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Removing and Replacing Your Bathtub in 11 Steps

removing bathtub
by jbadeloft | June 4, 2018

Looking to replace your old bathtub with a cleaner new model but don’t know how to get rid of the old tub? Well, you are in luck, because the process is surprisingly simple. Simple, not easy, however. So, first and foremost, be sure to ask for assistance-whether it be professional or just another person to help you with the heavy labor, because you will surely need it and your safety comes first, especially with a project that includes something as heavy as a bathtub.

Removing a bathtub

To properly remove your old bathtub, first, before all other steps, is to make sure your area is safe and prepped. This means keeping your work space unobstructed by people and other objects-this may mean removing vanities such as sinks or toilets out of the way depending on the size of your bathtub. In any DIY job, safety comes before any other step, so please, make sure your area is clear and that you have enough room to maneuver both your body and your bathtub as well. Remember that installing a new bathtub will be highly labor intensive, so best not to take any chances when it comes to small inconveniences that may result in highly preventable accidents down the road. In short, move your toilet or sink out of the way, regardless of the small hassle.

Getting started: Common Questions about removing and installing a new bathtub

How long does it take to remove a bathtub?

Depending on your skill and knowledge level, anywhere from 3-4 hours to half a day, depending on the setup and layout of your bathroom.

What tools do I need to use?

First and foremost, you should not undertake any part of this process without protective eye, ear and facewear. And of course gloves are a must, unless you are a seasoned professional. Beyond protective wear, you will need:

  • An adjustable wrench
  • An assortment of pry bars
  • Screwdrivers of varying sizes
  • Pliers
  • Slip-joint and Channel-lock pliers
  • Hammer
  • Socket wrench
  • Keyhole saw or a similar cutting device like a utility knife

Do I need to hire a professional?

An interesting question as some of these steps can be completed without professional help. But if this is your first removal/installation, consulting a professional is advised.

How much does it cost to remove an old tub?

The cost of removing an old tub will largely depend on many different factors such as the bathtub material or cost of the old tub or whether you hired professional help, but your price tag will start roughly around $300+ starting at minimum.

How to remove an old bathtub in 11 steps

1. Prepping the area
As stated before, please properly prep your area before starting. First, shut off your water and power, then remove any extra obstructions from the area, such as the toilet or vanities if you do not have enough room. For this step, you will need several screwdrivers, a small saw or keyhole saw. This step will usually take around 3-4 hours, depending on the size of your bathroom, so be prepared. If your bathroom is particularly complex, you may need to hire a professional for this step if you are unsure of how to remove your toilet and sink without any complications.

2. Removing the drain, faucet and other attachments
Now that your water is shut off and your area is prepped, you can begin by removing the drain, faucet and other attachments connected to your bathtub. This step may be a bit different depending on your drain type as many tub drains have different components that need to be carefully removed first, but typically many have easy to unscrew tops that allow you access to the drain flange on the bottom. Now that your drain flange is revealed, you will need a special tool sold at your local hardware store to remove the drain flange. After your flange is removed, use a screwdriver to disconnect the waste and overflow valve cover on the sides of your tub. For the next step, you will need to gain access to the underside of your tub, either behind the wall or the floor below the bathroom. You will need a pair of channel lock pliers to disconnect the pipes below the T-shape where the drain and overflow valve intersect. Once you’ve loosened the nut connected the drain pipe, unscrew it by hand and lift out the entire section. Now, with your major components dealt with, simply remove your tub spout so it will not be obstructing your installation. Many come with screws screw orientations that hold them in place, but if not, simply twist and turn counter clockwise.

3. Separating the tub from the wall
With your piping and drains sorted out, you now need to remove your old tub from the wall. Begin by measuring out and drawing a guideline all the way around your existing tub. Afterwards, cut out a section roughly 6-7 inches above your existing guideline on each side of the tub you are installing. Clear the wall so you have free access to the screws and nails securing the tub flange or lip to the wall. Now, remove the screws and nails all way around the top and sides of the tub with a pry bar and a utility knife. This would also be a good time to remove any trim moulding on your alcove and to clean up any caulk in the area as well.

