7 Tips You Need to NOT Make a Mistake Buying the WRONG Custom Shower Pan
As if making selections for your bathroom remodel wasn’t tough enough, you have the misfortune of also needing a custom shower pan. And talk about confusing. Here’s a few things which have you flummoxed (and is that not the weirdest word in the world or what?).
- Should I choose a tile – or grout free – shower pan?
- How can I make sure the shower pan and the glass (or glass block) enclosure will ‘play well together?’
- Should I buy a ‘component’ shower base system or one which is ‘ready to install’ out of the crate or box?
- How tall should the shower curb be when you step in?
- What pan is simplest to clean?
Your questions could go on and on. You need the straight scoop on how to buy a custom shower pan BEFORE your eyes go buggy plowing over confusing articles and web sites on the Internet.
And if this custom shower pan research thing is blowing your mind, my goal is simple…it’s to make this decision easier for you.
You may be wondering how am I going to do this?
We’ll I’ll give you 7 common-sense tips to guide you to the best shower pan from the plethora (OK – that’s another fancy word I threw in there to make you think I’m smart – is it working?) of options.
Let’s check out these tips.
Tip #1 – If you HATE, HATE, HATE maintenance DO NOT settle for a tile shower pan
No matter how beautiful a tile shower pan looks when it’s done (and if it’s done right, it’s amazing when the contractor walks out the door), you must remember your remodeler or builder IS NOT also signed up to clean the nasty grout joints – year after year after year.
And if you’re the one who gets ‘stuck’ with the unpleasant of task of cleaning your mosaic tile shower pan grout joints, you know there’s a lot of work cleaning a custom tile shower. And while you can lessen this evil using larger tiles with smaller grout joints – you’ll still be stuck with a task you’d love to ‘offload’ on your spouse or partner.
So, if maintenance ‘ain’t your thang’ – ditch the tile and go for a grout free shower pan. Two of my favorites are custom cultured granite pans and the solid PVC custom shower bases. They’re stylish and have Z-E-R-O grout joints.
Tip #2 – Choose your glass (or glass block) system BEFORE you buy your base
Let’s say your existing rough opening for your alcove shower pan is 63” wide x 40” deep. Since these sizes aren’t standard, you’ll need a custom base. You’ve been dreaming of a custom tile shower with a ‘barn door style sliding glass door system. And boy are you excited to get to the finish line with this project.
You get the tile base built.
So far, so good.
Then you start shopping for sliding glass barn doors. You’re getting blown away (and not in a good way) by prices of custom glass enclosures. You start asking why they’re so much more expensive than the standard 60” sliding glass shower doors you see all over the Internet.
You learn a logical fact. The 60” systems are mass produced. This makes them dramatically less expensive than the 63” wide system you need.
Well – the good news for you IF you haven’t ordered or built your custom base yet is you can cut your glass costs dramatically if you reduce your rough opening to a standard 60” wide. Then you won’t get stuck with the additional cost of a custom glass enclosure. Using a common sized glass door, you’ll save from a few hundred to over a $1,000. This money can buy you a lotta loofas, moisturizes or maybe a golf club or two.
In addition, if you want a curved glass block walk in shower and build your own curved shower pan before buying the prefabricated glass block shower wall panels, you may find out your glass block wall won’t fit on your base. And that’ll make for a VERY BAD DAY!
So, the moral of the story is figure out the glass (or glass block) you need BEFORE buying the shower pan.
Tip #3 – Figure out if you want to install your shower pan with a ‘component-based’ system or buy a pre-built unit
Custom shower pans can be site-assembled with a component system OR pre-built as one waterproof unit (note: solid surface, cultured granite, custom PVC and one-piece ready for tile shower pans are the most popular one-piece waterproof options).
And while you can theoretically ‘save’ money with a site-built, component-based system (and you’ll find excellent ones made by Wedi and Schluter) they do require more field installation time and have a higher chance of failure if not installed right.
The pre-built pans are modular and predictable to install. However, with a pre-made custom shower pan you have to make sure you’re ordering the right size and the correct drain location. Since they’re custom-made, their size and drain location (unlike a component-based system) can’t be altered once they’re shipped to you. Basically – if the manufacturer made it for you, you’re gonna have to live with it – whether you got it right or wrong.
Tip #4 – Determine your desired finished floor ‘look’ before you buy your custom shower pan
What’s fabulous – or frustrating – depending on your perspective are the number of options for the finished floor of your shower. Here’s a few looks you can choose:
Look #1) A large format tile design.
