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

Is it better to use a shower base or a tile shower floor?

OPENING Is it better to use a shower base or a tile shower floor | innovate Building Solutions | bathroom remodeling ideas | shower design ideas | Tile shower base

OK – I’ll grant you the floor (or base) of your shower IS NOT sexiest product people notice in your bathroom!

However, the shower base or tile shower floor is – IMHO – critical since it’s the foundation of your shower. If your shower base or floor leaks, you’ve got a B-I-G problem on your hands. And worse yet, if it leaks you could have a repair which causes you to remove everything – the base, the wall surrounds AND your glass shower door to get your shower back up and running.

As a result, choosing the right shower base or tile floor is serious business (even if it’s not the sexiest part of your bath remodel).

In this article I’ll give you the ‘straight scoop’ so you know when to use a shower base and when a tile shower floor is the way to go. The right selection is not a ‘one size fits all’ proposition. You need to know what’s best for you.

I’ve organized this article into 3 sections to assist you:

  • Section 1 – When it’s better to use a shower base over a tile shower floor.
  • Section 2 – When it’s better to use a tile floor over a shower base.
  • Section 3 – When it’s a tossup, you pick your favorite system, because either will work.

Let’s dig in.

Section 1 – When is it better to use a shower base than a tile floor? 

OK – I’m gonna be real with you and admit I like shower bases (generally) over tile floors.

And why, you might ask? Well it’s because I recently replaced a tile shower floor in my old bathroom (which ended up leaking and was a pain to clean) with a stone shower pan. And if you want to learn lessons from my remodel read 15 Lessons You Can Learn from My Safer, Simpler, and Stylish Master Bathroom.  

Below you’ll find 10 reasons to choose a shower base over a tile shower floor.

Reason #1 – You hate grout

In my book, grout is evil. And unfortunately, grout is as connected to tile shower floors as peanut butter is connected to jelly.

Grout exists to deter water from getting to the surface below. However, the problem with grout is it DOESN’T eliminate water penetrating to the materials behind the grout joints themselves and maybe more importantly…..


If you’re the unlucky family member who (by process of elimination) is stuck cleaning the tile shower grout joints around tiny mosaic tiles in your shower floor, you know it’s a PIA. And while you can use large format tiles (used in more expensive tile shower floors) this option will come with an inflated price.

When you buy shower bases made of stone, acrylic, PVC, or fiberglass all of them have one nice thing in common. And that thing is….


Section 1 reason 1 stone shower pan | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodeling ideas | Shower design ideas | bathroom shower bases | Cleveland Bathroom remodel

And as you may know grout joints can be mold magnets, as well as being a cleaning nightmare.

Section 1 Reason 1 60 x 32 shower pan with matte black grid doors | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom shower base | Shower design ideas | bathroom remodeling ideas | Cleveland bathroom remodeling

Reason #2 – Shower bases install quicker than tile shower floors

If you’re paying a professional remodeler to install your bathroom, you know skilled technicians aren’t cheap. And when you build a shower pan for tile on site, it takes A LOT of time.

Shower Base Basics cover page

Get Our Ultimate Shower Base Guide!

Step Up Your Bathroom by Stepping Down Your Shower Pan!

If you need to reduce labor costs, a shower base will be the clear choice. Shower bases are built as one solid piece. There’s no components to assemble. There’s no tiles to cut. Just set it and forget it!

Section 1 reason 2 round acrylic shower pan sliding doors | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodeling | Cleveland Design and Remodeling

Reason #3 – Standard sizes shower pans cost less than tile shower floors installed by a contractor

Since standard shower bases (whether they’re made out of acrylic, a low profile stone, or fiberglass) are made in common sizes in molds, they’re time-effective to manufacturer.

These standard sizes (usually) cost less than a tile shower floor installed by a tile setter or handyman.

Reason #4 – You can choose from different materials.

If you need to keep shower pan costs low, low, low, you’ll likely choose a fiberglass shower pan (although be aware, fiberglass pans are known to yellow and be difficult to clean).

If you want a ‘step up’ shower base, acrylic shower pans are warm on your feet, available in LOTS of shape options (but limited color options), and a good value.

If you want a higher end – and sturdy shower pan, solid surface shower bases are (literally) rock solid. And it’s nice to know you can get solid surface pans in many colors and patterns.

Shower Base Basics cover page

Get Our Ultimate Shower Base Guide!

Step Up Your Bathroom by Stepping Down Your Shower Pan!

With shower bases you can fit your material choice to your budget!

Reason #5 – Shower bases are 100% waterproof out of the box.

If you’re a DIY’er do you really want to mess with (and worry about) properly waterproofing a tile shower pan? If you screw it up, you’ll pay dearly if you spring a leak in the ceiling of the floor below.

With a shower base it’s waterproof without you needing to do ANYTHING.

