Bathroom improvements rank among the highest in return on investment. So most of every dollar that you spend converts straight into a higher home value. A new bathtub installation is worth it, especially if the one you have now has seen better days. And you might even install it on your own.
Plumbing doesn’t pose big dangers the way that electrical work does, but it not always simple, either. We have no doubt that you can install a new tub on your own. But before you begin, we have a few tips that can help make the job a little easier. And if you decide that you’d rather let someone else hands it, Rodenhiser is just a phone call away.
#1: Measure the Bathtub and Doorway First
Bathtubs are large, but most doorways are not. So moving a bathtub through a doorway usually poses a few problems. If the tub is original to the house, it might never have come through the finished doorway at all. So you shouldn’t assume that it will fit through on its way out.
Measure the tub, doorway and also the replacement tub before you take on the project. Also take note of any obstacles, such as the toilet or sink, that you’ll need to work around. You might be surprised by how many people forget this headache-saving step.
In a worst-case scenario, some old tubs can be cut into pieces for removal. But you’ll still need to bring in the new one.
#2: Consider the Plumbing Fixtures Carefully
All tub and shower faucets and figures are not created equal. In fact, some of them are completely proprietary.
If you want to install a whole new set of shower and tub plumbing fixtures when you install the new tub, stick to the same manufacturer as toehold set or count on replacing all of the plumbing at the tub. That might include what’s behind the tile or shower wall.
Most shower handles are designed with notches or grooves on the back side that align with opposing notches or grooves on the stems that jut out from the wall. If they aren’t compatible, the handles won’t work. Some sets are universal, but you won’t find as much style and design variety with those.
#3: Turn off the Water Supply Before Anything is Disconnected
This might seem like overstating the obvious, but more than a few homeowners have disconnected a water supply line only to send a spray of water throughout the room. Never disconnect any line before you shut off the supply. Your bathtub installation with thank you.
If you’re lucky, the hot and cold shutoff handles, which look the same as the shutoff at the toilet water supply line, will be accessible inside a panel on the wall behind the shower. For example, if the bathroom adjoins a bedroom, look on the bedroom wall for a plumbing access panel.
In many cases, there is no shutoff at the tub. Look elsewhere, such as at the water heater, under the sink on in the basement under the bathroom. When all else fails, you’ll need to shut off the main water supply to the house.
#4: Get a Helping Hand
Tubs are bulky. Even lighter-weight tubs made of acrylic usually require two people, if not for the weight then at least to manage the awkward design. Two people are nearly always required.
If it’s a cast-iron tub, you will probably need more hands to help carry it. They can weigh as much as 500 pounds, and some custom designs weigh even more.
If you can’t find a helper, it’s really important not to take on the job alone. You’ll need a plumber. There are too many possibilities for accidents or injury, and there’s also the risk of damaging the tub and other fixtures in the room if you go it alone.
Silicone performs better than acrylic caulk for tubs, which easily degrades in steam and water.
#5: Plot the Bathtub Installation
An old, freestanding clawfoot tub usually stands on its own. As long as it aligns with the drain in the floor, the rest of the installation should be simple. But nearly every other style requires lots of measuring, leveling and anchors to hold it in place. Some also require reinforcements in the floor.
Bathtub bottoms slope down toward the drain, which allows them to empty out without leaving puddles inside. But that’s built into the design. When you level the tub, you ensure the slope is correct. A dry fit before you’re ready to install lets you level the tub and mark the surrounding wall so anchoring it will be a simpler job once you’re at that step.
And finally, if the tub is quite heavy, think about reinforcing the floor’s framework. You might need the help of a contractor for that. A large, cast-iron tub can easily exceed 1,000 pounds when it’s full of water and there’s a bather inside.
Whether you’re taking on a full bathroom renovation or you just want a new tub, replacement is always a big job. And each job is different, too. If you follow step-by-step directions by the tub manufacturer or in a DIY guide, you will still nearly always run into a problem along the way. Good thing you know a plumber with several generations worth of experience.
Rodenhiser has improved the lives and homes of our Massachusetts friends and neighbors for over 85 years. And we’re happy to improve yours with a brand new bathtub and all of the fixtures. You could take on the DIY work, how much nicer will it be to let someone else handle the hard part? Call Rodenhiser and we’ll do the heavy lifting.