Unless you’re a remodeling contractor, buying a custom shower pan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (or you might say, chore). However, here’s the problem. Making the wrong choice can not only be dangerous to your pocketbook but could cause you to ‘spring a leak’ into the floor below.
If this happens, you’ll be ‘re-remodeling’ (OK – it’s not a word, but plenty of people have lived through this nightmare) and redoing the whole doggone thing. Not a good day (or should I say weeks or months to get the shower back up and running).
So, whether you’re hiring a professional bathroom remodeling contractor or going to roll up your sleeves and DIY the job, you don’t want to be the victim of a shower base mistake which costs you an arm and a leg (and causes you to dip into your first-born-son-or-daughters college fund).
In this article I’ll layout out 9 dumb mistakes you need to know so this won’t happen to you.
Without further delay let’s check out the mistakes.
Your days are crazy-busy. Now your spouse hits you with their desire (‘er that would be their DEMAND) for a new shower. They tell you your moldy joint, flimsy gold-framed shower enclosure with the teeny-tiny mosaic tiles on the floor has got to go. Worse yet – they’ve elected YOU to be the person to do this job.
You knew this day was coming. You’ve been given your marching orders. You can no longer put off replacing the shower in your master bathroom.
Your spouse wants a simpler, sleeker and easier to maintain system.
You know you just want it to be done (although if you’re being honest you know your current shower should have been replaced years ago).
You’ve started your research. The number of products and installation systems is mind-boggling.
How do you simplify your shower design while also making installing it easier on you? How can you find easy-to-work-with products which don’t cost you an arm and a leg or your first-born child? Although at times you wouldn’t mind giving up that first-born child who was cuter as a baby than she is as a sassy 16-year-old (OK – that’s a subject for another day).
You want to find short-cuts which won’t cheapen your finished project. That’s exactly what this article is about.
We’ll look at 7 little-known tricks to simplify the design and installation of your shower. We’ll dish out practical ideas to get you a cool, low maintenance system you can install WITHOUT pulling your hair out (what’s left of it). My goal is to get you back to more important things (like fishing, motorcycling, beer-brewing, watching sports etc.).
Let’s dig into the 7 little known shower design and installation tricks. We’ll start at the bottom (with the shower base) and work our way up.
Let’s get real. There’s no such thing as a perfect shower pan, just as there’s no perfect person. Shower pans are not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
There can be, however, a perfect shower pan for your specific situation.
Here’s the problem you’ve likely run into trying to find the perfect shower pan for your job. When you visit shower base manufacturers web sites what do you think they’re pushing? This is not a trick question.
They’re pushing their pans. They’re claiming their units are the ‘ultimate fighting warriors’ against all shower evils. They have the best pan known to man, woman and child (as if kids are even interested).
You’re left to sift through the B.S. You’re left to read on-line reviews (to the extent you have the time and desire to do this). You’re left to come to your own conclusions (even though you’re not a bathroom remodeling – or shower pan expert – and don’t play one on TV. Come to think of it, no one plays one on TV either).
As a guy who leads a business which daily is knee-deep in wholesaling and installing different types of shower bases, I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ (sarcasm intended) to see the good, the bad and the ugly in shower pans in our journey to make bathrooms great again (OK – if I’m being hones, most bathrooms weren’t great in the first place).
The goal of this article is simple. It’s to help you find the perfect shower pan for your situation. To do this we’ll look at different goals you may have. Here’s some popular shower pan goals. See if yours is on the list.
Goal #1 – You’re looking for a cheap base. You own a home in a not-so-great section of town you’re looking to flip. You need a pan which fits a tight budget.
Goal #2 – You’re looking for a base which is simple to clean. You’re tired of living your life scrubbing grout joints or staring at a dirty fiberglass shower pan you can’t get clean no matter what you do.
Goal #3 –You want a contemporary design. Most shower pans you’ll find are big, bulky and ugly. You’re trying desperately to find a design which looks modern.
