Comparing Tile Ready Shower Pans
Tile ready shower pans are the alternative to the traditional built-up mortar base with a waterproof membrane. The traditional method of building a shower requires skill to properly slope the masonry base and careful attention to install the membrane without damage.
Also the challenge is to seal from the waterproof membrane to the drain. See, the normal shower drain has drain holes below the surface of the shower floor that take water from the waterproof membrane. These holes can clog. Tile ready shower pans ideally solve all these problems.
After installation the tile ready shower pans are ready for ceramic tile setting. All sloping to the drain is done. The drain is sealed and the corners and edges of the pan are waterproofed. You will want to check local building codes for approval of whatever system you choose.
Here are three systems to consider.
These are the:
Here's how they stack up...
Tile Redi Systems
The Tile Redi system is a polyurethane pan with an integral drain. Standard tile ready shower pans sizes are available with built in curbs and side shields. You just set the pan in a thin base of mortar and make sure it's level. When the mortar dries it's ready to install tile.
Though mortar application must be done, the mortar is only a thin layer to set the pan in place and to level and anchor it. No skilled work required at all.
Popular for multi-unit buildings, the installation goes fast because no cure time is needed for laying multiple mortar layers. That way the installers can just keep going and install unit after unit with no waiting. That speed probably explains the popularity compared to traditional construction.
Note the cost of pans like these. They don't come cheap. The high cost makes it clearer why many mortar pans still get put in.
The Schluter Kerdi System
One of the tile ready shower pans, from Schluter, includes a pan with material to build foam curbs and sealing material for the entire shower wall plus matching adhesives. Also includes a matching drain. This system is better suited for odd size showers and has the distinct advantage of sealing up the entire wall. Pan sets in a mortar base and after installation is ready for tile application after the special liner membrane is laid on top.
There's more too. Optional construction dispenses with the foam base and just uses the membrane material for the waterproof upper layer. Using that option, the installer lays a sloped mortar base. Then over the mortar goes a layer of membrane material that is the waterproof part.
The tile then goes right on the Kerdi liner. By using this method, building the liner into the floor is bypassed. You still build a mortar floor but not a layered floor. That way you can build a shower of any shape and size but with less hassle and less room for error.
Maybe the Wedi Tile Ready Shower Pans if you can find one...
Finally the Wedi system from Germany uses foam panels with adhesive to build showers of any size. Foam boards also are used on the walls for a completely waterproof shower. Again the pan is set in a mortar base and is ready for tiling the morning after installation. Not available everywhere in the U.S.
The traditional shower building methods work perfectly if done correctly and are especially suited for custom sizes. But especially for repetitive jobs like apartments or hospitals, the tile ready shower pans make a lot of sense.
One disadvantage of tile ready bases is cost. Installation is potentially faster but cost is high. In some cases you could have a shower pan built the traditional way for just the cost of the ready to tile shower pan. So look carefully at cost. Also some tile ready shower pans come in standard sizes and aren't easily changed.