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Tubs and Showers

Should You Replace Your Only Bathtub With a Shower?

Glass partition between shower tap and wall hung toilet in modern restroom at home

When homeowners remodel their bathrooms, one of the most sought-after features is a spacious walk-in shower. Much of the time, that means pulling out a bathtub to make room. But what if switching to a shower means there’s no bathtub in the home at all?

The short answer is that if it works for you, there’s nothing wrong with going tub-less. However, there are a few considerations to make before you plan the switch.

Follow this guide to learn more about those considerations and how to switch from tub to shower.

Switching from Bathtub to Shower – The Top Considerations

When deciding on a bathtub-to-shower conversion, there are a few additional considerations, especially if you’re eliminating your only tub.

Here are some of the pros and cons of converting your tub to a walk-in shower:

Pros:

  • Modernizes the home. Though trends come and go, it’s safe to say that replacing a tub with a walk-in shower modernizes the overall look of your space.
  • Offers better accessibility and safety. Stepping into a tub-shower combo is awkward and the surface could be slippery. A large walk-in shower can also include a bench for those aging in place.
  • There are alternative options. For adults who prefer the relaxation of soaking in a tub, an outdoor hot tub can be installed! For children or pets that need bathing, small, portable tubs can be placed in the shower or bathroom.

Cons:

  • May not help resale value. Though upgrading your tub to a shower could arguably be seen as a “pro” for better resale value, replacing your only tub is not as versatile for every type of homeowner.
  • More difficult to bathe children and pets. Bathtubs can be a must-have for smaller children or pets. Whether you or future owners of your home plan on having either, keeping a tub available may be a good idea. This is especially true If your home is in an area popular for young families.
  • Layout may not be ideal. Depending on the setup of your bathroom, installing your dream walk-in shower might not be possible. For example, if you prefer the look of a swing door, you may not have the space available to install one.

Before You Replace – Plan Ahead

It’s a good idea to schedule an inspection and consultation with a licensed plumber before you start making decisions for your fantasy walk-in shower. Even if you’re not sure about all the aesthetic choices you’ll eventually make, a plumber can help you define some basic parameters for things like the maximum shower stall size your bathroom can support.

You might also have a situation where the ideal location for a walk-in shower is not in the same place as the existing bathtub, in which case there could be more plumbing work than in a typical conversion.

It’s best to figure these things out early because they can have an impact on overall costs that might push your project out of your budget range.

Related Content: Save Water and Energy with a Thermostatic Shower Head

How to Replace a Tub with a Walk-in Shower

How to Remove a Bathtub

Here are the steps to remove your tub. If you hire a professional plumber to transform your bathroom from one with a tub to one with a beautiful walk-in shower, this is how the work is done:

  1. Turn off the water supply to the tub. Locate the shutoff valve for your bathroom or turn off the water to the entire home if you don’t have a separate one for the bathroom.
  2. If you have a visible drain stopper, unscrew it and remove it.
  3. Use a tub drain wrench tool to remove the drain flange.
  4. Use a screwdriver to remove the waste and overflow valve cover.
  5. Unscrew or twist off your tub spout.
  6. Disconnect the drain by locating the access point through an access panel. If there isn’t an access panel, cut the drywall directly behind the overflow valve.
  7. Use Channellock pliers to loosen the nut connecting the drain pipe where the drain and overflow valve meet and disconnect it.
  8. Remove the entire drain assembly.
  9. Depending on whether your tub is attached by drywall, tile, or a tub surround, you’ll need to remove that material back to the studs.
  10. Using the right tools and protective gear, cut out the wall about 6 inches above the tub along each side and the front of the tub.
  11. Remove any screws, nails, caulk, and molding connecting the tub.
  12. Cut the caulk between the tub, floor, and walls using a utility knife.
  13. Use two people to lift and place the tub on top of a few boards.
  14. Responsibly dispose of the old tub.

How to Replace a Bathtub with a Walk-in Shower

Here’s how to turn a bathtub into a walk-in shower:

  1. Measure and plan out your space. Ideally, you’ll want to install a shower that perfectly fits the existing space. If you plan to install a smaller shower instead, make sure you have a plan for that additional space.
  2. Shut off the water supply to your bathroom, or the entire home if you don’t have a separate bathroom shut-off valve.
  3. Follow the steps listed for “how to remove a bathtub” before proceeding to step 4.
  4. Remove all wall materials that were installed for the previous tub. Depending on your type of shower, you’ll likely also need to remove the wet wall and replace it.
  5. Remove any remaining plumbing fixtures.
  6. Clean the area and remove any debris, nails, and binding materials left over.
  7. Repair any damaged or cut drywall and subfloor, making sure to leave the necessary cut out for the shower drain opening.
  8. Adjust all necessary plumbing:

                a) Rough-in the location of the drain based on the dimensions of the shower pan and its drain opening. Extend the drain lines to match those measurements. If the existing drain lines are made of PVC or ABS plastic, you can simply cut the existing pipes and then attach new pipes to adjust their length. Then, install a drain trap.

                b) Rough-in the faucet and showerhead. Position the valves based on the height requirements listed on the shower surround kit. Then, use PEX pipe for any new water supply lines and connect them to existing lines with push-fit fittings.

       9. Install the shower pan based on the manufacturer's instructions.

      10. Install the surround panels or tiles as instructed by the surround kit.

      11. Attach the shower pan’s drain fitting to the drainpipe based on the manufacturer’s instructions.

      12. Attach the showerhead and faucet handle based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, apply caulk around the mounting plates.

      13. Install the shower door based on the manufacturer’s instructions.

      14. Seal any joints and cracks with caulk.

      15. Turn the water supply valve back on and test to make sure the shower is working properly.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of work that goes into a bathtub-to-shower conversion.

Even if you feel capable of everything besides all necessary plumbing adjustments, it’s better to skip the risk of plumbing or water damage and let the pros handle it. The experts at your local Benjamin Franklin Plumbing can not only install your shower for you but also make sure that any additional plumbing considerations or adjustments are properly addressed.

Related Content: Home Remodeling Guide--Plumber's Edition

Make the Switch with the Pros

Thinking about making a big change to your bathroom design? Let your local licensed plumbers at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing handle it! Our experts will make sure that your bathroom dreams come true. Call 1-877-BEN-1776, or request an appointment online to get started!

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