pros & cons of shower base vs. tile floor

rlthomas7July 5, 2010

I see that there are two ways to do a shower floor - one is a solid base and the other is to tile the floor. I thought that doing a base would be cheaper, but it doesn't seem to be. So what did you decide to do and why - or what are the pros and cons of each? Thanks in advance!

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Well a shower base (receptor) that is pre-made (pre-fab) can be installed quickly, and presuming its a quality product, will be leak free.

Its probably far more practical than having a mudded or kerdi'd shower base built and tiled. But then home design decisions aren't always about practicality are they?

The downside is the lack of design options -- some of them are truly ugly, tile IMO looks much much nicer. The pre-fab ones come in limited sizes. You can have them custom made in the factory -- but then that gets pricey.

Cost -- around here (northern NJ), having a plumber build a shower pan and then having it tiled is very expensive -- so a pre-fab could be much cheaper.

But if your shower is an odd size, has angles, or you want to make the most of the space -- then a site built shower base is probably the better option, and as you note, not necessarily more expensive than pre-fab from a factory.

My new shower will have a kerdi floor and be tiled -- I think it looks SO much better!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 11:41AM
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Well been taking out bathtub, shower, comode, drywall. Looked at all the options. Even bought the Kirdi shower book online. Read it. Looked at the use of different brush on sealers. Bottom line. If you have a standard base 36x36 ect...go with an insert. The cost is cheeper. If you want to enlarge your shower to an off demention. Go with a mud base, liner, and tile. The cost is almost the same. As far as the Kirdi system...good marketing but not widely available in most area's. Makes you wonder dosnt it.... Read all you can then pull the trigger. Dont fall into the marketing side...look more at the cost vs the benefit.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 9:52PM
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I had originally wanted a tiled shower floor in our guest bathroom (reno'd in the last year and a half or so) but got out-voted (DH, sales guy we'd used for kitchen and bathroom fixtures/hardware, contractor friend...). We ended up using a Kohler cast iron shower pan. It looks very nice and works well in there because we used glossy white tiles on the shower walls, a white toilet, and a white fireclay/porcelain sink top. Definitely a lot cheaper than using tile, with a nice "look," in our situation.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 11:28PM
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When we started design of our shower, DH was ADAMANT about using a Swanstone shower base in a medium to dark color. He didn't want to step into a cold tile shower and wanted to be able to put anything we wanted on it to clean it.

But after we looked at all of the color options, price, and researched everything here and on johnbridge, we decided to do the tile floor after all.

It gave us many more options for materials, colors, sizes. And since we were having tile walls anyway, the cleaning didn't really seem to matter. And the warm shower water hits the floor before we step in.

We (even DH) are very happy with it.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 4:46PM
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Pete summarized the main points nicely, though I'd disagree that solid surface pans are all ugly. Plain, perhaps, but I don't think they necessarily detract from the look of a beautifully tiled shower. But in the end, aesthetics are a personal opinion, so only you can decide if it matters to you.

One more thing no one mentioned: pre-fabs are idiot-proof. If tiled floors (and all the stuff that goes underneath) are not installed correctly, you can end up with a mess on your hands. But you don't often see GW horror stories entitled "my contractor screwed up my solid base shower!" :-)

My sister has a tiled shower floor and complains of discolored grout. That's what drove me initially to do a solid surface pan. Ease of install and idiot-proofness were bonuses for this DIY-er. And I like it fine. We're done with all the bathrooms in our house, but now that I'm much more informed about shower construction, I'm likely to try a fully tiled (and kerdi'd) shower in a future bathroom project, should it materialize someday.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 5:35PM
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We are within 3 weeks of finishing, finally, a master bedroom, bath, etc. I wanted these new rooms to be beautiful yet low maintenance. The walk-in shower is 4' X 3' and after much discussion, we decided to use the pre-fab white base. I just did not want to be on my knees scrubbing the grout and re-sealing it over the years....or ever having to deal with cracked tiles! We are having custom tile work done around the shower and tub. The shower floor just will not be tiled, but will match the tub that sits next to it. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 8:00PM
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we decided to go with a cast iron, 36x60" cast iron pan in the color "sea salt". we are building a 14"bench along the 60" length, so total shower size will be ~ 50x60. the walls wil be marble tile with different glass accent mosaics, etc.
i have had tiled floors in the past 3 houses and in the last 2 of those houses(including this one!) i have had alot of problems with the floor grout and minerals seeping up through the grout that were virtually impossible to remove. i am so looking forward to the cast iron pan and it is very attractive and also has a smaller, sleeker curb than my tiled showers have had!!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 8:42PM
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I've usually prefered a prefab shower base - the nicer ones can be very elegant and conversely tile doesn't necessarily look good, especially after the inevitable mildew builds up in the grout lines. But I'm distressed at how many shower bases put the drain smack dab in the middle, right where your feet will step on it all the time - not comfortable - and how few shower bases have trench drains, which is the way to go. The only question in my mind would be whether the trench drain should be in the front, side, or rear of the shower.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 2:29AM
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My completely tiled master bath shower consistently looks better and requires less care than the one piece fiberglass unit in the kids' bath. I think that the key is proper construction - specifically, how the shower is constructed under the tile.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 12:00PM
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Cost and ease of cleaning are two great reasons to choose a pre made shower base. That said I have heard of too many people slipping on these units when they are slick from soap and cleaning materials.

To slip and fall in a shower is a chance you should consider. If the shower is for an elderly person then safety is foremost and a small 2"x2" tile will give a nice slip resistant surface if prepared properly.

There are many products out there to improve safety of bath tubs and shower floors and these should be installed before anyone slips.

I think a custom tile floor is safer and you can build it with a Channel Drain to make the room more evenly graded. With the right contractor and planning you can make the room curbless and have a level access shower. This is top shelf.

You desire it!

My Thoughts,

John Whipple

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 1:29AM
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