What is a Shower Base?

Kate Monteith

A shower base is simply the floor of a shower. There are two basic types, prefabricated and hand tiled. Prefabricated shower bases are also called shower pans, shower trays or shower receptors, and they are a popular choice for a bathroom installation.

Shower bases are either prefabricated or hand tiled.
Shower bases are either prefabricated or hand tiled.

Prefabricated shower units are sold in hardware stores and plumbing supply stores around the world. They are generally made of a hard acrylic polymer that is long-lasting and practical for home and industrial uses. An acrylic shower base can be molded into any shape desired, from a space-saving corner pan to an entire, self-contained shower unit. The surface can be textured or smooth, and colors are plentiful. Choices depend on the bathroom design, as well as the water source and the overall size of the shower enclosure.

Most shower bases have built-in areas to hold soap, and bars to hold towels and other essentials.
Most shower bases have built-in areas to hold soap, and bars to hold towels and other essentials.

Manufactured bases are considered the simplest and most economical method for a shower stall installation. Acrylic shower pans come complete with drain holes positioned to meet any plumbing configuration. Options include drains in the center, in the corner, or on the side of the shower base. Manufactured bases are often textured across the floor pan to prevent slips. The floor is also usually tilted very slightly toward the drain hole to allow for easy water drainage.

The choices in acrylic shower bases include functional designs for practically every consumer demand imaginable. One style has a convenient seat molded into the side. At the entry point, the shower base is nearly flush with the floor, but the surrounding shower walls rise above knee level. One wall has a curved ledge for sitting down, or propping up a soapy leg to shave in the shower.

A hand constructed shower base is generally made of mortar or grout lined with tile for waterproofing. A drain must be inserted in the tile, usually in the center, and the tiled area can continue up the shower walls to any height desired. A custom, tiled shower provides unlimited choices for any bathroom decorating scheme. Inexpensive tile is widely available, as well as marble, stone, and other more extravagant construction materials.

Cultured marble also makes an attractive shower base material. Made of 75% marble dust mixed with a polyester resin, cultured marble has the look of fine marble with a few added advantages. Cultured marble can be formed in large sheets to allow for fewer seams and grout lines. It is also mildew resistant, will not stain, and costs a lot less than real marble.

A hand constructed shower base is typically made of mortar lined with waterproof tile and sealed grout.
A hand constructed shower base is typically made of mortar lined with waterproof tile and sealed grout.

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Discussion Comments


Has anyone ever tried to install a shower base on their own? For some reason, the bottom of our old bathtub started to get worn down. Since we would have to replace the tub itself, we decided to just go ahead and redo the whole bathtub area. Now we have the option to install whatever kind of shower we want.

We never take baths, just showers, so we have thought about going with the neo angle shower base style to save some space. What would be involved in putting this in? Is it something the average person could do on their own, or should you just hire someone? What is the difference in difficulty between installing an acrylic base and one of the hand constructed bases mentioned in the article?


@cardsfan27 - We actually just redid our bathroom, so I've still got a lot of this information fresh in my mind.

From what I was able to tell, in a lot of the prefabricated shower base kits, fiberglass and acrylic are combined into a material that is inexpensive to make, but is durable and looks good. It can be colored in any shade you want, too.

In our case, we just needed a corner shower base, so we went ahead and got the cultured marble. I had seen cultured marble before, but never realized that is wasn't the real thing. It looks really nice, and most people will never know the difference.


Our shower base came with a small rod in it so that you could hang up a wash rag to dry after using it. It comes in handy, since they are usually soaked, and drip water on the floor when you hang them on the normal towel rod.

I have seen bases that have special caddies to keep your shampoos and other bottles in, too. I think that would be handy to have, since I'm good at knocking the bottles over into the shower.

The article talks about the bases being made of acrylic. Don't they also make fiberglass shower bases, or am I thinking of something else? How do the prices compare between the two different types?


I guess I never really thought about all the different choices that go into building a new shower.

I remember not too long ago when the prefabricated showers weren't all that common. Usually, you had a regular bathtub that was butted against the wall, and you had water resistant paneling around the rest of the shower. The paneling always lost its resistance after a while, and could lead to various water damage problems. The manufactured showers are much better.

I always wondered how they make non-slip shower bases? Whenever you are walking on them, they have a slight texture, but overall seem very smooth. It seems like you ought to slip, but you don't. Why is that? What is used to make it non-slip?

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