Designing and installing an accessible bathroom is a significant step towards creating an inclusive and comfortable space for everyone. One crucial aspect of an accessible bathroom is the shower pan installation. A well-installed shower base pan forms the foundation of a safe and comfortable bathing experience. However, it’s not unusual for the installation to go wrong and for the area to become unsafe for bathroom users, especially seniors or individuals with limited mobility.

The good news is choosing a shower pan that meets your requirements and installing it properly ensures the users’ safety and the bathroom’s longevity. You can speak to an accessibility specialist from Freedom Showers who can guide you through the process of selecting the best shower pan for your bathroom.

Once you’ve browsed our extensive list of products and shortlisted your options, use the following guide to gain valuable insights into the most prevalent shower pan installation mistakes and, more importantly, how to steer clear of them.

What is a Shower Pan?

Before you learn how to install a shower pan, it’s essential that you get familiar with the product. A common question when creating an accessible bathroom is, what is a shower pan? A shower pan is like the foundation of a shower – it’s the bottom part that collects and directs water toward the drain. Think of it as the shower floor but designed to keep water from spreading all over your bathroom.

When it comes to accessibility, shower pans are specially designed bases for a shower that are intended to make showering easier and safer for people with mobility challenges or disabilities. Unlike traditional shower pans, which might have a high step or lip that can be difficult to navigate, accessible shower pans typically have a low threshold or even a level entry, allowing someone to walk or roll their wheelchair directly into the shower without stepping over a barrier. You can choose from various options, such as acrylic barrier-free shower bases, tile-over handicap shower pans, and fiberglass shower pans.

These shower pans are often made from slip-resistant materials to reduce the risk of accidents. Additionally, they’re usually spacious enough to accommodate a person with mobility aids, such as a shower chair or a bench. The purpose of an accessible shower pan is to avoid some of the most common bathroom hazards people with limited mobility face, promote independence, and ensure that individuals with limited mobility can enjoy a more comfortable and dignified bathing experience.

How to Install a Shower Pan?

One of the key tasks associated with remodeling your bathroom is learning how to install a shower pan properly. You need to consider shower pan sizes and your shower floor plan to ensure you choose the right product for your space.

The shower pan installation process might sound complex, but with patience and attention to detail, you can quickly learn how to install it yourself. Use the following steps as a guideline to begin.

  1. Review the installation guide from the manufacturer of the shower pan you have chosen to install. Read instructions thoroughly before you begin the project. Our easy access shower pans are simple to install.
  2. Prep your shower area by ensuring the floor is level and ready for the pan. Most floors are not perfectly level and will require using a self-leveler.
  3. Consider waterproofing needs. Most prefabricated shower pans are waterproof by design and don’t require additional waterproofing of the floor, so long as it’s installed correctly. The walls will need to be waterproofed before adding tile.
  4. It’s time to secure and prevent the pan from flexing or moving. Check manufacturers guidelines for best way to do this, but it will often require either a layer of mortar or silicone adhesive under the pan to keep it in place.
  5. Connect the drain and attach the drain cover. Give the adhesive time to set – this is key for a stable and watertight fit, and may require bracing to endure a proper seal to the floor.
  6. Now you can start tiling the walls around the pan, ensuring they overlap the edges to create a seal.

Just remember to take your time, follow instructions closely, and you’ll be stepping into your newly installed shower pan in no time.

Common Shower Pan Installation Mistakes

Even after you learn the shower pan installation process, it’s still vital that you get familiar with common shower pan installation mistakes.

Improper Slope

One of the most crucial aspects of a successful shower pan installation is choosing the correct shower pan sizes and ensuring the proper slope. The shower pan’s slope, or pitch, directs water toward the drain, preventing pooling and potential leaks. One common mistake is failing to achieve the correct slope, leading to water accumulation, mold growth, and even structural damage over time.

How to Avoid It

To avoid this mistake, with a prefabricated shower pan double check that the floor is 100% level before installation. Also, you will likely need to cut out a recess around the drain. Our Freedom pans require a ½ deep recess in a 10” x 10” square to allow for the drain assembly to fit just below grade. This is the #1 reason people report improper slope in their shower.

Make sure to dry fit your pan and use a level to  ensure that the slope is approximately 1/4 inch per foot towards the drain. Take time during this step, as it sets the foundation for a functional shower pan. The slope may vary depending on whether you choose tile over shower pans or another shower pan from our collection. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Inadequate Waterproofing

Once you’ve selected the accurate shower pan sizes for installation, proper waterproofing is essential to prevent water leakage into the subfloor and walls. Skipping or incorrectly applying waterproofing materials can lead to severe damage over time, compromising the integrity of your accessible bathroom.

How to Avoid It

Invest in quality waterproofing materials and follow the manufacturer’s instructions meticulously. Apply waterproofing membranes to all appropriate areas, including the shower walls, floor (if necessary), and corners. Pay close attention to seams and joints, as these are common entry points for water. The newly installed shower floor pan with the right materials will provide a seamless and watertight foundation for the accessible bathroom, ensuring all users a safe and comfortable bathing experience.

Incorrect Pan Liner Installation

The pan liner is a critical component of the shower pan, preventing water from seeping into the subfloor. Incorrect installation of the pan liner can lead to leaks and structural damage.

How to Avoid It

When installing the pan liner, ensure it extends up the walls at least 3 inches above the finished curb level. This prevents water from wicking up the walls. Secure the pan liner with proper adhesive and avoid puncturing it during installation. Installing the pan linear correctly is one of the best ways to stay safe in the bathroom when using a shower pan.

Poor Drain Installation

A poorly installed drain can result in water not draining properly from the shower pan, leading to stagnant water and potential leaks. It’s essential to get the drain installation right to maintain the functionality of the shower.

How to Avoid It

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for drain installation closely. Make sure the drain is appropriately positioned and tightly sealed to prevent leaks. Test the drain’s functionality before proceeding with further installations. A great thing about Freedom walk-in shower bases is that they come with various drain options, allowing you to choose the best shower pan for your needs. For instance, some shower pans come with a left drain, while others come with a right or center drain.

Ignoring Ventilation

Adequate ventilation is often overlooked in shower pan installations. Inaccessible bathrooms are particularly vulnerable to inadequate ventilation, which can lead to mold growth and deterioration of materials. Proper ventilation is crucial in maintaining the longevity of your bathroom’s accessible features, including the shower floor pan.

How to Avoid It

Install proper ventilation systems, such as exhaust fans, to ensure moisture is effectively removed from the bathroom. This prevents mold and mildew and helps extend the life of your shower pan and other bathroom fixtures.

Choosing a shower base pan resistant to mold and mildew growth can also be helpful. For example, a fiberglass shower pan can be a great option as the smooth surface of a fiberglass shower pan not only makes it easy to clean but also offers a sleek and modern appearance that can complement various bathroom designs. These types of shower pans are crafted from a combination of fiberglass and resin, resulting in a lightweight yet sturdy construction.


Creating an accessible bathroom involves careful planning and execution to ensure the safety and comfort of all users. Avoiding common shower pan installation mistakes is crucial for maintaining the integrity of your bathroom and preventing future issues.