5 key steps to installing a bathtub

June 7, 2017

Homeowners who decide to remodel a bathroom, do so for several reasons: to update fixtures, modernize a dated bathroom or to add value to their home. When remodelling the main bathroom, one of the most satisfying ways to change its look and practicality is by replacing an old, dated bathtub with a new modern design. Here’s how to install a bathtub in five steps. [Photo Credit: www.istock.com/Lex20]

5 key steps to installing a bathtub

Time:   2-3 days
Frequency: N/A
Difficulty: Moderate
Tools and supplies: Adjustable wrench, screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, gloves, shower stem socket wrench set, keyhole saw, T fitting, Teflon tape, caulking, protective eyewear.
People needed: 1 - 2

Step 1: Choose a new bathtub

Take your time choosing a new bathtub. With so much variety, you’ll want to consider the size of your bathroom, the ambiance you want to create and if the bathtub suits your family’s needs. Check your local home improvement store for ideas and advice.

  • Style. Some options include a bathtub/shower combo, soaker tub, whirlpool tub, corner tub.
  • Material. From acrylic to enamel to cast iron or fiberglass, the type of material affects the price, durability and ease of cleaning.
  • Size. Most standard tubs are 152.4 cm (5 ft.) long and 81.3 cm (32 in.) wide, but dimensions can vary, so measure carefully before you buy.
  • Direction. Depending on where your drain is located, you will require either a right or left-handed draining tub.

Good to know!
If you choose a tub that requires electrical wiring, such as a whirlpool model, the installation should be handled by a professional to ensure it meets safety codes.

Step 2: Remove and dispose of the existing bathtub

The next step is to remove and dispose of the existing bathtub.

  • Disconnect the water and remove the drain and overflow pipes.
  • Use a utility knife to cut the drywall just above the top of the tub on all three sides. Then, remove the drywall down to the studs.
  • Separate the tub from the wall and gain access to the screws or nails attaching the bathtub to the wall studs.
  • Using a utility knife, cut away any caulk between the tub and the floor.

How to dispose of the existing bathtub will depend on the material used to manufacture it.

  • Check with local municipal authorities for details on how to best get rid of it. Most bathtub materials are light enough to be removed with the help of a friend.
  • After removing the old bathtub, check underneath for any problems, such as water stains, mould and insect infestation. Bathtub replacement over a rotting subfloor is just delaying the inevitable repairs, which are easier to do with the old tub out of the way.

Good to know!

When removing mould, wear an N-95 respirator, goggles and waterproof gloves to minimize contact with harmful toxins. Hiring a professional is recommended for large areas with extensive mould coverage.

Step 3: Set the new bathtub in place

You’ve removed the existing tub, addressed any concerns and are now ready to move ahead with a basic tub installation.

  • Use cardboard or plastic to protect the top and sides of your new tub from grit, dirt and scratches during the bathtub installation process.
  • With the help of a friend, gently slide the bathtub onto skids or wooden planks and push it into place.
  • Check that the tub is level. Ideally, the new tub will line up exactly, but some adjustments to the flooring may be needed to make a perfect fit.
  • Remove the bathtub from its new home so you can hook up the drain before the permanent installation.

Step 4: Hook up the drain

Once you’re happy with the fit, it’s time to hook up the drain.

  • Turn the bathtub on its side to access the underneath of the bathtub drain.
  • Install the drain flange, also known as a “drain basket” or “drain body.” The drain flange is where the water will drain out of the tub.
  • Assemble the drain shoe according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The shoe will be placed under the tub and attached to the drain flange and the overflow pipe.
  • Connect the overflow drain to the overflow pipe and attach it to the waste pipe using a T-fitting.
  • Attach the shoe fitting to the waste pipe and check that the shoe aligns with the opening in the tub.
  • Place plumber’s putty or silicone caulk around the drain flange and wrap Teflon tape around the threads on its body.
  • Place a rubber washer on the shoe and position the shoe under the tub in alignment with the drain flange.
  • Screw the drain flange into the shoe and tighten.
  • Place a rubber washer on the overflow drain and attach the drain to the bathtub.
  • Connect the water supply pipes to the bathtub and install the faucet.

Good to know!

To be sure that the drain flange and shoe are securely connected, place the handles of a pair of pliers in the drain flange, insert the blade of a screwdriver between the handles of the pliers and use it as a lever to tighten.

Step 5: Secure and finish

  • Slide the bathtub back into its place and anchor it to the wall studs, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Turn on the water supply and check for leaks.
  • Finish the wall around the tub and install tiles or your preferred wall covering.

Installing a bathtub can seem daunting, but as with any major task, preparation is key. Get help with any heavy lifting, ask questions, and take the time to measure accurately. With these five steps, you can give your bathroom a whole new look and yourself a great big pat on the back for a job well done!

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