Goal #4 –You need a roll in or one level shower pan. Sometimes a shower pan isn’t a want, it’s a need. A member of your family isn’t getting around like they used to. You need to find a pan which works but doesn’t like it belongs in a hospital room.
Goal #5 –You want a shower pan which is built like a tank. Since the last pan cracked and leaked onto your mahogany dining room table you vowed this will never happen again. This time you’ll look for a shower base built like a tank.
Goal #6 –You need a custom size. You don’t want to pay an arm and leg for it. So many shower floor pans – from walk in designs to odd sized tile showers to drains in weird locations – require custom sizes. You don’t buying one to cause you take out a 2nd mortgage, but you want a nice-looking shower which lasts and won’t be a pain to maintain.
So, now that you’ve checked out the 6 goals, let’s dig into the brutally honest guide to the perfect shower pan which will help you achieve you find the best one for your situation.
The moment before you crank-up your reciprocating saw, rent the jackhammer or bring out the hand tools to demo your old fiberglass or tile shower pan do you look down and say to your shower base, “I’m going to miss you buddy. I’ve loved our time together.” If so, you may need psychological help.
The words used to describe shower pans don’t come from a place of love. More common words would be its ugly, disgusting, moldy, dangerous (but not in a ‘Baker Mayfield’ of the Cleveland Browns sort of way), grimy, yellowed or grungy. Negative words about shower pans could go on and on.
No where on this list is beautiful, sleek, contemporary, durable, shapely and safe.
But let’s play a ‘what if’ game.
What if your shower can could be stylish and safe?
What if your shower pan wasn’t the ugly red-headed-stepchild (sorry red headed stepchildren out there) of your shower enclosure or roll in shower?
What if you could be as proud and thankful about your shower pan as you were when your son FINALLY completed his 6-year college plan, and picked up the long-sought-after sheepskin (are diplomas actually made of sheepskins?) from State U?
I’m here to announce there are cool and safe alternatives for ugly shower pans. You don’t have to put up with cheap, clunky, yellowed fiberglass shower bases any more. You don’t have to deal with teeny-tiny tiles with fat grout joints which get dirty, moldy and bring you (literally) to your hands and knees.
When you think about it, your shower base is THE FOUNDATION of your shower. If it fails, everything above it becomes garbage. Money down the drain (literally and with a bad shower pan pun thrown in for bad measure).
As Gene Kranz said in the movie Apollo 13, “Shower base failure is not an option.” (OK – maybe the shower base portion of the line was left out to keep the movie tighter).
In this article I’ll present 7 alternative solutions for standard-sized, custom and roll in shower pans. Don’t accept the first clunky fiberglass shower pan your remodeler grabs off the home center shelf. Don’t accept ‘old-school’ mud set tile shower floor pans which are a pain in the drain for you to maintain.
Elevate your shower pan. Choose these 7 alternatives.
2018 was another record-setting year for traffic on our remodeling blog. Thank you for reading (and hopefully learning) from my articles.
From the top 10 remodeling blog post list this year it doesn’t take a guy with ‘Genius-bar’ intelligence (This would not be me, but I’m also not sold those Dudes and Dudesses at the Apple Genius Bar are really geniuses either – but I digress!) to figure out you’re frustrated with your bathroom. Here’s some of the key interests you had in the top-ranked posts this year:
You don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past – Although you want to upgrade your bathroom, you don’t want to mess up and repeat other’s mistakes. Our #2 and #5 most popular posts tackled the problems with shower systems and bath remodeling and the most common mistakes and blunders.
You want products which allow you to chuck your scrub brush – If anything is obvious from this year’s top posts, it’s while you may LOVE tile, you HATE the grout which comes with it more. This fact explains your fascination with articles about grout free products like laminated wall panels and solid surface and cultured stone showers (see top posts #3, #4, #6, #7 and #8).
