How to Convert a Tub to a Shower

Fast-paced, modern living almost demands having a shower unit, but when space is at a premium, how can you squeeze one in? Try these ideas for converting the tub to a shower.


There's nothing like relaxing in a warm, bubbly bath to let your cares fade away. But having time to take a bath can be a luxury in and of itself. That's why having a shower just makes sense -- and why new construction often includes a shower in every full bath.

If you live in an older house that hasn't yet been updated or need to convert a standard bath, you're likely facing a 5x8-foot space with a toilet, a small vanity, and a tub, which doesn't leave room to add a shower to the existing plan without blowing out some walls or reconfiguring the existing tub.

To convert your tub, consider these two options to make the best decision.

1. Tear out the tub and build a new shower. This is not a small job, so know your DIY abilities or call a professional contractor to help you assess the space and potential solutions. In the footprint where the tub stands, you will have plenty of room to build a shower, but you'll want a tile or solid surface curb to keep the water from spilling out into the bathroom.

Another consideration for a small-space shower is the door. If you're going to have a shower door, make sure there is room for the door to swing open without hitting the toilet or sink. Shower doors aren't required. In fact, there are handsome partial glass panels that keep the water contained. These can let in cool air, however, so make sure the room is warm and consider adding a heated floor to your shower. (Bonus: The heat will also keep the floor dry and reduce the possibility of slips.)

One con to tearing out a tub and replacing it with a stand-alone shower is resale. Many homeowners want a tub for bathing children, particularly if the bathroom being remodeled is a shared family space.

2. Retrofit the plumbing. The less invasive solution is retrofitting the existing bathroom plumbing to create a shower/tub unit. This allows you to keep the existing tub while adding the required plumbing for a shower. You'll need to open up the wall (usually from the room adjacent the bath) and be required to bring the plumbing up to code. You'll also need to pick a tile for the walls. Many small baths have a window over the tub, which is another thing to remedy.

Two common solutions include walling it off and tiling over it or replacing it with glass block, which will stand up to water. Talk about other possible window solutions with your builder. Your shower will need an enclosure, too. You can add sliding doors that mount to the top of the tub, but a less expensive and more decorative solution is to hang a shower curtain with a plastic liner. For shower curtain hardware, you can buy a tension-mount rod or a wall-mount rod.  Wall-mount versions are straight or curved. The latter makes the shower feel more spacious.

 Regardless of which solution you choose, converting a tub to a shower presents opportunities to upgrade lighting, venting, and to build in amenities that improve the experience, such as a bench, shelves, or a niche for soap and shampoo.


Get a Sparkling Shower = Fast

More For You

Get the Bathroom Planning Guide before you begin any remodel.

Know the options for a tub/shower combo in your bathroom.

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