Cultured Marble vs onyx collection vs solid surface shower pan

dmsohioJanuary 14, 2014

1st off, I am a long time lurker in these forums and want to thank everyone who contributes of their time and knowledge. I have learned so much from reading gardenweb. As a first time homeowner I don't know how I'd survive without this site!

We are redoing a master bath, sooner than we had anticipated. We bought a forclosure 2 years ago and the master was a wreck with obvious water damage from the previous home owner who was not a competent DIYer. So we gutted it and pretty much used it as a storage room. Now our hall bath is having a water problem putting the master bath on the front burner on a shoe-string like budget.

We are doing almost all the work. As for the shower, a tile base is NOT an option. Solid pan it is. The shower will be in a 3 wall alcove 42 deep x 70 long. Yes, an oddball size but it is what it is. I tried to convince my husband that we could make a 36 x 60 Kohler cast iron shower pan work and use the remaining 10 inches for a not -deep-enough bench / ledge. But after taping off those dimensions I really dislike the 36" dimension for bathing dogs and kids. So my husband is right (hate to admit it) and 42" deep it is.

Oddball size = custom pan = $$$$.

I priced cultured marble in plain white at a local fabricator. It was around $750 with a 10% upcharge for white. Delivery fee was reasonable and we install it.

I then looked at the onyx collection at Lowes and was first quoted $1400 for a 42 x 70 base. When I returned to Lowes to look at more options (US Marble, Transolid, Swanstone) I was requoted $2,000 for an onyx collection base.

I contacted grifform and their price was around $2300 for a solid surface base. A manufacturer in Ohio was within $10 of grifform but shipping was far cheaper as I'm in Ohio.

For those of you who have experience with these type of materials used as shower pans, is the solid surface / onyx collection that much better to justify 3x the price? Is onyx collection or corian more durable than CM?

For those of you who have had cultured marble pans (I'm thinking of you raehelen), how are they holding up? Any regrets? Would you do it differently?

Any stains? Any cracking / crazing around the drain? I come out of the shower looking like a lobster so I'm afraid my hot showers might damage a CM base. I will measure the water temperature tomorrow morning and see how hot my showers are.

All I'm looking for is a simple white or possibly grey pan. Subway tile for the alcove surround.

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Solid surface (Corian) pans are superior in every way to cultured marble, stone, and yes I'll say it, tile.

There are some things I don't scrimp on. Sunglasses. Thick socks and high quality work shoes. Windshield wipers. But to each his own.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 7:19PM
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I know CM has a sort of 'trailer trash' connotation, but I really love my CM shower base. As you may already know, cuz I do speak up in defense of it now and then, LOL, we have had one in our basement guest bath for almost exactly 5 years, and it has had heavy use. We stopped using our Master Bath shower once this one was done, and we get lots of guests, so some days 5-6 people can be using that shower!

We love it so much, that in our current Master BR reno, we ordered another one! No offense to anyone with a tile base, but I just can't imagine dealing with grout, discolouration, and possibly sharp edges from uneven tiles..I don't think of doing a tile base as an easy DIY project either, and we have tackled just about EVERYTHING ELSE in our total house reno. (Mind you, I guess having a custom made pan isn't DIY is it, though we did install it ourselves).

Don't just take my word for it, ALL of our guests love it too. My Mom, who has been in a LOT of nice BR's, says this one is the nicest she has ever used...well, I think she may be slightly biased...but you get the idea... :>)

I have had a Corian counter, though not a Corian shower base, and NO I don't think it would be worth 3 or even 2 times the price!

It is super solid, cleans like a breeze, and I think still looks brand new....way nicer than my previous acrylic or fibreglass pans.

You are lucky in your price! Here in the Vancouver, BC area there is only ONE manufacturer, so pricing is about double what yours is. Another advantage of custom though, is being able to have it made in any colour. My guy made it to match a BM colour chip. He came to my house twice until we got the colour exactly what I wanted!