You’re looking for ‘divine inspiration’ to ‘get you through’ a bathroom remodel – While some talk about ‘visiting the thrown’ when using the bathroom, I wouldn’t have thought people were looking to ‘go to the mountaintop’ to get bathroom remodeling input. However – this is exactly what happened in 2018. The top post – BY FAR – was The 10 Commandments of Bathroom Remodeling Success. While I won’t claim to be Moses (or to have seen any burning bushes – other than fires I used to make with my Dad) this article struck a nerve with you.
So, without further delay let’s get the top 10 list. I will do this in ‘Johnnie Carson fashion’ (for those of you not in the ‘slightly-graying’ set that would be from bottom to top).
Even though you’re not ‘sleeping with the enemy’ in your bathroom, you know who public enemy #1 is in your bathroom. It’s your nasty tile grout joints.
These joints may be ugly and stained. They may be cracked and half-falling out. They may have caused your ceramic tiles to crack. They may be moldy and the cause of health problems. They may be the driving reason water leaked through your shower pan, through the ceiling and onto your new mahogany dining room table. They may be the reason you’re on your hands and knees ‘enjoying’ (sarcasm intended) working your scrub brush and basking in the fresh aroma of your favorite ‘chemical brew’ to clean up these joints again.
But, you continue to ‘put up with’ grout joints? If you haven’t thought about why you put yourself through this torture here’s 5 reasons I’ve seen to explain why you may stick with tile:
Since you’re reading this article you deserve a round of applause. Learning about shower pans is as sexy and ‘interesting’ as seeing your Mother in Law ‘attempting’ to imitate your teenage daughter’s hot new look. Not a pretty picture. Certainly not sexy.
Shower pans literally get walked on and ignored daily. They get no respect.
However, I’d argue they’re propping up the entire ‘show.’ The show is your fancy shower heads, niches, contemporary sleek wall panels, tile surrounds and body jets people do notice.
If your base fails, you’re in a heap of trouble. You can throw in the dumpster all the cool features above the base (and your dollars – literally – down the literal drain with it). Sure, you can ‘cheap-out’ buying a low-cost shower pan or ‘zone out’ with no thought put into the design of a shower base. However, if you take this route as they’d say in high school Latin class – caveat emptor (that’s a fancy term for ‘let the buyer beware.’).
There’s a huge (or hugely as Trump would say) price to pay for a shower pan which fails, is designed incorrectly or doesn’t work as a family member ages and their mobility goes in the wrong direction.
There are 2 pivotal questions in selecting a shower pan you need to get your arms around:
Question 1 – What are the biggest mistakes, blunders, pitfalls (insert your negative adjective here) when selecting shower pans? The more important question is this second one.
Question 2 – How can I avoid the problems posed in question 1 to save time, money and aggravation having to ‘re-remodel’ (not a word, but it happens in reality) or throw away a costly shower purchase?
The purpose of this article is simple. Answer questions 1 and outline the 7 biggest blunders I’ve seen in bad shower pan purchases through my years (when I started in the bathroom remodeling business I had more hair, and none of it was grey either!) Next, I’ll cover question 2 and give you tips to make sure you don’t fall victim to the mistakes in question 1.
I’m going to keep it real dog (in the infamous words of Randy Jackson) and tell you up front most people are confused about solid surface shower products. They’ll ask me some of the following questions:
Isn’t this product a pain to install because the shower panels are 3/8” thick?
Wouldn’t a smooth solid surface material be too slipper to use for the shower pan?
Isn’t solid surface the same as cultured marble?
I’ve heard solid surface showers only come in standard sizes and my shower is custom sizes. Is that true?
I think I’ve seen solid surface showers before. Don’t they come in those white swirly patterns which went out along with big hair, mullets, shoulder pads and leisure suits in the 80’s?
The bottom line is – many people are confused about this material.
