Tile Installation-Repair I DIY Consumer Help Blog: copper shower pan vs rubber membrane to dry in shower pans???

Thursday, August 18, 2011

copper shower pan vs rubber membrane to dry in shower pans???

I always want to give my customers and blog followers  the best advice on the most economical yet highest quality tile related installations. Ive 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 recomendation on whats the best way to go , its because Ive 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 allot of repairs.
  The most costly repair Is the leaky walk in shower pan,Which can sometimes be in excess of $500.
Ive done well over 100 of these in my career and only 1 or 2 % of these were rubber membrane repairs
and 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 enviorment,so it only makes sense that a rubber membrane would almost never be effected 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).
Ive seen it again and again tearing out a shower floor and 12 inches up the wall because water was dripping into their living room ruining their ceiling and requiring more costly repairs.
  Further more the copper pans are very costly 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 less $$ and a longer lasting dependable shower floor the membrane Is the best call.
I dont supply materials on any of my jobs and dont never gain montaily on any of my recomendations I speak only from experience and the desire for my customers to get the most for thier money

26 comments :

  1. Just for your information, I live in Newton, MA, and have just been told by my plumbing inspector that flexible membranes (PVC, "rubber", etc.) are no longer approved for shower pans. It seems that I have no choice but to use copper. My plumber was standing right there with me. He had advised me to ask what was approved, but did not expect the answer we got. He routinely uses copper, but had no problem with my plan to use a membrane until the inspector said that it wouldn't be approved. Now I have to figure out how to make a copper shower pan work and not fail.

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    1. This is the first Ive heard of any code against rubber membrane usage, And frankly Im very surprized as it is the common sense way to go. But if I had to use a copper pan in my own house I would use some kind of metal protecting sealer something to waterproof the metal and protect against corrosion
      so the metal doesnt deteriorate over time. I am sorry
      your inspector has taken such a stand with you. It seems completly out of bounds,considering I havent seen a copper pan out on the job in years.I have about 4 contractors whose tile work ive done for over 7 years and none of them have ever used a copper pan. AS well Ive done over 100 showers myself here in Mass in the last 10 years and always use rubber membrane dry ins.There may still be a code on the books insisting on copper but its not being enforced because 90% are now using rubber membrane.In fact a shower I am doing comming up in Essex Ma.just had the plumbing Inspection and next week will be tiled using a rubber membrane installation.There is a good product at Home Depot that would seal your coppedr pan from water damage . Its a "Custom" product paint on water membrane sealer its not cheap about $30 per gallon and paints on pink it would protect your copper pan from damage over the years regards Chris

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  2. Well I won't argue plastic/rubber may take years to completely deteriorate but can't properties of plastics change over time? I know some plastics only will perform for a few years in certain uses before needing replacement.

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    1. Yes ur right but the pan liners used are pvc and are proven thru water pipe use to last a long time much longer than a metal ( copper) under wet conditions. I personaly have used pvc liners for over 30 years and have never known them to leak unless installed incorrectly.On the other end ive ripped out many leaky shower pans to find corroded copper liners thru years of experience ive built confidence in pvc liners and lost confidence in copper.so my conclusions are based on experience with both products and I would most certainly want rubber in my house. thanks for the comment regards Chris

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  4. If copper or stainless steel pans are used and tiled over properly as they should, they should never be in contact with water? yes? Aren't pans of anykind (ones that are tiled over)only a protection when the tiles/ grout fails?

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  5. GREAT QUESTION I LOVE THE INQUIRING MIND!!!Not so,concrete and tile are both mason type materials and are not effected structuraly at all by water BUT THEY ARE NOT A BARRIER.Think back to a tile when someone you knew had water seeping up throught thier basement floor and puddling in thier basment, weve all seen this at least once.The concrete bed installed in a shower floor only acts as a solid base for the floor you stand on. The water seepd all the way through the tile and the concrete floor all the way down to the metal pan or the pan liner about the 3rd or 4 time ever used.If the tile and the concrete was realy a barrier then there would be no need for the copper pan or the rubber liner. The copper or the rubber liner act as a sort of CUP that catches the water inside and prevents leakage and as the cup fills the overflow drains into the drain or flows through the weep holes under the concrete around the base of the drain. The metal or copper pan or the rubber liner are always in contact with water the life of the shower,And any king of metal is effected over time by this contact with water, The rubber/ PVC liner is least effected by water and unless compromised will never leak for many many years as we know from the use of PVC pipes.regards chris

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  18. What do you know about the Schluter shower pan systems? It seems superior to all other options.

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