However, with this being said – be aware there are cheap pans that can leak (and crack) if they’re too thin or designed poorly. It’s for this reason, I’m not a fan of fiberglass because they’re (generally) thinner and fail more than other systems.

Reason #6 – Shower bases can be better than tile shower floors because they’re already pre-sloped.

Have you ever been in a tile shower and ended up standing in a puddle of water?

And while puddles are a blast for a 4 year old (who loves to jump in them and make a splash), in a tile shower floor they’re an accident (potential for leaking) waiting to happen.

When you get a shower base it’s pre-sloped. There’s no ‘on-site construction’ you (or your contractor) need to do to slope the shower floor. And if you do get a tile shower – use a ‘component-based’ system like Wedi or Schluter or a preformed ready for tile shower pan. These tile floor backer systems eliminate pooling caused by sloped tile shower floors done manually (and done incorrectly).

Section 1 reason 6 presloped white marble stone shower base | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodel | Shower design ideas | Presloped shower base Cleveland Bathroom Remodel

Reason #7 – Shower bases are more DIY friendly than tile shower floors.

Since shower bases are pre-built and ready to set directly on your subfloor – or with a mud bed added, then set on the floor, there’s less work for a DIY’er. This allows more time for fun vs. getting sucked into the abyss of the ‘honey-do-list’ from your spouse or partner.

Reason #8 – You can get stock sizes shipped right now.

Perhaps you’re doing a tub to shower conversion and mom is coming home from rehab sooner than expected. You want a safe and simple shower (and possibly even one with style). However, you can’t afford to wait to get ‘er done (as Larry the Cable Guy would say) by a tile setter who may not only be difficult to find, but even if you find them, they’re backed up on jobs.

You need your shower pan, and wall surround panels, or tiles installed ASAP. You can’t wait a week for a professional contractor to build a tile shower floor.

It’s nice to know you can get bases not only in fiberglass, but also in acrylic, or even stylish low profile stone shower pans in multiple colors and patterns from stock …. TODAY if you need them.

Section 1 reason 8 stone low profile shower pan white marble wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | bathroom remodeling | Shower tile base | Shower design ideas

Shower Base Basics cover page

Get Our Ultimate Shower Base Guide!

Step Up Your Bathroom by Stepping Down Your Shower Pan!

A tile shower takes time. If you need it now, you may need to rethink the tile pan.

Reason #9 – In some cases, the bottom of your shower base can feel warm under your feet WITHOUT spending money on a heated floor.

If you choose an acrylic shower pan – it’s warm to the touch. With this option, you’ll get a floor which won’t give you a dose of ‘cold shock therapy’ early in the morning when you’re still trying to wake up.

With ceramic tile shower floors, they’ll be colder on a wintery morning if you don’t spend extra for a heated floor.

Reason #10 – You’ll (usually) get a better warranty with a shower base than a tile shower floor.

I’m amazed how many people buy an expensive tile shower and NEVER ask about the warranty for the materials and labor.

You’ll find – since they’re of one piece construction, warranties for shower bases generally exceed those of a tile shower system (whether you’re talking about the floor or wall surrounds).

Section 1 reason 10 longer warranty stone shower pans | Innovate Building Solutions | Cleveland Remodeling ideas | Shower design ideas

Section 2 – When is it better to use a tile floor than a shower base?

In the section above I didn’t mean to be a tile basher – because there are good reasons tile’s been sold and installed for centuries. So, let’s look at where it’s best to use tile vs. a shower base.

Reason #1 – When you want an intricate, funky, and one-of-a-kind design.

If you hire a talented tile setter, you’ll find some are ‘tile artists.’ The range of designs, patterns, and textures with tiles is only limited by your (and your tile contractor’s) imagination, and their skills.

Whether you want a tile floor which literally ‘spills out’ onto the bathroom floor or want large format tile with a fancy-schmancy linear drain, anything is possible with tile.

Section 2 reason 1 intricate tile pattern in a shower pan credit | Innovate Building Solution | Cleveland Design Ideas | Shower Design Bathroom
Image Source:

Reason #2 – When you want the luxury associated with tile and stone.

Let’s face it, when you look at high-end luxury kitchen and bath magazines the bathrooms (and kitchens) are dripping with tile and stone products. And here’s why…

Tile = Luxury…in the minds of many people.

If you have an expensive luxury home, buyers expect tile. And tile may not be bad for people who own expensive homes because they can afford to pay for the job AND to hire SOMEONE ELSE to maintain their tile grout joints in the shower floor!

Reason #3 – When you want a wide range of tile sizes and patterns.

Tile patterns are always changing, just like outfits created by famous fashion designers. Options are endless. There are far fewer shower pan patterns than tile.

Reason #4 – When you’re willing to DIY the job AND you need a custom size.

When you buy custom solid surface shower pans, they’re quite a bit more expensive than the stock units. However, if you’re willing (and capable) of DIYing a custom tile shower – you can save on the total cost of the job (because you’re absorbing the expensive labor costs of a custom tile shower floor by doing it yourself).

