Can a Shower Pan be Reused? (Explained!)

So you’re thinking about remodeling your shower and want to know if you can reuse your existing shower pan.

Shower pans, whether composite or acrylic installations, are for the most part durable and can be reused, provided that they’re in good condition, there’s no leakage and their base hasn’t weakened.

Reusing your shower pan can save hundreds of dollars off your budget. However, a bad shower pan can cause thousands of dollars in water damage.

It’s important to make sure your existing shower pan is in good shape before installing your new shower.

Can You Use an Existing Shower Pan?

You can use an existing shower pan if it’s in good shape. But, a damaged or leaking shower pan should be replaced.

But how do you know if your existing shower pan is up to the job? There are several tell-tale signs that you need a new shower pan.

Leaks

If your shower pan leaks, you need to replace it. A shower pan’s purpose in life is to protect the subfloor from water damage. If it leaks it’s not doing its job.

Finding out if your shower pan leaks may be easier said than done. Here are three ways to check for a leak:

  1. The floor next to the pan is soft or the tiles are loose.
  1. Water stains on the baseboards or walls in rooms next to the shower.
  1. Water stains on the subfloor or finished ceiling below the shower.

If your shower sits above an unfinished basement, you can directly inspect the subfloor and floor joists. If you don’t have a basement, you’ll have to use the crawl space to check for leaks.

Showers on upper level or above-finished basements are more difficult to check. However, soft or discolored drywall on the ceiling under the shower may indicate a leak.

Inspecting your shower pan for leaks can be a time-consuming job, but a bad pan can cause a lot of damage costing hundreds, if not thousands, dollars to repair.

If you’re not sure your shower pan is leaking, you may want to hire a professional to take a look at it before moving forward.

Cracks

Cracks are usually the first indicator that you might need to replace your shower pan or there are some issues with the substructure of your shower.

Even small cracks can lead to big problems.

If the shower pan you’re planning to reuse has fine hairline cracks, this is pretty normal and can be worked through with some sealant and waterproofing materials like “RedGard”, but if the cracks are more pronounced, then you might have a damaged shower base on your hands.

Small cracks have a tendency to become big cracks. If your shower pan wasn’t installed

Ensure water isn’t leaking through the cracks, by inspecting the floor joists beneath your home, if they don’t appear moist then you can proceed to reuse your shower pan.

Also, if the shower pan is made of a weak material like plastic, then reusing it isn’t worth it, as it isn’t durable enough to last you for the next couple of years.

Movement

Shower pans aren’t supposed to move. When you step into your shower, it should feel like you’re standing on a hard, solid floor.

If your shower pan moves, even slightly, you won’t be able to reuse it. Neither concrete nor plastic pans should have any movement.

Shower pan movement can result in broken seals around the drain. Improperly sealed plumbing fixtures leak and, over time, cause water damage.

Flexing

Too much flex (up and down movement) in your shower pan may be a sign it needs to be replaced.

Concrete pans should have zero flex and properly installed prefabricated pans will feel solid underfoot.

Flexing is caused by many things:

  • Improper installation
  • Poor quality shower pan
  • Damage to shower pan
  • Water damage to the subfloor

Rust

Reusing a shower pan that has rusted to some extent or significantly isn’t worth it, especially if you are planning to make use of it for another couple of years. Plus, an old and rusty pan wouldn’t go with those new walls or floors you’re planning to install. So, it’s best you replace your shower pan if it’s rusty.

Degraded Drain

Before you decide to reuse a shower pan you’d have to check if the drain is in a good condition. If the drain is made of PVC, chances are you’d be able to reuse the pan with ease, but if the drain looks rusty and old, you’d have to change it before reusing the pan.

How to Reuse the Different Types of Shower Pans?

As I hinted at earlier, there are different types of shower pans and each pan has its distinct specification for its use and reuse. So, in the below points, you’d get to learn about the common types of shower pans and how or if they can be reused.

  1. Acrylic Shower Pans:

These shower pans are made of large heated and stretched sheets of acrylic and are quite popular. They are easy to maintain, can withstand high heat, and are quite durable.  

