News from the Block, Innovate Building Solutions Blog
News from the Block, Innovate Building Solutions Blog
Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement Design & Remodeling Ideas for the Nicest Home or Business on the Block
Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement Design & Remodeling Ideas for the Nicest Home or Business on the Block

How to Compare an Acrylic Shower Pan to a Tile Shower Base

How to Compare an Acrylic Shower Pan to a Tile Shower Base

Acrylic and tile shower pans are everywhere. You’ll see them in production and custom homes. You’ll see acrylic pans stocked at your local plumbing wholesaler and home center store. You’ll see tile shower materials at tile retailers and big box stores.

And although materials for acrylic and tile shower pans are everywhere that DOES NOT make it simpler to determine which is best for your project. However, I hope this article DOES make it easier for you to find the right choice.

This post will have 3 sections:

  • Section 1 – The advantages and disadvantages of acrylic shower pans.
  • Section 2 – The advantages and disadvantages of tile shower bases.
  • Section 3 – The common features of acrylic and tile showers.

At the end, I’d love to know which is best for you and why.

So, without delay – let’s first look at the advantages and disadvantages of acrylic shower pans.

Section 1 – Advantages and disadvantages of acrylic shower pans vs. tile bases

Advantage #1 – Money, money, money…. money!

Yes – as a reforming rocker, I can still hear Pink Floyd singing Money! And if you want to rock out, I’ll include a video below.

And even though this article isn’t about classic rock, I’ll bet you do care about money…and the cost of your shower pan. And if you want to save money, an acrylic shower pan – which is preformed, and mass-produced, will cost less than a tile shower.

Advantage #2 – No seams. No grout. No worries.  

Grout joints are a pain in the rear. OK – I’ve said what you’re thinking if you’ve been cleaning dirt, mold, and scum from tile grout joints for years.

And with a smooth acrylic pan, cleaning is easy-peasy! Just wipe it down with a damp cloth and you’re good to go. There’s no seams. There’s no grout. There’s no resealing. There’s no worries.

no seams square 36 x 36 acrylic shower pan

Shower Base Basics cover page

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Step Up Your Bathroom by Stepping Down Your Shower Pan!

Advantage #3 – In and out installation.  

When it comes to bathroom remodeling costs, time really IS money! And with escalating labor costs (and lack of qualified tile setters), the costs of a tile shower are rising quicker than the raise your boss doled out this year!

So, if you’re looking to keep costs down – and don’t want a bathroom remodeling project which makes you think you’re living through a rerun of Murphy Brown (with the painter who never leaves her home), you’ll want to consider an acrylic pan to save time and money.

And besides with an acrylic shower pan you have to live through the mess and dust of a tile shower installation.  

Advantage #4 – It’s warm on your feet – without adding a heating system.

An acrylic shower pan is warmer to step into on a cold Northeast or Midwest winter day than a tile shower floor (of course, this is assuming the tile floor doesn’t have a heating system underneath it).

Advantage #5 – You’ll get a warranty (and it’ll be longer than tile).

Here’s one thing which blows my mind. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on a custom tile shower pan and bathroom floor, but in most cases your contractor can ‘get away with’ giving you NO WARRANTY!

If this tile shower floor pan or bathroom floor leaks you’ll be on your own. And fixing a tile shower floor base involves redoing everything above it (and that ain’t good – if I’m speakin’ to you in plain English – as opposed to fancy English).

So, what can you do to close the tile shower grout ‘loophole?’ Do one thing….

Eliminate tile grout joints.

Get a written warranty with an acrylic shower base, and stop worrying about leaks!

With better acrylic shower pans you’ll get a 10 year warranty. And while this isn’t a lifetime warranty – it certainly beats no warranty at all (like you’ll often see with tile).

warranty with acrylic shower pan

Disadvantage #1 – Your shower pan can flex and squeak.  

You need to realize this. Acrylic shower pans ARE NOT created equal. One way you can tell how sturdy they are is ask how the shower pan is constructed. Cheap acrylic shower pans are known to squeak and flex.

Look for an acrylic shower pan with a reinforced bottom. One option is a contemporary acrylic pan with an MDF (multi-density fiberboard) structure underneath the acrylic surface.

disadvantage 1 reinforced acrylic shower pan which doesn't squeak

As cheesy commercials say….

Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations!

Shower Base Basics cover page

Get Our Ultimate Shower Base Guide!

Step Up Your Bathroom by Stepping Down Your Shower Pan!

Disadvantage #2 – Acrylic pans aren’t as cool, sexy, and colorful as their tile counterparts.

Acrylic pans (even though they’re available in a few colors) are basically boring molded sheets of acrylic. So, you may be asking, how can I add style to them?

Well – one way you can make them look sharper is with a linear or hidden drain. However, they still WILL NOT be the focal point of your bathroom.

Section 1 disadavantage 2 acrylic shower pan with a linear drain

On the other hand, a tile shower floor pan can be a showstopper.

Consider a waterproof tile shower floor which looks like it ‘spills out’ into the bathroom.

