I recently had the pleasure of attending the Surfaces show in Las Vegas. Surfaces is a trade show that focuses on flooring and related industries. Trade shows are informative and helpful because they present new products and applications to any particular industry. I saw lots of new items, and some that have been improved upon. One particular application that stood out was the various ways of creating a shower pan.
One common trend that is occurring is to remove all but one tub from a home and replacing it with a stand-alone shower. When putting in a shower you need to choose a pan for the shower and there are a number of options. The first option is a fiberglass or acrylic pre-formed pan. These are typically the least expensive and the most generic option with white or bone being your only finish. One of the most popular types of pan is the concrete pan that is poured in place. The concrete pans are tiled in most cases. There are a couple of downsides to a concrete shower pan. The first is they are labor intensive. The second problem is they are heavy and can weigh in excess of 200 lbs. not including the tile. There are some new products to aid in the installation of concrete shower pans design for either the contractor or the do it yourselfer. These are usually plastic forms and guides that help create the proper slope for water drainage. These products do little to reduce the labor and nothing to make the pan any lighter. The next choice is the cultured marble or composite pans. These pans are somewhat more attractive than the fiberglass or acrylic pans, but much more expensive. These are most often custom fabricated and used in conjunction with the shower walls made from the same material.
The newest concept for pans is systems that include bases that are lightweight and tile ready. These are generally made from high density foam or synthetic materials. These are much less labor intensive to install than the concrete pans, and when tiled are much more attractive than acrylic, fiberglass or cultured marble. Because the pan systems are relatively new the retail prices are high, but it won’t be long before the market forces the prices down.
Lastly there is the category of barrier free shower pans. These are most commonly used for wheel chair access to showers. With the increased number of folks over 65 this is becoming a popular retrofit for existing bathrooms. The barrier free option is one with no curb or raised perimeter to contain the water of the shower. Instead, the floor slopes from the edge of the pan to the center like a normal pan with the exception in that they are mounted directly to the floor joists. This makes the high point of the pan the same as the surrounding floor tile. They almost look invisible. There are a variety of ways to create a barrier free pan. The pre-formed cultured marble and composite variety has been the most common, although acrylic, and fiberglass do exist. It is possible to pour a concrete barrier free pan, but it is a more difficult proposition than even the standard concrete option. The best options in my opinion for barrier free pans are the new shower pan systems in high density foam or synthetic options. There are at least 5 major manufacturers producing these light-weight , easy to install shower pans. The look of these showers when finished is truly extraordinary. There is no curb around the edge of the pan, so the end product looks as though there is not much more than a shower head and some glass panels.
Given the fact that there are many options available for different applications and budgets, it will be relatively easy to find the solution that works for you.