As long as there are no significant cracks on your acrylic pan and the shower base is up to par, you should be able to reuse this shower pan without any incidence.

Additionally, some shower pans that are designed to go with tiled walls, have what they call a tiling flange. These types of pans are quite tricky to reuse and are best replaced to avoid leaking issues caused by installation errors.

  • Custom Tile Shower Pans:

As the name implies, custom tile shower pans are shower pans made of tiles. Unlike other types of shower pans, custom tile shower pans require a substructure to be built underneath to be successfully installed.

Reusing this type of pan isn’t advisable, this is because they have grouts that get dirty over time and become really hard to clean, also the tiles wear out and glide off the mortar with use.

While it is possible to remove and reuse a tile shower pan, it is way too tedious. For you to remove the tiles from the pan and reuse them, you’d have to scrape the tile off the mortar, soak the tiles until the mortar has been removed, rinse each tile to give them a cleaner appearance, you pretty much get the picture.

  • Fiberglass Shower Pans:

This type of shower pan is made of a mixture of polyester resin and intertwined glass fibers, they are super affordable and easy to maintain.

Although fiberglass shower pans don’t last as long, they can be reused if adequate repairs and maintenance are carried out.

  • Composite Shower Pans:

Composite shower pans are made of two or more materials and are super durable. With proper repairs and maintenance, they can be reused and serve you for years to come.

When remodeling your bathroom, don’t forget to protect your shower pan during construction. Materials like TubCoat and Coverguard Industrial protection do a great job at this.

How Often Should a Shower Pan be Replaced?

Your shower pan, like everything else in your home, will eventually need to be replaced.

But how often should you replace your shower pan? There is no set rule, but on average, you need to replace your shower pan every 5 to 10 years.

The lifespan of your shower pan depends on many factors, including:

  • Quality of the shower pan
  • Proper/Improper installation
  • Heavy/Improper use
  • Use of corrosive chemicals/cleaners

How do I Know if I Need to Replace My Shower Pan?

You need to replace your shower pan if there are any signs it’s damaged or leaking. A bad shower pan can cause thousands of dollars of damage and it’s best to catch it early.

You can tell if your pan is leaking if there’s water damage to the floor, baseboard, or ceiling in areas adjacent to the shower. 

Also, if your shower pan is damaged or moves, it’s probably time to replace it.

If your shower pan is over 10 years old but you haven’t noticed any signs of damage or leaking, you may want to have a professional inspect the pan. The cost of hiring a professional is worth the peace of mind.

How do I Extend the Life of My Shower Pan?

There are several things you can do to extend the life of your shower pan. Here are a few:

Purchase a High-Quality Shower Pan

One way to prolong the life of your shower pan is to purchase a high-quality product.

High-quality shower pans are built better and made from sturdier materials than less expensive products.

Prefabricated shower pans can be made from acrylic, fiberglass, or solid materials such as marble, composites, or even cast iron.

A high-quality acrylic shower pan is a good choice because acrylic is durable, corrosion-resistant, and resists scratching. Also, acrylic shower pans are more affordable than solid material pans.

Avoid Drain Cleaners or Other Harsh Chemicals

If you want to extend the life of your shower pan avoid using drain cleaners or other corrosive chemicals. Drain cleaners and other harsh chemicals can break down the shower pan especially near the drain.

Clean your shower pan with gentle household cleaners.

Properly Install Your Shower Pan

Proper shower pan installation is key to prolonging the life of your pan. Improper installation can damage the pan or allow movement which can break the seal on the drain.

If you are installing a shower pan yourself, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and read up on installation best practices. also don’t forget the check if you need a new pre-slope.

If a professional is doing it, verify their credentials and experience installing shower pans.

The Takeaway

A shower pan is the foundation upon which any successful shower remodel is built. You may be tempted to save a little money and time by reusing your old shower pan but make sure it’s in good shape. A bad shower pan can cause thousands of dollars in damage. On average, a properly installed shower pan lasts anywhere from 5 to 10 years.