Section 1 disadvantage 2 tiles spill out in roll in wet room bathroom

Or use large format tile (with a hidden linear drain) to make your small bathroom look bigger.

Or install mosaic glass floor tiles which shimmer and add bling to your floor.

Tile shower floor pans can be cool. With the right design, they can show up their ‘little brother’ the acrylic pan every time.

Disadvantage #3 – A standard sized acrylic pan may not cut it.

Acrylic pans can save you money IF (and this is a big if) you have the right size and drain location to use a standard, pre-molded shower pan. And in some instances – even if the size is correct, the drain location can be a problem.

And while you can move a drain, this isn’t cheap to do.

And given this, here’s a fact you need to know. Acrylic pan manufacturers only invest in a shower pan mold when they think there’s enough demand to justify the investment in the mold. And if your size isn’t popular you’ll be S.O.L. (and no I won’t tell you what S.O.L. means because this is a family-friendly blog!).

With a tile shower pan – you can make (literally) any size work.

Disadvantage #4 – Acrylic pans have less resale value than a tile shower.  

For the most part, acrylic bases are seen as a ‘plastic pan’ which is just ‘fine’ in the ‘kid’s bathrooms,’ but is less desirable than in a master shower.

A tile shower – will be thought of as a luxury feature which can boost your resale value (of course, this is assuming the grout joints in the pan don’t look old, dirty, and moldy.

Glass walk-in shower in a bathroom of new luxury home

Disadvantage #5 – Acrylic pans aren’t available in matte finishes… and gloss finishes can be slippery.  

Let’s face it, bathroom trends are moving towards matte finishes. Just look at brushed nickel and matte black hardware being used today. However, acrylic shower pans are only available in gloss finishes.

In addition, IMHO matte finishes are less slippery than gloss finishes (although I’ve heard acrylic shower pan manufacturer’s debate this point. However, frankly, I don’t believe them, but I haven’t done the engineering to prove them wrong either).

So, if you’re goal is to stay ‘on trend’ (and use a matte finish)– tile will be better.

Section 2 – Advantages and disadvantages of tile shower pans vs. acrylic bases

Advantage #1 – You’ll be the ‘cool kid’ with a tile shower pan.

Most of us wanted to be one of the ‘cool kids.’ However, for most of us (including yours truly), it never happened. We were gawky, pimply, and NOT at the top of the invitation list to parties the ‘cool kids’ had (and besides our overprotective parents wouldn’t let us go anyway).

OK – sorry, I digressed a bit there and shared my ‘not-the-cool kid on-the-block’ feeling.

However, if you want to be the ‘cool, but a tad older, kid’ today– or at least the cool homeowner with the stylish bathroom, tile is certainly a THING you can (and should) do.

Tile is style on steroids. The possibilities are only limited by you, your contractor and your interior designer’s imagination (and – unfortunately – also your budget).

Section 2 advantage 1 one level barrier free tile shower pan

Shower Base Basics cover page

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Step Up Your Bathroom by Stepping Down Your Shower Pan!

Advantage #2 – You can make one (visually) continuous shower floor.

If you have a small bathroom – or like an open design concept – or want a continuous shower floor for a wheelchair, a tile floor can be the ‘ticket’ for you.

You see using a waterproof one level tile floor eliminates the ‘barriers’ of a shower pan (which you’ll have with an acrylic base). You can create a one level system. It’s not only a stylish, but it’s uber-safe.

Section 2 advantage 2 one level shower for wheelchair accessible shower

Advantage #3– You can customize your tile shower to your heart’s content.

Do you have a drain in weird spot? No problem with tile.

Do you need an odd-sized shower pan? No problem with tile.

Do you want to have a matte finished floor which will be understated? No problem with tile.

The bottom line is this….

Tile= Flexibility.

If you want to ‘have it your way’ (a la Burger King, but better), tile will be the slam-dunk choice over an acrylic pan.

Section 2 - disadvantage 3 ready for tile pan for glass block shower

Advantage #4– You can make the floor toasty-warm.

If you’ve got the budget – and want to stay away from the ‘shock value’ of walking on a cold tile floor on a dark winter morning, in-floor heating is a luxury you won’t want to live without.

With a tile floor pan you can add heat, with an acrylic pan you cannot.

Section 2 advantage 4 floor heating system credit
Image Source:

Disadvantage #1 – Evil grout joints.

Unfortunately tile grout joints are not 100% waterproof. And for as long as this continues to be a fact, grout joints will be the evil-step sister of a tile shower floor. They come with the territory. You can’t leave your tile base project without them.

And if you hate, hate, hate grout – stay away from a tile floor pan. However, you’ll want to note, there are some types of grouts (epoxy and urethane to be exact) which minimize grout joint maintenance.

Section 2 disadvantage 1 cleaning a tile shower floor pan

Shower Base Basics cover page

Get Our Ultimate Shower Base Guide!

Step Up Your Bathroom by Stepping Down Your Shower Pan!

Disadvantage #2 – A tile shower will cost more, especially if you’re NOT doing the job yourself.

