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 avoid expensive shower pan problems AND save a lot of money!

How to avoid expensive shower pan problems AND save a lot of money | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodel | Home Improvement Ideas | Shower Pan Designs | Shower wall panels grout free

There’s nothing (and I mean nothing) more exciting than buying a shower pan.

Ok, I’ll bet you’re saying right now, “Mike, you really DO need to get out more often!”

And while I’ll admit talking about standard shower pans (and the problems associated with choosing the wrong one) won’t win me the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World nomination (or get me recognized as the coolest guy at a cocktail party), it CAN save you a ton of money on your next bath remodeling project. And here’s why I say that:

  • If you buy a flimsy shower pan (made with cheap materials) and it cracks – you’ll not only need to remove and/or replace EVERYTHING above it (including the wall surrounds, glass doors, and niches) above it, but you may need to repair the ceiling below this pan as well.
  • If your shower pan is the wrong size – and needs to be returned – get prepared to pay restock fees (and that’s assuming the store even lets you return it).
  • If the pan needs to be replaced because a family member can’t lift their leg to get in, you’ll be looking at a complete shower remodel for the SECOND time (that’s also known as a ‘BOBO’ – buy one shower remodel, then buy another one).
  • If the shower pan is slippery, and causes a fall, a family member could end up in the hospital – or worse yet – never be able to return to their home.
  • If the shape of the shower pan doesn’t match the glass doors you purchased, you could watch your money go down the drain if you can’t return either product.
  • If the shower drain is in the wrong spot, get ready to ‘bend over’ and pay a (not-as-cheap-as-they-used-to-be) plumber to reroute your lines.
  • And if the shower pan is a ‘pain to maintain’ – you’ll be on your hands and knees ‘paying the price’ to clean it or paying a service company to come to take care of it for you.

And if you think this is the ‘complete list’ of everything which could go wrong with a custom or standard shower pan, I’m sorry to tell you – but there’s a lot more where this came from. Ouch!

So, you may be asking, “Mike, what can I do to prevent these problems?” Well –it begins by asking 10 questions.

Question #1 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Ask, what’s the exact size of the pan?

Let’s say you’re doing a bathtub to shower conversion and buy a shower pan which is exactly 60” wide x 30” deep with a drain on the left side. So far, so good.

However, after you remove the old tub your rough opening (A.K.A. the stud to stud dimensions) is only 59 5/8” wide. Now you’re ‘battling’ to cut the studs to make your 60” wide shower pan fit.

Could this problem have been avoided? You betcha!

If you purchased a pan which can be cut (or was smaller to fit this opening) you wouldn’t be in this mess. And if you look at the trimmable low profile stone shower pan below – you won’t have to worry even if your width needs to be up to 4” smaller!

Question 1 trimable stone shower pan white marble design | Innovate Building Solutions | Shower bases | White Marble Shower Pan | Low profile shower base

Question #2 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Ask if the shower pan is waterproof, or water resistant? Is the pan sturdy or flimsy?

If you see a leak in the first floor ceiling from a tile shower (on the 2nd floor) because your contractor put in a flimsy, plastic ‘bargain-basement-home-center-store-special-deal-shower-pan,’ you’ll know you’re having a bad day (AND will have some expensive ‘remodeling weeks’ in your future).

Because when a pan fails, you not only have to remove and replace it – but also you’ll be removing and replacing the wall surrounds and glass shower doors above it as well. And that ain’t CHEAP! It’s an expensive problem.

So, how can you keep yourself out of ‘hot water’ (or in this case no shower water) to make sure your shower pan doesn’t leak or crack?

Well – first, buy a sturdy shower base. I like engineered stone pans. And there’s a cool low profile pan with 2 tons (yes that’s 4,000 lbs. the statistic fans out there) of weight capacity.

Make sure your pan is sturdy. Make sure it’s waterproof, not water resistant (like most tile shower floors).

Question 2 low profile 60 x 36 shower pan white marble wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodel | Shower Design Ideas | home remodel shower pan | DIY Shower Remodel

Question #3 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Ask how tall the curb height (‘er threshold) is.

Nobody wants to move into an assisted living facility (especially at an average cost of $5,500 per month). Many people have been forced to spend down their life savings just to pay for community living facility.

However, when it becomes difficult (to impossible) to age in place because your home (and/or bathroom which is the most dangerous room in the home because it’s wet and slippery) won’t work due to you (or a loved one’s) physical abilities (including their inability to step over a tub rail or tall shower curb), then assisted living could be the only choice you have.

