How to Install a Shower Pan – A Step-By-Step Guide

How to Install a Shower Pan – A Step-By-Step Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning and Sustaining Glass Shower Doors Reading How to Install a Shower Pan – A Step-By-Step Guide 11 minutes

Installing a shower pan is a critical task in any bathroom remodel or new installation. A shower pan, sometimes referred to as a shower base, acts as the floor of your shower, directing water to the drain while preventing leaks and water damage. Proper shower pan installation ensures durability and watertight performance, making it a crucial component in your bathroom's functionality. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the steps you should follow to install shower pan.

What is a Shower Pan?

A shower pan is the finished shower floor that creates the foundation for drainage and flooring installation. The purpose of the shower pan is to provide proper slope towards the shower drain. IT will ensure that water efficiently flows into the waste pipe without any standing water or leaks.

There are a few types of shower pans. They include:

Preformed Shower Pans

These are molded one-piece plastic pans that come in set dimensions with the slope built in. Most are made of acrylic or fiberglass.

Custom Shower Pans

These shower pans are constructed from scratch using a mortar bed that you form and slope yourself within the shower framing. Tiles get installed on top.

Tile-Ready Shower Pans

These have a sloped mortar bed like a custom shower pan. However, it comes pre-made with a protective foam layer on top. The foam gets removed before tiling.

Difference Between Shower Pan and Shower Base

A shower base is different from a shower pan. In fact, the shower base comes completely prefabricated as one solid piece with integrated drain and slope. Shower pans require building up layers for drainage. On the other hand, a shower base can get installed as-is without additional slope work. If you want to experience better customization, you should go ahead with installing shower pan.

Preparing for Shower Pan Installation

Necessary Tools and Materials

Before starting your shower pan installation, ensure you have all the necessary tools and materials ready. Typical tools needed include:

  • Tape measure
  • 4-foot level
  • Mixing paddle & drill
  • Notched trowel
  • Utility knife
  • Straight edge

Typical materials include:

  • Mortar mix
  • Drain
  • Reinforcing mesh
  • Pre-sloped foam (for tile-ready shower pans)
  • Waterproofing membrane
  • Thin-set mortar

Wonder where you can buy a quality shower pan for installation? Sunny Shower can help you with it. Take a look at the available collection of shower pans on Sunny Shower today.

Measuring and Planning the Area

After gathering your shower pan installation supplies, accurately measure the shower stall framing. Then you can create a plan for the drainage setup. Note the exact shower dimensions and identify any alcoves or niches in the framing. Mark where the existing or new drainpipe is situated.

Plan where your drain will be located. It is typically centered along one wall or slightly off-center if accommodating an alcove. Then you can trace the drain flange location. Decide if you need to change or adjust the drain height based on your shower pan thickness. Having all measurements mapped out and knowing the drain placement is important. It will ensure your size, slope, and situate the shower pan correctly from the start.

Removing the Old Shower Pan (If Applicable)

If replacing an existing shower pan, properly removing the old one is important. Always wear safety goggles and thick work gloves throughout the demolition process to protect yourself. You should also turn off the water supply lines to the shower.

Steps to Remove the Old Shower Pan

Step 1:  Disconnect the Drain and Remove the Old Pan

Start by prying off the drain cover and flange clips securing the drainpipe to the pan. You can also cut through shower pan around drain with circular saw. Disconnect the drain assembly from the drain trap and pipe below.

Once drain is detached, smash shower pan with sledgehammer or break it up with a pry bar and shovel out pieces. Use caution as metal shower pans can have sharp, jagged edges when demolishing. Vacuum out all remnants.

Step 2: Inspect the Subfloor  

Examine the subfloor for any damage or weak spots once the pan is fully demolished and removed. Check level using 6-inch leveler. Fill in any holes or cracks with underwater cement or patch cement based on manufacturer instructions before moving on. This will prep the shower cavity and subfloor for new pan installation.

Preparing the Subfloor

The subfloor forms the surface that the mortar bed gets installed on top of to create the shower pan slope. Ensuring the subfloor is properly prepped and waterproofed prevents moisture damage.

Check the Subfloor for Damages

First, inspect the subfloor thoroughly and address any previous water damage or cracks. Use a level to confirm the surface is even without dips or crowning. Scrape off old adhesives or debris and vacuum up dust for good mortar adhesion.

Apply Waterproofing

Apply a waterproofing membrane to protect the substructure from moisture penetration through the mortar layers. Examples are Chlorinated polyethylene (CPE) and PVC membranes which adhere to the subfloor. Roll out the membrane with 3-4 inch vertical strips up the stud walls. Seam seal per manufacturer instructions. This seals the substructure from below and the wall edges.

Now the subfloor is prepped and waterproofed to begin building up the mortar bed layers required to create the sloped shower pan. Ensure no punctures or compromises were made to the waterproof membrane during installation.

Installing the Shower Pan

Installing a shower pan is a crucial step in creating a watertight and durable shower area. Whether you're working with a preformed pan, a custom-built one, or a tile-ready shower base, following these detailed steps will ensure a successful installation.

