What do you do with a washed-up bathtub?
Four Possible Solutions for Worn-out Bathtubs
Refinishing IS BEST When You Consider the Alternatives.
1 2 3 4
Bathtub Bathtub Bathtub Do It Yourself Kits
Replacement? Liners? Refinishing? Will It Last?
Basic Bathtub Installation
Average Cost $1500 to $3000
Tool and Material Checklist.
Pliers Adjustable Wrench
A good attitude
Read This Entire Page For Specific Tools and Materials Not Noted in the Basics Listed Above.
Replacing an old bathtub with a new bathtub is a moderately difficult project. If the old tub is
readily accessible, the project can move quickly; Accessible means you already are replacing
the tile or taking the walls down for one reason or another.
HOWEVER, if you have to open a wall to remove the old tub and position the new tub the task
is much harder and much more expensive. Either way, the project is within a home
handyman's skills. You will need a helper to move out the old tub and set in the new one
especially if the tub is an old cast iron unit. Some tubs require sawing completely in half to
remove. You may want a professional plumber to make tube connections. On this page you
will find ONLY the basics of replacing an old bathtub with a new one -- or a "change-out," as
the professionals call it.
Removing the Old Tub
Your present bathtub probably is sandwiched between two walls, with the faucets and shower
head located on one of these walls. You should be able to disconnect the piping and then pull
the tub strait out. If this doesn't work, you may have to remove a wall section, cut the piping,
and remove the tub through the wall.
Your bathtub may be freestanding, giving you open access to the pipes and fittings. Removal
is simply a matter of disconnecting the piping and lifting the tub out. Remove the toilet and
flush tank, or lavatory to make room (or lift the tub over these fixtures). This will take more then
two people if the tub is cast iron. On this page, we show how the piping is
disconnected/connected and the tub is removes/replaced when the tub is between two walls.
If your tub is free standing, the steps will be similar. Here are the steps:
There may be an access panel on the backside of the plumbing wall of the bathtub. If not, this
wall will most likely be finished with drywall, plaster and lath, or paneling. Remove the access
panel of the wall surface so the piping is exposed. Find the wallboard joint and work from this
point. Figure 1 should be helpful in locating the framing and piping.
Turn off the water before proceeding any further.
Disconnect the tub drain using a large adjustable wrench or Channel-lock pliers. Then loosen
the slip nut connecting the overflow pipe that runs from the bathtub drain pipe. If necessary,
remove the tub drain strainer, which will release the drain pipe below it (Fig. 2).
Fig. 1: Framing Detail
The walls surrounding your bathtub will
be framed something like this. If the
wall(s) is load-bearing, (meaning it helps
support the house structure), you have
to support the remaining studs when
others are cut out. Do not cut the studs
until the wall is properly supported.
A ledger may be used to support the tub,
or it may be supported by clips attached
to the studs. Before you buy the
replacement bathtub, make sure the new
tub will fit into the space, and make sure
you can move it through all doorways.
Fig. 2: Disconnect drain, waste,
and overflow pipes by loosening
Tub strainer screws out.
Fig. 3: Remove wall covering to
expose ledger (if present) and
release tub support clips. Wear
safety glasses while removing
Tub may rest on ledger strip. If so, lift it off the strip when
you remove the old tub.
Tub may be held with hanger clips,
which have to be loosened or
removed before the tub can
be taken out.
If hot and cold water faucets are inside the bathtub (not above it), remove these fixtures back
to supply connections.
Remove the wall covering (such as tile) from around the tub. One course of tile is plenty. Use
a hammer and cold chisel for this and wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying
debris (Fig. 3). If the wall is not tiled, remove about four inches of material to expose the clips
holding the tub. These fasteners will be attached to a ledger strip around the tub. Remove of
disengage the fasteners. The tub may simply sit directly on the ledger strip (Fig. 4).
With a prybar and a piece of scrap wood to protect the wall (if needed), gently pry the tub away
from the wall. Go completely around the tub. With a helper, try moving the tub out a tad more.
If you meet any resistance, chances are that the tub is not completely disconnected from the
water supply and/or drainage system. Go back and check this. If you find a hang-up,
disconnect it or reposition it. Then try moving the tub again.
Hopefully, you will be able to move the tub straight out from the wall. If so, put down some 1x4
skids or a piece of plywood so the tub won't damage the floor as it is moved out and so the
tub is easier to slide. You will need a helper for this; bathtubs weigh plenty. Don't try to move
the tub alone. If the tub can't be removed by sliding it straight out, remove the wall opposite
the faucet and exit here (Fig. 5). This will involve cutting framing members,
Fig. 5: You may have to remove tub
from side wall. If so, remove the
wallboard from framing members,
shoring up the wall with 2 x 4s before
making cuts. Remove pipes, if needed.
which you will replace later. However, the wall may be load bearing, and you must shore up
the framing -- before you make cuts -- with two or three lengths of 2x4 or 2x6. If you are
unsure about the house structure, consult a building contractor, engineer, or architect.
