Simple steps for installing a shower base

Tired of that leaky old shower base and itching to install a new, watertight one? Installing a shower base is a fairly straightforward DIY plumbing project that will help improve the function and appeal of your bathroom. Here’s how to install a shower base in five keys steps. [Photo credit: www.istock.com/simazoran]

Simple steps for installing a shower base

Time: About 4 to 6 hours
Frequency: N/A
Difficulty: Moderate
Tools: Tape measure, level, screwdriver, drill, drill bits, hammer, caulking gun, shims.

Step 1: What exactly is a shower pan?

  • A shower base, also known as a shower pan, is a one-piece waterproof floor.
  • When installed correctly, it protects your subfloor from water damage, mould and rot by directing water away from the walls and toward the drain.
  • The base is usually made from durable, waterproof materials such as fibreglass and acrylic.
  • Bases come in many different shapes, sizes and colours so you can pick the one that best suits your space and décor.

Step 2: Choose a new shower base

A preformed shower base is the quickest and easiest way to a new or improved shower. When selecting one for your bathroom, consider:

  • The size and shape of the shower base you need. Make sure to measure carefully.
  • The material, style and colour you prefer.
  • The drain position. Bases come with the drain location in different positions, e.g. left, right, back and centre. Try to match your new shower base to the current drain location to minimize the number of drain adjustments.
  • The threshold type. Thresholds are grooves in the base that support inserted glass walls or doors. For example, single-threshold bases are for shower alcoves and double-threshold bases are for corner showers.
  • Any additional features you may like such as a built-in shower seat.
  • Some shower pans are designed so that you can place tile over them, providing additional decorating options.
  • Standard shower sizes are 91.4 cm x 91.4 cm (36 in. x 36 in.), 91.4 x 106.6 cm (36 in. x 42 in.) and 91.4 cm x 121.9 cm (36 in. x 48 in.) and are usually available in white or almond. Other sizes and colours are available, but often have to be special-ordered.

Good to know!

A barrier-free pan doesn’t have a curb, but may have a very low edge. This style is ideal for people with mobility issues.

Step 3: Prepare the space and test-fit the base

Before installing the base, follow the steps below.

  • Remove all debris and old adhesive and make sure the area is completely clean. The wall needs to be clear to the studs and the floor clean so you can level the base properly.
  • Make sure the surface is completely dry to prevent mould and mildew build-up.
  • Test-fit the base into the space and make sure that it’s level (this is critical for drainage). Use shims and make marks on the studs so that it’s easy to level when you are ready to secure it.

 Important!

Make sure your plumbing is up to code. If you’re replacing an old shower stall, this is easier because the drain and water inlet pipes are already in position. If you’re starting from scratch, have a licensed plumber set it up or the shower base installation may not be legal.

Step 4: Install the shower base

Depending on the base, shower drain installation and components will vary. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for specific installation details.

  • Some shower pans come with the drain included; others require you to buy it separately.
  • Generally, a drain line is either glued into the shower drain or compressed onto it.
  • Shower drains are designed to fit a 5 cm (2 in.) drainpipe because of low flood levels in showers. Most tubs have 3.8 cm (1 1/2 in.) drains, so adjustments might be needed if you are installing a shower in a spot where there used to be a tub.
  • During testing and installation, make sure the drain cut-out in the pan lines up and fits properly over the drain pipe.

Lay and attach the base.

  • Place a 2.5 cm (1 in.) layer of mortar on the area where the base will sit. Keep the mortar a few inches away from the edge for easier cleanup.
  • Set and level the base onto the mortar, taking care to line up the drain components properly.
  • Screw the shower base into the wall studs using the pre-drilled holes. Do not over-tighten, as this may crack the shower pan. NOTE: Some manufacturers supply clips that are fastened to the studs.
  • Let the mortar set for about six to eight hours before continuing.

 Good to know!

Most installers recommend putting mortar on the subfloor in which the shower base will sit because it creates a firm foundation. However, this isn’t always the case, so check your manufacturer’s instructions to see if it isn’t required or recommended.

Step 5: Finishing touches

To complete the base installation, follow these last few steps.

  • Install the drain cover.
  • Seal all seams that will be exposed to water with caulking.
  • Install the shower doors, if applicable.
  • Turn the water supply on and test for any leaks.

With the right tools, materials and a little time, replacing or installing a new shower base is a DIY challenge you can handle with confidence.

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