Contrary to popular belief, installing a bathtub or shower does not have to be a major renovation project. You may choose to replace your old shower or bathtub with a snazzy new model with a bunch of features. And you may even use this as an opportunity to do a complete bathroom remodel. Just know that there are a myriad of options available to you, depending on your budget.
Out with the old…not necessarily!
Many people assume that if their bathtub or shower has reached the end of its working life, it has to be torn out and replaced. This can be a big, messy job for someone who just wants to renew worn out fixtures. But these days you can get custom-made bath and shower installations that can be installed right over top your existing fixtures – which won’t disrupt tiles, walls, flooring or plumbing. It’s an easy solution that can be completed in about 24 hours – without the mess or even the need for a plumber.
But for those who want to upgrade for added pleasure and convenience, here are a few things to consider.
Can it fit through the door?
It might be nice to replace your standard tub with an oversized, two-person tub with all the jets money can buy. But before you buy anything, make sure that it will fit through the doorway. Bath tubs are usually installed in new homes before the walls and floor are finished, so even replacing your existing tub with one the same size could pose a problem.
Because of their bulkiness and their weight, one-piece tub and shower enclosures are usually reserved for new homes or major remodeling projects. For a simple replacement job, there are many sectional shower enclosures and tub surrounds on the market that, once installed, are often difficult to distinguish from one-piece units.
Bigger tubs require bigger pipes
Beyond the bathtub itself, don’t forget to consider factors such as plumbing, hot water heaters and floor supports. If your home is equipped with standard half-inch water supply pipes, filling an extra deep tub will be a time-consuming task. You might want to consider installing three-quarter inch supply lines.
Similarly, consider whether your current hot water tank has the capacity to fill a large bathtub. Pairing an 80-gallon tub (or larger) with anything less than a 50 to 75 gallon hot water heater will result in a lukewarm bath. In this case, consider purchasing a bathtub that has an in-line heater. This device will heat and re-circulate the bath water continuously, resulting in consistent water temperature for the duration of your soak.
Can the floor support the extra weight?
You also need to consider whether your floor can support the weight of an oversized bathtub filled with water. While today’s custom homes can accommodate most luxury tubs, bathroom floors have traditionally been built to bear the weight of a standard bathtub. If you’re installing an oversized tub in an older home, the floor joists may need to be reinforced.
Whichever route you decide for your new bathtub or shower, you may want to take this opportunity to install an anti-scald device. These are special pressure-balancing valves that automatically adjust for extreme water temperature fluctuations when someone flushes the toilet or starts up a load of laundry. Anti-scald devices have become – or will soon become – mandatory in 31 states for all remodeling and new-construction projects. Check with your contractor to see if it is required in your state.
Will you need a building permit?
Be sure to check with your contractor or with your municipality to see if you will need a building permit for your new shower or bathtub installation. The laws vary between municipalities, and you may be forced to start over if you begin work without a permit. Use the Cost Estimators to get a preliminary idea of the costs to install a new bathtub or shower.