I’m here to tell you if I’ve been able to figure out solid surface (and explain this product to members of my team and customers), it ain’t that hard! Here’s what I’ll tell you about my level of “genius”:
I didn’t graduate “Magna-Cum-Rowdy” or Magna Cum Laude from college. I’m a proud Carnegie-Mellon University “Tartan.” A Tartan is synonymous with Scottish guys who wear plaid skirts. Now that’s hot. My Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers can tell you I had my share of fun and lost my fair share of brain cells (don’t tell my Mom this). I worked my butt off to get through, but didn’t exactly have a GPA that blew the roof off the place.
I wasn’t the top in my class in high school either. I owned the 41st highest GPA out of 82 people in at the private school I attended – Hawken School in Gates Mills Ohio. Sure, there were some smart kids there – but nobody was worried about competing with ME for valedictorian.
Nobody at the Apple “Genius Bar” is recruiting me. I’m sure they’re desperately looking for a 58-year-old guy with ever-so-slightly graying (I lied) hair to work side by side with the techno-savvy-20 somethings. I still have hope I’m going to get the call any day now begging me to join the “Genius Bar” team.
Despite my lack of “genius” I think I can help you dispel some of the mistruths and half-truths about solid surface products. I’ve been working with the stuff in my remodeling and nationwide product wholesaling business for years and have learned a few things along the way. So, let’s take a look at 5 myths about solid surface shower products you need to blow up and ‘not be fooled again’ (in the words of The Who for you 80’s rock band aficienados).
If you’ve ever experienced a cracked shower pan which destroyed the ceiling and room below, or a mold-infested concrete tile base which caused eye, throat, skin or nasal irritations and costly doctor visits, you know a ‘cheap’ shower pan can be quite expensive. Ripping out showers, repairing ceilings, putting in new subfloors and doing mold remediation isn’t anybody’s idea of a good time.
If you’re looking to replace a way-too-small yellowed, cracked and creaky fiberglass shower base or a water-saturated mud-set tile shower pan with a custom solid surface shower pan, you have to ‘get it right’ once and for all. You need the facts. You don’t want to become a victim of replacing a bad shower all over again.
My goal in this article is to give you, as Joe Friday on Dragnet used to say (now I’m showing my age), just the facts ma’am (or sir to be politically correct) about solid surface shower pans. What are the frequently asked questions? What are the not-so-frequently asked questions people should be asking? I want to help you figure out if this pan is right for your next job. Let’s check out these 7 facts to save you research time, cost and aggravation.
If you’re looking to do a standard (or custom) sized shower pan and want something nicer than the cheap generic plastic white styles at your big box store it can be hard to figure out what option is best. Two popular alternatives in upgraded shower bases vs. fiberglass are solid surface and ready for tile pans. Here’s reasons both options beat the pants off the low-end fiberglass you desperately want to replace now:
Advantages of solid surface and waterproof ready for tile pans over fiberglass bases
They won’t yellow like fiberglass.
You can choose your drain location. You don’t have the cost of moving plumbing around.
You can create a custom shape to fit a curved design, custom NEO angle shape or an offset style pan.
These bases won’t flex and squeak when you walk on them – even if you you’re not built like Victoria Beckham, Gigi Hadid or an anorexic supermodel.
You can live life “in color.” You can either design your own tile pattern or choose from 51 varied solid surface colors.
You can get these bases clean. It can be nearly impossible to get dirt off the bottom of a fiberglass pan.
While both these shower bases have it all over fiberglass – the challenge I see is homeowners (and contractors) struggling to know how to choose between solid surface and ready for tile. In this article I’m going to pit both shower pans against each other in the ultimate showdown. At the end I’d like to get your take on which is best.
This shower pan UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) won’t get you bloody or gross you out. It will save you money. You won’t make a bad shower base selection you’ll regret in a space you use every single day.
Let the rubber cleaning gloves come off and the battle of the shower bases begin.