If you can't get the tub out of the back wall, it will have to go through the plumbing wall. The
pipes will have to be cut accordingly and capped. If the pipes are plastic or copper, you can
remove them with a hacksaw just above the opening for the tub. If the pipes are galvanized
steel, you may be able to disconnect them at the coupling. Use pipe wrenches for this: One
wrench goes on the fitting and the other one on the pipe. Put down skids for the tub, as
suggested above, and have a helper assist you in the tub removal. When the tub is out, you
can lift and carry it with aid of helpers.
Installing the New Tub
The procedure for installing the new bathtub is almost the reverse of taking out the old one.
We will assume that the new tub is approximately the same size as the old one, therefore, the
piping and fixture will align properly. If not, the piping will have to be modified to match the
new tub before it is moved in. Also check the wall surfaces. You will have to install a new wall
surface or patch the old so it rests on the flange of the new tub once the bathtub is in its final
position. Use cement backer board under tile in the tub area. Normal drywall cannot
withstand the extreme moisture in these locations, Do not paint cement backer board.
With skids in position and a helper to assist you, move the new tub into the tub space. Align
the water supply and drain pipes accordingly.
Level the tub when it is in its final position. Lay the level along the rim of the tub and add
shingle shims along the bottom of the tub to level it. Use enough shims to stop any rocking or
instability. Then connect the tub to the hangers, adding hangers for support, if necessary
Fig. 6: Move in new tubs on skids
and with a helper. Tub flange
rests on a ledger of hanger clips.
Level the tub when in final floor position.
Connect the drain and water supply pipes. The slip connection is simply pulled down (or up)
on the drain pipe and the slip nuts tightened.
The drain in the tub is seated in plumber's putty before it is pressed into place and the strainer
cap is tightened (Fig. 7).
The lift rod for the drain stopper may have a turnbuckle type arrangement. You turn the
turnbuckle to adjust the linkage so the drain stopper seats properly into the drain opening in
the bottom of the tub (Fig. 8).
The hot and cold water faucets are screwed onto the fittings on the supply pipes; use joint
compound on the male threads only to seal the threads as the fixtures are tightened. An
escutcheon usually fits over the faucet openings and is fastened with a set screw. To
complete the project, screw on the hot/cold faucet handles (Fig. 9).
Measure for the tub spout from the face of the drain nipple in the wall to the face of the wall.
Then measure from the threaded coupling inside the spout to the edge of the spout, plus
about 1/2 to 5/8 inch. If the spout is too long or deep to accept the threads, you will have to
increase the length of the nipple.
Fig. 7: A spring-type bathtub drain
has a rocker arm that works off a
lever in overflow plate. Assembly is
removed by taking off the plate.
Fig. 8: To adjust the rocker arm, turn
the "turnbuckle" type fitting with pliers
and reseat in overflow and drain pipe.
Adjust rod until stopper fits perfectly.
Use a brass nipple for this and seal the threads with joint compound
If you had to cut the pipes to remove the tub, replace the pipes, going back to the first
connection you can find and working toward the tub from this point. Reinstall any other
fixtures you may have had to remove. Turn on the water supply and check the lines for leaks.
Make adjustments as needed.
Fig. 9: Thread faucets into housings
on supply pipes. Put on escutcheons
and the handles.
Fig. 10: The faucet spout attaches
to a threaded nipple extending
from the water supply pipes.
A lift-gate diverts water from
the spout to the shower head.
7.Finish the wall around the tub. If you have to replace the wall around the tub, we
recommend that you use cement backer board. Regular drywall may be used on the other
side of the framing. Add new framing where the old was cut to make room for the tub
removal. Apply the drywall, tape and sand it, and then finish the wall. You may want to mark
the panels next to the baseboard in case you have to remove the panel again for repairs. Tile
or paint the wall to complete the project.
NOTE: Keep in mind these are basic instructions and in most instances three tradesman are
required. A licensed plumber, Tile setter and Carpenter.
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The Truth about Bathtub Liners
What do you do with a washed-up bathtub? You could replace it with a new one, but that's not
an easy proposition. Most tubs are set in an alcove or corner, lapped by the flooring and wall
finishes to create a watertight seal and tied down in at least two places by plumbing. If you're
ready for a full-scale bathroom remodel, replacing the tub makes sense. If you're not, you're
looking at creating a real mess and spending $2,000 to $3,000 for little visual change.
But two better options are available to price-conscious homeowners with tubs in need of a
face-lift: tub liners and tub refinishing. Both add years of life to an existing tub at a fraction of
the cost of full-scale replacement -- and in a fraction of the time.
