Can I put floor tiles over a shower pan?

I’m in the middle of remodeling a shower that was leaking from the shower floor to the level below. The original shower had ceramic tile on the floor and a liner underneath. Beneath that was concrete. How water still got through is a mystery to me. Either the installation was poorly done or this is not the correct way to configure the floor of the shower. The guys doing the work for me say that a shower pan is the best way to go in order to avoid water damage in the future.

We’ve picked out porcelain tiles for the shower walls and, knowing very little (okay nothing) about shower remodeling, assumed we would put tiles on the floor. Everything I read online says that a shower liner is used under tiles. I feel like having a shower pan on the floor with nice tiles on the wall will take away from the overall appearance. But, I’m afraid that just having a shower liner will lead to the same problem in the future. So, can anyone tell me if it is possible to have a pan with porcelain tiles on top? Is there another alternative that I have not considered? Any help is appreciated.

First, are you sure it was the pan leaking and not the drain/pipes? The weakest link of course is where the drain connects up with the pan and the plumbing. Just to be sure, I would suggest at the very least attacking it form below…

A shower basin flexes. You can’t really get it not to unless you set it in concrete, and then what’s the point of it?

Tiles require an absolutely rigid surface; if they don’t have it, either the tile itself will crack or the grout/tile juncture will crack, and water will seep through.
You could, in theory, line a regular shower pan with small (1") tiles but it would look stupid and it would leak; the water would be contained by the pan and so if the pan/plumbing juncture was watertight, it wouldn’t matter all that much.
But it’s a really dumb idea and you don’t see it done anywhere. Eventually the whole floor tile job would loosen because the pan has some flex.

Use the pan as designed, without tiling it. It won’t look dumb. I don’t personally like the liner/floor tile approach in any application other than a rigid concrete base, and that’s unusual to find these days. In any case, grout is by nature porous; it’s impossible to seal it perfectly and it discolors when left wet. It’s really not a good choice for a shower floor.

Go with the pan as is and tile the walls over a proper surface.

My 2c.

When you say “shower liner” do you mean a fiberglass pan or the rubber liner that goes under the cement shower pan?

Here is a website showing how the cement pan should be constructed:

Shower construction

Tile goes on over it.

I have seen a shower that was leaking and no one could tell why. After demolishing it, it was found that whoever built it left a pocket fold in the rubber liner that collected water - no way to tell until it was demolished. AN expensive fix for something that the builder should have corrected in about 5 seconds if they weren’t so lazy.

As a fan of Mike Holmes, do it right. Strip it down to the plywood flooring, install the liner and work your way up from there. A half-assed job will eventually turn into a full-assed problem.

It is not rubber but some kind of material like a tarp. There is no shower pan present

No, I’m not sure. The guys are going to remove the drywall on the ceiling of the lower level to have a look. That is a good point but I’m wondering if a rubber liner can be trusted as much as a pan.

Thanks for the info. I saw another (very detailed) post you wrote about tiling and was hoping you would show up. I hope you are right that it won’t look ridiculous. I think this is the way I’ll proceed to avoid another costly repair in the future. How do you have time to practice medicine and remodel a bathroom? I DON’T practice medicine and barely have time to go to Home Depot!

I’m currently shopping for a shower pan and it seems that Home Depot and Lowe’s only offer square pans (i.e. length and width are identical). Does anyone know where to get pans of differing size? My shower is 36x28 but was told that a 36x30 will work just fine.

We used to make them out of lead sheeting and weren’t restricted by dimensions. just make it to fit.