Our Master one is still under cardboard, so haven't seen/used it other than the curb...hopefully won't be too much longer until I can reveal it!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 9:41PM
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When I remodeled back in 1992, I put in a cultured marble pan for the shower. It's been fine, no cracks or anything.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 2:00PM
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I think our shower pan is 36 X 60 so maybe that accounts for the difference in price but we had an Onyx Collection pan, walls, bench, corner shelves, fancy shower head, body sprays and a separate handheld unit plus a decent sized Onyx sink basin INSTALLED for less than $4000. I love it. It's super easy to clean. We have hard water but a squeegee in the shower or a swish of Mr. Clean in the sink is all it needs to look great.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 7:29PM
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Have you checked into swanstone? I have an odd sized shower and we put in a swanstone base which was reasonably priced.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 6:33PM
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When we did a Master Bath remodel two years ago, I wanted tiled shower walls but definitely did not want a tiled floor. We live in the very humid deep south, and I knew I did not want to fight a grouted floor.

We installed a shower base from Onyx. (It was one of their standard sizes; I believe it was the 36x54.) Price was just under $600 total. Originally I'd looked at a custom size, but as you discovered, that was much more expensive, and in our case, would only have been adding about 3-4" to the width of our shower.

We were able to make a standard base work by adding a granite-topped bench at the end of the shower, thus reducing the length the base needed to be. (In other words, our shower dimensions are ~3' x 6', but the base is only 54" long, w/ the bench taking up the remaining length. Three sides are tiled, and we have a glass wall/door on one of the 6' long sides).

I should also add that the plumbers were quite impressed w/ the quality of the base, as well.

They offered both a glossy and a matte option; I chose the glossy, thinking it might help w/ clean up. It is not an obvious sheen; it does not look plastic-y and blends very well w/ our tile. I can post a picture, if you are interested. It cleans up wonderfully, but is not slick, thanks to the textured floor.

There was no dealer within in a 50 mile radius from our home, but I was able to order directly from Onyx. Customer service was *excellent*. I spoke w/ two different guys by phone, and they were both very helpful.

The original plan was that the base would be delivered by their delivery truck when their next shipment near our area would be coming through, but once Onyx determined that delivery would be over 2 weeks out, they immediately told us they would drop ship it directly to our house, at no additional charge. It arrived very securely packaged in a frame made of pallets, and the delivery guys were entirely willing to bring it in to our house (first floor, just down the hall from my front door). That thing was a monster to move, weighing about 200 lbs.--definitely sturdy!

Around the same time we were remodeling, my in-laws chose to do their shower using Onyx Collection, as well, but they were able to use a local dealer (Lowe's). They did both walls and floor in the Onyx and are very pleased, as well. They got the low curb option in anticipation of meeting any accessibility needs as they grew older (we did the regular/standard curb).

It might be worth your time to give Onyx a call and see if they have any suggestions for you. Their website also has a place where you can input dimensions and request a quote.

Good luck w/ your remodel!

Here is a link that might be useful: Onyx Collection

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 8:24PM
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We have a cast iron shower pan in one of our showers. With the problems we have had with our other showers I really wish we did a pan in all of them

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 8:23AM
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I may have missed something in one of the posts, but Lowes does have 42 x 60 shower pans... some to use with tile, but also some to use alone. They start in the mid 400's. Just do a search of 60-in L x 42-in W Shower Base. I know what you mean about the extra 6 inch width... it makes a huge difference. I'm inserting a link to the search but don't know if it'll work.

Here is a link that might be useful: 60 x 42 shower bases at Lowes

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 2:58PM
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Hi, dmsohio,

Just wondering how your project is coming along?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 12:27PM
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I am in this same situation and would love to know what you decided. My shower stall is designed to be a little larger than yours. Jbrig, could you post a picture of how you filled extra space with your bench -- I can't quite visualize that.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 9:22PM
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Here is a pic of my CM pre-install. I chose a Ben Moore color and am still ambivalent about the pan.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 4:37AM
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Hellakitty, why ambivalent? Because you haven't seen it completely finished and used it yet?

Jbrig I would love to see some pictures!!!

I did contact onyx collection directly and they referred me to Lowes. I almost wish I lived somewhere remote where there was not a Lowe's within 50 miles to cut out the middle man and perhaps get a price break. I also suspect onyx collection pricing has gone up a bit in the last 2 years. At a different Lowe's (our Lowe's bath people aren't the brightest) we looked into getting a 42 wide x 70 long vs a 42 wide x 54 long since the 42x54 is a standard size they make. With the extra space we were going to frame in a bench and have a slab of material cut for the bench top. Well, the 42x54 was only $200 cheaper than the 42x70 and the slab will be more expensive if we go for onyx collection on both to have it match. I will check with another associate as we had a language barrier issue. The 42x70 came in at around $1660 for the most expensive color option for a worst case scenario price. I think we may just get a teak chair to use if one of us breaks a leg and needs a seat in the future. I will get the price for a slab of onyx collection material from a different Lowe's or contact onyx directly again and explain that the 3 Lowe's we've gone to can't answer simple questions such as "can pans be made with drains off center?"

