How to Remove and Replace a Bathtub
If it's time to replace a bathtub, follow these tips for choosing a replacement that feature comfortable contours, stylish silhouettes, and durable forms that function for decades.
Bathtub leaking, worn, cracked, or just looking tired? Happily, a standard bathtub replacement is as close as your local home center or plumbing professional. Unfortunately, removing the old tub and installing its stand-in can be time-consuming and costly, so buy the best bathtub you can afford to ensure you won't have to repeat the process for another 15 or 20 years. Or, if you'd prefer to take a DIY route, we'll show you how to remove the tub on your own.
Because you're replacing an existing tub, your options will be limited by the current tub's dimensions, as well as the size of your bathroom's doorway. Before buying a new tub, you'll need to know the tub's exact width and length measurements and where the drain is placed (left, right, or center).
Generally, standard bathtubs feature decorative aprons on an exposed side(s) and are found in white, biscuit, and cream, though black, pastel blue, pink, and green finishes are available on midrange and pricier tubs. Rectangular tubs may feature rectangular, hourglass, or oval interiors, so give each bathtub you're considering a test run. Lay down in the bathtub to check fit and comfort level. Are there contoured head and arm rests, slip-resistant floors, and ample rims for holding toiletries and/or bath toys? Integrated seats, available on some midrange bathtubs, introduce added convenience while tubs with a curved apron wall supply extra bathing space.
The prices of standard bathtubs vary more by material than design. Here's a look at the costs, pros, and cons associated with the most common types of standard bathtubs.
Enameled steel bathtubs range from $150 to $850. Less expensive and lighter in weight than cast iron, these tubs chip somewhat easily, can be slippery, allow water to cool quickly, and offer limited color choices.
Enameled cast-iron tubs range from $375 to $2,200. Available in a wide range of colors, these tubs are durable and retain heat, but are heavy and may require additional structural support.
Acrylic tubs range from $300 to $1,000. Lightweight, fade-resistant, and available in many styles with integrated comfort features, acrylic tubs hold heat well when insulated, but may show scratches.
Fiberglass/plastic composite tubs range from $250 to $800. Polyester gel coat finishes and fiberglass backing often supported by wood or metal framing creates a budget-friendly lightweight tub in many styles.
Proprietary composite tubs range from $250 to $900. Americast by American Standard and UltraCast by Briggs are examples of materials that combine heavy-gauge steel, porcelain enamel, and resins to build bathtubs that offer all the benefits of cast iron at half the weight.
How to Remove a Bathtub
If your tub is chipped, difficult to keep clean, or just plain ugly, consider refinishing rather than replacing. You'll probably find several companies in the phone book that use various methods. Check samples of their work and read their guarantees carefully. Note that no refinishing method can produce a finish that is as hard and durable as a new tub.
Before You Begin: Prep the Space
Removing the bathtub yourself isn't all that difficult. But before you begin, measure the tub and make sure you'll be able to get it past other fixtures and out the door. Remove the sink or the toilet if they will be in the way. To protect the floor, cut and tape pieces of plywood to the floor and cover with a drop cloth.
Step 1: Pull Out Drain
From inside the tub, unscrew and remove the overflow cover plate. If a drain assembly is attached to it, pull it out. (A drain assembly with a plunger is shown.) Unscrew and remove the mounting bracket if there is one.
Step 2: Disconnect Drain
To disconnect the drain you may need to remove a screw or two and remove the strainer. Or you may need to lift out a stopper and a rocker assembly. Use a strainer wrench to remove the drain flange.
Step 3: Disconnect Waste-and-Overflow
From an access panel behind the tub or from below, disconnect the waste-and-overflow (WO) unit from the drain line. Depending on the installation you may need to unscrew a slip nut or loosen the screws on a no-hub coupling. If the parts are cemented plastic, you'll have to cut through a pipe. Remove the WO unit from the tub. (You may not need to remove the old WO unit if it will fit exactly on the new tub. Measure carefully.)
Step 4: Remove Tub Spout and Tiles
Remove the tub spout and remove the wall surface all around the tub to a height of about 8 inches. (If there are tub faucet handles, leave them in place if they are at least 8 inches above the tub.) Use a flat pry bar or putty knife to pry off tiles. Cut through drywall with a drywall saw. If the wall is plaster, use a reciprocating saw, taking care not to cut into the studs. Pry off nails or unscrew screws.
Step 5: Pry Away Tub
Pry out or unscrew any nails or screws anchoring the tub flange to studs. Where the tub rests on the floor, use a utility knife to cut through a bead of caulk, if there is one. Use a crowbar to pry the tub an inch or so away from the back wall.
Step 6: Lift and Slide Tub
Unless the tub is an old-fashioned claw-foot or other type of stand-alone, it will fit fairly tightly between studs on either side. That means you probably can't slide it out unless you cut away the wall surface on both sides. The best way is usually to lift the tub on one end. Pry up one end of the tub first with a crowbar, then with 2x4s. Working with a helper, stand the tub upright.