A lot of homeowners opt for pre-made shower bases, like shower pans, instead of installing tiles because of the benefits they provide. Aside from being inexpensive, they are also easy to install. Plus, you can pick from a variety of materials, such as cast iron and acrylic.
So, what is the difference between these two materials? To help you decide which type is better, here are the important details about cast iron and acrylic shower pans.
What is a Shower Pan?
A shower pan is a waterproof barrier that is made of various materials. Typically, they are placed under the tiles of a shower so that they can catch the water and direct it to the drain.
One of the advantages of installing a shower pan is that it prevents accidents because it ensures that your bathroom tiles are dry. Aside from that, it also protects your shower floor from leaks. Remember, the concrete under your shower or bathroom floor is not waterproof. As such, installing a shower pan can help maintain its integrity.
Cast Iron Shower Pans
Before, cast iron was the standard type of shower pan. It has a cast-iron structure that is coated with enamel. Compared to other types of shower pans, cast iron is heavier, but it is also cheaper and more durable.
Typically, a cast iron shower pan has a thickness of around 3/8 inches or more. Additionally, it also has multiple layers of enamel. This coating is fired at a high temperature to make it shiny and adhesive.
Today, it is common to find cast iron shower pans that are made with recycled iron. Remember, this type of material can be made with up to 80% recycled iron, making it resource-efficient. You can also find vintage cast iron shower pans made with 100% recycled iron.
Pros of Cast Iron Shower Pans
Opting for cast iron shower pans can offer some advantages, which include the following:
- Durable – Keep in mind that cast iron is made of iron, which is one of the most durable materials in the market. For this reason, you are guaranteed that your shower pan will last for a long time.
- Resistant to Chemical Erosion – As mentioned, the enamel coating of a cast iron shower pan is fused at a high temperature; thus, it won’t chip easily. Plus, the enamel is also resistant to scratches and most chemicals. As such, it won’t be damaged even if it is exposed to cleaning products with harsh chemicals.
- Sturdy – Compared to other types of shower pans, cast iron has a strong and sturdy construction. As such, it won’t get damaged easily.
- Easy to Clean – Cast iron shower pans are easy to clean and maintain. Usually, you can clean it by using an all-purpose cleaner or natural solution.
Cons of Cast Iron Shower Pans
Despite its great features, cast iron shower pans have a few limitations, including the following:
- Heavy – As mentioned, a cast iron shower pan is heavy. For this reason, it needs a strong floor that can support its weight.
- Installation Cost – Because of its weight, installing this type of shower pan will need a lot of time and effort. As a result, its installation cost is a bit higher compared to its counterparts.
- Susceptible to Rust – Even though the enamel coating of a cast iron shower pan will not chip easily, it can break. If this happens, the cast iron will rust quickly, especially with continuous exposure to water.
Acrylic Shower Pans
An acrylic shower pan is made with acrylic sheets that are molded into shape using heat. This type of shower pan may look like glass, but it is not as fragile as glass. To be specific, it will not shatter upon impact, making it an excellent material for your shower flooring.
Compared to tile shower pans, an acrylic shower pan is more durable. However, this doesn’t mean that they won’t be damaged over time.
Pros of Acrylic Shower Pans
An acrylic shower pan can offer several benefits, which include the following:
- Durable – Although lightweight, acrylic shower pans are designed to withstand water and chemicals from shampoos and soaps. Because of this, they are relatively durable, and they can last for a long time.
- Variety of Choices – Acrylic can be easily molded. As such, this type of shower pan is available in a variety of sizes and shapes.
- Easy to Install – As mentioned, an acrylic shower pan is lightweight; thus, it can be easily moved. Plus, installing it is easy as well. All you need to do is to fit it and connect it to the drainage.
- Excellent Heat Retention – Acrylic shower pans have excellent heat retention, which is during cold winter days. With this feature, you can ensure that the shower floor will heat up quickly and the heat will be retained longer.
Cons of Acrylic Shower Pans
An acrylic shower pan can offer numerous benefits, but they also have a few disadvantages, including the following:
- Expensive- Compared to other types of shower pans, specifically cast iron shower pans, acrylic is more expensive. Even so, you’ll save some money on installation costs because acrylic shower pans are easy to install.
- Susceptible to Damage – Keep in mind that acrylic shower pans can be easily damaged by abrasive chemicals or cleaners. However, they can be repaired easily without spending that much money.
- Fragile – Compared to cast iron shower pans, acrylic shower pans are a bit flimsy. To be specific, they can be easily damaged by high pressure and massive weights.
The Final Verdict
In the battle between cast iron and acrylic shower pans, there is no clear winner. As presented, they both offer some advantages and disadvantages.
Even so, cast iron is a good option if you’re looking for a sturdy and durable shower pan that can last for decades. On the other hand, acrylic shower pans are best suited for bathrooms that have a lot of traffic. Plus, it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you have a lot of choices.
Other Types of Shower Bases or Pans
Molded Stone Shower Bases
Molded stone shower pans can make your bathroom look stylish and elegant. It is made of natural stone and synthetic plastic. This combination results in a durable product with a luxurious appearance. Plus, this type of shower pan is easy to clean, and it is resistant to molds and mildew. Typically, molded stones will cost between $700 to $1,300.
Fiberglass Shower Pans
If you’re searching for an affordable shower pan, fiberglass shower pans are a good choice. Typically, this type of shower pan has a price range of $200 to $300. However, if you choose cheap fiberglass shower pans, you have to clean them regularly because they can easily stain.
You can also opt for more expensive varieties, which are more reliable and durable. Still, you need to clean them at least once or twice a week to avoid mineral deposits. Remember, cleaning mineral deposits require abrasive chemicals, which can damage the fiberglass.
Stainless Steel Shower Pan
Stainless steel is one of the most durable types of shower pans. Aside from that, it can be installed with ease, and it can be integrated into your shower setup seamlessly.
One of the best advantages of stainless steel shower pans is that they are easy to maintain because they are rust-proof and stain-proof. Plus, it can be easily cleaned by using an all-purpose cleaner.
Cultured Stone Shower Pan
Cultured stone shower pans use resin and ground stone as their main components. Typically, the stones used for this type of shower pan are granite, limestone, and marble. It also has a gel coating that helps protect the shower pan against scratches, leaks, and deterioration. Also, it is resistant to chemicals and stains. As such, you don’t have to worry about damaging it when you use cleaning products, shampoos, and dyes.
Unfortunately, cultured stone shower pans are quite expensive. Aside from that, they may come in a variety of shapes and sizes; however, you’ll need to find customized options, especially if you’re looking for a specific color or pattern.
One downside of this type of shower pan is that its outer layer can easily chip. Even so, you can repair these chips using epoxy.
Marble shower pans are beautiful, and nothing will compare to their sleek and modern look. Aside from that, you can purchase this type of shower pan in a variety of colors, patterns, and shapes.
Unfortunately, this type of shower pan is expensive. However, you can find faux marble for a lesser price.
Because marble is a natural stone, it can handle wear and tear. Plus, it is also resistant to shattering, and it won’t chip easily. Best of all, marble shower pans are durable, and they can last for a long time, even with minimal maintenance.