The terms shower pan and shower base are often used interchangeably because both perform the same function in a shower. However, a few differences exist between the two. So, to make sure you communicate properly with a contractor or a salesperson when shopping for your shower base, learn what makes these two different. Most of the differences have to do with the type of shower floor you are dealing with.
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The purpose of a shower base and shower pan is similar because both channel water from the shower to the shower drain. Slight differences in function do exist between the two, however. A shower base sometimes refers to the substructure underneath the shower itself, and this is often secured in place with mortar and a hand trowel. In this case, the function of the shower base is to support the shower pan or tiled shower floor on top of it.
Marked differences exist between a shower base and shower pan in terms of the materials used in their construction. While each is made of water-proof or water-impermeable materials to withstand the wet environment of a shower floor, a shower pan is either made out of fiberglass, acrylic, metal, stone or ceramic. Alternatively, a shower base is made of cement mortar, usually Portland cement or thinset.
Installing a shower base requires more time and preparation than installing a simple shower pan. The shower pan is a single-piece unit that fits into the shower alcove. Once it is level, the pan is screwed to the wall, and the shower walls are built around it. A shower base, when referring to a substructure or tiled shower floor, is built from wet cement, sand mix or a similar type of mortar. The installation requires skill in terms of setting the cement at a slight angle to allow proper drainage into the drain.
A shower pan only refers to solid, pan-shaped, single piece shower inserts that fit on top of the shower floor and used in conjunction with tiled shower walls or interlocking fiberglass shower wall panels. The shower base encompasses all types of bases, including floors built from mortar or cement board. A solid base is a necessity in any shower installation, so whether the shower includes a pan or is simply tile, the shower base is part of the design.