Initially I was going to go with a white base but it will be hard to match with white subway tile. I really want to avoid mismatched whites so I think I will go with a grey colored base as the floor tile will be similar to carrara marble. I'm torn though, the only grey color I love in onyx I like is snowswirl but I fear it may look dated like the icky 1970s cultured marble.

I do like the cultured marble in terms of cost. I may go back to the fabricator and see what grey colors he has available. I am also wondering if cultured marble will stain if I dye my hair red. Anyone have experience with this? The Lowe's associates tell me their customers have had CM bases stain, craze, and even crack. The fabricator tells me no staining, he doesn't know of one cracking as long as they are installed properly, and that if the water temperature is not set too high there is no crazing. I don't know who to believe.

One more question. I will also post this as a separate thread since it may not get many responses hear, so forgive me for redundancy. Let's say we go with the 42 x 70 shower. Is that a little too tight for two shower heads on opposite walls of a 3 wall alcove? We are beginning to reroute plumbing as we are changing the layout of the bathroom and the hubby needs to know this before we get too far into this step.

Both the hubby and I were sick in January and gone on the weekends we were not sick. This month I've been studying for a big exam so things will pick up in April after the bonus check arrives and my dad comes back from his cruise and can help on weekends. I hope to have the plumbing and hvac rerouted by the end of April. We also are looking at some new windows and will be replacing the bathroom window in the reno. The polar vortex was NOT the time to do it so hopefully that will get done in May along with new insulation, electrical, etc. Hopefully in June a new shower base and tiled floors, a set toilet and then the husband can custom make our vanity and linen cabinet (he likes woodworking) to save some more scratch there!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 2:54PM
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@hellakitty, I was wondering why you have no shower curb? From the picture, it looks like your base will be level with the tile floor? (Assuming you are tiling the floor). I also am curious as to why you feel ambivalent? Colour or look of base?

Have to say, my reasoning for choosing CM bases isn't primarily for the looks, ie if I had my druthers, I love the look of pebble flooring in a shower, but for the function of not having to worry about leaking, cleaning grout, and the nice smoothness underfoot trumps the plain Jane look. With having to deal with pitching toward a drain, I would think that tiling a shower pan can be tricky, and I would want it nice and smooth between tiles, ie no toe stubbing! I am close to finishing our BR, and really the shower pan is not what I hope people notice when they see my BR for the first time! LOL

dmsohio, I don't know about dying red hair, I certainly wouldn't attempt it myself. I think red dye is about the worst for staining isn't it? Are you not worried you would stain the white grout of your subway tiles? I have never dyed my hair, but when my DD lived at home and did the blue hair phase, she just did it at the BR sink. Cripes there was blue everywhere! But ceramic sink and laminate countertop wiped up fine.

I would certainly think that 70" is plenty long enough for two opposing showerheads. Ours is just under 60" (in calculating for a 60" long shower we forgot the tile on both ends takes up about an 1" in total! We haven't tried showering yet (just about there...), but we can work in there together, ie grouting and wiping up at the same time...!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 3:47PM
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raehelen, good call on staining the grout too. Perhaps epoxy grout in the shower will do the trick. I have my natural color now (dirty blonde) but would like to go light brown eventually. I just hate forking over major wads of cash and the beauty shop when it could go towards paying off student debt! So diy dye jobs for me if at all.

I guess I will have to start looking at some more shower valves / heads / and shower trim pieces. With two heads I would cancel the bench idea and just use a seat when necessary. I guess I could take the bench savings and put it into more fixtures and valves!

Raehelen I am excited to see the shower heads you picked. I too was considering true rain heads but I like lots of water pressure and when it got to -15F here it really sold me on not putting any plumbing in the attic, no matter how well insulated. Maybe if I loved in Texas!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 4:32PM
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I would highly recommend the Onyx Collection shower over a cultured marble one. The fillers are totally different. Onyx uses a alumina trihydrate (same as corian) filler where as cultured marble uses a calcium carbonate filler (limestone).As for the guarantees - no one compares to Onyx! Guaranteed Forever!

