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Feeling the itch to remodel your bathroom?
Are you limited to quick showers every day, even if all you want to do is take a long bath?
Have you never experienced the luxury of a long soak in the tub after a long and stressful day at work?
If so, converting one of your showers to a tub may be a great move for you.
Many people choose to get showers installed over tubs for different reasons. It may be because of the possibly higher resale value, due to limited space available in their home, for better energy efficiency and water conservation, or even for better access, among others.
You may have ended up here because you have a home where only showers are present in all your bathrooms. Because of that, you are thinking about turning one of your showers into a bathtub area, even if you have limited bathroom space. But before you can do that, you must first know about the ins and outs of a shower to tub conversion.
In this article, we will answer the most common concerns involving this kind of project, as well as give you some vital information about how to do it, the steps involved, as well as the average cost of such a project.
Can You Turn a Shower into a Bathtub?
If you are wondering if you can turn one of your showers into a bathtub, the short answer is yes, but to some extent. This is because this kind of conversion is not possible in every single bathroom.
The first thing to consider when undertaking such a project is the space available. If you have a large shower area, such as those commonly found in homes with walk-in showers, the conversion will be a lot easier. But if space is an issue, it will be a lot more challenging to do even for a certified bathroom contractor.
Standard-sized traditional bathtubs measure 60 inches long, 30 inches wide, and 14 inches high, and if your shower space meets those minimum requirements, you can easily change your shower to a tub. You can even opt to simply add a bathtub to get a tub-and-shower combo for your bathroom.
But if your shower area is smaller than that, your best bet to have a tub installed is either by getting a custom-sized one to make it fit your bathroom or choosing a corner tub instead. You must always get a professional consultation first before buying a tub, as the available space may be too small for any kind of tub to fit in, even customized ones.
Even if you get your contractor to match the plumbing and drainage of your shower area to your new tub, your bathroom’s plumbing system will need adjusting to make it fit and compatible with your new tub. And to access the plumbing system, your contractor will have to demolish your shower area to do so. And if it is connected to a boiler or heating system, it will mean more work.
From all these, it is obvious that converting your shower to tub involves extensive work, that is why this project is often considered as a major bathroom remodel. And in some states, this kind of remodel will already require a permit.
Because a shower to tub conversion is complicated, it must also be done by professionals. It will involve not just construction work but also working with plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems, which are too complicated for DIY work. And since it involves professionals, this project is likely to be hefty on the budget.
How Much Does It Cost to Convert a Shower into a Bathtub?
Many homeowners who converted their shower into a bathtub reportedly spent between $3,000 to $5,000 on average, with each square foot usually amounting to $125. This range applies for a basic bathroom conversion only, covering both materials and labor and without any other special additions or upgrades. But if you want a more extensive remodel, upgrade, or even a complete facelift for your bathroom, it can set you back by $5,000 to $10,000.
Labor will take up the bulk of your expenses, a mounting to 40 to 65 percent of your entire budget, and a pro will charge between $50 to $75 per hour on average for this kind of project. General contractors charge bathroom remodels at $300 to $400 for each day of work, but mobile home contractors may charge differently depending on the complexity.
Since this project will also involve your plumbing system, you will also need to hire a licensed plumber. For bathroom remodels, including a shower to tub conversion, they can charge between $40 to $75 per hour for basic plumbing work such as rerouting plumbing lines, and between $65 to $80 per hour when dealing with the drainage systems and other more complicated plumbing tasks. Because of this, a plumber can charge you between $350 to $2,000 for the entire project.
It is likely that additional plumbing will be installed to connect your new bathtub to the existing bathroom plumbing, or change some components to make your bathroom plumbing system compatible with your new tub. Depending on the type of materials used and the extent of the additions, you may have to spend between $150 to $500 on materials alone.