Bathtub liner companies create exact molds, which they use to make liners that fit tubs almost
perfectly, wherever they're installed and whatever shape they're in. The installer plays a
critical role here as they are the ones who take the precise measurements. Here's how the
A local installer sends precise measurements and photographs of the tub to company
headquarters. The company identifies the model, pulls it off the shelf and with a sheet of 1/4-in.
ABS acrylic -- the same material football helmets and airplane windshields are made of --
vacuum-forms an exact mold of the tub. The result is a 35-lb. liner that slips over the tired tub
like a new glove. To install it, the local rep cleans the old tub with denatured alcohol, removes
the drain and overflow and trims the liner so it fits snugly against the walls. Then, using a
combination of two-sided butyl tape and silicone adhesive, he attaches the liner to the old tub.
He finishes up by installing a new drain and overflow, and caulking the seams. Once the liner
is delivered, which can take four to eight weeks, a single workman can install it in six to eight
hours, and the homeowner can bathe in it that same evening. Here are some of the pros and
cons of bathtub liners.
Pros & Cons Of Bathtub Liners:
* Liners may be the only alternative to replacement for tubs which are severely damaged or
deteriorated to a point where they can't be economically refinished .
* Most liners are fairly durable and resist chipping and scratching.
* Liners may be appropriate to use in dorms or apartments where tubs are likely to be subject
to heavy use.
* Liners are expensive. While liners themselves usually cost $100 - $175, the total price to the
consumer tends to be from $850 - $1500.
* Most liners look and feel like plastic.
* Liners can take several weeks to install - they must be custom molded, which requires one
trip to measure, time to order from the factory, time to ship, and a second trip to install.
* Liners can create plumbing problems because the added thickness of the liner may require
an extension of the drain and overflow.
* Liners suffer a bad reputation for allowing water to accumulate between the old tub and the
new liner. This water is almost impossible to remove. The result can be a "squishy" feeling
each time someone steps in and out of the tub. Not only can the misplaced water create
"squishy" noises, but even worse, the standing water can become stagnant, creating
obnoxious odor problems. Any small crack or hole which develops in the caulking along the
seam between the liner and the vertical wall surround can allow water to penetrate.
* Liners are fairly durable, but they can be scratched and damaged. They eventually will wear
* Liners can be difficult to replace. Since liners are glued to the old tub when installed, they
usually have to be ripped or cut out in order to replace them.
* If liners do not match the contours of the existing tub, then the liner may flex back and forth
and can crack over time.
* Liners come in a limited number of colors. Companies within the Bathtub Liner industry shy
away from working on fiberglass bathtubs, and most liner companies won't do jetted tubs,
where a professional refinisher can do either one. Keep in mind they can not line claw-foot
antique tubs. Chipped, dented or even rusted-through tubs are no problem, however, but be
prepared to pay more if repairs are necessary.
P.S. Bathtub liners are not available for fiberglass fixtures. In this case you must
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Bathtub Refinishing is right for you !
A Look at the process
Bathtub refinishing or reglazing, a worn-out bathtub is a more site- intensive process, The first
step is a proper cleaning. Bathtub refinishing involves masking the surfaces around the tub to
protect from overspray and properly venting the bathroom to extract any odors. A reputable
bathtub refinisher will use scent masking agents such as cherry, lilac, cinnamon etc. After he
has removed the caulk, the refinisher swathes the bathtub with a cleaning solution that not
only cleans what's left of the porcelain glaze but also opens the pours to allow our adhesion
promoter to penetrate. A reputable refinisher will use some type of silane based bonding
agent to ensure maximum adhesion. We use the best in the business.
Next, the refinisher washes away the cleaning solution and prepares the area and surface for
spraying. He then sprays on coats of a fast-drying primer mixed with a proprietary bonding
agent to promote adhesion. To finish, he gives the bathtub a cleaning with a tack cloth to
remove any dust particles, and then sprays three applications of a finish coat.
The whole process takes a single technician about three to six hours, depending on how
extensive the repair is, but the tub needs to cure for a minimum of 24 hours before the water is
turned on. A refinished bathtub will mimic the original surface in every way except durability.
A properly refinished and maintained bathtub will last up to 15- 20 years. At an average of
$300-500 nationwide and unlimited colors it is the most cost effective way to restore your
This bathtub has been stripped and is now
undergoing the cleaning process. This
is a critical area for a successful bathtub
refinishing process. The old coating has
been removed and the refinisher is
applying the safe cleaning solution.
Next a Primer is applied along with
a proprietary silane bonding agent
to ensure maximum adhesion.
Once primed a refinisher will apply
the topcoat glaze.
The end result is a bathtub
that looks and feels like
the day it was manufactured.
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Do it yourself will it stand the test of time
or look and feel new?
