Cast Iron Vs. Acrylic Shower Pans: Which One Is Better?

Ian Haynes
by Ian Haynes

Instead of tiling the shower area, many homeowners choose to install a pre-made shower base with inbuilt membranes and wall flanges. These are cheaper, far easier to install, and you get to pick from a range of materials.

Shower pans are a part of this package. These make up the floor, i.e., the base of your shower and direct the water towards the drain. The two most common types are acrylic shower pans and enameled cast iron shower pans.

When choosing between them, it is essential to know that cast iron pans are durable, sturdy, and time-tested and have a certain richness to them. Acrylic is the newer kid on the block – it’s stylish, versatile, lightweight, and offers more customization options.

Why Is A Shower Pan A Good Idea?

Did you know that every year more than 200,000 people take a trip to the ER because they slipped in the bathroom?

That’s because tiled floors can be slippery and all it takes is one slide to break your back or even worse. Even retiling your bathroom floor might not help the issue.

A good way to prevent this is to make sure your bathroom stays dry. You don’t want the whole bathroom to be flooded when you take a shower. Shower pans are made of waterproof materials that not only help you keep your balance while you shower, but they also protect your floor and even the subfloor from any leaks.

Remember, the concrete or grout under the shower isn’t completely waterproof, so you’ll need all the help you can get to ensure its integrity.

Which Shower Pan Option Is Right For Me?

Several shapes, sizes, options, materials, and thresholds are readily available when it comes to shower pans. However, cast iron and acrylic shower pans are the most widely used materials of all. Let’s explore these in further detail:

Acrylic Shower Pan

These are made of acrylic sheets that have been heated and molded into shape. Even though acrylic shower pans look like glass, they are less likely to shatter on impact, making them safe as floor base for showers.

Acrylic is quite durable and needs much fewer repairs over its lifetime, as compared to tile or marble. But in case it does need repairs, know that it will be quite expensive.

Pros of Acrylic Shower Pans

Here are several reasons why people choose acrylic shower pans:

  • Durability: Acrylic shower pans are made to withstand the force of water, weathering through thousands of showers over a lifetime. They are highly resistant to water, as well as the chemicals from soap and shampoos. Though they are lightweight, they are still relatively durable.
  • A Wealth Of Choices: Since acrylic is easily molded and malleable, you can find these pans in all shapes and sizes. Whether you want a small 30” by 30” pan or a larger, much wider product, simply ask your neighborhood supplier to get you one. They really shouldn’t have a problem!
  • Easy Installation: Acrylic shower pans are also easy to install; they just need to be fitted into the required space and connected to the drain outlet. Since they are lightweight, they are easy to move around and refit if need be.
  • Good Heat Retention: Acrylic shower pans have good heat-retaining qualities, which make them a godsend on cold winter mornings. Rest assured that the shower floor will heat up faster and retain the temperatures for longer.

Cons Of Acrylic Shower Pans

The following factors may keep you from selecting acrylic pans for your bathroom:

  • Expensive: Compared to other materials in the market, especially the traditional cast iron pans, acrylic can be quite costly.
  • Susceptible To Damage: You need to make sure not to use abrasive cleaners on the surface. These tubs may become discolored and damaged on extended contact with chemicals and rough abrasives. However, these pans can be repaired cheaply and quite easily, as the material does not chip but scratches.
  • Less Reinforcement: Acrylic shower pans may seem quite flimsy under large weights and pressures. You’ll have to look for options with fiberglass reinforcements if you want a sturdier pan.

Enamel Cast Iron Shower Pan

Enameled cast iron was the standard for shower pans and tubs before other composite materials came along. It is essentially a cast-iron structure with a layer of enamel coating over it. It is durable and cheaper compared to other varieties.

These have an iron base that is molded into a specific shape and has a thickness of about 3/8 inches or more. On top of that, multiple layers of enamel are coated at very high temperatures of around 900 degrees Celsius or higher. The firing temperature gives the coat a high shine and adhesion.

These days, it’s very common to find cast iron pans that are made of recycled iron. Typically, cast iron pans can be up to 80 percent recycled, which makes them extremely resource-efficient. Some vintage refurbished pans can even be up to 100 percent recycled.

Pros of Cast Iron Pans

Check out these reasons why cast iron shower pans are right for you:

  • Durability: Since these pans are made of iron, they are the most durable option available out there in the market. Once you buy a cast iron shower pan, it can potentially last you for decades.
  • Resistance To Chemical Erosion: The enamel coating on top of the pan is extremely resistant to most chemicals, scratches, and even chipping. The enamel has good adhesion with the cast iron base since it has fused at such high temperatures.
  • Sturdiness: There is a richness in the feel and look of a cast iron pan that you would not find with other materials. These pans feel very sturdy as opposed to fiberglass and acrylic options.