You may be wondering how can you make sure to NOT get yourself into this pickle?

One deterrent to this problem is to buy a shower pan with either a low profile curb (and/or get a shower pan where you can add a ramp kit for wheelchair access at a later date).

Question 3 60 inch ramp kit in stone | Innovate building solutions | bathroom remodeling | low profile shower pan | ramp shower base

Question #4 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Ask where the drain is located.

Plumbers (even those who show a ‘side’ of themselves while bending over you wish you HAD NOT seen) are NOT a cheap date! They’re becoming scarcer to find, and more expensive to hire.

And if you end up buying a shower pan where the drain hole is in the wrong spot – be prepared to pay ‘through the nose’ to a plumber to make it work.

It’s smarter to know the drain location of the potential pans you like, then double-check that the drain location of your existing tub (or shower pan) will match the new pan.

This can be accomplished by removing the old materials before you buy your base. Or if this isn’t possible, do your best (or have your contractor) measure before making a purchase. Then look (hopefully) for a standard pan which allows you to keep the drain in place, or buy a custom shower pan where you can get the drain where you want it.

Question 4 custom solid surface shower pan cracked cement wall panels | Innovate Building Solutions | Cleveland, Ohio | Bathroom Cleveland Remodelers | Contractors in Cleveland Ohio

DO NOT buy the pan first, then ask ‘drain location questions,’ later.

Question #5 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Ask how hard it’ll be to clean this pan.

If you’ve been ‘elected’ (by process of elimination because your family is simply too lazy) to clean your bathroom and you’ve ‘experienced’ grout joints which attract dirt and mold like bad boyfriends are attracted to your teenage daughter, or have a fiberglass pan you can’t for the life you get clean, you know you don’t want to go down this road again.

So, ask how your base will need to be cleaned before plunking down money. Stay away from tile and fiberglass bases for this reason. Choose an engineered stone base or acrylic shower pan instead.

Question 5 curved acrylic shower pan bathtub to shower conversion | Innovate building solutions | bowed shower pan | shower design ideas | Bathtub shower conversion

Question #6 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Ask if the pan is slippery (or better yet, feel the material for yourself).

I’ll bet you’ve heard a salesperson (maybe once or twice) tell you EXACTYLY what you wanted to hear to get you to sign on the bottom line. Then after YOU signed the deal, then you found out they were blowing smoke up…..*** (this is a family-friendly blog, so you’ll need to fill in the asterisk here)!

So, how can you avoid this problem when you’re talking about the slipperiness (i.e. the safety) of a standard or custom shower pan?

Well – I’d recommend (if possible) experience the shower pan for yourself. Visit a showroom and step onto the base (or feel the material) with your bare feet (yes, this could get people looking at you funny – just keepin’ it real). Ask if the rep knows the ‘slip coefficient of friction’ (the technical rating to measure shower pan slipperiness).

I like matte finished bases or those with textured bottoms so you (or mom or dad) will be steadier on their feet. Tile and stone shower pans can score high here.

Question 6 matte black stone low profile shower base | Innovate Building Solutions | Matte Black Base | Shower Design Ideas | Low Profile shower pan

Question #7 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Avoid the ‘ramped shower pan,’ even if you need one for your 85 year old mom or dad who has mobility problems.

I know right now you’re saying, “Mike, have you lost your mind – or has the wild partying from your fraternity days at Carnegie-Mellon University finally caught up with you?”

And while I’m NOT saying to tell Mom to ‘get a life’ and learn to jump over the shower curb if she’s in a wheelchair, what I AM saying is if you buy a shower pan with a curb built into it, it’s a terrible idea for resale (and yes, I’m sorry if I’m implying mom or dad won’t live forever).

However, if they need a wheelchair AND a ramped base is bad for resale, how can you find a safe solution for now, which doesn’t mess up your ability to resell the home later?

Get Free Samples!

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

The solution is to buy a low profile shower pan with a removable ramp kit. They’re sleek, stylish (yes, you heard that right)-and you (or your contractor) can silicone the ramp kit to the pan now (when mom needs it) and remove the ramp kit later when you sell the home.

Question 7 ramp extension kit white stone shower pan | Innovate Building Solutions | Shower Ramp Pan | Shower Design Ideas | Cleveland Bathroom Contractors

It’s the best of both worlds solution!

Question #8 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Ask what side the drain is on and/or get a shower pan with flanges you can install on the job site.

I hate hearing stories of owners who bought a shower pan only to find the drain hole was on the wrong side (and they couldn’t return the base). Or conversely, they bought a custom shower pan – which could have been a lower cost standard acrylic pan if they bought a base where the flanges are added on the job site.

