pan which is simple to clean…and the winner is…. IT’S a TIE
If you’re living with nasty tile grout joints and scrubbing the shower down until your arms want to fall off, or you’ve finally ‘thrown in the (bath) towel ‘attempting’ to clean the bottom of your scummy and yellowed fiberglass shower pan you know somethings got to give.
You’ve vowed to get an easy to clean shower pan in this remodel…. even if it’s the last thing you’ll do.
And here’s the good news for you. Both acrylic and cultured marble shower pans are simple to clean. You can wipe them with mild cleaners or soap and water. There’s no need for scrub brushes or crazy chemicals ANYMORE.
Critical factor #4 – You need to keep the drain where it is…the winner is…CULTURED GRANITE OR MARBLE
Moving the drain in your floor can be a costly (and difficult) process. Maybe your joists are in the wrong spot for a preformed pan. Or maybe you’ve got poured concrete under your shower and your spouse WILL NOT let you cut the floor to move the drain and ‘kick up all that dust.’
In these cases, an ‘out-of-the-box’ premade acrylic pan (with a standard drain location) WILL NOT be the answer. Consider a custom cultured marble pan instead. With this base you’ll have the options of not only choosing your drain location, but also saving the exorbitant costs being charged by your hard-to-find local plumbing contractor.
Critical factor #5 – You need a pan which IS NOT (literally) back-breaking to install… the winner is…ACRYLIC
Back in high school you loved to rip off your shirt playing sports and show off your 6-pack abs. But that was years ago. That was before the back problems which are your (constant) unwanted companion today. Now, your overly protective and carb-cutting spouse is watching every move you make (and the only six-pack you ‘sport’ now is the one you pick up at your local grocery store!).
And as your spouse and Doctor ‘remind you’ (and yes, remind is another word for nag), you need to be thoughtful about what you physically do and how you do it. And if you can lower the chance of reinjuring your back, you know (even if you don’t admit it out loud) it’s the right thing to do.
So, if you want a safer installation the hands-down choice will be to choose the (far) lighter acrylic shower pan. These units weigh about 1/3 of the cultured stone pan. It’s also nice to know you can get them with cool curved sliding glass shower doors like you’ll see below.
Critical factor #6 – You need color and pattern options… the winner is…CULTURED GRANITE OR MARBLE
If you’re someone who loves vibrant colors and patterns, I’m here to tell you that no matter how stylishly shaped an acrylic pan you’ll find, it’ll still look boring to you. Let’s face facts, white (the big selling ‘colored’ acrylic pan) IS NOT the new multi-colored option.
And if design, color and pattern are your thing, cultured stone pans have it all over acrylic. One manufacturer has 51 patterns of cultured granite to choose from – in standard and custom sized pans. So, if you want a unique colored or patterned shower pan (like you’ll see below), the clear (or colored) choice will be cultured marble or granite.
Critical factor #7 – You need a pan which is safe… the winner is…IT’S A TIE
It doesn’t take a physical therapist to realize bathrooms (and the showers contained within them) are dangerous. And for anyone who’s tripped over a shower curb, slipped inside a tub or dealt with a loved one hospitalized because a bathroom fall, you know safety is a H-U-G-E factor when buying shower products.
And while all shower pans are safer than making the steep climb into a tub/shower unit, there’s (unfortunately) no clear ‘safety winner’ between acrylic and cultured stone showers. However, with this being said, there are 3 keys you do need to know to make any pan you choose safer. Those keys are:
- Key #1 – Use a low-profile shower threshold design – 1 ½” to 3” curbs are far better than clunky 5” high shower thresholds. Choose low profile.
- Key #2 – Make sure the pan has a textured bottom or a matte finish – There’s no sense risking a fall with a smooth glossy bottom surface when you can get textured or matte finish shower floor which grips your feet better.
- Key #3 – Make sure to add decorative grab rails – Although I know this has nothing to do with the base itself, however stylish grab bars are a small idea to a safer shower.
Critical factor #8 – You need a pan you can get quickly and won’t be damaged in shipment… the winner is…ACRYLIC
Your old fiberglass shower pan cracked leaving you (and your family of 5 – including two teenage daughters who practically LIVE in the bathroom) with one ‘working’ and overcrowded shower to use.
You need to get your other shower back up and running – ASAP!
In this situation the last thing you’ll want to deal with is long lead times or a base which arrives broken after you’ve waited for months to get it. And this is a time you’ll want to steer clear of cultured granite shower pans. You see lead times on cultured marble or granite pans range from 5-to-9-weeks. And if your supplier ships with a common carrier (even if they label their bases with that famous Italian word from A Christmas Story……’Fragile’) the risk of broken shipments is higher than with acrylic pans.
It’s for this reason stock-sized acrylic shower pans (assuming a stock size will work) are the way to go if you need your job done YESTERDAY.
Critical factor #9 – You need a pan with a long guarantee… the winner is…CULTURED MARBLE OR GRANITE
If you’re like me you can still hear Dad whispering in your ear, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” Whether it was Dad checking over my chores or buying something – he wanted things done right. He wouldn’t buy a ‘crappy product’ or accept a ‘crappy job.’
And this is the reason Dad would always pay attention to guarantees when making important purchases.
And since the shower base is the foundation of your shower, skimping on lower quality products with short guarantees can be ‘penny-wise and pound-foolish’ decision (and yes, this is another ‘Dad-ism’ burned into my brain!).
You want to know (and you need to know) your base is ‘good to go’ for as long as you’re staying in the home. And this is why long shower pan warranties are important.
And while warranties between manufacturers can (and do) vary, you’ll generally find cultured marble shower pans have longer warranties than their acrylic ‘brothers.’
So, is your choice of pans clear, or do you still need help?
I know there’s a lot to consider in choosing the best shower pan for your bathroom remodeling project (and I know this is hardly the only decision you need to make). And it’s tough getting your arms around all the factors which could (or should) drive your choice.
If you’re struggling choosing the right pan, there’s no need to go it alone. Our company (OK – here’s where the shameless plug comes in) wholesales and installs acrylic bases and cultured stone shower pans. We know neither is perfect for everyone – but we can help you figure out which is right for you.
Call 877-668-5888 or fill out a Free Design Consultation to get the answers you need without making your eyeballs pop out and fingers burn up searching site after site on the Internet for your ‘right answer.’
Thanks for reading (and putting up with my humor),