There comes a time in every home when the homeowner must bite the bullet and replace their bathtub or shower. Whether it’s part of a whole bathroom remodel to increase the value of the home or just a desire to get the bathroom back to working order for your own basic comfort, you need to understand some of the basic costs and considerations that go into the job.
First, hire a professional. Unless you have a background in plumbing or are generally very good at home improvement remodeling, you will probably make a mistake that leads to leaks and extremely costly problems with the foundation and structure of the home in the future.
However, if you want to eliminate one of the biggest expenses in any remodeling project, labor, these few essential tips and costs can be helpful before you get started.
Choosing your new shower or tub
Especially if you have an older tub, finding a new tub with the same dimensions might be difficult. New tubs run about $200 to $600. A replacement shower is more difficult to price because you can just retile the floor or buy a new shower liner, which would cost less than the tub.
Remember that getting the tub into the house itself can be a challenge if you have narrow doorways. So be sure to measure everything. If the problem arises, you can opt for a sectional tub that is easier to transport.
With a shower, you also need to consider the shower wall or curtain rod in your purchase plans. Redoing the shower floor to get rid of a tub and replace it with just a shower, for example, means you need to put in doors to contain the water. These can cost anywhere from $200 to thousands, but the low end is reasonable for simple sliding glass.
All the other components
If your new tub will be significantly larger or have new features, like whirlpool jets, you may have to purchase a number of other replacement components. These include larger copper water pipes that run a dollar or more per foot, perhaps a larger water heater, and reinforced floor joists at $100 or more per joist.
You may also need matching replacement tile if you have to tip out your current tiling to remove the shower or tub.
Whether you get a tub or a shower, you have to consider fixtures and any necessary work to move piping to those new fixtures. Drain pipes may also need to be replaced. These items range in price a great deal, from $50 to whatever you can imagine.
Removing the old tub or shower
Tub removal can cost $1,000 just for labor if the bathroom is difficult to reach and work in. However, if you’re doing the work yourself this will only cost you time.
During this part of the process, you need to be especially careful with the plumbing. It’s important to turn the water off and drain all the pipes below the bathroom, and then to pay close attention to how you detach the pipes in order to remove the tub or take out the shower basin.
You need to know your new tub or shower installation’s requirements for piping, which is why it’s important to have it ready to go to inform how you remove your old equipment.
Setting your new shower or tub
This is the actual most difficult part. You can find a number of guides online explaining how to set a tub that isn’t the same size, how to solder copper pipes, reinforce joists, secure the tub, place the drain in a shower, and create tight water seals.
It’s important to remember all the incidental costs you can accrue even if you don’t make a mistake, such as for grout and rubber sealant, new tiles, paint, and new flooring.
Also pay special attention to the surround or drop in for a tub. Small mistakes in the water sealant lining and support structure can lead to potential cracking and leaks. So remember to always use cement backboard under tiles in any wet part of your bathroom to keep moisture from damaging any part of your walls.
All told, a moderate replacement bathtub project can cost around $2,000 depending on local material and labor costs. You can expect to knock as much as $1,000 off that price if you’re able to do the work yourself, but you should be very sure you know what you’re doing and follow these tips to ensure you don’t do more harm than good for your bath or shower, bathroom and home.
Rachel Wright is an editor and writer at QualitySmith with more than 10 years editing experience and five years working within digital media. For more resources, see her comprehensive home improvement reviews.