4. Removing/disposing of the old tub
Before continuing, it is highly advised that you have assistance on this next step, as it can be quite dangerous on your own.
Now, to dispose your old tub, grab some 2x4s, about 2-3 and have one person lift your tub while the other slides them onto the 2x4s, allowing your tub to get off the floor while also functioning as skids. Above your tub, there will be a crosspiece of wood that supports the edge of the bathtub and reinforces the installation, this is known as ‘stringer’ piece. You will need to remove any stringer supports left on the wall as well. With the area free, you may now clean out any debris or loose nails that occupy this area before installing your new bathtub. Now, how will you dispose of your old tub? Well, that question will largely depend on what type it is. Cast iron can be broken up into smaller pieces with a sledgehammer while other materials such as porcelain, fiberglass and acrylic can be removed whole with some assistance. Please contact your local sanitation department for best method of disposing your old bathtub. If you have questions regarding the disposal method, you can simply contact your sanitation department for further information.
5. Choosing a correct bathtub
With a free space available, you are now ready to pick your new bathtub. Measure the width and depth of your available space to determine what kind of tub you need. Though, if you don’t want to relocate or re-orient your plumbing, you can simply follow what direction your drain opening is. Facing your space, if the drain opening is on the left, you need a left drain tub, if it appears on the right instead, then a right drain tub. This of course is not set in stone, though some plumbing work will be required if you simply just want a different bathtub, regardless of orientation and of course, before installing, make sure that your floor is level, and if not, use a leveling compound to even it out.

6. Protecting your tub during the move
Although this step mostly pertains to porcelain and fiberglass, it is good practice to protect your bathtub from fractures and drop impacts regardless if they can weather it or not. So, before installing, keep your new bathtub packaged, and when removed, cushion it with cardboard to prevent any of the exposed surface to be damaged before installing.

7. Securing the new tub
Now, with assistance, using the same method as before, you will set your new tub onto the 2x4s that you used to remove your old tub and slide it into place. Once placed, check the levels and if necessary, use spacers to even it out-you want to have no gaps between your bathtub and the wall if possible once it is fully installed. Now, take a pencil and mark the reference line of all the studs all the way around your bathtub. Once done, remove your tub and put it aside.

8. Installing a new stringer
With your studs and rivets marked, you will need to take the height of your bathtub and measure that same distance below the reference line on each stud. This will serve as the mark for the top edge of the new stringers you will need to install. Cut some 2x4s the length of your new tub and use deck screws to fasten them to the studs on the new reference marks you made.

9. Now attach the overflow drain/installing a new bathtub drain
Now, we are ready to install your new bathtub! So, to start, we need to turn the tub on it’s side and install it according to the manufacturer’s specs. Afterwards, you should take a bit of plumber putty or any loose based polymer and wrap it around the underside of your new drain flange. Position the drain shoe on the underside of the tub and screw the drain flange into the new threads. Secure it completely with the drain tool you used to remove it any then scrap off any excess putty. Now, to connect the overflow valve or drain, you need to place a rubber gasket onto the overflow elbow pipe and position it behind the bathtub and attach the cover plate inside. Afterwards, connect the overflow pipe and the drain pipe, resulting in an intersecting ‘T’ formation. Install the drain strainer onto the flange to wrap it up.
10. Securing the new tub and testing it out
With your plumbing sorted, carefully move the bathtub back into place. If done correctly, the drain flange should rest on the stringer that was installed along the back wall. Also, the drain and overflow plumbing from your bathtub should be aligned with the rough-in drain outlet in your bathroom, or more specifically the drain along the floor. At this step, be sure to connect all the pipes together and tighten snugly. Reattach your spout and shower peripherals and test out your bathtub.
11. Double check your work and install new molding and walling
Now, hopefully with the previous step, everything is running fine without any further incident. Double check your plumbing before securing the studs with roofing nails, securing your bathtub entirely. Word of caution, please do not drill the flange, and instead use the head of the fastener instead to hold it down otherwise you risk damaging the exterior. Reinstall your baseboard, and apply moulding in front and along the tub. Finally, reapply your drywall and apply waterproof paint to restore the walls you took out initially for installation. and your screws and nails before lining your bathtub with more chalking

Common Mistakes when installing a new tub

The most common mistakes made when installing a new tub come from inexperience. With limited knowledge, there is alot that can go wrong, from damaging the bathtub, incorrectly installing plumbing aspects or at their worst, injuring yourself and others. Of course, if you can DIY this project, it can be rewarding, as well as an immense time saver, but if you are inexperienced, we recommend you take this project in steps. You can always DIY some of the less complicated aspects, while some of the more advanced parts of the project we recommend hiring a professional to assist both for your time and safety concerns.

When removing your old bathtub, please take all the proper precautions and remember that safety comes first, no matter what hassle, so do yourself a favor and research what you can easily do and what you may need a professional for.

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