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Copper Shower Pans vs. Rubber Membranes

By Chris Lawson

I always want to give my customers and blog followers the best advice on the most economical yet highest quality tile-related installations. I've learned this information from years of hands-on doing of the jobs myself. As you may know from my actual web site I do all my jobs personally and have over 34 years of experience. In all those years out on the job I have pretty much seen it all. So when I make a recommendation on what's the best way to go, it's because I've weighed out the best options for my customers out there on the job. I also do repairs and always have: many in my industry overlook the repairs as not being lucrative enough to warrant their time, so I do get a lot of repairs.

The most costly repair is the leaky walk-in shower pan, which can sometimes be in excess of $500. I've done well over 100 of these repairs in my career and only 1 or 2% of these were rubber membrane repairs, while the other 98% were copper pans. In the instances of the rubber membrane repairs it was always improper installation by nails being nailed below the waterline. As we have all heard from the ecocriers, it takes hundreds of years for plastic and heavy rubber products to deteriorate in the environment, so it only makes sense that a rubber membrane would almost never be affected by water and would surely last past my lifetime when installed correctly.

The copper pan, on the other hand, is metal and starts the deterioration process almost immediately when in contact with water. We've all seen a green copper penny, and that green on the copper is just like rust on iron and steel. I have removed so many copper pans that were rusted through (for lack of a better word). I've seen it again and again: tearing out a shower floor and 12 inches up the wall because water was dripping into the living room ruining the ceiling and requiring more costly repairs.

Furthermore, copper pans are very costly even without repairs: most have to be custom-made and the plumbing labor is very expensive. The cost is $400 to $800 and even more depending on the layout of the shower floor to be dried in. On the other hand, I install rubber membrane to dry in the shower floor at a total cost of $175 and that includes the concrete in the floor to slope to the drain. I have several contractors who used to use copper who now call me to come out just to dry-in showers for them at a huge savings for a much more reliable and longer-lasting product. Using logic and common sense, it seems obvious that for less money and a longer-lasting, dependable shower floor the rubber membrane is the best call.

I don't supply materials on any of my jobs and don't ever gain monetarily on any of my recommendations: I speak only from experience and the desire for my customers to get the most for their money.

For more answers to all of your tile-related questions, visit my "Ask Chris" blog here.

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About The Author

My name is Chris Lawson, and I am the owner and operator of Tile Excellence. I offer...

Phone: (978) 471-9127

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