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Replacing Bathtubs

This is a difficult, time-consuming job, but it’s within the reach of a do-it-yourselfer who plans carefully and takes the time to do it right. You will need a helper. In most cases, the wall repair is just as much work as the tub installation and plumbing. Visit your local library to find books specifically about wall finishing and tiling.

Choosing a Tub

■ Most tubs are 60 inches long, but 54- and 66-inch ones are available. Make sure you get a size that fits your space. Widths vary, too. This can result in a gap between the new tub and the floor tile. You may have to add some tiles or even build the wall out with a layer or two of cement board or green drywall. This could spare you retiling the entire bathroom floor.

■ Cast-iron is the most durable but also the most expensive and heaviest tub material. Fiberglass is convenient but will scratch. Baked-enamel steel tubs are fairly light and durable, but they can chip, and they are noisy when being filled.

Tub installation - The supply system for a tub and shower includes a faucet (for possible types, a spout, and a showerhead and arm. In most cases, these do not need to be disturbed when you remove and replace a tub. (Sometimes you need to remove the spout and handles to get the old tub out.) Remove the drain assembly and detach the drain overflow to remove the tub. When you replace the tub, replace the drain assembly as well. You can choose one that has a trip lever at the top to control the drain stopper or choose a simpler model in which you control the drain at the stopper.

1. Disconnect the drain. Loosen the screws and remove the overflow plate. Pull out the trip lever and linkage. Remove the strainer and use a pair of pliers and a screwdriver to unscrew the drain piece. You may have to pull out the stopper with pieces of linkage attached to it.

2. Cut the wall away. Chisel into the grout and pry out at least one course of tile along the edge of the tub. Cut away as much of the wall as necessary to reveal the tub flange and to get at any screws or nails that fasten the flange to the wall.

3. Remove the tub. Depending on how it was installed, you may be able simply to pry the tub loose, or you might have to pull nails, unfasten screws, or disconnect clips that secure the tub to the wall. Pull the tub away from the wall and remove it. (See the box for removal tips.)

4. Prepare for the new tub. Consult manufacturer’s directions for any special installation preparations. For a cast-iron tub, install a 2x4 ledger board, shown above. For steel or fiberglass, use the screws or clips provided with the unit. Some fiberglass bathtubs are installed in a bed of mortar to add support.

5. Set the new tub in position. Attach a new drain assembly or check to see that the old one will fit. Slide the new tub into place, reversing whatever procedures you used to remove the old one. Check for level along its length and across its width, and shim necessary.

6. Reattach the drain. Chances are you will need to have access to the drain either from below or from behind. Align the overflow and the drain with their holes. Apply plumber’s putty to the threads of the drain piece. Attach the overflow plate and the drain piece and fasten them in place, taking care not to scratch the chrome or tub surfaces.

Removing Old Tubs

■ Depending on the layout of your bathroom, you might be able to tilt the tub in one piece and carry it out the door. Have at least one helper on hand.

■ In some situations, the only solution is to cut a hole in a wall without any obstructing plumbing and slide the tub through into the next room. This is not as drastic as it sounds: You will only have to cut one or two studs, and the wall patching may actually be less than you would have with other methods of removal.

■ If the tub is cast-iron, by far the easiest way to remove it is to break it apart with a sledgehammer. Wear protective eyewear and work gloves. Remove or cover any items in the bathroom that might be scratched.

Wall-Finishing Options

■ You may not have to tear out all of your tiles and retile the entire tub surround. If you work carefully, you can piece in cement board or green drywall in the places where you cut away the wall. You can then fill in the space with tiles.

■ Other good options include acrylic and fiberglass panels. These are reasonably priced, and they can be installed in a fraction of the time it takes to tile and grout.

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