Installing a shower pan in your bathroom can seem like a daunting task, but with the right materials and some basic plumbing and tiling skills, it can be accomplished by the average DIYer. A shower pan provides the base for your shower walls and flooring, and ensures everything is waterproofed properly. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to install a shower pan correctly.

Choose the Right Shower Pan

The first step is selecting the right shower pan for your bathroom. There are a few options to consider:

  • Fiberglass shower pans – Preformed, lightweight fiberglass units that come in many sizes and styles. Easy to install but limited on customization.
  • Acrylic shower pans – Molded plastic pans that are durable and easy to clean. More customizable than fiberglass.
  • Cultured stone shower pans – Made from natural stone cast into molds for consistent sizing. Very durable but heavier and more expensive.
  • Tile shower pans – Created with a mortar bed and an integrated waterproofing membrane. The most customizable option but requires tiling skills.

Take measurements of your bathroom space and choose a material and style of shower pan that fits your budget, design aesthetic, and installation skill level. Consider getting one with integrated drainage for easier installation.

Prepare the Installation Space

Installing a shower pan requires a prepared, level surface and proper drainage. Ensure the floor is cleaned and apply a primer coat. Then:

  • Mark the shower drain location on the floor and cut a hole for it.
  • Install the drain assembly based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Often a gravel base and plumbing putty is used.
  • For tile shower pans, install a slope of 1/4 inch per foot using mortar. This allows drainage.
  • Waterproof the walls with membrane or cement backerboard depending on the enclosure planned.

Having a clean, dry, and level surface makes installing the shower pan much easier.

Install the Shower Pan

With the prep work done, it’s time to put in the shower pan. Make sure you have the necessary tools on hand:

  • Rubber mallet to adjust the pan
  • Tape measure and level to ensure it’s positioned properly
  • Shims to level the pan if needed

The basic installation process is:

  1. Dry fit the shower pan and make any adjustments.
  2. Apply plumber’s putty or silicone around the drain.
  3. Set the pan in place and connect it to the drain assembly. Press firmly to adhere.
  4. Use shims as needed under the pan to ensure it’s perfectly level.
  5. Seal all seams and edges with waterproof silicone caulk.

Take care to position the pan so the drain holes up correctly. Make sure no gaps or cracks are left unsealed.

Build the Shower Curb

The shower curb is a small raised barrier along the edge of the pan that prevents water leakage. To build one:

  • Cut and fasten treated 2×4 lumber in the size needed for your shower perimeter.
  • Cut a piece of backerboard to fasten over the 2×4 curb.
  • Apply thinset mortar and RedGard or another waterproofing membrane.
  • Allow everything to dry fully.

The finished curb should rise 1-3 inches above the pan. Slope any joints towards the shower floor.

Add Walls, Doors, and Finishes

Once your shower pan is installed correctly, the rest of the enclosure can be built:

  • Install cement backerboard or waterproof drywall on the walls.
  • Attach and seal tiles, panels, or surround materials with thinset mortar. Apply grout.
  • Hang the shower doors properly so water flows back into the pan.
  • Finish plumbing work like installing the showerhead.
  • Apply color matched silicone caulk around all joints and edges.

Take care through these finishing steps to keep the shower pan protected from debris and damage. Thoroughly clean and seal the entire enclosure when complete.

Tips for Success

Follow these tips to ensure your custom shower pan installation goes smoothly:

  • Always seal areas vulnerable to leaks with silicone caulk or membrane.
  • Keep the pan evenly supported to prevent cracking or collapsing.
  • Slope the mortar bed towards the drain at 1/4 inch per foot minimum.
  • Allow thinset mortar, caulk, RedGard, and other products to fully cure before use.
  • Use an enamel-coated cast iron or stainless steel drain assembly for durability.
  • Protect the finished pan from damage until ready for enclosing.

With good preparation and careful installation, your new shower pan will provide a stylish and waterproof base for your bathing space.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know what size shower pan I need?

Measure your available bathroom space and factor in alcoves or obstacles. Leave a minimum of 30 inches clearance in front of shower openings. Custom shower pan companies can help design the ideal size and shape.

What shower pan materials work best?

Fiberglass, acrylic, and cultured stone are most common. Fiberglass is inexpensive but scratches easily. Acrylic is flexible and durable. Natural stone looks high-end but must be professionally installed.

Do I need a mortar bed under the shower pan?

Tile shower pans require a sloped mortar bed. Preformed fiberglass or acrylic pans often just need flat plywood or backerboard underneath. Consult manufacturer instructions.

Should I do anything special to prep the floor?

Clean thoroughly and apply a primer coat suitable for bathrooms. For tile pans, a mortar slope should be added. Mark and cut the drain hole in the subfloor first.

How high should the shower curb be?

Standard height is 1-3 inches. The curb prevents water running off the pan during showering. Make curbs from treated lumber and cover with backerboard.

Can I install my own tile on the walls?

Yes, tile can be installed as a DIY project if you have some tiling experience. Use cement backerboard on walls and waterproof appropriately before applying tile.

What is the best way to seal the shower pan?

Use 100% silicone caulk, not acrylic latex caulk. Silicone flexes with movement and provides a waterproof seal. Apply where the pan meets walls, corners, and along the curb.


Installing a shower pan may take time and effort, but it truly upgrades your bathroom’s look and function. Pay close attention to prep work and properly sealing the enclosure, and your new shower will provide enjoyment for years before needing regrouting or recaulking. Focus on high quality waterproofing, materials, and drainage to prevent leaks or other problems down the road. With some perseverance and the right techniques, you can handle this ambitious DIY project on your own. Just take it step-by-step.