Installing a shower pan is a project that a reasonable handy person can do. It's a step by step procedure that can be learned. There are some tricks, but once you know the basics you can do it right the first time.
A properly constructed shower pan should last for decades with very little maintenance. If you use the traditional method for constructing your shower you can have a beautiful tile shower custom made to fit your location and with just the tile designs you choose. It's a satisfying project and a way to save some money too. Plus you do not have strangers in your house! So let's look at the basic steps for installing your shower.
The shower pan is two masonry layers plus a waterproof membrane with ceramic tile on top.
Start with a good solid subfloor. Some people put down hardibacker board as a base if it is convenient. Over the solid floor put a liner of roofing felt to contain the mortar mix.
Rough set the drain so it is at the finished height of the shower floor. Allow for the base layers plus the tile thickness. The shower drain is made just for showers with two levels of drain holes. The top drain is the hole you see at the top. The bottom drain holes are below the surface of the shower. That's a trick. Masonry, especially grout, is not waterproof. So the shower floor is not waterproof. Water soaks the masonry and goes down to a waterproof membrane that routes the water to these lower drain holes. OK.
To build the first base layer, mix a cement mix made for showers. Check products in the tile section of your building supply store. Mix the mortar and pour it, then slope it to the lower base of the drain. Let it dry.
Now the real key to waterproofing the shower is the vinyl membrane. This special sheet is fitted into the shower over the first base coat and up the walls several inches. Fold the membrane in the corners and then cut a hole in the sheet for the drain. Glue the membrane to the top of the drain base. This forms the waterproof layer for the floor.
The next mortar layer is scattered over this membrane and sloped to the drain. Before pouring the layer, put gravel over the lower drain holes to keep the lower drain open. Now let this layer dry.
Finally trowel on your thinset, lay the tile and then grout.
Let dry and your shower floor is ready. The floor is usually sealed to the walls with caulk. And most people like to seal the grout in the floor with a regular grout sealer. Make sure to keep the caulk seal from floor to wall and regularly reseal the grout.