So, if you’re got the tile installation equipment, the time, AND the skills to do the job correctly – you can save money on a custom shower by DIYing the tile (because your labor is ‘free’ – except it WILL chew into your ‘free time.’).

Section 2 reason 4 DIY tile shower pan installation credit | innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodeling ideas | Shower tile base diy
Image Source:

Reason #5 – You’ll have more drain options with a tile shower floor.

So, I’m headed today to the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, and I know I’ll see tons of linear drains for tile. The shower drain options for shower bases are far more limited than with tile (and if you’re not careful you’ll get stuck with one of those ugly round drains which will give you a behind-the-times look).

With a tile shower you can add ‘cool-factor’ with a stylish linear drain (and yes IT IS possible to get excited about a shower drain – OK, at least for a bathroom geek like me it is – ha! ha!). And if you want to learn more about shower drains (because who could resist such a ‘hot’ – shower pan pun intended – topic), read 5 Hot Tips to Stop HATING Your Shower Drain.

Section 2 reason 5 tips about right tile shower drain | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom remodeling ideas | Tile shower drain | Cleveland Bathroom remodel

Reason #6 – You can add a heating system under the tile shower floor.

Who wouldn’t love a shower floor which is toasty warm on a cold winters day? With a tile you can use in-floor heating. With shower pans the material at the top surface prohibits heat from getting to the surface.

Reason #7 – You want a floor which won’t flex.

If you’ve ever stepped on a cheap shower base and it squeaked, you know it’s NOT a comforting feeling (and also makes you feel you’ve gotta get back on the diet your spouse has been nagging you about).

Since tile shower floors are built with solid bottoms (made from concrete, or materials like expanded polystyrene or extruded polystyrene), you’ll love how they won’t flex under your feet (no matter if you are carrying a few extra pounds).

Although tile showers are sturdy, ‘no-flex’ shower bases like a stone low profile pan or cultured marble pan will also fit the bill quite nicely (and you’ll be without those evil grout joints).

Shower Base Basics cover page

Get Our Ultimate Shower Base Guide!

Step Up Your Bathroom by Stepping Down Your Shower Pan!

Section 3 – When is it a ‘toss up’ between using a shower base and a tile floor?

There are cases where you can get the same benefit whether you have a shower base or tile floor. Here’s 3 examples where you don’t have to ‘side’ between either system.

Example #1 – You want a one level wet room.

Maybe you’ve got someone in your family who needs the assistance of a wheelchair and you need to create a one-level bathroom, or a ramped shower floor. This installation is possible with either system (although I’ll say one level wet rooms are more common for tile floors).

Section 3 example 1 tile wet room tub to roll in shower conversion | Innovate building solutions | bathroom remodeling ideas | Shower design ideas | bathroom remodeling

Example #2 – You want to age in place with a low profile shower pan  

Tile shower floors or shower bases can be made (or site built) with lower profiles for aging in place. You’ll find shower pans and tile shower floors with low profile designs with curbs (or thresholds) from 1” to 3” high for aging in place.

Example #3 – You can build custom glass walls.

The shape of a shower pan MUST fit the shape of the glass or glass block shower walls above it.

And it’s nice to know if you want a curved glass block wall (or bent shower glass) there are shower pans and premade tile shower bases made so you’ll know your wall will fit on the shower curb.   

Section 3 example 3 glass block curved shower wall solid surface pan | Innovate Building Solutions | bathroom design ideas | Glass block shower wall | Shower remodeling ideas

So, do you now have a better understanding of when it’s best to use a shower base and when a tile shower floor is preferred? How can our team help you with bases, wall panels, glass doors, or any products for your bathroom?

Like everything in life, there’s more to shower bases and tile shower floors than meets the eye. And all shower pans and tile floor systems ARE NOT created equal.

And if your bathroom remodeling project is already blowing your mind, why put yourself through the aggravation of trying to figure it out alone.

Contact a Bathroom Specialist at Innovate Building Solutions to learn about shower bases and one level tile shower floor systems which can be supplied for a job ANYWHERE in the United States. Call 877-668-5888 or fill out a Free Estimate Form (or ask for a referral to an installing shower wall panel and base dealer in your local market).

And if you’re a bathroom contractor, a kitchen and bath showroom, or multi-unit property owner (or buyer) looking to purchase custom shower bases or stylish shower walls call me at 888-467-7488 or visit the wall panel dealership or multi-unit wall panel supply areas of our site.

And lastly if you’re looking for an Akron or Cleveland bathroom remodeling contractor call 216-531-6085. Our northeastern Ohio team would love to help.

Thanks for reading and learning about shower bases and tile shower floors. As the styles of shower pans in the market have grown, and the availability/cost of tile setters has gone up, premade shower bases are growing like wildflowers (or growing as fast as political arguments on social media…OK, maybe not THAT FAST – ha! ha!).


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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