The answer quite frankly is no. I've been in this business over 20 years and have
never seen one that lasted a year. The "Do It Yourself " kits sold on the Internet,
local hardware stores, or your favorite Home improvement stores are not
designed to stand the test of time nor do they have the chemical resistance a
professional refinishing company can offer you. Most products available to the
general public, through hardware stores, and on the Internet, fail within the first
The problems with DIY kits are many but we'll concentrate on the most important
ones which cause most failures.
We have spoken to hundreds of consumers who have used various Do-It
Yourself refinishing products over the past 10 years and not one was happy with
the results they achieved.
The complaints were centered around poor appearance and product peeling,
sometimes as soon as one week from the application.
The problem is with the bonding process. Proper bonding of these products, to a
porcelain sink or bathtub, requires a professional strength bonding or whetting
agents, plus a delaminating solution. They are usually only available to
Some may include what they call bonding agents, but these bonders and
delaminating paste are hazardous chemicals. This is why companies do not
include them in the DIY kit you purchased from the hardware store or off the
Internet. If they do offer a bonding agent they are usually just acetone or alcohol.
( Not a real silane based adhesion promoter)
Also there is no one single product that can be used on all surfaces.
Refinishing requires many products.
Some companies may ask you to wipe your fixture with liquid muriatic acid,
alcohol, or TSP (trisodium phosphate). None of these products will help properly
bond their coating to your fixture. They are not strong enough to delaminate
porcelain to a degree needed to form a proper mechanical bond. Keep in mind
muriatic acid is very hazardous, this is a chemical used in swimming pools to
balance PH levels. Bonding agents are rare too. They must be formulated
correctly as there are literally thousands of different silane bonding agents each
designed for each coating or process. They are not interchangeable. You must
also be able to perform flawless body work and chip repair for the surface to be
smooth as glass. Take a flash light and lay it in the bottom of the tub. Let the
beam travel along the entire surface. This will reveal every imperfection. You
must be able to repair and contour these imperfections or a high gloss coating
will only amplify their existence much like a new car on a lot where a hail storm
has hit. Nice and shinny but many dings and dents pronounced.
As for appearance, well, just think about this:
"How much experience do you have refinishing sinks and bathtubs?".
Refinishing is an art into itself, and requires years of experience to perfect. You
cannot expect to just brush on one of these products and have your sink, or
bathtub looking new again. Using a brushed or rolled on coating is like burning
down the barn to kill the rats.
To be smooth as glass the tub must be sprayed. How much experience do you
have spraying? I have 20 years experience and it requires all my concentration
on every job and the best equipment possible to get professional results. DIY
KITS are self defeating.
Why is It is self defeating you may ask? For a DIY kit to be semi smooth it must
be " SELF LEVELING". This means it must be very slow drying. A DIY kit must
use a slow drying epoxy to try and get rid of the brush marks. IT NEVER WORKS!
Brush marks will always be present. Another con to a slow drying coating to
consider is the maintenance. Remember the purpose of your refinishing is to
make the surface easy to maintain and clean.
A slow drying it will then be at the mercy of the environment for surface
contaminates from the A/C, sanding dust, or just minor air particles that will land
on the surface. I don't care how clean the environment is after 4 days the usual
required dry time the surface will be full of these foreign objects. For you all that
say they make a spray on DIY. Again it will be very slow drying, very thin, and it
will never last. Think about it. Why would we after 20 years spend money on
Professional Spray Equipment if I could get away with brushing it on with a $2
brush or spraying it on from Spray Paint Can?. Now that you have dust and other
particles embedded in the surface plus brush marks for soap residue and body
oils to cling to you, you will now have a surface which will require often and more
aggressive cleaning methods thereby defeating the initial purpose of having the
surface refinished anyway. During those four days of curing the DIY kits will
have dust settled into the surface.
Only a professional knows how to prevent this.
When the product does fail, and it will, I do not expect a refund from the company
you purchased it from. They will say that you did not properly follow the
application directions. But even if you get a refund you still have to contend with
a tub that requires stripping. Stripping a bathtub is a dangerous chore. You must
use an aircraft stripper or a car stripper which contains fumes which can burn and
kill quickly. I Personally know of professional refinishers who have died while
stripping a bathtub due to lack of ventilation in the bathrooms.
This is why most refinishers charge up to $200 to strip an improperly refinished
bathtub. Even at $200 to strip a bathtub most refinishers dread this chore and
some will not even take the risk.
Do yourself a favor, and don't waste your time, not to mention your money on
these products. I ask all my customers to consider the following. IF you are
already saving thousands by having a professional refinishing job, why cheat
yourself by brushing on some cheap yellowing epoxy?
Especially a single component epoxy.
USE A PROFESSIONAL. EVEN IF IT IS NOT US!
BATHTUB REFINISHING IS NOT A D-I-Y PROJECT.
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