When demolishing the shower area, it can cost you between $500 to $1,500, depending on its size. But if you own a home that may be at risk for the presence of lead and asbestos, conducting vital confirmatory tests may cost you as much as $550. And for proper disposal of debris and other waste produced during the work, you must allot between $300 to $600 as payment for the rental of a construction dumpster.
In most cases, the total cost of materials is smaller than labor costs, but it will still depend on the types used. Your choice of bathtub will take up the biggest chunk of your budget for materials, as the price of one can be as low as $400 to as high as $8,000, with jet tubs being the most expensive. Installation of the tub itself, including materials and labor, will range between $900 to $20,000.
If you choose to get a jet tub, you will also require the services of an electrician to make it fully functional, and they normally charge an hourly rate of $50 to $100 for it. Because most jet tubs will require a lot of power, it is almost certain that you will also need to get the electrical panel of your home upgraded, especially if your tub requires its own electrical circuit. For this type of upgrade, expect to pay between $650 to $1,700.
You will also need to spend on wall and floor tiles to replace the ones that will be demolished, and ceramic tiles, priced at $12 to $23 on average, are the most suitable for bathrooms. Using wood floors and walls for your bathroom may be cheaper, as they only average between $5 to $8 per square foot. Do note that this pricing applies to bathroom floors, and the cost of tile installations on walls may be different.
Sometimes, the water heater you use for your shower may not be powerful enough to work with a bathtub, since tubs normally requires the water tank to be 2/3 its size. If this happens to you, you must either get another water heater installed to support your current one or get an upgrade. The cost of a new water heater that is compatible with bathtubs will usually range from $650 to $1,100.
External factors will also affect the total cost of converting your shower to a bathtub. Since any necessary permits related to this project will depend on your location, the price to obtain them will also vary per state.
Not only that, your location will also affect the pricing of both labor and materials. That is why if you live in a prime location where the price of real estate is high, expect to pay higher for the entire work.
Keep in mind that a bathtub will weigh a lot more than a shower, so you may also be required to reinforce your bathroom floor, especially if the bathroom you will be converting is found at a higher floor.
Converting your shower to get a tub installed will require careful planning, as well as ensuring that you are financially prepared to take on such a project. Nobody wants a half-finished and barely usable bathroom, which is a real possibility if you take on a project of this magnitude without having the proper knowledge and budget for it.
Steps in Changing a Shower into a Tub
While changing your bathroom’s shower into a tub requires the services of a professional, it is still beneficial for you to understand the steps in doing so. That way, you can gauge how far along the work is when you finally get the project started, as well as think of alternatives that can help you cut down on your expenses.
There is no standard method to follow when it comes to turning your shower into a tub, as the entire process will depend on the needs of the owner. If you prefer to simply install a tub while keeping your shower, it will generally be a lot easier to do. But if you choose to get the shower entirely removed, it will involve more work, and is a more time-consuming process.
Regardless of the style you choose, the contractor must first switch off your water supply, and even your power supply and HVAC system if needed, before starting the work for safety reasons.
Afterwards, the dimensions of the entire shower area will be measured to let you know if you can install a tub alongside your shower, if you need to get the shower area adjusted to accommodate your new tub, or installing a tub is not at all possible.
With the water and power supply, as well as the HVAC system switched off, all fixtures will then be removed from the shower area after letting the water fully drain out from the connected plumbing lines. In most cases, your existing shower drain may have to be moved or changed to be compatible with your tub. Pros will often deal with this first before working on the existing shower walls or building a new one.
Here are the different ways contractors may turn your shower area into a bathtub:
Adding a Bathtub Alongside an Existing Shower
Retaining your shower while getting a bathtub installed in the same space is possible. However, this is not done by simply placing the tub in one side near your shower. Your contractor will still need to do a lot of work to make the tub fully functional.
- Using 2×4 wood pieces, your construction contractor will create a rectangular frame that will be installed in front of or beside the existing shower. The inside of that frame will then be filled with support boards or studs that are spaced 8 to 10 inches apart from each other.
