Choosing the Perfect Shower Pan for Your Bathroom Remodel

Remodeling a bathroom can be an exciting yet daunting project. With so many options for finishes, fixtures, and layouts, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. One of the most important decisions is choosing the right shower pan. This largely overlooked component serves as the base for your shower walls and flooring. The shower pan you select impacts the look, functionality, and longevity of your new bathroom.

Choosing the Perfect Shower Pan for Your Bathroom Remodel

When embarking on a bathroom remodel, you’ll need to decide between a prefabricated shower pan or building a custom shower pan. Prefab shower pans offer convenience, while custom shower pans provide more flexibility and personalization. Below is an in-depth look at the key factors to weigh when selecting a shower pan.

Size and Layout

One of the first considerations is the size and layout of your shower. Measure the total dimensions of the shower area to determine the necessary pan size. If you have an unusual shower design, a custom shower pan offers more customization than a prefab model. Custom shower pans can be made in virtually any shape and size. This allows you to optimize the shower layout for your space.

Prefab shower pans come in set dimensions, usually ranging from 32” x 32” up to 60” x 60”. While you can trim down a larger pan, you can’t make it bigger. If your planned shower is larger than 60″ x 60″, a custom pan is likely your best option.

Drain Location

The drain location is another important factor. For prefab shower pans, the drain is centered. With a custom shower pan, you can position the drain anywhere to match your shower layout. An off-center drain provides more flexibility in designing the shower slope and flooring. For example, you may want the drain closer to the shower entrance. A customized drain placement prevents water from collecting in corners far from the drain.

Material Options

Shower pans come in several material types, each with their own characteristics. Fiberglass and acrylic are common materials for prefabricated pans. Acrylic tends to be thinner and more flexible than rigid fiberglass. Both offer a glossy, built-in finish that looks like tile.

For custom shower pans, you’ll likely choose between tile, stone, and concrete. Concrete is the most popular choice. It’s durable, seamless, and can be poured on-site to any size and shape. Concrete shower pans provide a neutral, spa-like look. Tile and stone, such as marble or granite, create a high-end built-in appearance. Keep in mind natural stone is more porous than concrete.

Slope and Drainage

Effective drainage is a shower pan’s most critical job. The pan must maintain a proper slope so water flows directly into the drain. Building codes mandate a minimum 1⁄4” per foot slope. However, steeper slopes are recommended to prevent standing water. Custom shower pans make it easy to achieve an optimal slope since the concrete is poured and pitched on-site.

With prefab pans, the set slope may not perfectly match your planned flooring. This could leave low spots or gaps where water collects. If the prefab slope is insufficient, you’ll need to add a mortar bed to increase the pitch.

Curb or Curbless

Another choice is whether to have a curb or go curbless. A curb creates a raised barrier between the shower pan and the surrounding flooring. This contains water in the shower area. Curbless showers have a minimal threshold or none at all. The shower flows seamlessly into the bathroom floor.

Curbless showers have a sleek, modern look. However, they require precise slope planning to keep water inside the shower area. Custom shower pans make it easier to design a curbless shower with ideal drainage. Prefab pans come with integrated curbs. You can remove the curb, but this takes added work.


Budget plays a role in choosing between prefab and custom shower pans. Prefab fiberglass or acrylic pans cost $200 to $700 on average. They provide an affordable shower base option. Custom shower pans range from $1,500 to $3,000 installed. While pricier, they allow you to customize the size, shape, slope, and drain placement.

Installation and Construction

Prefab shower pans include detailed installation instructions. Most DIYers can handle the process, which involves leveling, securing the pan, and waterproofing. Custom shower pans require constructing a mortar bed to the precise slope specifications. Next, the concrete or tile is added. Professional installation is recommended for proper drainage and waterproofing.

The Right Choice

When selecting a shower pan, assess your budget, design preferences, and installation abilities. For a straightforward replacement with a standard size and center drain, a prefab pan may suffice. If you’re doing a full bathroom remodel with a custom shower, a custom shower pan allows you to tailor the size, layout, slope, and drain location. While pricier, custom pans provide the flexibility needed to create your dream shower. Careful planning and professional installation are key to ensure proper drainage and waterproofing. With the right pan choice, you’ll enjoy a beautiful new shower for years to come.

Additional Shower Remodel Considerations

Beyond the shower pan, there are several other design decisions to make when remodeling a bathroom shower area:

Shower Walls

Tile, stone, and glass are popular shower wall options. Tile allows you to customize colors and patterns. Glass adds modern style. Consider waterproof shower wall panels for easier installation.

Shower Door

Choose between a sliding, swinging, or frameless glass shower door. Frameless doors have a clean, contemporary look. Make sure the door size matches the shower entrance width.

Shower Niche

Strategically placed niches provide storage for shampoo, soap, and other shower necessities.

Shower Head and Controls

Upgrade to a rainfall shower head, body sprays, or a digital shower system. Place controls conveniently while considering code requirements.


Shower sconces and recessed lighting create a spa-like ambiance. Waterproof fixtures are a must.

With careful planning and high-quality materials, you can create a shower oasis perfect for relaxing and rejuvenating. Invest time in making the right design choices before your bathroom remodel begins.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the shower pan sets the foundation for your entire shower design. Take time to consider the size, layout, slope, drainage, and look you want to achieve. With a custom shower pan, you can create a shower space tailored exactly to your needs and preferences. The investment pays dividends in terms of functionality and enjoyment for years to come. Be sure to work with experienced professionals to ensure proper installation and waterproofing. Then get ready to enjoy a beautiful new shower sanctum.

Choosing the Perfect Shower Pan for Your Bathroom Remodel
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