Look #2) A pebble tile floor.
Look #3) A granite or marble look custom shower pan.
All 3 looks require a different shower pan.
For look #1 with large tiles, you’ll need a pan which is sloped in one direction to a linear drain. And the good thing about big tiles is they help a small bathroom appear larger and cut down on evil grout joints.
For look #2, the pebble tile shower floor, you could buy a ‘component based’ or a fully built ‘waterproof ready for tile’ shower pan. The ready for tile pan costs slightly more, but you’ll save on labor (which can be important if you’re hiring a professional contractor).
The important thing to keep in mind is to lock in on ‘your look’ (and the pros and cons of different types of shower floors) BEFORE you buy your pan.
Tip #5 – Determine what height shower threshold (AKA curb) you need
Designing your shower not only for today – but also for your ‘tomorrow’s’ is critical. None of us know how mobile we (or our family) will be in the future. And while you can fall in love with your new custom shower pan with 5” high step over curb today, you may ‘rue the day’ you put in this new shower if someone’s health deteriorates. If the height of the shower pan threshold doesn’t allow them to independently enter the shower tomorrow, “Houston (or whatever your name is), you’ll have a bigly problem!”
When in doubt use a lower threshold (or curb) shower pan. 2” and 3” curb heights are safer (and sleeker) than the 4” and 5” options. The only time I’d go with a 4” – 5” high curb is when you only have room for a small shower (say 36” x 36” or so).
Tip #6 – Pay attention to the warranty of your custom shower base – or the lack of a guarantee
You loved your tile shower your contractor put in only a few years ago… until that fateful day. And you remember it well.
It’s the day your spouse found a pool of water leaked through the ceiling and onto on their brand-new wood dining room table. When you took their frantic call at work, you knew the proverbial ‘crap had hit the fan!’
Can you say disaster?
You quickly started rummaging through your file drawers for your contract (and the warranty) for your newly remodeled bathroom or new home. You discovered what you feared….
There was Z-E-R-O warranty for your tile shower pan! Ouch!
This leaking disaster is your disaster. You own it….and the costs which are coming with it. And I wish I could tell you you’re the only one who has lived through this nightmare. This is hardly the case.
So, what can you (especially if you haven’t bought your custom shower pan yet) do to make sure you’re not on the receiving end of a huge problem like this? Well – one simple thing….
Ask about the warranty of your custom shower pan BEFORE you put the pen to the contract.
Fortunately, there are lines of shower bases (mostly the grout free ones) with 10 year to lifetime warranties. As the Latin saying goes…. caveat emptor (which translated means….’let the buyer beware.)’
Tip #7 – Determine the base you need for the shower shape you want
Here’s the cruel fact you’re likely to encounter buying a custom shower pan with a weird shape.
The base you want may not be the base you need to make your shower design work.
The reason I say this is capabilities between base (and base component) manufacturers vary greatly.
If you want a simple (custom-sized) rectangular shower pan with a unique drain location almost all custom shower pan systems will work (unless the pan you need is very large, or the drain location is too close to the edge).
However, if you want a curved curb for a glass block walk in shower with a tile or stone shower floor, component based systems are OUT. You see these manufacturers don’t make a curved piece to make the curved curb and most cultured marble manufacturers aren’t capable of making the shape. However, one company – Onyx – who makes custom cultured granite shower pans can make this shape and more.
Conversely – let’s say you love the contemporary look of a linear drain (especially the type which disappears when you set tile inside). Manufacturers like KBRS offer ready for tile shower pans, with a linear drain to set tile in, but plenty of manufacturers don’t have this stylish option.
No matter what shape you want, here’s the bottom line….
Don’t assume the shower base (and base manufacturer) you like can make the shower shape you need.
So, now that you’ve read the 7 tips to NOT make mistakes buying a custom shower pan, how can I – or my team – help you next?
I know buying a custom shower pan (in addition to all the other crazy selections you’ll make in a new home or bathroom remodel) can be overwhelming. And it’s impossible to be an expert on all the products and systems you’ll need to successfully pull this project off.
So – if you need help sifting through the pros and cons of custom shower pan (as well as products like stylish grout free shower wall panels or glass shower doors), me and my team would love to help. Share your shower dreams and design concepts (even if they’re just scribbles on the back of a napkin) with us. Since we wholesale and install multiple lines of shower products, we’ll be able to help you make a choice you WON’T regret down the road.
Call 877-668-5888 or click for a Free Shower Design Consultation.
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