- The rectangular frame is then attached to the shower wall. It will be anchored by drilling in long screws to the walls and floors to keep it in place.
- Once the frame is securely in place, a cement backer board, or CBU, will then be installed over it. This board will serve as the base for the wall tiles or tub surrounds, and cut outs will be made on the board to accommodate the shower fixtures.
- If you opt to get wall tiles, the contractor will then apply tile adhesive to the board at a 45-degree angle using the trowel, making sure that the adhesive applied is about 1/16 thick. Since the adhesive can dry up, it must be applied to the board in amounts that are enough to cover small areas first. It is easier to apply the adhesive every now and then as the tiles are installed than to remove a dried-up adhesive and apply a fresh layer of it on the board.
- With the adhesive in place, your contractor will start applying the tiles per row. It does not matter whether your contractor will start at the top row or the bottom one first. But for a tidier appearance and to get a smooth edge, bullnose tiles should be placed at the topmost row.
- After applying each tile, a spacer will be placed to keep it separated from the succeeding tile. If the last tile of the row is too large for the remaining space on the board, the excess must be cut away first to make it fit. This will continue until all the necessary sections have been tiled up. Cut outs must also be made on the tiles to accommodate the fixtures.
- Once all the tiles are in place, grout that is either dry and must be manually mixed or premixed will then be applied across the tiles and is spread out using a rubber float at a 45-degree angle, making sure that the spacers are removed when doing so.
- The grout will be allowed to set, and any excess grout will be cleaned up using a sponge.
- Caulk that is water-soluble and flexible, such as silicone caulk, is then applied to the edges of the tiles that meet the walls and shower edge.
- The grout and caulk will then be allowed to set. Depending on the type used, setting can take a few days to a few weeks.
- To finish up, a grout sealer is applied over the grout lines.
- If you opt to have bathtub surrounds, these will simply be installed over the existing bathroom wall. The method of installation will depend on your chosen surrounds, but it normally only involves gluing the surrounds to the walls using a special kind of adhesive compound.
- Your contractor will now install the tub in the bathroom, with the method of installation depending on the type of tub you have. The fixtures will then be installed to the tub and caulk will be applied afterwards.
Installing a Bathtub by Completely Removing the Shower
A bathtub installation that requires the removal of the shower will also generally follow the steps above. However, this will involve some demolition work. Since only a part of your bathroom will be demolished, it must be done carefully to avoid damaging the rest of your bathroom.
Before your contractor will install your tub following the same steps above, he or she must first do the following:
- Before starting the bathroom demo, the walls must be tested first for lead and asbestos if your home was built in 1978 or earlier. The results of the tests will determine if there are additional measures needed to ensure the safety of workers and your household before, during, and after the bathroom remodel.
- The tiles will then be removed using a chisel and hammer or with a jackhammer. Contractors may simply remove the tiles on the wall where the tub surrounds will be installed, or the tiles on all surrounding walls if you plan to remodel the entire shower area.
- Your plumber will relocate the pipes connected to the shower and make new connections for the bathtub. In case the drainage lines need changing, which is likely since shower drain pipes are often smaller than those intended for tubs, your plumber may either replace only a portion of it or the entire drainage system. To do this, your bathroom’s subfloor will need to be exposed.
- After cleaning up the debris after the demo work, your contractor will start the installation following the steps in the previous section. However, the plumber will need to close the pipes and water lines connected to your shower before your contractor can completely cover up the shower wall.
Installing a Bathtub That Requires Constructing a New Interior Wall
In some cases, you may need to get a new interior bathroom wall constructed first before you can get your bathtub installed. Oftentimes, it is because the shower area uses an open plan and the chosen tub requires it to be mounted to a wall, or the shower area is too small and requires a more extensive remodel.