Here is a link that might be useful: Guarantee

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 3:51PM
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Thanks for all the info everyone. It has been quite a slow process as we are pretty much working on this on Saturdays. We have just finished up rerouting the toilet flange, rerouting all the drains, rerouting the copper, rerouting the hvac and are just now putting back the subfloor.

We did decide on the onyx collection. I just ordered sample chips today to take around with me while I decide on floor tile. Because of a pesky floor joist the drain will be off center. Lowe's will be out soon to measure for the base because if they screw up the measurement they foot the bill!

Now on to lighting decisions, moving electrical, installing a subpanel to accommodate the heated floor, etc. I'm sick and tired of making decisions! I will start a post with some pictures as I want some opinions / help with choices.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 4:17PM
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Don't be fooled by Onyx Collection. True onyx is a translucent veined material. Google onyx and read the definition. Don't be mislead.
My father helped develop the cultured onyx look back in the late 1970's.
OC colors are actually cultured granite, similar to cultured marble but with different fillers; veined/solid color verses a "salt & pepper" appearance for the granite effect.
The type of filler makes no difference in durability, wear or care. You will treat & care for either the same. Expect the same durability.
Use a local manufacturer for better service, install and warranty work. Most local manufacturers employ their own install crews, unlike OC.
Most all manufacturers can color match another companies color. We do it every day. For a directory of manufacturers:
You can't beat a cultured marble/granite shower base complete with wall panels for durability, peace of mind.
I have cultured marble showers in some apartments I previously owned that have been in use for 38 years and are still working fine. No mold, no grout, no leaks.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 10:08PM
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Diy Showers

The Onyx Collection is not trying to mislead anyone. They are not stating their product is onyx. They state the formula on their site. Google marble - read the definition. The true value in a company is the customer service and the guarantee on the product. Call the Onyx Collection folks yourself and EXPERIENCE THE DIFFERENCE! Peace of mind. 800-669-9867

    Bookmark   February 19, 2015 at 1:31PM
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I disagree with you on that misleading part. It should not be called Onyx at all. It should be called cultured Onyx, or manufactured stone or Onyx. It IS misleading and people that don’t know the difference can be easily misled. And just because they state what is in it, does not take away from the fact that they are calling it something it isn’t. Why google marble? You will find out that marble is a natural stone, not manufactured. There are manufactured copies, (even vinyl ones) but it is NOT natural marble. (Reminds me of the 70’s terrazzo. Natural marble pieces held together with a polymer) And perhaps that is what this boils down to. Natural vs manufactured. Human made vs nature made. I do agree on durability of the manmade stuff and the ease of cleaning over the real thing. As cheap as it is, I’ve worked with acrylic panels and they turned out beautifully. It often depends on installation and trim/style, etc. Talk about low maintenance! I just removed a cultured marble vanity from a 45 yr old house, fully intact, with the sink & backsplash and donated it to Habitat. (and replaced it with an amazing piece of laminate that my laminate snob contractor admitted he would put in HIS house. But, the laminate is not trying be something it isn’t) Also, the cultured stuff will stain and scratch just like the real deal, it isn’t “perfect”. Bottom line, there are good choices in every category. The price point should dictate what is used. Don’t try to spend bottom dollar and get a top end look. They should be clearly called what they are. Yes, real requires more maintenance, but they hold up equally well and there is absolutely no comparison when it comes to the beauty of the product. There are marble architectural pieces such as fireplace surrounds, cornices, moldings, that are hundreds of years old and simply getting better with age. Many wind up removed from demoed buildings and repurposed in new. Manufactured will not. If you can afford it, the choice is a no brainer IMO. Go for the gold, not the gold plated. Humans simply cannot manufacture anything that matches what nature creates and trying to fake it just looks cheap. Natural always wins over manufactured in the looks dept.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2015 at 10:37PM
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Onyx solid surface has a gel coat on top, similar to cultured marble having a gel coat on top. True solid surface does not have a gel coat on top.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2015 at 8:29PM
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Diy Showers

Its called Onyx because is has a deep translucent appearance similar to that of real Onyx. Most Cultured Marble products do not have the finish, color selection or depth as the Onyx Collection. See pictures of Installed Onyx Showers

    Bookmark   last Wednesday at 7:48PM
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