What Is the Purpose of a Shower Pan?

Steve Smith

If you install or remodel your stand-up shower, you will encounter the shower pan. This part is imperative to the operation of your showering area. Its main purpose is to funnel water into the drain, protecting your shower floor from water intrusion, rot and mold.

There are many types of shower bases, and each has a similar purpose.

Fiberglass Shower Pans

A fiberglass shower pan is the most common type. It has a drain hole cut into the center of the pan. A drain is installed inside this hole, and the drain's pipe leads directly into the drain pipe in the home. The fiberglass shower pan is designed for use with fiberglass shower walls. These components are available separately but are sometimes purchased together. The fiberglass shower pan is also sometimes used with tiled walls, if the homeowner does not want to install a tiled shower base.

Tiled Shower Pans

A tiled shower pan is made of individual pieces of tile and is not a one-piece unit. Due to this feature, the tiled shower base has more color and pattern options, as any combination of tiles can be used. Its purpose is still to funnel water into the drain pipe, but it is also designed to add color and style to the shower. The drawback is waterproofing of these pans. Tiled shower pans are installed typically over a waterproof barrier called a shower-pan liner. This product is a solid, one-piece liner made of a rubber or high-density plastic material set inside the shower. It has a drain hole cut into the center or near one side, and the tile is laid on top of it. This protects the floor under the shower from rot due to water infiltration.

Ceramic/Porcelain Shower Pans

A ceramic/porcelain shower pan is made from the same material as your toilet or tub. The pan is similar in function to all others, but since it is made from ceramic, it is thicker and heavier. This type of shower base is not as common as fiberglass but is an option for those who want something a little more traditional. These bases and pans come in white or a variety of colors, including green, yellow and tan. They also must be leveled properly when installed. The purpose of these pans is to provide a long-lasting solution for the home, one that has a glossy surface and antique style.

Metal Shower Pans

Metal shower pans and bases are similar to fiberglass shower bases in design. They start in size at 4-by-4 feet. The metal shower pan or base is not as common today because the fiberglass shower pan is more effective, lighter and does not corrode or rust. Their main purpose is to provide an alternative to fiberglass and tile shower pans. Copper, stainless-steel and brass shower pans also provide a different look when polished and installed in a tile shower.