Dry Fitting the Shower Pan

Before applying mortar, do a dry fit of the shower pan in the framing. This will ensure it aligns properly and fits flush on all sides. Mark with a pencil where sides or corners have gaps for adjustments. Use a belt sander or file down high spots on the pan edges for an exact fit against walls.

Applying Mortar Bed

Mix mortar cement according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then you can spread evenly across the subfloor using a notched trowel to create a bed layer for the shower pan. Maintain 1/4” thickness across entire pan area. Slope an even grade down towards the drain cutout based on pan specifications.

Placing the Shower Pan

With mortar still freshly spread and pliable, carefully set the shower pan centered in the installation area. You need to press it down firmly to embed in the mortar. Use a level across top and side edges to ensure the pan sits evenly without any rocking or tilting.

Connecting the Drain

With threaded shower drainpipe extending from below through cutout hole, apply plumber’s putty around the top of drain. Carefully align threads and lower drain body down into pan opening. Tighten drain nut securely underneath using channel locks. Wipe away excess putty squeezed out around drain edges inside pan. Apply thin bead of caulk around perimeter of drain flange. Allow it to fully cure before water testing.

Securing the Shower Pan

Securing the shower pan to the subfloor is a critical step that ensures long-term stability and prevents movement, which can lead to leaks or structural issues. This stage involves meticulous leveling, appropriate fasteners, and thorough checks to guarantee a firm and reliable installation. Here’s an in-depth guide to securing your shower pan effectively:

Check Leveling

Once the shower pan is placed, confirming it is level and properly sloped is critical before permanently securing it in place. Use a level tool to check across the length and width of the pan. You can do adjustments as needed by lifting the pan. In fact, you can add or remove mortar until it sits flush. The slope should direct drainage towards the center drain without any flat spots.

Securing with Fasteners

When the shower pan is correctly oriented, secure it by fastening into the floor joists using corrosion-resistant screws. Typical fastener types include concrete screws and tile screws long enough to penetrate the subfloor.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for pilot holes and ensure screws are countersunk so tile backerboard sits flush. Use at least one fastener per square foot distributed evenly. The screws should fully stabilize the pan with no movement side-to-side or up and down. Over-securing can risk cracking or torquing the pan. Strike a firm but gentle pressure as you hand screw fasteners until stable.

Finishing Touches

The final steps in shower pan installation are crucial for ensuring a professional-looking, functional, and long-lasting shower area. These finishing touches involve meticulous attention to detail, from sealing edges to cleaning up and allowing for proper curing. By carefully completing these steps, you ensure a watertight and durable shower pan installation that will serve you well for years to come. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the finishing touches:

Sealing Edges

After tile or other floor surface materials are installed onto the shower pan, take care to properly seal edges. This will help to prevent moisture from seeping underneath. Use a silicone sealant or caulking designed for wet areas to get the job done. You need to apply it around perimeter edges, corners, and where the pan meets walls or fixtures. Ensure there are no gaps. Let the sealant cure fully per manufacturer’s instructions to create a waterproof barrier.

Cleaning and Curing

Carefully clean up any excess thinset, mortar or grit used during the tile installation. This will help you to prevent clogging the drain or impacting flow to the waste pipe. Use a wet vacuum to remove debris. Avoid harsh chemicals or acidic cleaners near drain fixtures. Allow at least 2-3 days minimum for mortar beds and cementitious tile adhesives to fully cure before regular shower usage.

Extend cure times for larger shower installations or if longer recommended by product guidelines. Following a full cure will ensure stability and integrity of your shower pan for the long run.

FAQs: Common Questions About Installing Shower Pans

Can I install a shower pan myself?

Yes, with the right materials and following instructions, homeowners can take on a DIY shower pan installation as a weekend project.

How long does it take to install a shower pan?

A custom shower pan installation typically takes 2-3 days from start to finish between preparing the shower framing, installing drainage, creating the mortar bed, waterproofing, and allowing materials to fully cure.

How do I waterproof a shower pan?

After the mortar bed cures, apply a waterproofing membrane using a trowel or paint roller based on manufacturer specifications.

How often should a shower pan be replaced?

If properly installed and well-maintained, a shower pan can last 20-30 years before needing full replacement. Recaulking and resealing annually extends a shower pan’s lifespan.

Can I tile over a shower pan?

Yes absolutely. Tile, stone, and other finishes get installed over the shower pan to create the interior floor surface texture and aesthetic.


Now you have a clear idea of how to install shower pans. Installing a shower pan takes precision at every stage. Sloping the bed correctly and sealing corners with backerboard keeps the structure integral for decades. Leaks from rushed or sloppy work easily compromise tiles in months. While the materials for building a shower pan cost under $200, repairing water damage runs thousands. If certain steps give you pause, consult a contractor’s advice rather than risk hazardous DIY mistakes. You should also be careful to buy shower bases from a place that you can trust. That’s where Sunny Shower can help.