Drain locations – as we’ve discussed in question #4 are critical.

But what many people don’t realize is if you buy a pan without flanges you can transform what (formerly) needed to be a ‘custom shower’ pan and save money with a standard base which is ‘flexible’ enough to be used without modifications. You may be wondering what I mean by this.

Well with a ‘flex pan’ (without flanges) even if you had a 60” x32” base and wanted to enter on the 32” side (vs. the 60” side which is ‘normal’) it’s not a problem because with a base the flanges are added later, there’s not a flange in the way to make an entry on the 32” side impossible.

Look for ‘flanges added later’ pans to save money when you have a need for a corner shower – or an odd entry location.

Question 8 2 sided acrylic corner shower pan frameless glass shower door | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom remodel | home improvement Ideas | Glass shower door | 2 sided glass door | Acrylic corner shower

Question #9 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Ask, “can I get a door with that?”

When you go through the drive through and order a burger, the staff member is trained to ask, “would you like fries with that?”

And while this ‘suggestive selling’ isn’t always good for your (ever-growing) figure, it’s a logical question because who doesn’t like fries with their burger? That’s be un-American (un-patriotic). And that’s true whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent!

The challenge with shower pans is there’s not enough of this ‘burger/fries’ suggestive selling going on. And you might be asking why I say that (or how burgers and fries have ANYTHING to do with shower pans)?

Well, that’s a good question. It’s because – especially when you buy a round corner pan or NEO angle shower kit, if you don’t buy the glass door with the shower pan you can end up paying far more (because you’ll need a custom glass door) to fit your pan.

Question 9 neo angle pivoting shower glass and acrylic shower pan | Innovate building solutions | Neo angle shower base | Shower Corner shower | Bathroom Remodeling Ideas

So, if you have a uniquely shaped pan, ask – can I get a glass door with that. And for ‘extra credit’ see if they’ll throw in an order of fries as well. However, keep this ‘side deal’ on the ‘down-low’ from your cholesterol watching spouse or significant ‘utter!’

Question #10 to avoid expensive shower pan problems– Ask – do you have a shower pan (and/or drain strainer cover) which DOES NOT look ugly?

Ok – while an ‘ugly’ shower pan – in and of itself isn’t a functional problem – if you’re like me when you go to remodel your bathroom you want to ‘take the ugly’ out of every feature in your current space. You want it (dare I say it) to be functional AND fashionable.

And I’d argue one of the ugliest things about showers and shower pans (in addition to dirt and mold you can’t clean out of them) are the hideous round brushed brass shower drains which say ‘boy I haven’t updated this space since my Miami Vice leisure suit and mullet were in style.

So, when you go to choose your shower pan, take more than a casual glance at the shower drain strainer cover which comes with (or must be purchased for) your top selection.

Instead of the ‘standard’ ugly round drain cover, why not go with a contemporary square drain, or a hidden drain cover? Or if you have a bigger budget (or want to use large format tiles), a long linear drain?

Drains (and the shower pans which come with them) – contrary to public opinion – DO NOT have to be ugly! And being the ‘shower geek’ that I am (and didn’t everyone growing up want to be a shower geek???) – I think a cool drain IS something to get excited about.

Question 10 square drain stainer cover close up InnovaStone shower pan | Innovate building solutions | bathroom remodeling in Cleveland Ohio | Shower Base Design

So, do you now know the right questions to ask to avoid shower pan problems? Can me (and my team) help you choose the right pan for your project?

The shower pan problems in this article do NOT need to be your problems. With better planning, and a deeper knowledge of the best choices – OR knowing who(m) to call to get insights before you waste money – you can get a shower pan you’re not only proud of but won’t cause you expensive (and completely preventable) costs in the future.

And if you want help choosing a shower pan – or making sure you don’t make a big mistake, call a shower design pro (and yes, here’s where the pitch comes in – just keepin’ it real) from my company – Innovate Building Solutions.

We offer multiple options in shower pans. We know choosing a shower pan is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ situation.

So, what are you waiting for?

Call 877-668-5888. And if you need a professional Cleveland bathroom remodeling contractor call 216-531-6085. Or ask for a referral to one of our installing bathroom remodeling contractors (we call them dealers) across the country.

And if you’re a bathroom contractor looking to supply/install better shower bases, ask about our bath products dealership program by calling 888-467-7488.

Thanks for putting up with my wackiness in this article. I hope you learned a few things, and if you laughed along the way (either with me or at), that’s A-Okay as well!




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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