The process of constructing a new bathroom wall for your new bathtub will generally follow the same process as that of working with an existing wall, from the construction of the wall’s frame to the installation of wall tiles or bathtub surrounds. However, more support is needed to make sure that it can support itself on its own, as well as the bathtub, if it is a standalone type.
Constructing a new interior bathroom wall intended for a bathtub will require the following:
- Your contractor will build a new frame for each side of the wall using 2×4 wood pieces. Each frame will be constructed following the same process we mentioned earlier.
- If going for floor-to-ceiling walls, the frames will likely be securely nailed to both the ceiling and the floor. Your contractor may also install horizontal braces to support the wall and any additional weight coming from the tub and its surrounds.
- With the frame securely in place, the tub will be installed. Your contractor will only screw the tub in place after the necessary adjustments have been made to ensure a watertight fit.
- A special kind of drywall suitable for bathroom use will be installed over the frame. Standard drywall is not suitable because it will not resist moisture, and this can lead to various issues in your bathroom, the most common of which is mold growth.
- Once installed, the seams and joints of the drywall will be sealed using drywall compound, often applied in multiple layers. This will keep the drywall in place and prevent water from entering the gaps present between the seams.
- Depending on your choice, your contractor may install the wall surrounds directly over the drywall or cover it up with tiles, stopping at the rim of the tub. Your contractor may also make cutouts on the tiles to accommodate any fixtures that will be installed.
In most cases, the bathtub will be firmly attached to the wall by screwing the sides to the adjacent wall studs. Once the tub and the surrounds have been installed, any seams between the tub, surrounds, and the wall and the perimeter of the entire tub, except for the bottom of the tub, will be caulked for waterproofing.
With the tub and tub surrounds in place, the contractor can now install the fixtures and connect them to the plumbing of your bathroom. Afterwards, your contractor will now apply the caulk on the bottom of the tub, creating a seal between the tub and the floor. Do note that you must allow it set for 24 hours or more before you can start using the tub. This means a soak immediately after getting your bathtub installed is not possible.
Benefits of a Shower to Tub Conversion
If you are no longer satisfied with your shower but are still on the fence about making a drastic move of changing it into a bathtub, learning about the benefits of a shower to tub conversion is guaranteed to help you finally decide.
Aside from the obvious perks, here are a few other reasons why you should consider a bathroom remodel to get a bathtub installed:
- You get to relax in it. Showers are designed for quick baths, while bathtubs encourage longer soaks. Sure, rain showers can be relaxing as well but it cannot beat the joys of relaxing in a warm bath to ease all the aches you feel, especially if your tub also has powerful jets with a massage function.
- It is safer for many. It is a fact that many home injuries occur inside a bathroom, with many of them happening while bathing. While we cannot ascertain if bathtubs are indeed safer than showers, there are a lot more mobility aids that can be installed with it. You can even opt for walk-in tubs for those who may have mobility issues but need a bathtub for health purposes.
- It can be used for therapy. Did you know that bathtubs can be beneficial for those who suffer from arthritis, poor circulation, and other health issues? A good soak can bring relief to them, even helping cut costs on therapy since they may no longer need to go to a clinic or facility for their regular therapy.
- Bathing small children is a lot easier. Let’s face it – bath time can be a nightmare if you have small children. But if you have a tub, bath time may become their most favorite part of the day. They can bring in their toys with them in the tub, which can entertain them while you are giving them a bath. That way, the experience will be enjoyable for everyone.
- You get a better resale value. While the demand for homes with walk-in showers seem to be increasing, homes with bathtubs remain in demand, especially for households with families. If you have at least one tub and are planning to eventually sell your home, chances are that the bathtub will help increase its value.
Showers and bathtubs have their own set of pros and cons, so it is understandably difficult to choose one over the other. Because of all the work and money involved when it comes to converting your shower to a tub, you should never do it on a whim.
Now that you are aware of the important aspects of this kind of project, you are one step closer to getting a bathroom that you can consider as one of the best places to relax in in your home.