What Is A Shower Pan? | Everything Explained

Shower pan, shower base or shower tray? What’s the difference, is there a difference, and what exactly are they? If you’re getting a little confused with all the various bathroom lingo, fear not!

In this post, I’ll explain what a shower pan is and how it works. As well as answer some popular questions about the topic.

Let’s dive in!

What Is A Shower Pan?

A shower pan (also known as a shower tray) is a pre-formed floor designed to make installing a shower quick and easy. Usually formed out of acrylic, fibreglass, or enamel steel. Its floor is shaped to direct water towards the drain, which is pre-cut in most shower pans.

The rim of the pan provides protection against water spilling out the sides and generally measures 3 to 5cm high. They can be a thin sheet of acrylic which demands the installation of a supporting frame under the pan. Other types provide their own structural support and only require a bed of mortar to secure them in place.


Are you thinking of a bathroom completely finished out in stone?
New shower pan designs include premium finishes that mimic the appearance of slate, marble, or granite but are fabricated out of easy-to-maintain composites.

A shower pan may be sold as part of a total shower enclosure kit or as a separate part.
Shower pans are sold in all the most popular sizes of common showers. Whatever shape pan or base you choose will be the shape of your shower.

Find square shower pans measuring 700 mm X 700 mm up to 900 mm X 900 mm. Some save a little more space with a square corner but curved outer shape. Rectangles start at 1000 mm X 700 mm and run up to 1700 mm X 1200 mm for a shower with plenty of elbow room.

If you need your plumbing to run under the shower pan above the floor, look for one with a riser kit. You will step up into the shower, but leave plenty of room for proper drainage hidden under the final construction.

Composite Stone Effect Shower Pan
Composite Stone Effect Shower Pan

You May Also Like:
What Is A Shower Pan Liner & Do You Need One?

How much will you pay for a shower pan?

The least pricey versions run around £60 for a small corner unit. Expect to pay between £120 and £200 for a larger pan designed for a walk-in shower experience. Get the whole shower enclosure kit including a properly sized pan for £350 to £700.

Expect to pay a contractor an average of £500 to £800 to install the shower for you. This does not include the cost of flooring, tile work, or other finishes.

Installing just the shower pan is usually a two-day process. The first day is needed for building a timber support or laying the mortar and positioning the tray. After the mortar dries, you can complete the installation of pipes and secure the unit to the walls as directed by building regulations. 

You May Also Like:
What Is A Shower Tray Upstand? (And Do You Need One?)

What Is The Difference Between A Shower Pan And A Shower Base?

A shower base is a structure that supports the floor of a shower while providing room for the waste pipe and is often hidden by the pan.

A shower pan will sit on the shower base. If you are tiling a shaped concrete floor for your bathroom, you may not need a shower pan as the tile serves as both support and drainage.

A shower base can be made out of concrete, tile, or even lumber that is enclosed by the rest of the shower. Typically, shower pans are made out of acrylic, fibreglass, composite, or enamelled steel.

Do You Need Both A Shower Pan And A Shower Base?

It depends on the structure of your shower enclosure. If you purchase a pre-fabbed shower enclosure, you will likely need to buy or build a shower base to provide a solid support for the floor. A pre-fabbed shower usually includes the pan, walls, door, and taps.

If you are building a tiled shower enclosure from scratch, the shower base that you build will double as a shower pan. The floor must be shaped to direct water to flow toward the waste pipe.

If you prefer the look and easy cleaning associated with a shower pan, you can install one over a solid base. But it is not required.

What goes under a shower pan?

The waste pipe fits beneath the shower pan. Depending on how your pipes are plumbed, it may be a direct downward pipe that cuts through the floorboards. Then it will take a turn to run between the rafters until it joins the stack and main drain.

If you have a connection to your main drain by the toilet or sink, the waste pipe under the shower pan may take a turn above the floor. Water will flow hidden under the pan until it meets up with the main pipe.

Some shower pans do not need a shower base. However, you may need to add a waterproof liner and mortar under it to fix the pan in place.

Does A Shower Pan Have A Drain?

The floor of the pan is shaped to push water towards a drain. The shower pan will have a circle or slit cut out and a short pipe fitted to receive the final drain connections.

Typically, It will not have the drain pipes needed to make the connection to the main waste in your home. This is because no two plumbing jobs are alike.

It is best to work with a certified plumber to ensure that your drain is designed and installed properly while meeting all city and government regulations.

Shower pan with built in drain
Shower pan with built-in drain

You May Also Like:
What Is A Shower Cabin? | Everything Explained

Do I need a shower pan on a concrete floor?

If your concrete floor was poured with a shower as part of the design, you may not need a shower pan.

The concrete floor would need to be shaped to drain water, have a drain installed in the floor, and be ready to receive the type of tile that you want in the bathroom.

If it is simply a flat concrete floor, the shower pan provides an easy way to create a self-draining shower floor without making any changes to the existing floor.

Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Everything you need to know about the humble shower pan.

While not a necessity to create a shower, they are a cost-effective and convenient foundation. Available in a whole range of shapes and sizes, they can be an easy-to-install shower floor option.


Michael R

Michael is a KBB designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom installations for over eight years now, and before that, he was an electrician and part of a KBB fitting team. He created The Bathroom Blueprint in early 2020.