While this isn’t what you want to hear, the best way to fix an uneven shower pan is to start over. The shower pan is the grade or level at which the shower floor is set.
An uneven shower floor can create several problems, including but not limited to:
- Poor drainage
- Problematic pooling of water
- Mold – including the health and safety concerns that come with mold and dampness.
In this article, we examine the entire process. We’ll learn about how this problem starts, ,the risks involved, and the options for rectifying an uneven shower pan.
We will look at short and long-term solutions and learn how to fix an uneven shower pan today.
What causes a shower pan to become uneven?
Uneven shower pans are, more often than not, the product of shoddy work – either by a so-called “flipper” short on time and looking to make a quick profit, or an inexperienced homeowner lacking the proper tools, materials, and knowledge necessary to get the job done right.
There Are No Shortcuts
While there are a couple remedies to mitigate the effects of an uneven shower pan, if you want to see an end to the mold and squishy dead spots you’re forced to step on each time you shower, tearing up the shower floor is your only option.
In the short term, you can use a rubber shower tray or a squeegee to wipe excess water from the walls.
Or, a highly absorbent sponge / towel can be useful to contain the spread of mold and keep the shower floor drier than simply letting the post-shower water sit and settle on an uneven shower floor. However, these are very short-term solutions.
Other Causes of an Uneven Shower Pan
It is important to note that some flexing or movement beneath your feet is to be expected based on the amount of use the shower gets. As long as you don’t notice any water damage or leakage in the form of the aforementioned mold and dead spots, there is nothing to be concerned about.
However, you get what you pay for – be it the contractor who’s been hired, or the materials purchased for the project. Prefabricated floors tend to be less supportive due to their thinner frame, increasing the probability of flexing.
The solution? Install a mortar bed when you are re-installing to provide more structural support. If you have a tight budget, low-expansion spray foam is an option worth considering to help stabilize the shower pan.
Methods to Fix an Uneven Shower Pan
Once you realize tearing up your shower floor is inevitable, there are a few ways to fix the problem.
#1. Hire a Contractor
Hiring a contractor seems a no-brainer and not worth mentioning, but be honest with yourself: Do you have the time, patience, and skill to get the job done on your own? The decision to take this project on by yourself has the potential to prove more costly when your pride gets in the way!
Always ensure you vet contractors to secure one who is reputable, insured, and bonded. But, if you can take it on without the help of others, be sure to keep reading for some DIY advice.
DIY is inherently a matter of risk versus reward, although if you are someone with a background or experience solving these types of household problems and can save yourself the cost of labor, more power to you.
The entire tile floor needs to come up, or does it? There are people out there who believe that simply re-tiling by building up at a higher angle is less work and more cost-effective.
If you are dealing with a completely flat shower pan – one with no ability to drain due to the water having nowhere to go – this is a viable option.
Adding pitch by building up the tiles at an angle towards the walls will help to guide water down towards the drain. The best material for this tile-on-tile type of work, one which is designed to stick to the smoother surface of the existing tile, is C2 Tile Adhesive.
Removing the Shower Pan
In most cases, unfortunately, the entire mortar bed needs to be taken up. It’s also a good idea to remove the tiles on the lower parts of the shower walls.
Anyone who has showered on a tile floor versus a shower pan (everyone) will immediately feel the difference – this has everything to do with the quality and strength of the PVC used for the shower pan.
A thinner plastic shower pan, or one with thinner support underneath, is more susceptible to drainage issues.
A heavy amount of foot traffic can offset the drain itself, so it is crucial to use thin set, (an adhesive mortar) when you are re-tiling to help ensure a strong, waterproof bond between shower pan and tile.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about how to fix an uneven shower pan.
What happens if my shower floor is left uneven?
An uneven shower floor can cause what’s known as “shower failure” 75% of the time in uneven showers – this includes poor drainage, mold, and dangerous slippage due to the mold.
Should my shower pan be perfectly level?
It is crucial to make sure your shower pan is as level as possible. Failure to do so will almost guarantee problems in the form of a cracked or leaky shower pan, water damage, water leakage, and health risks.
Thin-set or self-leveling concrete?
The answer to this is case-specific, or more importantly, whichever you are more comfortable using. Advocates of thin set argue that self-leveling concrete doesn’t provide the necessary grade or slope needed.
Those who prefer self-leveling concrete believe a thin set has a rough finish, and makes it more difficult when setting tile or a floor pan. If uncertain, consult a contractor or expert if you aren’t going the DIY route. Best of luck!