A tile shower installation takes a lot of time. And if you’re hiring a contractor (unless he/she also doubles as your partner or spouse and will ‘work for food’) you’ll have to ‘pay the man or the woman,’ And… they won’t come cheap!

I talk daily to homeowners and bathroom contractors across the country and they tell me tile setters are not only tough to find, but they’re charging out the wazoo (whatever a wazoo is). Be prepared to bust open your kids piggybank if tile is the way you want to go.

Disadvantage #3 – You’ll need to choose an installation system – or one will be chosen for you.

As they say in the court, you’ll need to choose an attorney, or one will be chosen for you. And when it comes to tile floors, you’ll need to choose an installation system or (your contractor) will choose it for you. And if they choose a ‘crappy’ one – you may end up ‘holding the bag’ (‘er paying the bill to replace the shower) down the road.

There are many systems for a tile shower floor. Popular options include:

  • A ‘mud set’ pan. I’d stay away from this one like the plague.


  • A waterproof ready for tile pan like you’ll see designed for a custom glass block shower A good system – but you’ll need to know the size/drain location BEFORE buying the base.


  • A component based system like Wedi or Schluter. This system is waterproof and flexible, but you still can’t do curved showers with it.

If you’re not DIYing the job, at least know what system your contractor is using and why they chose it. Don’t accept an ‘old school’ approach (like a mud set pan) which only is as good as the person doing the installation that day.

Disadvantage #4 – A tile warranty (or lack thereof) can be scary.

People spend thousands of dollars on a tile shower and NEVER ask about the warranty. This blows my mind.

However, if you choose a tile floor pan – don’t assume if it leaks in a year or two you’ll have anyone coming to your rescue (for free) to fix it.

Disadvantage #5 – You may need to anesthetize the OCD member of your family during the installation.

There’s no getting around it. Tile shower installations are messy and dusty. And if you’re spouse can’t hold back their inner ‘Oscar Madison’ (and yes, I know I’m dating myself with this reference) – a tile shower project will be a nails-on-a-chalkboard experience for them.

Section 2 disadvantage 5 cutting bathroom tile is dusty dirty

Section 3 – Common features of acrylic and tile showers

For all the ‘comparison’ talk above – there are common features both systems share. Here’s a few.

Common tile & acrylic base feature #1 – You can use any wall surround system with either base.

It doesn’t matter if you want tile shower walls or a grout free shower surround – both base types will work with your choice of walls.

Section 3 common feature 1 use laminate wall panels with base

If you are interested in learning more about what other shower pans you can use with our grout-free Fibo laminate wall panels, you can watch this video below.

Get Free Samples!

Click here to request free samples of our Laminated Waterproof Shower Wall Panels.

Common tile & acrylic base feature #2 – You can use any type of drain.

Whether you want a round, square, or rectangular (and uber-stylish) linear drain, any drain option is available in acrylic or tile bases.

Common tile & acrylic base feature #3 – You can vary the curb height – or have no curb at all.

An important design decision is how tall the curb is. You’ll find ramped curbs, one level bases, low profile pans (usually 1- 3” tall), mid-height (usually 3” to 4” tall) and full height curbs (4” or taller) in acrylic or tile shower pans.

Section 3 common feature 3 low profile acrylic shower base

Common tile & acrylic base feature #4 – You don’t want to screw up. They’re both expensive to replace.

Since the shower pan is the ‘foundation’ of your shower – the cost of screwing up is equally painful. It’s very difficult (to impossible) to remove a failing shower pan without taking down (and/or demolishing) the work, and products, above it.

And if you’re still ‘sweating bullets’ figuring out the best choice, I’d recommend talking to a Shower Design Specialist BEFORE plunking money down.

So, is an acrylic shower pan or tile shower floor right for you?

After reading the advantages and disadvantages above, which shower pan (tile or acrylic) is right for you? I’d love to hear your comments below.

And if you’re looking for prices on a waterproof tile shower pan or a contemporary reinforced acrylic shower pan (or still aren’t sure which system will be best and don’t want to screw up) call 877-668-5888, click for a Free Design Consultation, or ask to speak to a Shower Design Specialist. The bottom line is…

Do not make this important decision alone.

And if you’re looking for a high quality shower pan (and shower surround wall system) for your Cleveland bath remodel, call The Bath Doctor at 216-531-6085. If you’re outside Cleveland (which is undoubtedly most of you) ask for a referral to one of our installing dealers).

Thanks for reading,



If you want more advice (with less wacky humor because you’ll see the ‘buttoned-up’ business version of me) follow me on LinkedIn @MikeFoti.

And if you’re a bathroom remodeling contractor interested in being a dealer of unique shower wall panels, shower pans and glass shower door systems and purchasing quality shower kits, call 888-467-7488 and ask for Mike.

Mike Foti

President of Innovate Building Solutions a nationwide supplier and regional (Cleveland and Columbus) remodeling contractors. Some of our product lines include glass counters, floors, backsplashes, glass blocks and grout free shower and tub wall panels

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