Cons Of Cast Iron Pans

Make sure you factor in these points when considering cast iron pans:

  • Installation Cost: Cast iron pans are quite heavy compared to the other options. They require extra labor to fit and install.
  • Heavy: Cast iron pans, because of their weight, may need a strong floor to support them as opposed to other options.
  • Highly Susceptible To Rusting: If the enamel coating chips away, these pans can rust as soon as they come in contact with water. Cast iron pans are also quite expensive as opposed to fiberglass options.

Other Types Of Shower Bases Or Pans

Of course, these aren’t the only sorts of shower pans available. As a result, we felt it would be appropriate to provide you with a brief overview of the other types of shower pans so you can make an informed decision.

Stainless Steel Shower Pan

Shower pans made of stainless steel are one of the most durable. Aside from that, it is simple to install and may be smoothly integrated into your shower arrangement.

One of the most appealing features of stainless steel shower pans is that they are easy to maintain due to their rust and stain resistance. It’s also simple to clean using an all-purpose cleaner.

Fiberglass Shower Pans

Fiberglass shower pans are a good option if you’re looking for a low-cost shower pan. This sort of shower pan usually costs between $200 and $300. Cheap fiberglass shower pans, on the other hand, must be cleaned on a regular basis since they discolor readily.

You can even choose more expensive types that are more dependable and long-lasting. To avoid mineral buildup, you should clean them at least once or twice a week. Remember that removing mineral deposits necessitates the use of abrasive chemicals, which might harm the fiberglass.

Molded Stone Shower Bases

Molded stone shower pans can add a touch of class to your bathroom. It’s constructed of synthetic plastic and natural stone.

This combination produces a long-lasting product with a high-end appearance. This sort of shower pan is very simple to clean and mold and mildew resistant. Molded stones typically range in price from $700 to $1,300.


Marble shower pans are stunning, and nothing compares to their sleek and contemporary appearance. Aside from that, this type of shower pan is available in a wide range of colors, patterns, and designs.

Regrettably, this sort of shower pan is somewhat costly. Faux marble, on the other hand, is less expensive.

Marble is a natural stone that can withstand wear and tear. It’s also shatter-resistant and won’t chip easily. Most importantly, marble shower pans are long-lasting and can last for years with very minor upkeep.

Cultured Stone Shower Pan

Resin and pulverized stone are the key components of cultured stone shower pans. Granite, limestone, and marble are commonly utilized for this type of shower pan.

The shower pan also includes a gel coating that protects it against scratches, leaks, and deterioration. It is also stain and chemical-resistant. As a result, you don’t have to be concerned about it being damaged by cleaning agents, shampoos, or colors.

Shower pans made of cultured stone are, unfortunately, extremely pricey. Aside from that, they may come in a range of forms and sizes; but, if you’re searching for a specific color or pattern, you’ll have to look for bespoke possibilities.

The outside layer of this style of a shower pan can easily chip, which is a disadvantage. Even so, epoxy can be used to patch these chips.

Related Questions

What Is The Best Material For Shower Flooring?

The options that you can consider for your shower flooring depend on the aesthetic and the utility value you want from them. Some available options are:

  • Tiles: If you want to match your floor to your bathroom walls, you should opt for tiled shower flooring
  • Stone base: This option will give your bathroom an elegant, rustic look while also being slip-resistant
  • Bathtub: Consider installing a bathtub in place of a shower pan
  • Shower pans: Consider fiberglass, acrylic, or enameled cast iron shower pans
Is Acrylic Or Cast Iron Tub Better?

Cast iron bathtubs will last you much longer, as they are quite durable. If you maintain them properly, they can last you for generations. In contrast, acrylic is less durable but better suited for bathrooms that see plenty of traffic.

Also, these bathtubs require less maintenance than acrylic ones. Are you unsure of what tiles to use on your bathroom walls? Click here to get more information.

Should I Use A Shower Pan Or Tile?

Tiled shower pan flooring has a substructure underneath to guide water into the drain and prevent water from leaking through from the grout into the floor. In contrast, a shower pan has no grout or any gaps for water to seep through into the foundation, the water flows straight to the drain.

Ian Haynes
Ian Haynes

Ian Haynes is a digital marketing specialist and has successfully written hundreds of home improvement guides. Outside of his work, Ian likes fixing old bikes and exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.

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